CARMINA: THE MAJORCAN SHOEMAKER
The largest of the Balearic Islands, a mecca for European tourism since the 1950s, Mallorca is perhaps best known as a sunny getaway destination. But the Spanish island has also long been a center of shoemaking, with the city of Inca at the center of its shoemaking activities. It was here, in 1866, that Matías Pujadas gave birth to the multi-generational family line of shoemakers that is now called Carmina.
Until the 19th century, Mallorca was a major wine exporter, but when a phylloxera epidemic devastated the vineyards, the inhabitants were forced to look for a new source of income. Many went into leather tanning and shoemaking – and soon, what started as a (literally) cottage industry gradually developed into a flourishing business.
In the early 1900s, when Mateo Pujadas took over his father’s business, he introduced Goodyear welding, bringing in instructors from the United States to teach the trade to his workers. He managed one of the first factories on the island to produce these sturdy shoes, appreciated for their durability and ease of re-welding. In 1950 – the same year that Belgian entrepreneur Gérard Blitz created the world’s first Club Med on a beach in Mallorca – there were more than 100 shoe manufacturing plants in Inca, whose products were in demand throughout the continent, offering high quality at reasonable prices thanks to Mallorca’s low labor costs. When the advent of passenger jets took off for tourism, sales of Mallorcan shoes on the island also boomed.
Mateo’s grandson, José Albaladejo Pujadas (better known as Pepe), took over the business in the early 1960s, and by the 1980s, the family business was producing about 100,000 pairs of shoes a year. In the 1990s, however, a crisis hit European shoemakers, unable to compete for the mass market with cheap shoes made in the Far East. Pepe, who in his youth had trained with one of the best shoemakers in Florence, chose to sell his business on a large scale and start from scratch with a new approach – producing a much smaller number of much higher quality shoes. He named the new company after his wife, Carmina, and, with his daughters and son, set out to create an exclusive line of world-class handcrafted footwear.