Prior to launching MARTINIANO shoes, Martiniano Lopez Crozet was one half of the performance duo, Los Super Elegantes, a collaborative art duo that mixed music, theater and fashion, for sixteen years. The shoe venture was a surprise to his art world friends, but a welcome departure for those who have embraced his shoes. Lopez Crozet learned to make a shoe before starting his company to understand the process fully. We are so glad he did – his shoes currently sit in the best stores: Totokaelo, Creatures of Comfort, and Maryam Nassir Zadeh and adorn the feet of fashion’s finest.
For many years you were one half of Los Super Elegantes – a highly acclaimed performance art duo – are you still involved with this?
I am, but not on a day to day basis as in the past. I’m currently living in Buenos Aires and Milena Muzquiz, who is the other half of the duo, is in the Yucatan. This year we were invited to do a performance at the Guggenheim Museum in New York, but our budget was well beyond what was allotted for it, so it turned out not to be possible. I feel like our current ventures are really a continuation of the work we did with Los Super Elegantes. Milena is now doing ceramic flower vases — she just had a show in Paris at Julie Boukobza’s Empire gallery—and I am making shoes. Costumes and set dressing were always an important aspect of our performances. One of our plays was about a fashion designer who starved his employees. Another was about an interior decorator who worked with conceptual methods like “Decorating with Dogs,” “Furniture on Wheels,” and “Tropic is the Topic.” They were loosely based on our own lives and we still work in that mode, that there is no real separation between what you see on the stage or in our studios.
What made you take the leap to design?
I believe that re-invention was the reason we started Los Super Elegantes in the first place. Before we had viewers, and now I have clients. I enjoy making something that will make a customer pause and think, “This shoe is not a ballerina and actually it might be a little off but it has something. Something that makes the shoe elegant and that will set me apart from the rest.”
Were your art world friends surprised by this business endeavor?
Yes, because it was seen as quite a move on my part not only to put an end to a 16 year collaboration, but to leave art as a whole for fashion. The way I see it is different. I see what I do, and what Milena does, as a natural continuation of our practice of moving across boundaries.
Can you tell us about the process of designing your shoes?
From day one I decided to be hands on so I took a class in Buenos Aires that taught me how to make a shoe by hand. This class gave me the basic knowledge and vocabulary I needed in order to communicate with the shoe manufacturing industry. I design my shoes straight from the last. (editor’s note: last – a shoemaker’s model for shaping or repairing a shoe or boot.) I dress the last with white masking tape and once it is covered, I draw the lines. Then, with a cutter I eliminate all negative space. I then go to a pattern maker for technical corrections. It’s like sculpting, getting rid of the unnecessary.
How big is your team?
My team has been just myself until very recently. I tackled everything from design to sales. Now I have a couple people in LA dealing with press requests, editorial shoots, and overall logistics.
How did you discover the Italian leather that really make your shoes unique and give them the ‘glove’ feel?
It was by chance. When I moved back to my hometown, Buenos Aires, I met a woman that makes beautiful, handmade shoes and it was her who showed me the Italian kid leather. Once I saw the texture and the colors I fell in love with it and I couldn’t use any other material. It is very expensive and delicate and worth every penny. Kid was Ferragamo’s favorite leather.
Your shoes are available at some of the coolest stores in the US: Totokaelo, La Garconne, Maryam Nassir Zadeh – stores with a highly curated selection of designers – how does this make you feel?
Great. I have a good relationship with them and I feel very lucky that they embraced my line so early on.
Are you surprised how the fashion industry has embraced your collection?
In a way it was similar to the feeling I got when we started Los Super Elegantes. We had our first show at a very underground club called The Chameleon in the Mission area of San Francisco in 1992. The show consisted of us, dressed in police uniforms, coming out of trash bags and screaming drunkenly to the music we had written. The band was the cook, dishwasher, and waiter of the restaurant I worked at. Our friends came by and after they said, “You guys are going to make it big!”
The recent collection is available in limited quantities and sold out in many places – what are your plans to meet the demand? Will you offer e-commerce eventually?
Because the shoes are handmade at a very small family business I currently cannot make more than what I am producing. I am working on the prospect of moving production of MARTINIANO to Italy. When that happens I will be able to meet the demand and work with larger clients. For now, I concentrate on coming up with new designs and keeping up with the idea of making shoes the way the Italians used to 40 years ago. You can see that in the quality and feel.