Craftsmanship used to be considered a finite business of creating a holy grail object of desire that would stand the test of time and never ever, for any reason, be monkeyed with. The mark of greatness was nestled within its non-changeability. But as the recently released The Batman suggests, reinventing even the most definitively wheely-shaped of wheels, when done with some modernising masterstrokes, can prove great or maybe even a game-changer.
One brand dealing very nicely in modern makeovers is the British footwear label Mulo, a craft-centric company – each of its artisan-made shoes go through a 100-step making process – built on the premise of respectful reinvention. Its launch shoe, back in 2012, was a simplified revamp of the jute-and-canvas espadrille known as the alpargata, which was conceived on the high seas after its founder, Tobias Cox, bought a one-way ticket to Buenos Aires seeking a life change and a more intrepid variety of inspiration.
The recrafted version resembles a premium, grown-up skate shoe. Its defining element is that it’s built on a last not for a seafaring shoe but a traditional Oxford – the solid form around which the classic formal shoe is constructed.
A blend of footwear ideals for more fluid business-meets-leisure modes of living, it was still both the espadrille and the Oxford in spirit, but not as you’d likely seen either. Since then, Mulo has been steadily riffing on other style classics including the loafer, the desert boot and even the sneaker via similar homages to simplicity. Cox is a little too discreet to talk production timelines, but getting the sneaker right is reputed to have kept it in development for as much as half a decade.
For summer 2022, Mulo is spinning the narrative of its first footwear love again with a lighterweight knitted espadrille dedicated to celebrating the sunshine season in both form and finish. Easy to pack, ultra-durable and even waterproof in a way the brand’s other suede and leather styles can’t be, it’s the shoe for the job if you can only pack one pair – and won’t disintegrate 200 yards beyond passport control on your way home.
The knit-based fabrication innovation also brings fresh eco-credentials, as the new shoe is the brand’s most sustainable yet and made from 85 per cent recycled components. The upper is 100 per cent recycled polyester thread, and the footbed 100 per cent recycled polyurethane foam, while the crafting process is brilliantly low-waste because the precision-engineering element of the knitting process means that only the exact amount of material needed is actually used.
The colours, too, have had a St Tropez vibes reboot – check out the (mostly) edible hues of citron, fig and piscine for starters. It’s a palette to signify feelgood summer days and nights (that is – no need to also think about winter).
As revamps go, the espadrille comes with a special allure. A perennial symbol of summer, it also has a roll call of celebrated fans to rival its heavyweight history – the first alpargatas were a unisex shoe for peasants, priests and infantry in Spain’s Catalonia and Basque regions in the 14th century. Salvador Dalí was a life-long devotee at work and play (sometimes photographed wearing very little else), while Picasso, too, had a penchant for the shoe – specifically the tulière, a winegrower’s rope-soled sandal beloved of painters. JFK was another notable fan. Mulo’s latest version blends the hardworking beauty of the original basic model with the charm of a style that says nothing if not “endless summer”.