A brand is different from a business. Before building Cobbler Union, Daniel Porcelli spent years immersing himself in the shoe making process. Taking that experience, he wanted to communicate three principles: quality, design, and value. The distribution channel is a relatively popular one as of late, with industry leaders such as Warby Parker pioneering successful ventures with direct to consumer. The cost is a reality of the model but the quality and design have to be understood before the price consideration becomes a factor. If it appears “discounted”, people will naturally wonder what’s missing. But he credits a background in the bespoke industry along with a fierce attention to detail that separates a Cobbler Union shoe in a competitive market. “Our aim at Cobbler Union is to transform men while celebrating craftsmanship. When someone purchases from us we say: “welcome to the union” because they’ve just entered into a particular value system.” With details and construction hallmarks that you would find in a heritage brand like George Cleverly (including the beveled waist and quilted heel cups), Porcelli wants to disrupt the luxury market, not just shoemaking.
“When you make a bespoke shoe, once you construct the upper you then focus on the bottom of the shoe. The closed channel is completely unnecessary. It requires things where machines can’t get to so we have to do it by hand. It is more expensive and labor intensive and every detail (including the minute distance between each stitch) makes a more complex shoe that requires a certain obsession. We don’t have to make it this way, the same way Hermes doesn’t have to do what they do, but it’s a choice to deliver a particular level of quality and aesthetic. I just do it in a range that is more accessible and in this way inspire men to want to project a particular image about themselves to the world. More and more men are starting to care about their footwear and we want to deliver the best possible product out there to give them the confidence they need to step into any room.”
I had the distinct pleasure of meeting him during a business trip to New York City to really see his vision for the Cobbler Union and for a memorable, albeit impromptu, photo shoot of one of my favorites from this inaugural collection, the Steven III. “One thing with bespoke is that you don’t put a brand on it. We don’t sell to retail so I don’t need an explicit identifier. The spirit of the brand is that I don’t like brands. That is why our focus is on the craftsman and the features we offer that set us apart. The finished product is clean and sharp and unique. We manufacture in small batches to mimic that bespoke feel and that level of individualized attention. Over 200 processes and 20 pairs of hands touch the shoe before it reaches the box. We take great care at every step to ensure that our passion and that of the artisans is communicated in the construction.”
Shoe making is an art form that he doesn’t want to disappear and he’s doing his part to further the legacy. Find out more about the brand here.