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 making handmade shoes.

Sara designs and produces shoes with unusual materials, such as wood and mushrooms. With functionality and sustainability, her practice crosses the limits of craftsmanship, design and art, always from an investigative perspective.

1. HOW DID YOU GO FROM YOUR STUDIES IN ARCHITECTURE TO THE DESIGN AND PRODUCTION OF SHOES?

During the last years of my architecture degree, I began to learn the trade of shoemaker. I worked in an architecture studio but the circumstances of the 2008 crisis complicated my work development in that field and every time I began to dedicate more time to crafts. I am interested in learning the technique of a trade to open up new design avenues through this knowledge. Years later I had the opportunity to travel to Portugal and visit shoe factories and that is where I began to design in small productions and apply the knowledge acquired from the trade. Footwear is a very interesting piece that is between product design and fashion design, it is rich and complex and that is why I am interested.

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

Since I started with footwear, I have had an interest in applying other materials. Footwear has a long history using leather as the main material, leather is a very noble material both for its versatility in finishes and for its physical properties (it is impervious to water but breathable to sweat). The pattern and design of footwear are closely linked to the use of leather, so if you are looking for formal shoe innovation, innovation in the material and the ways of producing it is also important. I was interested in avoiding the use of leather for an ethical inclination but also to achieve new forms in the product.

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

I am interested in innovation in design through material, that is why I investigate: creating new materials directly (especially from bioplastics kitchen), studying semi-developed materials and working on their possibilities in footwear design and finally looking for materials from other industries that can be applied in the shoe world.

I am also interested in the opportunity offered by waste materials and the study of materials through their social, economic and cultural impact. 

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

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

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 to which it is subjected, its degradation and durability adapted to use and also its possible subsequent recovery. Without forgetting its socio-cultural and economic impact.

It must be said that avoiding the use of fur is first of all a moral necessity for many people who are in favor of animal liberation. It should be taken into account that designers who avoid 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: also in terms of 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 plurality that inhabits the planet. 

1. How did you go from your studies in architecture to the design and production of shoes?

During the last years of my architecture degree, I began to learn the trade of shoemaker. I worked in an architecture studio but the circumstances of the 2008 crisis complicated my work development in that field and every time I began to dedicate more time to crafts. I am interested in learning the technique of a trade to open up new design avenues through this knowledge. Years later I had the opportunity to travel to Portugal and visit shoe factories and that is where I began to design in small productions and apply the knowledge acquired from the trade. Footwear is a very interesting piece that is between product design and fashion design, it is rich and complex and that is why I am interested.

2. When did you become interested in exploring possible unconventional materials?

Since I started with footwear, I have had an interest in applying other materials. Footwear has a long history using leather as the main material, leather is a very noble material both for its versatility in finishes and for its physical properties (it is impervious to water but breathable to sweat). The pattern and design of footwear are closely linked to the use of leather, so if you are looking for formal shoe innovation, innovation in the material and the ways of producing it is also important. I was interested in avoiding the use of leather for an ethical inclination but also to achieve new forms in the product.

3. What are your main lines of research for the search for materials?

I am interested in innovation in design through material, that is why I investigate: creating new materials directly (especially from bioplastics kitchen), studying semi-developed materials and working on their possibilities in footwear design and finally looking for materials from other industries that can be applied in the shoe world.

I am also interested in the opportunity offered by waste materials and the study of materials through their social, economic and cultural impact. 

4. So far, what unconventional materials have you worked with?

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

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 to which it is subjected, its degradation and durability adapted to use and also its possible subsequent recovery. Without forgetting its socio-cultural and economic impact.

It must be said that avoiding the use of fur is first of all a moral necessity for many people who are in favor of animal liberation. It should be taken into account that designers who avoid 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: also in terms of 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 plurality that inhabits the planet. 

6. Little by little, natural resources are being depleted. How do you think the way of consuming will change?

Consumption models will be affected by a noticeable change in our language and understanding. An example is how the concept of luxury is changing. Today a luxurious item is not one of high quality but a valuable item. Perhaps in the future, luxury refers to the extinct and irreproducible.

7. How do you see the future of the footwear industry?

In general, I believe that efficiency as a parameter of analysis of a company will also affect production models positively, seeking a closer connection geographically between materials, resources, manufacturing and it would also be interesting in the sale. In this way, time is reduced but also CO2 emissions in logistics. It should start with a strong investigation in knowing the nearest materials.

Concretely in footwear design, I believe that efficiency or sustainability comes from the use of fewer components and the use of more versatile materials. A shoe has great complexity because historically it is made up 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 put out Practice a book that collects your research and collaborations in recent years. What inspired you to create it?

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 publication was an opportunity to write and reflect on ideas that I work intuitively from practice (first I do and then I think). The big surprise was receiving the Ciutat de Barcelona 2019 Award in the design category for this publication that had served me as a designer as an exercise to organize my ideas.

6. LITTLE BY LITTLE, NATURAL RESOURCES ARE BEING DEPLETED. HOW DO YOU THINK THE WAY OF CONSUMING WILL CHANGE?

Consumption models will be affected by a noticeable change in our language and understanding. An example is how the concept of luxury is changing. Today a luxurious item is not one of high quality but a valuable item. Perhaps in the future, luxury refers to the extinct and irreproducible.

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

In general, I believe that efficiency as a parameter of analysis of a company will also affect production models positively, seeking a closer connection geographically between materials, resources, manufacturing and it would also be interesting in the sale. In this way, time is reduced but also CO2 emissions in logistics. It should start with a strong investigation in knowing the nearest materials.

Concretely in footwear design, I believe that efficiency or sustainability comes from the use of fewer components and the use of more versatile materials. A shoe has great complexity because historically it is made up 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 PUT OUT PRACTICE A BOOK THAT COLLECTS YOUR RESEARCH AND COLLABORATIONS IN RECENT YEARS. WHAT INSPIRED YOU TO CREATE IT?

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 publication was an opportunity to write and reflect on ideas that I work intuitively from practice (first I do and then I think). The big surprise was receiving the Ciutat de Barcelona 2019 Award in the design category for this publication that had served me as a designer as an exercise to organize my ideas.

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