Reflections on SITRANA
I was always searching for a project or a business that fulfilled all of my expectations and desires. It wasn't easy due to my inclination toward the arts and building things with my hands; activities that, when I analyzed them with my business mind (from my university education) didn't appear to be logical or profitable. I went through various projects, a literary magazine being one of them, without great achievements until the opportunity to design and build men's leather footwear "naturally" came to me. I began with one pair, designed for myself, and soon found myself with orders from friends and colleagues. The success of SITRANA is a result of simply the demand in the market for the boots that I was making, the desire for dressing well, and the love for products that are made by hand.
A big part of the success of SITRANA has been the good relation and "buen feeling" that Eric and I have kept with not only our customers but also with our team of shoemakers, to whom I have continually dedicated time and effort to improve. Building SITRANA, as a brand of footwear and also a shoemaking workshop, has been my greatest achievement, and I have achieved this by always being true to the product and faithful to the brand, and to always being true to our customers and to our shoemakers -- who after years have built the same kind of affection for SITRANA as I have myself.
It is always difficult to create a new project of any type, but if you have a positive attitude, mental and physical strength along with perseverance everything can work. For me, thankfully, I have these qualities and through work and dedication have created a project of great satisfaction and personal pride.
Related to the creation of SITRANA as a brand I feel that a great part of its success has been finding the exact point of entry into the footwear world -- or better said into the shoemaking world, which is typically quite closed and averse to allowing outsiders in.
For me, SITRANA is more than a brand of footwear and leather products, SITRANA is the creation of products of value, which is not only in the design or the quality of materials (which are always optimal), but also is the history that is behind every article, each one being distinct and each one being made by hand. Therefore, when you wear SITRANA you are wearing the history of each one of the shoemakers who made that product and who put their talents into products for customers who value more than just a "good product."
SITRANA seeks to reunite each of us with the simplicity of life and its arts, leaving behind massification and automation.
I bought my first pair of SITRANAs from Jaime's family's living room, in a 40's-style two-story home surrounded by behemoth 25-story modern apartments -- seemingly a relic of Santiago's past. I remember picking up one of the four styles from the coffee table and studying it in my hand -- simple, handsome, rich leather, finely sewed. A nice weight, not too heavy. I went to the next pair, again the same sensation of quality and honor in its construction. I turned back to Jaime, who I had just met, curious to know more about the story behind the footwear in front of me. "What can you tell me about these, how do they compare to other shoes in the market?" I asked in Spanish. I held my gaze in preparation for a heartfelt explanation of leather quality, the shoemaking trade, design inspiration and how the items in front of me were the result of hard work, vision, and skill.
My question was met with a silent shrug.
Puzzled, I returned my gaze to the shoes. I then tried on a pair of oxfords and, following Jaime's instructions, paid him to place my order, to be ready in two weeks.
I picked up that pair, wore them faithfully through Santiago's paved streets and dusty parks, and followed Jaime's work from a distance, curious about the guy I had met and what he was up to with these shoes.
In the years following that initial meeting with Jaime, after joining him in this venture to build a few modest retail stores and manage the work in the workshop -- I've learned a bit more about what was really contained in that shrug he gave me when we first met.
I've learned that there's beauty and dignity in removing the unnecessary. I've learned that sometimes the best explanation is no explanation at all.
To Jaime, outwardly, SITRANA is simply a brand of shoes. Good shoes. Though really, to both of us, SITRANA is much more. It's about crafting beautiful pieces of work using a trade that is slowly becoming extinct. It's about showcasing the art and skill of real people from a mostly-unknown, yet curiously exotic corner of the world, and also of quality, honor, and the human experience. It's about starting from nothing, and over time -- with skill, dedication and desire -- creating something of functional beauty.
But a part of me shares Jaime's public view. That SITRANA, at its core, is simply a brand of shoes. Good shoes.