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Calleen Cordero: Luxury, Sustainable Footwear Handcrafted in North Hollywood

Calleen Cordero

Today I’m excited to share a sustainable line that I’ve fallen particularly in love with as of late – both for their aesthetic, and their unique, sustainable manufacturing processes.

Calleen Cordero is a Los Angeles based luxury designer of footwear, handbags, belts and accessories, all handcrafted in North Hollywood, CA.

Through incorporating hand-threaded bead work from artisans in Nayarit, Mexico, re-purposing vintage rugs into wearable art and soles, using vegetable-tanned leathers and environmentally sound glues and carving wood bases from sustainable-resourced and recycled wood, Calleen has become one of the USA’s most widely loved and respected sustainable shoe designers.

I had the wonderful experience of chatting with Calleen’s company this past week. Here are some of the details about her line and sustainable processes that they shared with me – as well as some exciting news for our readers in Los Angeles!

FGS: I’d love to know more about Calleen’s process – can you give me a concise overview of the beginning to end of how a shoe is made?

CC: There are many steps to hand-making shoes. First there is the concept of design, then the design gets transferred onto a plastic form called a “last” – which is in essence the shape of the shoe. Masking tape is used to cover the last and the design is hand drawn onto it. You then cut the tape off of the pattern and place it onto cardboard where you make the actual pattern itself. Once the pattern is made, you put that on a piece of leather and hand cut out the pieces of the pattern. We call this the “upper” part of the shoe. The upper then goes to another department and gets stitched together and then the lining and details are put on and glued together (stitch work, hardware, eyelets, etc..) the upper then goes to the laster who then hand stretches along with tools over the form “last” that will then dry and take shape of the actual shoe. The upper will need to stay on the last for at least 24 hours to complete and mold to its shape i.e. a pointy toe, a round toe, a square toe, etc..meanwhile, if we were creating one of our wood designs, which would be considered the “bottom” of the shoe, it starts out as a 14 ft. plank of sustainable wood or recycled plywood then gets laminated together and is cut into 2 ft x 6” blocks of wood.

We then draw the pattern of the heel or wedge onto the wood, which will ultimately get cut by the bandsaw to make its shape. It’s then hand sanded to fit the upper/last we’ve already created. The wood will go through many steps, from fine sanding to getting painting with dye and triple waxed  – which then turns into a finish like fine furniture. When both the upper and bottom is done – they get assembled. The sole gets put on, the logo gets stamped into the shoe and it the final product goes to another department to get cleaned, packaged into a box and then off to the customer.

FGS: Why should our readers feel good about buying from Calleen over another shoe brand?

CC: We Support Environmentally Sound Construction. All woods come from SFR (Sustainable Forest Initiative) farms. Some leathers used are vegetable tanned from Italy and chrome free. No harsh chemicals or dies are used in treating the leather. Multiple comfort features in every shoe including padded insoles and/or EVA midsoles, and our leather soled sandals are hand molded with arch support. All linings are leather and hardware is solid brass and solid nickel. Every wood heel has been sculpted by free hand, and all glues used are 80% non toxic to the environment

FGS: What sets Calleen apart from other sustainable brands?

CC: Our carbon footprint is very light due to manufacturing in the USA and sourcing locally.

FGS: What eco or otherwise earth friendly/fair trade certifications does the brand hold?

CC: We work with various sacred tribes in Mexico and hire them to hand-bead and hand-weave special pieces which we then incorporate into various pieces within our collection. We are not fair trade certified as we have yet to open a factory and hire workers outside of our N. Hollywood location.

Calleen CorderoFGS: I know she is both relocating and opening a new store in LA – can you tell me a bit about that, and what Calleen is expecting to come out of it?

CC: After being open on Beverly Blvd for 6 years, Calleen has decided to relocate her store to Studio City to offer a fresh look and feel of the brand. Her Sunset Plaza location will have a bit more of a lifestyle feel and will offer hard to find one-of-a-kind pieces from various places around the world.

FGS: How is Calleen incorporating vintage textiles and beadwork into her SS 2013 collection?

CC: Our vintage textiles this year come from Afghanistan and our hand threaded peyote inspired beadwork is from the Huichol Indians in Nayarit Mexico. We are going to be doing a collection of bracelets and footwear that will feature these designs.

FGS: What sets her apart in terms of materials?

CC: All of our components are handmade. We do not source or purchase any components oversees aside from the Italian leather that is used.

 FGS: What sets her apart in terms of aesthetic?

CC: Calleen’s collection has a very obvious look and feel to it. Her signature solid brass and nickel hardware is kick pressed by hand onto footwear, handbags and accessories and each pair of shoes goes through roughly 25 different sets of hands before the final product comes out.

FGS: What are some specific styles our readers should be looking at that you expect to be your next “it” pieces?

CC: We have a super fun line of high top sneakers for fall that are getting tons of attention right now.

Shop Calleen’s line at a stockist in your area.

Written by Shanley Knox

Founder/owner of the Nakate Project, an initiative bringing third world female artisans to high fashion. I am passionate about all things that are truly sustainable, and truly making a positive difference in the world around us.

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