“All good things take time,” Enrique Corbi says. And being the co-founder and creative director of the line, he truly lives up to his motto.
Corbi was destined to be a shoe designer. His native home Alicante, a historic port city in southern Spain, has a reputation for producing handmade shoes. Being surrounded by people in the industry while growing up seduced Corbi into the business.
“I loved the smell of leather and the sound of the machines when I walked by the shoe factories,” Corbi says.
Stepping into the contemporary, luxury footwear and accessories market was a completely natural world for this unique artisan who embraces the tradition of fine shoe craftsmanship.
Mood of Living Q & A:
MoL: What inspired you to become a shoe designer?
EC: My mother designed dresses and clothes and was a big inspiration. She was creative, and a bit of a hippie, so she was really into the fashion and the hippie movement of the ’70s. That, combined with the influence of the shoe industry in my hometown, was something that grew on me.
MoL: Who is another influential figure in your life?
EC: My father has always inspired me, too. He is an artisan from a very humble family, and he has always worked really, really hard.
MoL: What is the best advice you’ve ever received? And from whom?
EC: My father encouraged me to never be dependent on someone. He would say, ‘Try to be self-sufficient in any decision that you make, without relying on other people’s opinions.’
MoL: Who is your style icon?
EC: Someone I really praise is the actor Steve McQueen, particularly in his role in the movie “The Thomas Crown Affair.” He was absolutely spot-on and his style has been inspirational for me. McQueen was just perfectly dressed with a three-piece suit, wonderful shoes and the perfect watch. He also had a great philosophy toward life. I identify with much of what he represented: being a plain guy who became a style icon, but kept it as simple as possible while still looking great. To me that is an art.
MoL: If you could have a conversation with any living person, who would it be?
EC: The Dalai Lama is one of the most incredible individuals. Although he’s never been able to live in his own country, he still works all over the world bringing awareness to those suffering in Tibet. I would love to sit down with him and ask about materialism, why we’re here, where we’re going and what will happen next. The other person I’d like to have a conversation with—as a person, more than as a politician—is Barack Obama. Being the first African American president in the United States is a risky position. I think that every time he is on stage, the President, his wife and family evoke a lot of emotion in people.
MoL: When you go out for a nice dinner in your hometown, Alicante, where do you go?
EC: There are plenty of trendy restaurants I like to pop-in, but an ideal dinner with my family would be to have a home- cooked meal at Casa Asuncion. It’s a small, family-run restaurant in the countryside that serves traditional Spanish dishes.
MoL: When you cook at home for friends and family, what do you cook?
EC: My wife is French, and is a great cook, but we have different philosophies about food. French dishes can be complex: the ingredients, cooking, timing and spices. I am the opposite. Alicante is a seaport in the summer, so I like to drive to the harbor in the evening, when the fishermen come back with their catches. I try to buy directly from the boat, then go home and heat up our outdoor iron stove. On the plate, I make a bed of raw sea salt and heat it until it’s crusty. I put the fish over the raw sea salt and let it cook. Oh, and I add olive oil and slice up a lemon from our lemon tree. It’s as simple as that.
MoL: What is the key ingredient to balancing an international company, family and friends?
EC: You have to try to be wise and a stay calm. You can’t rush things. Good things in life take time, whether it’s making good shoes, cooking good food or cultivating relationships with friends or business colleagues. It’s all about being laid back and being authentic. You cannot rush things or make things happen quicker than how they are meant to happen. Otherwise things just won’t work properly. That’s the way I see it. So far this has proven to work for me.
“You have to try to be wise
and stay calm…Good things in life take
MoL: What was your “aha” moment when you realized you had the talent (and guts!) to launch your own footwear company?
EC: In 2000, when I worked for an organization called the Independent Group. At the time, I was designing shoes for the French brand Lacoste. After working 10 years in the corporate world, I realized I was almost ready to take the big jump and go off on my own. I knew my potential as a designer, but I wasn’t sure I could completely do it until a couple of years later. That’s when I met my friend, Arnaud Zannier, who is still my business partner today, 10 years later.
MoL: Any words of wisdom?
EC: Live and let live. That’s my daily philosophy.
Enrique Corbi (left) and his business partner Arnaud Zannier.
Photography courtesy of N.D.C. Made by Hand