Artisan Spotlight: Eco-Shoemaker Roberto
Did you know Hiptipico's sneakers are all eco-friendly and handmade from exclusively upcycled materials? We recently visited the workshop where they’re handmade in San Pedro la Laguna, Guatemala.
Meet Roberto! Hiptipico founder Alyssa first met Roberto in 2012 through family friends in Panajachel. She was introduced to him because he was a well-known and innovative artisan on Lake Atitlan. Turns out, he had been making shoes for 28 years! Before making recycled shoes for expat tourists and backpackers passing through his town, he crafted traditional decorative shoes worn for town parades and Maya cultural celebrations. For twenty years, Roberto crafted high-quality shoes and taught apprentices how to do so as well. They had a solid local customer base but the market was quickly saturated when his skilled workers started their own small businesses and lowered their costs.
Five years ago, he wanted to try something new to adapt to an increasingly competitive market. Out of this drive, combined with his innovative and creative spirit, came the idea of incorporating old tires and upcycled indigenous tipico fabric into his shoe designs. With decades of experience in shoe-making, the idea quickly took off and he hasn’t looked back since. The town of San Pedro attracts a lot of international travelers, students and backpackers and his store front seems to lure most of them inside!
It was such a pleasure visiting Roberto’s workshop and meeting his team who construct our one-of-a-kind shoes. The five men working there were clearly having a good time, goofing around and laughing together. Like any true artist’s workspace, the workshop was messy from a large order but it was full of natural light and fresh air off the lake shore. After chatting with the guys and taking some pictures of their funky workspace, we didn’t want to leave--it was so comfy and charming.
We’re proud to partner with small business owners like Roberto who treat their employees with care and respect. Not to mention we admire his innovation--it’s not every day that you come across someone who’s come up with a completely new (eco-friendly!) idea and has built a successful small business out of it in a Maya village of Guatemala. For us, this reinforces our belief in supporting artisans in their own creative ideas instead of having them produce our designs. At Hiptipico, we are not designers but we partner with local artisans with vision which is why we love working with Roberto! He’s constantly trying out new designs--he was proud to show us some gorgeous tall high-top style sneakers with large embroidered tipico accents. They’re truly one of a kind!
The craftsmen walked us through each step of the shoe-making process. Not a single part of the shoe is new--it’s made of entirely recycled materials, right down to the sole. Roberto sources used tires from Guatemala City, where his partner cuts them to size for the soles.
The rest of the shoe is made from upcycled material. Roberto buys vintage textiles, embroideries and other secondhand Maya fabric from the markets to construct the body of the shoe. At Hiptipico, we only carry two of his styles--the eco-moccasin and sneaker, but he has many more available in store. (Email us at firstname.lastname@example.org for a custom pair!)
We encourage you to think about the impact of your purchases, especially clothing: the average American gets rid of 82 pounds of textiles every year! By shopping upcycled products and high-quality garments that will last more than one season, you can do your part to minimize your fashion footprint.
Shop Roberto’s collection on our website to support his eco-friendly shoe shop.
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