Mallorca’s shoe-making tradition can be traced back to the late 19th century, when its wine industry was devastated after most of the island’s vineyards were wiped out by an infestation of aphids. Forced to take up other trades, many Mallorquins moved to working with leather and a new industry was born.
Inca became the hub of the leather trade, and with local workers spreading their knowledge and running workshops, over time a shoe-making industry emerged. By the mid 1900s shoe-making in Mallorca was thriving, thanks mainly to cheap labour but also thanks to a focus on craftsmanship. At its peak the town of Inca had over 100 shoe factories — there are now only five or six, though most are still family-run businesses. As well as the larger factories, there are also a number of small-scale businesses, not to mention well respected mountain boot brand, Bestard — another family business, based in Lloseta. Such is the strong heritage of Mallorcan shoes, there’s even a shoe-making museum in Inca, occupying an old army barracks.
World famous Mallorcan brand, Camper, took their name from the Catalan word for peasant, camperol, and their first shoe was loosely based on those worn by Mallorquin farmers in the fields over a century ago, originally made from old fabric and a piece of tyre rubber. While Camper has only been around since 1975, the founder, Lorenzo Fluxa’s family have been shoemakers in Mallorca since the 1800s and introduced the first sewing machines and modern techniques to the island following a trip to England.
With the majority of Mallorca’s remaining shoe businesses firmly in family hands, and fashion (particularly in men’s shoes) dictating demand for well-crafted, handmade leather shoes, the future of the island’s artisan shoe-making business is looking good — at least for now. It appears that Inca-based firms such as renowned sabaters Carmina, now in their fourth generation, are here to stay.