MANILA -- Unparalleled durability and top-notch craftsmanship were the hallmarks of the Marikina shoe industry. Once revered in the fashion world, Marikina's world-class reputation, however, has slowly faded.
That's why Marquina Shoemaker is bent on bringing the shine back to Marikina one pair at a time.
"We want to bring back Marikina shoes to the young Filipinos," declared Kayne Litonjua, founder of Mariquina Shoemaker. "During the '60s and '70s, Marikina was No. 1 in Asia. There were thousands of shoemakers and hundreds of shoe factories. Now, there are only around 40."
"Growing up, we’ve been told that there’s world-class shoemaking in Marikina but it’s all outsourced for foreign brands now. There is no one really carrying the standard of Marikina-quality shoes or putting that as the forefront," added Juancho Del Rosario, another co-founder of Marquina.
Local manufacturers keep Marikina's struggling industry alive by going toe-to-toe with inexpensive Chinese and Vietnamese imports.
On the other hand, Marquina Shoemaker is paving its own path by pushing for quality shoes for the high-end market. Instead of competing with cheap imports, it aims to create a new standard instead.
"Our goal is to project the calibre and world-class shoemaking of the Philippines," Litonjua explained. "There are many good brands. But top of your mind, is there a local premium player that comes to you? None."
Marquina Shoemaker blends premium quality materials, decades of Marikina shoemaking expertise and the cutting-edge vision of today’s modern Filipino.
"Our brand is a continuity of the past to the present. We make the classics look fresh," Del Rosario explained. "All pairs are made with full grain leather, goatskin lining, full foam inserts, and solid leather soles."
Curiously, Marquina Shoemakers doesn't have a single factory.
"We have different suppliers, the best for each specialty. That’s why we call it the Mariquina Shoemakers... It’s a shared thing across many experts," Del Rosario explained.
While top-notch materials and artisanal expertise would normally drive up the price, Marquina Shoemakers is able to give customers value for their money with an e-commerce business model.
“Our shoes are made to order. You check out our portfolio on the website, purchase a shoe, and that’s the time we will begin to make a pair just for you. That’s what makes us different.” Del Rosario said.
"We also focused on what we felt something the consumers wanted which is, they want to feel that the shoe is especially made for them, with each one having their owm personal shoemaker," he added.
Men can choose from seven different styles: the Gomez Chukka boots, Marquez monkstraps, Quezon longwing, Garcia Captoe oxfords, Ramos workboots, and lounge loafers (buckled or penny).
Women, on the other hand, can choose from the Luxe step loafers and the soft step loafer.
Each buyer is free to customize their desired pair as far as their imagination can go. The trio has gone from simple embroidering to making a yellow, electric blue and emerald green longwing.
The shoes have already caught the attention of celebrities such as Albie Casino, Jake Cuenca, and Jason Magbanua.
In the coming years, Marquina Shoemakers hopes to expand internationally. With Marikina City at the forefront of the brand, the success of the label will also be the success of the entire industry.
“If one day we get a chance to bring this abroad, we won't be just representing our brand but the entire Philippine Marikina-made shoe brand. We will be taking with us us not just our shoes but the place and identity itself,” Del Rosario said.
"Each step forward for our pairs is a step forward not only for the whole Marikina industry but for the Filipino people," Litonjua added.
"This is what Filipinos are capable of. This is Marikina shoemaking, this is Philippine shoemaking, this is the Filipino identity."