We live in an era of peak Instagram brand: Our feeds have become filled with a never-ending supply of quirky, colorful, 2000s-inspired products intended to pop on social media, to the point that I'm actually more likely to stop scrolling when I see something that, well, wasn't necessarily designed to get me to do just that. This is what happened when I came across a pair of beautiful, timeless brown leather fisherman sandals by a brand called Hereu. Initially, I assumed they were vintage.
In a moment during which footwear has seemed dominated by either ultra-minimalist, barely-there slides and sandals or big, chunky platform boots and loafers, Hereu's signature woven sandals and T-strap loafers occupy a nice middle ground: something substantial and timeless, and more elevated and refined than, say, a Birkenstock or Dr. Martens. Their price point is fairly accessible as well; most pieces retail between $300 and $500.
After designing accessories for other companies, (including, per LinkedIn, Zara, which couldn't be further from Hereu's ethos), José Bartolomé and Albert Escribano founded their own brand in 2014 with just four unisex shoe styles. "It started up as a personal project inspired by our culture and memories from the Mediterranean," they told me jointly via email. "They were actually reinterpretations of traditional footwear from the Balearic Islands [the Spanish archipelago comprising Mallorca, Menorca, Ibiza and Formentera], elevated with a contemporary twist."
The brand has grown slowly, but there was early interest from retailers. "It was a true adventure for us as it must be for most entrepreneurs, but we managed to appeal to some interesting stockists the first season, so that gave us an initial push," they explained. "We started up just the two of us figuring out every single aspect of the business. We had help from friends that work in the industry who were a good guide for us." The brand added handbags in 2016. "It wasn't until the third year that we had the feeling that the brand had taken off."
Hereu's first big retail supporters included Opening Ceremony (r.i.p.), Net-a-Porter and Matchesfashion; Bartolomé and Escribano say retailers have had the biggest impact on the brand in terms of visibility. Today, its dual-gender products can also be found at Ssense, Shopbop, Intermix, Fred Segal, Moda Operandi, Bergdorf Goodman, Nordstrom, Goop, Lisa Says Gah, Dover Street Market and more. Lately, the brand has also been spotted on celebrities and influencers including Kristen Stewart, Courtney Trop, Brittany Bathgate and Blanca Miró.
The Hereu customer "has a unique and understated taste," the designers believe. "They appreciate the quality and craftsmanship as much as the design and the concept behind the brand."
In addition to being inspired by traditional crafts and aesthetics from the Mediterranean, Hereu products are all made in Spain by local artisans, with the goal of supporting their time-honored skills and techniques, and their communities as a whole. This is just one aspect of the founders' approach to sustainability, which includes sourcing materials responsibly, complying with international labor regulations and minimizing environmental impact. Plant-based materials like cotton are certified organic; all leathers are byproducts from the meat industry and vegetable-tanned by hand.
"As a company, we try to imitate the way of sourcing, manufacturing, and trading from prior generations, which we believe is more respectful to our planet and the people we work with," said Bartolomé and Escribano. "We aim to create high-quality timeless products that will have a long life."
Hereu releases four proper collections per year (Resort, Summer, Pre-fall and Winter) that incorporate new styles and colorways as well as signature staples, like its bestselling Soller Sport t-bar loafer. The brand also drops exclusive new items on its website with limited stock. As the brand has grown, more colorful, experimental designs have made their way into the offering. Spring 2022, for instance, includes circular shapes and cut-outs referencing modern Spanish architecture, in bright oranges and soft yellows inspired by a Mediterranean summer.
"We see an organic growth," the designers say of Hereu's future, "expanding in areas the we are not so present yet, as well as building a loyal customer that appreciates our product and feels attracted to our brand's ethos."
See Hereu's Spring 2022 collection in the gallery below.