Ramon Cuberta is one of the rising stars in classic shoemaking. His small combined workshop and showroom is located in Barcelona's Old Town, where he makes some 15 pairs of painstakingly crafted bespoke shoes per year.
He has recently taken on his first apprentice, just launched a ready-to-wear line and has a long waiting list of eager bespoke customers. We paid him a visit during our July trip to Spain, and Ramon shared with us the highly personal story of how he came to immerse himself in the gentle craft.
Mr. Ramon Cuberta at his tiny but welcoming atelier at Carrer d'En Mònec in central Barcelona
Lighting the passion
I started learning about shoemaking in 2009 after a trip to London. That trip was very special to me. In London I discovered another world: the bespoke world. I went to London because I was looking for some answers in my life, and at that point I was looking for answers to questions that I did not even fully understand.
I was not happy with what I did for a living. It was completely different from what I do today. I would rather not talk about my previous career, because it belongs in my past and I have grown a lot since then. From an outside perspective, it was very promising and many would have seen it as successful, but I was totally unhappy. So I decided to go to London to learn English and to get a different perspective on life.
Beautiful bespoke pointed cap derby and adelaide oxford - the bespoke service starts at 1800 €
At a point I considered getting into classic tailoring. I saw a lot of it in London and I thought that it was very cool, but something was still missing. Then I visited John Lobb on St. James’s Street, George Cleverley and Foster & Son. Discovering shoemaking totally opened my mind. It was like a light that went on, like a revelation. One night I dreamt about it and it all felt very real. The morning after, I made up my mind and said to my mother: ’I am going to change my career. I want to make shoes by hand.’
She didn’t understand me at first. But she knew that I had always liked to work with my hands and to draw, so she felt that I had a special gift. And she said: ’I know that you want to be happy. I understand that you feel stuck and that you are looking for solutions. The career that you have today is really difficult.’ That was a perfect day for me, because when someone that close understands you and supports you, it changes everything. It became not only a thought, but a new commitment that required action.
A humble beginning
A friend of mine named Emilio Guirao was making shoes in Barcelona back then (nowadays he is a film producer). He told me that there was a master in Barcelona who was very experienced in making shoes by hand, and that he was offering to teach it. There was no time to lose. I was young enough to learn a new profession, but not young enough to be reckless with my time.
Hanging lasts at the atelier - Ramon's lasts are developed with the help of some of the most experienced Spanish craftsman lastmakers
Josep Cunillera, also known as Pitu, helped me a lot during my first year. He is a great master and also a very well known public administrator in the Catalonian government and the Barcelona city council. He is a very important man, but also very humble and nice. During the first year, you don’t understand anything. It’s really difficult. But you take tiny steps forward, and little by little you start getting the hang of it.
At first I learned shoemaking on my spare time, while still at my previous job. Then I realised that I needed to spend more time learning the craft. I really wanted to learn and I wanted to become a professional shoemaker, not just to do it as a hobby. So I quit my job, which of course meant that I no longer had an income. I did what I could to save money – I even left my own apartment and moved into my father’s house.
RAMON CUBERTA | BESPOKE BARCELONA Regarding Gentleman: From Emily Post (1873–1960). Etiquette. 1922: “Far more important than any more dictum of etiquette is the fundamental code of honor, without strict observance of which no man, no matter how “polished,” can be considered a gentleman. Courtesy of the Parisian Gentleman, written by Sonya Glyn Nicholson, post of "Women who wear suits", 16-09-2016 https://parisiangentleman.co.uk/2016/09/03/women-who-wear-suits/ #shoes #shoemaker #bespokeshoes #bespokemakers #bespoke #handmadeshoes #shoestagram #shoeporn #shoelover #shoesaddict #shoegaze #shoegazing #menshoes #sartorial #gentleman #manstyle #sartorialist #barcelonadesign #barcelona
While I was learning with Pitu, I also became the apprentice of a shoemaker who was making shoes for women. Making shoes for women is not for me. I like making shoes for men, because I can relate to it and it’s almost like I’m making shoes for myself. But it was a great opportunity to get practice. To make women’s shoes you need to be very handy. The atelier was not very big and the shoemaker put a lot of confidence in me, which encouraged me to improve myself.
Up until that point, I had been learning with a master who told me exactly what to do and when to do it, but now I had a master who supervised me only two or three times a day. The rest of the time I was working by myself. It was very important, not in terms of the craft because the shoes were glued (as opposed to stitching the soles), but it allowed my hands to get used to the work. It was two years of having no income at all, but it was an essential experience.
Ramon adding the finishing touches to a bespoke order
Finding luck in London
After three years of working with women’s shoes, I went back to London and spent some time at John Lobb at St. James’s Street, where I was privileged enough to learn from one of their great masters. During my next trip, I decided to try my luck with Gaziano & Girling, and met the very kind Tony Gaziano and Dean Girling as well as the young master Daniel Wegan. I had an amazing two days with them discussing shoemaking and sharing experiences, and even though they couldn’t offer me an apprenticeship at the time, they greatly inspired me to keep learning so that I could one day become a shoemaker.
I went back to John Lobb at St. James’s Street and met Jonathan Hunter Lobb for the second time. Jonathan is a great man and was very kind to me. I asked him about apprenticeship and he mentioned that they were looking for some help. They liked my way and they felt that I was special and passionate, and they were impressed by the last shoe that I had made, considering that I was an apprentice. Jonathan told me that they have a master who is no longer living in London but who still works for them. She moved to Barcelona for health reasons, and she is a greatly skilled shoemaker who has been at John Lobb for 36 years.
Ready-to-wear double monk strap in crust calf, from the benchmade collection - prices are 490 € without shoe trees, or 550 € including shoe trees
He suggested that I could learn from her, and that was even better for me, because if you work inside the factory, it can take many years to get at grasp of only two or three stages of shoemaking. There are more than 50 stages to making a pair of shoes, and working with her meant I could get a better understanding of the whole process. She was so generous to me. She helped me completely selflessly. I was very lucky. At that time I kept working for different shoemakers as an apprentice, making some patterns and other small jobs while learning with the master from John Lobb.
Two-tone oxford stunners made for one of Ramon's lucky customers
Setting up shop in Barcelona
I eventually found a workshop of my own, and was lucky enough to receive a few orders. That is how I got started. It was not easy. The first few pairs needed a lot of attention, and instead of a more normal hundred hours per pair, I probably spent about twice as long.
I started in November 2014, so this is my second year in business. I like my present location as it is in a central but not overly commercial area. It takes about two months to finish a pair, and it is a very linear type of work. I begin by taking measurements, then make a test shoe and make adjustments according to how the test shoe turned out, and finally begin creating the final shoe. The shoes are hand welted, so the soles are stitched entirely by hand. I also design and make every part of the uppers myself.
RAMON CUBERTA | BESPOKE BARCELONA Gracias por la entrevista de Maryuri Niño, periodista del canal de TV FLASH FASHION WWW.NTN24.COM/FF para todo el mundo @ffntn24 #shoes #shoemaker #handwelted #handmadeshoes #shoestagram #shoegram #shoeporn #shoelovers #shoesaddict #shoegaze #shoegazing #menshoes #sartorial #gentleman #manstyle #sartorialist #bespokeshoes #bespokemakers #bespoke #barcelonadesign #barcelona
The last is very special because it is the soul of the shoe. I would definitely like to make the lasts all by myself some day, but that is something for the future. I have to solve my wait list of bespoke shoe customers first, and I want to offer them the best service possible.
RAMON CUBERTA | BESPOKE BARCELONA Welcome to our Atelier, welcome to our Monasterio where our hands pray for the beauty. #ramoncuberta #shoes #shoemakers #bespokeshoes #bespokemakers #bespoke #handmadeshoes #readymade #benchmade #goodyearwelted #shoestagram #shoegaze #shoegazing #shoeporn #menshoes #manshoesstyle #manstyle #shoelovers #shoeaddict #sartorial #gentleman #sartorialist #barcelonadesign #barcelona
It is very difficult to become a great shoemaker. There a lot of secrets to the trade and different ways and stages in the process. It made me more humble than I was before, and made me understand that things are not always as easy as they look. Even when I am making shoes today, I still remember those hard times when I had just started. Every person can learn to be more humble. I consider it the biggest lesson that I have learned. At my previous job it was common practice to constantly talk yourself up and promote your credentials. There’s no humbleness in that.
I am 44 now. I think that it’s better to be an apprentice in your 20s than in your 30s. When you’re young you don’t need to be earning lots of money, and you can afford to make more mistakes. That is how you learn. I was 37 when I started, which is a little bit late. I think it took me that long because becoming a shoemaker was a result of me looking for a different way to live. I am very lucky that my family and my fiancée have all been so supportive. This is my second chance in life, and it’s the best gift I could ever get.
'This is my second chance in life, and it’s the best gift I could ever get.'
Shoemaking tools neatly organised on the wall
The ready-to-wear Adelaide oxford in Rioja calf - Ramon offers a two year warranty and free maintenance during this period for all shoe purchases