PALAPA takes its name from the Spanish word referred to a shelter roof made of dried palm leaves. The most common place to see a palapa is in Mexico’s tropics.
LN: What does your brand name “Palapa” mean?
PALAPA takes its name from the Spanish word referred to a shelter roof made of dried palm leaves. The most common place to see a palapa is in Mexico’s tropics. Being born and raised in Acapulco, palapas were part of the local architecture. As a kid, a palapa is that space that provides refuge from the sun after spending hours in the water. Is where you put the hammock up and take a nap, is where you gather with friends, it’s a space to wind down and enjoy the present moment. Why did I choose this name for our huarache brand? First of all, l love the analogy of providing shelter to your feet. Second of all, because palapas and huaraches have a lot in common: they are both traditional crafts, handwoven, sourced from organic materials and their construction allows air flow. They both age beautifully and with proper care, could last a lifetime. Lastly: we love the sound of the word, in English: “pah-lah-pah”, it’s like a mantra.
LN: When did you start your business and why?
We only launched PALAPA a few months ago (July 2021) but started working on developing the product and the brand since 2019, when my youngest daughter was only 10 months old. Prior to founding Palapa, I pursued a career in Art History and worked as an art editor, covering the arts in magazines and newspapers across Mexico, so I have always been interested in Mexico’s art scene as well as its traditional crafts. But my interest in footwear, particularly, started when I was pregnant with my first child, in 2016, and my feet started to hurt. I remember particularly one hot summer day in NYC (where I lived for six years): I was five months pregnant and looking for a comfortable sandal to wear throughout the last stages of my pregnancy but the more I looked, the more uninspired I felt. In regards to footwear it was always an “either - or” situation: you either got comfort or you got style, but never both. Although I’ve always valued the story behind how things are made, when becoming a mother I became more radical about my lifestyle choices and began a journey towards a more sustainable life. Living in California and looking for “the perfect sandal” let me to a product made in my home country: Mexico’s handmade huaraches. The journey started there. When I had to take a trip back home to start the process of creating what I think are the perfect sandals. It is funny how you sometimes have to take a few steps back to go forward. A dive in the past of a forgotten pre-columbian craft that lead us to create what we think is the future of footwear.
LN: Palapa is run by women only. Why only women?
I will like to emphasize that PALAPA is not only lead by women, but led by Mexican/Mexican American or what is now referred to as Latinx women. You don’t see that many Latinx females going into the start-up world, let alone creating a company from scratch. And that reason is not for the lack of drive or talent, but the lack of support even to allow them to lead in the workplace. The most important factors that come into play when creating your own company are socio-economic, race, geography and gender. We have been lucky to be in this point in our careers and only hope to become a point of reference for brown girls in the US. Because although I am very optimistic about the fact that these are better times to be a female entrepreneur in the US, there is a long way to go to for Latinx women.
LN: Can you tell us who is your main target group?
Women of all ages that appreciates handmade and well-made pieces that can be part of their effortless-chic wardrobe and sustainable journey.
LN: What are your sandals designed for?
We founded PALAPA on the principle that women should not have to sacrifice style for comfort, and are committed to providing the highest quality not only in aesthetics but in the raw material you are stepping your feet on. That is why we have the highest quality leather in the market, one that provides wellness to your feet because it is breathable, antiallergenic and flexible. We have a motto that says: “wear every day, everywhere with everything” and we mean it. We essentially designed a sandal that gets more comfortable the more you wear it.
LN: You say: we honor tradition by mindfully crafting our sandals with responsible materials, tell us more.
PALAPA takes pride in offering beautiful soft leather that is also sustainable. The brand’s leather provider is based in León, Guanajuato, and is one of the few in the world with a gold standard in ecological and ethical practices from the rigorous International Leather Working Group. The result is a shoe that is made with leather treated with 100% natural components, metal free, and without chrome.
LN: Why have you chosen to use leather for your sandals?
Leather is a flexible material and allows you the possibility to have long-lasting sandals that mold to your feet. Our leather is treated with natural components which allows it to age beautifully, developing a natural patina. Our leather is also breathable and anti-allergenic, therefore is ideal for footwear.
LN: Please tell us about your sustainability goals with your sandals.
Sustainability is a path and we are constantly working on improving. There is always a way to be sourcing more eco-friendly materials and making processes more efficient and clean, from design to distribution. Our goals are to keep sourcing our raw materials from responsible providers and keep building a product that lasts.
LN: How does a consumer know to choose the right pair of leather sandals?
I think it is important for them to know if their sandals are 100% leather, as some brands only invest in leather for the upper of the shoe and not the inner sole. If you are landing every step in a synthetic material you are not getting the benefits of real leather which is its natural barrier against moisture and bacteria.
LN: Tell us more about your plans for the future
We are hoping to launch men’s sandals soon! Stay tuned!