Designing a shoe inspired by 5,000 years of craftsmanship

Designing a shoe inspired by 5,000 years of craftsmanship

Aram Vanerian, founder of 2120 Handcrafted, has tapped into some of the oldest shoe making traditions on Earth. He shares with us what inspired him and why it matters. 

Why did you found 2120? That’s a complex question, but I’ll try to keep it simple. I spent years in the shoe industry in product design and development. I found that what peaked my interest was the process of making shoes. I also began to understand some of the horrors of the traditional manufacturing industry. Finally, I noticed that most brands weren’t showcasing where and how their products were being made. After months of searching, I found a small, family owned ethical shoe factory whose values aligned with mine. Fair wages, locally sourced materials, and old school manufacturing techniques; I found this in Mexico. From there, I realized that a well made, minimally designed, unisex collection of handcrafted footwear with a variety of styles and a positive message was also missing.

I can see that exceptional craftsmanship has gone into making your shoes, why is this important? Craftsmanship is key to creating products that are long lasting. Every craftsman I know is very specific when it comes to the materials they are using as well as the way they are making their products. The idea is that they are creating quality products that can last a lifetime with proper care. A well crafted item means that you only have to buy that product once, meaning less machines, less resources and waste and ultimately, more value for your money. 

Our shoes are no different. We use the best materials we can find and also deploy manufacturing techniques that were developed years before any shoe was mass-produced by huge machines and large factories. Nearly every element of our product is handmade, and we source within a mile or two of our factory. Craftsmanship is at the core of our beliefs and practice and we are lucky to be in an environment that makes this possible. 

Designers often look up to people who inspire them. Who’s your inspiration? My mother. She does so much with so little. I don’t think she has worn anything that isn’t black in the last 20 years and she still has a knack to dress perfectly for any occasion. She is also my design inspiration. Simple, minimal, and classic are my words to describe her style identity.

What is your favorite way to wear 2120’s?  The idea behind the line is versatility. I wanted to be able to leave the house dressed for a few casual meetings and errands for the day, and keep the same pair on for a date that evening with my girlfriend. Day to night in the same pair is really the best way to wear a pair. My closet contains many refined things, so having a shoe that is comfortable, well made, and versatile is the way to go.

When was the last time you wore a pair of 2120’s? Today, of course :) Brown Detroit boots.

Designing a pair of craftsman made shoes is quite complex: construction, materials and look all matter. What role do customers play in this process? Customers! All of our business is direct to consumer so we always try to understand what people are looking for in their footwear. We are always open to tweak certain details to make something fit as well as possible for everyone. We are also in a space where we can directly communicate with our customers and that really helps inspire new products, colors and the overall direction of our business.

What’s next for the company? We would like to expand the line by adding more products next year. Recently, new relationships are evolving in Japan and Los Angeles for wholesale opportunities. Beyond that, we would like to focus on telling more stories and showing our customers our design process. We feel our best opportunity to do that is through Ziggie. We love customers who really care about what’s on their feet!