SARA DE UBIETA

WE ARE VERY HAPPY TO INTRODUCE YOU TO SARA DE UBIETA, A YOUNG ARTIST WITH A DEGREE IN ARCHITECTURE WHO DECIDED TO DEDICATE HERSELF TO PRODUCING HANDMADE SHOES.

SARA DESIGNS AND PRODUCES SHOES USING UNUSUAL MATERIALS SUCH AS WOOD AND MUSHROOMS. WITHOUT JEOPARDIZING FUNCTIONALITY AND SUSTAINABILITY, HER TECHNIQUE GOES BEYOND THE LIMITS OF CRAFTSMANSHIP, DESIGN AND ART. 

1. HOW DID YOU ARRIVE FROM YOUR STUDIES IN ARCHITECTURE INTO FOOTWEAR INDUSTRY?

During the last years of my architecture degree, I began to learn the trade of shoemaker. I worked in an architecture studio for some time, but the 2008 financial crisis complicated my job opportunities in that field and I increasingly started to dedicate more time to crafts. I was interested in learning the technique of a trade to open up new design routes through this knowledge. Years later I had the opportunity to travel to Portugal and visit shoe factories. There is where I began to design shoes for small productions and I was able to apply the knowledge I had acquired. Footwear is a very interesting fashion branch that is between product and fashion design, it is rich and complex and that is why I am interested in it.

2. WHEN DID YOU BECOME INTERESTED IN EXPLORING UNCONVENTIONAL MATERIALS?

I have always had an interest in applying non-formal materials, since my first job in footwear design. Footwear industry has a long history using leather as its main material, leather is a very noble material both for its versatility in finishes and for its properties —it is water-resistant but breathable, so it is a win-win. The pattern and design of footwear are closely linked to the use of leather, so if you are looking for shoe innovation, innovating in the material and in the ways of producing it are equally important. I was interested in avoiding the use of leather because of ethical reasons, but also because I wanted to achieve new forms in the product.

3. WHAT ARE YOUR MAIN LINES OF RESEARCH FOR NEW MATERIALS?

I am interested in design innovation through new materials, that is why I keep on investigating. I’ve been creating new materials directly —especially from bioplastic kitchen utensils—, studying semi-developed materials and working on their possibilities in footwear design, and finally looking for materials from other industries that can apply to the shoe world.

I am also interested in exploring the opportunities offered by waste materials and in studying materials through their social, economic and cultural impact.  

4. SO FAR, WHAT UNCONVENTIONAL MATERIALS HAVE YOU WORKED WITH?

I have worked with materials that are alive, and therefore grow and adapt to a certain space. These include bacterial cellulose from kombucha or roots, waste fibers such as cotton from clothes and fibers from industrial dryer filters that generate sheets with great insulating and malleable properties when felted in a non-woven fabric.

5. HOW SUSTAINABLE IS IT TO USE MATERIALS OTHER THAN LEATHER?

Nowadays, the complete life cycle of a material must be analyzed in terms of sustainability: from its obtaining, the handling processes or treatments, its degradation and durability adapted to use and also its recycling possibilities, without forgetting its socio-cultural and economic impact.

Avoiding the use of fur is first of all a moral necessity for many people who are in favor of animal rights. It should be taken into account that designers who avoid animal skin as a development material in a product are responding to the ethical need of consumers who are against animal suffering.

It is true that avoiding the exploitation of sentient beings encompasses the need to eradicate exploitation in all senses including resources and people. Western consumption patterns affect the entire planet. Nature, animals and women have historically been used as merchandise and passive objects. Sustainability should give visibility to the diversity that inhabits the planet.  

1. HOW DID YOU ARRIVE FROM YOUR STUDIES IN ARCHITECTURE INTO FOOTWEAR INDUSTRY?

During the last years of my architecture degree, I began to learn the trade of shoemaker. I worked in an architecture studio for some time, but the 2008 financial crisis complicated my job opportunities in that field and I increasingly started to dedicate more time to crafts. I was interested in learning the technique of a trade to open up new design routes through this knowledge. Years later I had the opportunity to travel to Portugal and visit shoe factories. There is where I began to design shoes for small productions and I was able to apply the knowledge I had acquired. Footwear is a very interesting fashion branch that is between product and fashion design, it is rich and complex and that is why I am interested in it.

2. WHEN DID YOU BECOME INTERESTED IN EXPLORING UNCONVENTIONAL MATERIALS?

I have always had an interest in applying non-formal materials, since my first job in footwear design. Footwear industry has a long history using leather as its main material, leather is a very noble material both for its versatility in finishes and for its properties —it is water-resistant but breathable, so it is a win-win. The pattern and design of footwear are closely linked to the use of leather, so if you are looking for shoe innovation, innovating in the material and in the ways of producing it are equally important. I was interested in avoiding the use of leather because of ethical reasons, but also because I wanted to achieve new forms in the product.

3. WHAT ARE YOUR MAIN LINES OF RESEARCH FOR NEW MATERIALS?

I am interested in design innovation through new materials, that is why I keep on investigating. I’ve been creating new materials directly —especially from bioplastic kitchen utensils—, studying semi-developed materials and working on their possibilities in footwear design, and finally looking for materials from other industries that can apply to the shoe world.

I am also interested in exploring the opportunities offered by waste materials and in studying materials through their social, economic and cultural impact.  

4. SO FAR, WHAT UNCONVENTIONAL MATERIALS HAVE YOU WORKED WITH?

I have worked with materials that are alive, and therefore grow and adapt to a certain space. These include bacterial cellulose from kombucha or roots, waste fibers such as cotton from clothes and fibers from industrial dryer filters that generate sheets with great insulating and malleable properties when felted in a non-woven fabric.

5. HOW SUSTAINABLE IS IT TO USE MATERIALS OTHER THAN LEATHER?

Nowadays, the complete life cycle of a material must be analyzed in terms of sustainability: from its obtaining, the handling processes or treatments, its degradation and durability adapted to use and also its recycling possibilities, without forgetting its socio-cultural and economic impact.

Avoiding the use of fur is first of all a moral necessity for many people who are in favor of animal rights. It should be taken into account that designers who avoid animal skin as a development material in a product are responding to the ethical need of consumers who are against animal suffering.

It is true that avoiding the exploitation of sentient beings encompasses the need to eradicate exploitation in all senses including resources and people. Western consumption patterns affect the entire planet. Nature, animals and women have historically been used as merchandise and passive objects. Sustainability should give visibility to the diversity that inhabits the planet.  

6. LITTLE BY LITTLE NATURAL RESOURCES ARE BEING DEPLETED. HOW DO YOU THINK CONSUMPTION PATTERNS WILL CHANGE?

Consumption patterns will be affected by a noticeable change in our language and understanding. An example of this would be how the concept of luxury is changing. Currently, a luxurious item is not a top-quality one, but a valuable item. Perhaps in the future, luxury will apply to the extinct and irreproducible.

7. HOW DO YOU SEE THE FUTURE OF THE FOOTWEAR INDUSTRY?

In general, I believe that efficiency understood as a parameter of analysis of a company will affect production models positively, as it will be seeking a geographically closer connection among materials, resources, manufacturing and product sale. In logistics terms, times are drastically reduced but also CO2 emissions. This process should start by investing on a big research to know the closest materials available.

In terms of footwear design, I believe that efficiency or sustainability comes from the use of fewer components and more versatile materials. A shoe has great complexity because it is composed of many parts, which makes it an expensive garment to produce. The manufacturing processes or technologies applied must also be rethought to obtain a more sustainable shoe.

8. LAST YEAR YOU PUBLISHED A BOOK THAT COLLECTS YOUR RESEARCH AND COLLABORATIONS IN RECENT YEARS. WHAT INSPIRED YOU?

I was lucky enough to receive this proposal from the Pasarela Collection editors ‘Puente Editores’: David Bestué, Miquel Mariné and Moisés Puente. It was published within the context of the La Plaza exhibition —commissioned by the L'Hospitalet Cultural district—. This publishing was an opportunity to write and reflect the ideas that I usually work on intuitively —first I do it and then I think about how I’ve done it—. To my great surprise, I was awarded with the Ciutat de Barcelona 2019 Award in the design category for the book that had helped me both as a designer and as an exercise to organize my ideas.

6. LITTLE BY LITTLE NATURAL RESOURCES ARE BEING DEPLETED. HOW DO YOU THINK CONSUMPTION PATTERNS WILL CHANGE?

Consumption patterns will be affected by a noticeable change in our language and understanding. An example of this would be how the concept of luxury is changing. Currently, a luxurious item is not a top-quality one, but a valuable item. Perhaps in the future, luxury will apply to the extinct and irreproducible.

7. HOW DO YOU SEE THE FUTURE OF THE FOOTWEAR INDUSTRY?

In general, I believe that efficiency understood as a parameter of analysis of a company will affect production models positively, as it will be seeking a geographically closer connection among materials, resources, manufacturing and product sale. In logistics terms, times are drastically reduced but also CO2 emissions. This process should start by investing on a big research to know the closest materials available.

In terms of footwear design, I believe that efficiency or sustainability comes from the use of fewer components and more versatile materials. A shoe has great complexity because it is composed of many parts, which makes it an expensive garment to produce. The manufacturing processes or technologies applied must also be rethought to obtain a more sustainable shoe. 

8. LAST YEAR YOU PUBLISHED A BOOK THAT COLLECTS YOUR RESEARCH AND COLLABORATIONS IN RECENT YEARS. WHAT INSPIRED YOU?

I was lucky enough to receive this proposal from the Pasarela Collection editors ‘Puente Editores’: David Bestué, Miquel Mariné and Moisés Puente. It was published within the context of the La Plaza exhibition —commissioned by the L'Hospitalet Cultural district—. This publishing was an opportunity to write and reflect the ideas that I usually work on intuitively —first I do it and then I think about how I’ve done it—. To my great surprise, I was awarded with the Ciutat de Barcelona 2019 Award in the design category for the book that had helped me both as a designer and as an exercise to organize my ideas.

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