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Riudavets on Building a Sustainable Business in the US

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Spanish sandal brand Riudavets knows how a good design can ensure a century’s worth of trends, innovations and fads.

It was a farmer in Menorca, a small island in the Spanish Mediterranean, who left home in the 1920s to learn the craft of shoemaking and start Riudavets. The company’s signature avarca style shoe, a two-piece open toe sandal, was designed for the dry and hard Menorcan land. It was necessary for shoes in the region to be strong and flexible.

Today, Riudavets’ shoes possess many of the same characteristics as in the past: greased Spanish leather, a tire sole, a suede inner lining and a hidden border stitch. Almost 100 years later, the shoe, available for men, women and children, is now receiving global attention for its simplistic aesthetic and attention to materials.

Isabel Saurina, Riudavets brand representative for the U.S. and Canada, said that when the economic crisis hit Spain in 2008, Riudavets’ current owner decided to expand the business into other markets, first in North America, followed by the Middle East and Asia, where it is performing especially well.

The brand has discovered that quality speaks to consumers on a global level. Instead of chasing fashion trends, Saurina said the company relies on its quality manufacturing in Spain to separate it from its competitors.

“When something is trendy, it’s a limited life, because every year new, trendy things come out,” she said.

Riudavets does, however, continue to experiment with new materials and collaborations to keep their offerings interesting. The company partnered with Opening Ceremony for a denim avarca. Meanwhile the Spring ’16 range introduced four nubuck colorways to the range.

As the shoe’s popularity increased, so has the number of copycats in the market. Saurina pointed out that the difference between the Riudavets’ avarca and other brands’ interpretations is that those other companies choose to use plastic or synthetic materials in soles, instead of the design’s original tire rubber sole. Saurina said less expensive versions are being made by some companies in China, but she noted that the shoes will only last a few months.

As interest in Riudavets grows in the U.S. and worldwide, the company’s main focus is to build on its initial sustainable design of recycled tires soles and incorporate more vegan leather, natural dyes and, in general, test out more eco-friendly alternatives. Saurina added that she is hoping to secure some larger accounts and obtain the volume that will allow the brand to experiment with new materials.

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