Creative In Conversation: Rafael Castañer Discusses Espadrilles And The Evolution Of His Eponymous Family Firm

World-famous for its espadrilles, Castañer throughly exudes the spirit of Spain and has done so since the brand was established back in the 1770s by artisan Rafael Castañer.

Fast forward, and by 1927, Luis Castañer and his cousin Tomàs Serra has set up the first workshop, and the label evolved from functional footwear into the fashion sphere. By the ’70s the fashion houses had cottoned onto Castañer and it’s handcrafted jute shoes, and Yves Saint Laurent commissioned the family to produce the first espadrille wedge, now known as its signature Carina style.

Two centuries on, the brand remains true to its core values of artisan craft, timelessness, and the Mediterranean spirit, evolving to also encompass not onlay a womens line but also mens, bridal, accessories, and exciting collaborations in the form of a Altuzarra capsule range. Rafael Castañer shares more about his family business and its cornerstones.

Felicity Carter: What was your first memory of fashion?

Rafael Castañer: Ever since I was a child, my parents would always talk about fashion at home and I read the fashion magazines would arrive from Paris and Italy. I can remember in the ‘70s when all the magic first happened, and there was a meeting with Yves Saint Laurent and he commissioned us to produce the jute wedge, the first in history.

FC: Were you always encouraged to enter the family business?

RC: It was always a possibility, when I finished my studies, the company was at a moment of transition and the idea of joining the project was exciting, but my family also wanted me to learn the trade abroad. To gain experience I worked on the distribution side of the footwear industry, and then in design, the truth is that I always knew I would go into it.

FC: What are the concepts behind Castaner?

RC: There is not just one, there are several concepts that define us: craft, timelessness, and the Mediterranean spirit. We are lucky to have started more than two centuries ago braiding jute to make espadrilles. We have worked for the leading fashion houses in the world, and our collection is today a benchmark for handmade footwear — we’re proud to keep the craft here in Spain.

FC: What are the cornerstones of the company?

RC: In 1927 my family created the first jute braiding machines. Today, almost 100 years later, together with our artisans, we continue to do things as they were then, with collections that do not go out of style. This is why I would define our cornerstones as timeless and handcrafted.

FC: Tell us about the process?

RC: Today, luckily, we have data to analyze such as the trends that we collect at international fairs together with exhibitions and artists. We look at the trends when it comes to consumers and their consumption habits, and this allows us to focus our iconic collection on seasonal shades, and deliver styles that are in line with our DNA: artisan, natural, ethical, and sustainable.

FC: What is your career highlight to date?

RC: Although I closely follow the men’s collection, I feel especially proud of the strong bond that we have created across the company — with family, our team and wider network, establishing links that allow us all to align in one direction and have one clear Castañer brand voice.

FC: How would you like the brand to evolve, having introduced a men’s line yourself?

RC: In order for the brand to evolve and the public to continue to have the same perception of the brand, our founding concepts must be nurtured and carefully and updated as time goes on.

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