Last Call Women’s & Men’s George Esquivel Collection
A new capsule collection by California shoemaker George Esquivel and 123-year-old Florsheim melds past and present. The line of men’s and women’s shoes riff on cap-toe and long-wing styles that have been updated with Esquivel’s modern aesthetic.
Crafted in pebble-grain leathers developed with American tannery Wickett & Craig, the unique hues of natural hides were specially produced for Esquivel to hand-paint by artisans.
The Los Angeles-based footwear designer and leather aficionado has debuted Esquivel House, a shoe atelier for made-to-order shoes and accessories in Downtown’s Arts District. Located just north of Dover Street Market and Row DTLA, it’s a perfect spot to pick up a pair of the label’s signature wingtip kicks or bespoke boots.
The designer grew up in a family of Mexican immigrants who moved frequently throughout his childhood and teen years. Despite his parents’ desire that he attend college and eventually become an artist, Esquivel instead chose to work in the construction industry, where he learned all he needed to know about the business.
After he left school, Esquivel began studying art at the University of Texas at Austin, where he enrolled in the Chicano Studies course, and then transferred to the department of visual arts. His first group exhibition, Dale Gas: An Exhibition of Contemporary Chicano Art, was curated by Santos Martinez at the Contemporary Arts Museum Houston in 1977.
In that show, Esquivel exhibited alongside eight other Con Safo members, including Mel Casas, Carmen Lomas Garza, Cesar Martinez, Roberto Rios, Santos Martinez, and Jesse Trevino. His paintings were influenced by Surrealist art. In the 1970s, he began to incorporate elements of the genre into his works.
Like many Surrealist artists, Esquivel often incorporated animals and birds into his work. He also repurposed familiar objects to create works that were in some way unique.
For example, in this untitled drawing, a cross-section of a tree stump is transformed into a complex scene that seems to resemble an Etch a Sketch. An apparent hole in the upper center of the drawing functions as the sun, emitting rays that strike a flock of doves that are becoming airborne.
Another early work by Esquivel that reflects his interest in reusing elements of everyday life is Puffying Away, which he painted in 1970. A horned, smoking figure with red eyes stands in front of a white shirt and tie, the painting’s focal point.
George Esquivel’s footwear is one of Los Angeles’s most coveted bespoke shoe collections. His eponymous label has been making shoes for over 20 years, with a client list that includes Emma Stone, Janelle Monae and LeBron James. The 2009 CFDA/Vogue Fashion Fund winner’s handmade kicks command a range of prices starting at $495 for ready-made suede oxfords to $19,000 for custom crocodile boots.
In a small black factory building in the Arts District, Esquivel invites only a few clients a day into his studio, where they select leathers and other options while watching the artisans at work. He calls it slow fashion, an effort to engage customers in the design process.
It’s a risk, but one that has paid off: Esquivel recently landed the top creative spot at Tumi, a renowned luxury bag and luggage brand. As the company’s new creative director, he will oversee design for the brand’s upcoming season and help set the direction of the collection.
The designer’s newest collaboration with Tommy Hilfiger, for example, features a 900-pair run of brogue and loafer styles that combine Hilfiger’s signature preppy aesthetic with Esquivel’s quirky detailing. The shoes are crafted in California from premium, locally sourced leathers and materials. They are embroidered with the Tommy Hilfiger + Esquivel logo, hand-punched perforations and antiqued leather washing.
And there’s more: Esquivel just launched a line of winter boots that are both minimal and luxurious, with expert craftsmanship that will make them truly one-of-a-kind. He’s also teamed up with German watch brand Tutima to create a collection of travel pieces that are durable, stylish and made for the modern world.
He explains, “it’s very Southern California — very craft.” For instance, he tans the leather hides by placing them outside under glass and sun-bathing them. It gives them a natural, burnished hue that isn’t quite black.
Esquivel’s eponymous label has been making handmade shoes for over 20 years, with a range of styles that include brocade mules and bubblegum pink suede derby shoes. He’s partnered with a number of different brands, including Italian heritage brand Fratelli Rossetti and American denim maker Baldwin.