“Sandaletta? Po! Dakkort!”
This was good news. Not that we needed sandals, but energy is always a good sign.
Evidence had lately being piling up that Po! Paris’ development plan had vast hidden costs.
The general feeling now being that the leather bag project was going to set a new record to that pile’s size.
“Shikoni këtu” look here! said Haxhi genially pointing at the pile of rubber on the working table.
Being a cobbler in Albania brings no big money. And being an Albanian foot means your in for a hard life.
Only the wealthy foot wears new leather shoes, made in Italy of course, and spends most of it’s existence in a car. The ordinary foot lives a life of danger and peril on on muddy roads, in second hand shoes chosen from the gipsy markets. He wears leather only on special occasions, such as weddings, funerals or the surprisingly frequent death anniversaries.
Haxhi is a hard worker. He not only repairs shoes, but also makes them from scratch. Out of leather of course, but also out of tractor tyres.
Tractor tyres are known to be waterproof, thick and reinforced with textile instead of metal. The different layers of rubber and textile are separated by hand and used like leather.
Slippers, “babouches” with soles made out of treads are well known in north Africa where truck tyres are also used to make buckets and large jars for water.
Albania is a proud European nation. Haxhi makes European style shoes. Not slippers.
His shoes have laces.
They look good.
There is room for improvement, but the ones made from tyres look like real shoes and are also waterproof.
Perfect for working in a field or milking a cow. Some might also think wearing a pair for their Saturday afternoon stroll at the Champs Elisées would be worth the pain.
Haxhi is obviously a genius in his field. We such craftsmanship, he will certainly be part of the leather bag project.
Before we go, we feel in the mood of dropping that generous kind of advise that costs nothing and sounds great, as any western European usually does in in “poorer” countries: “the village is tourist attraction? Western tourist? Summer? Cobbler? What you need is leather sandals! Typical leather sandals, simple and elegant, crossed or parallel lacing, Ancient Roman style…” The description was then interrupted by Haxhi’s full approval we mentioned earlier.
What we find the next day, entering the workshop on our way to the airport are “sandaletta”. Yes, indeed they are.
Then follows a lively discussion about prices, marketing targets, internet strategy, all in Albanian as I try and find some space for my bag in the now crowded workshop searching for a diversion.
“Surely 10 Euros is a fair price”, I here someone say “or even 8…”
It was obvious that the leather project needed to be radically re-designed, the situation now being very different from what I had imagined, dreaming of saddle makers and ancient traditions revived with modern design brought from young Parisian designers.
Recent events called for a new strategy, defined by one simple catch-phrase, for example: “inspired by myth of luxury, made in Albania”. “How about a bag?” I said hoping to stop the lively marketing think tank.
A couple of trips later, this is what is I find:
Perhaps one day Mrs Birkin will come by at Haxhi’s workshop and set the foundations another myth…