They can be seen in universities, in the upmarket areas of large cities and even at the crowded concerts of Spain’s most popular musicians. They are Pompeii: the canvas and leather sneakers of striking pastel colors, and they have become a signature brand in a market driven by young people who are increasingly drawn to the concept of “smart-casual” attire.
Behind the brand are four 25-year-old Madrileños. Friends since high school, they were at university when they began contemplating the idea of setting up a business. They have come to the world of fashion from slightly unconventional backgrounds: three of them pursued degrees in business administration (with one doubling in law) and the fourth studied industrial engineering.
For them, the pastel colors and leather laces are the key identifying features of their sneakers. “We were looking to make a shoe that you could wear every day, to work, to the grocery store, but one that could still give you personality through its design,” says Jaime Garrastazu, one of the founding partners. “We saw that leather laces made them into a smarter shoe, depending on the design and the color of the sole. It gives them that vitality and sense of fun, which was a perfect balance.”
“It’s the latest evolution in canvas shoes,” says Daniel García, an expert in men’s fashion. “Many influences come together in this product: classic tennis shoes (like Superga, for example), skater shoes (Vans), and summer sneakers (Victoria). The leather laces also make them similar to boat shoes. All these influences are drawn upon and combined well.”
The Pompeii catalog is made up of small variations – canvas or leather exteriors, with or without laces, espadrille or rubber soles – all of which rest on the same theme: “Their success lies in having come up with a series of designs that reinvent the sneaker,” explains Arturo Gil, expert in fashion and beauty with the website The Adonis Lab,
And their clientele is ecstatic with the mix: “They’re comfortable, they stand out, even if you’re dressing casually, and on top of that, it’s a Spanish brand,” says José María, a 22-year-old architecture student.
Perhaps another key to Pompeii’s success is that these shoes will not break the bank. One pair runs to €50, and shoes from the summer collection – a version that ditches the laces – cost just €35.
But how does one make sneakers anyway? That was the first question the four makers asked themselves.
“We began by looking through Yellow Pages and searching Google to find out: we didn’t know anything,” admits Garrastazu. Eventually, they got in contact with manufacturers from Elche, a traditional shoemaking town in Spain. “At first, people hung up on us: we didn’t have a clear idea of what we wanted. But we learned, and we managed to set some meetings there until someone finally showed some confidence in us,” he says of the business set up with an initial investment of €18,000, but which now boasts 17 employees.
To date, 100,000 shoes have been sold, 10% out of them outside Spain.
English version by Henry Hahn.