ZERO WASTE: JULIET, A PAIR OF SUSTAINABLE SHOES
Behind every By Maria with zero waste design there’s a story, a memory, an image. Today I want to tell you about a design that has been accompanying me for many years, even before By Maria existed, a design I am particularly affectionate about. It’s called Juliet. This design has a speciality that is the closest thing to what we consider Zero Waste. While it is true that Juliet was born many years ago in my career through the footwear and design industry, it was also taken from the leather leftovers of other designs. And she became a design that uses leather scraps but also optimizes manufacturing time and processes.
Juliet are shoes with the process Zero Waste. This process wants to reduce to max the waste and the garbage that are generated daily, so we reduce our footprint that let us live with less things, and enjoy more moments and experiences that we consider important.
I remember that Juliet, with the process Zero Waste, popped into my mind in 2011 in Bogotá – Colombia. I experimented with some materials leftovers lying around at the little workshop where I worked with my friend Carlos Bautista. Although there was no talk of zero waste at this time, we were already concerned with optimizing our resources and reducing waste. Those were difficult times! We were nearly bankrupt, and during those days, my father died from leukaemia. We worked very hard for 5 years and felt the paralyzing frustration of understanding how the shoe industry works. We were scammed by buyers, suppliers, dead stocks, and we also were silent witnesses to the social cruelty that our shoemakers had to put up with.
During that time, I was invited to one of my university friend’s wedding. I didn’t have any money to buy a dress, much less to buy shoes, so I had to resort to ingenuity to get my outfit. Through those years, I learned that where there’s no money, there’s resourcefulness and creativity. Despite the difficult moments I was going through, Juliet’s design came to me like an embrace, like a whisper. In it, I found the opportunity to briefly escape my reality. I immersed myself into designing the shoes, knowing that they would make me fly. That’s the feeling I get every time I create shoes, and I fly when I wear a pair of shoes that I love.
What did I have to make them? Various leather leftovers and the hands of the shoemakers that were still with us at that time; who helped me turn a sketch, an idea, into a reality. I’ve always liked simple lines and steadfast cuts. Since this design was limited by the challenge of working by pieces, I needed a simple enough process made out of rather small parts. Finally, knowing that making a pair of shoes is a process that involves on average 6 steps and up to 20 different materials (including those that are visible and not visible), I knew from my years of experience that time and energy optimization, from the design stage, was indispensable.
Juliet is an ensemble of 4 main pieces: heel, toecap, laterals/quarters, and strap. Every part is symmetrical and straight. What makes this shoe stand out are its cuts and, in my opinion, the colour combinations. At that time, platform shoes were very popular, and even though I am not the biggest fan, I decided to use platforms in the design because I wanted high shoes. However, we didn’t have enough resources for the technicalities that platforms require, so we made them with recycled airplane tyres. Nowadays, I think that the design should’ve been called Zero Waste instead of Juliet. They were sewn together by Nancy Rincón, assembled by Cheo Cuesta, and finished by Stella Balero; producing shoes is crucial to master every part of the process requires lots of time and skills. At that moment, I understood that creating a sustainable brand comes with great responsibility, far beyond the selection of materials.
My shoes were very successful, Juliet by Catalina Jossen , with the process zero waste, they made me feel beautiful for many hours, and I got lots of compliments (on account of my shoes, of course). Nowadays, they are an essential part of my collection; we have made them more evolved and more diverse so that those who love heels and straight lines may enjoy them as much as I do. I wear them in royal blue, 7.5 cm high, and even though we are going through a pandemic, I wear them at the office with the right outfit when I have an important meeting, and I still feel like I felt years ago at that wedding.