The phrase “traditional craftsmanship” has become somewhat of a buzzy term—it feels like every brand and designer these days professes a knowledge of artisanal production methods. Antolina, a colorful new shoe collection launched by Mariela Schwarz Montiel, practices what it preaches. Named after Montiel’s paternal grandmother and inspired by her father, the line features vibrant platform sandals and espadrilles woven using techniques that reference her native country of Paraguay.
Inspiration for Antolina struck when Montiel felt a deep longing to feel closer to her heritage. She decided to create something that would pay tribute to her family. (Montiel’s father is German, her mother is Paraguayan, and she grew up in Germany, Italy, and the U.K.) In an effort to reconnect with her roots, Montiel took a trip to Paraguay and became enthralled with the crafting techniques of the indigenous Maká communities. “I went there, worked with them, took the technique they had, and turned it into something else,” says Montiel. “These communities are just a melting pot of talent.”
The result is a carefully edited collection of beautifully braided sandals woven with waxed cotton. To get the finished product, the cotton for each style is hand picked and dyed using vivid colors inspired by the Paraguayan landscape. Notable styles include the Augustina, an ankle-strap design that features a thick platform and heel; the Aurora, with a bold block heel; and the more casual Adelita, which features double-band construction and a low woven platform. Each pair is finished with a signature “A” logo, a nod to the same letter that swung from Montiel’s grandmother’s gold charm bracelet. “She was passionate and energetic, and I hope to bring that to this work,” Montiel says.
As the collection has grown, some of the production has moved to Europe to keep pace with demand. The result is now a collaboration between the Maká community, who continue to produce all of the braiding work, and the Italian artisans who are learning these traditional techniques to help expand the process.
Now based in Paris, Montiel only has bright plans for the future. She’s working on expanding the line with new styles and colors and hopes to one day create a foundation that will benefit the indigenous communities she works with. “We all need to do something special that we’re passionate about,” she says. “With Antolina, I’m doing something meaningful and something good just by doing my job. To me, that’s the most important thing.”