AK Alojz Karner Shoemaking workshop

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Aleš Kacin is an architect who makes shoes. His passion for shoemaking comes from his grandfather Alojz Karner, a skilled shoemaker from Blagovica who moved to Žiri in 1957 and started to work at the local shoe factory Alpina. In addition to his regular job he also ran a workshop at home, where he continued to make and repair footwear after he had retired.
In 2005 the two of them together made a pair of shoes for Aleš, for whom this was the first close encounter with the traditional shoemaking process. A week after the work was completed his grandfather died and 18-year-old Aleš felt he had missed out on an excellent opportunity to gain and preserve a wealth of shoemaking knowledge.
He decided to study architecture, but shoemaking was always in the back of his mind. In 2013, when he returned from abroad, where he had studied and gained some work experience, he turned to master shoemaker Franc Kranjc and a new period began — intense study of the shoemaking craft.

“Very often people don't even know what kind of shoes they want, but after we’ve got to know each other a little we can agree on a model that matches their personality and dress style. Another thing to consider is how the shoes will be used. The style and construction also have to take into consideration the shape of the foot.”

Aleš Kacin inherited most of the tools from his grandfather’s workshop and collected those missing from Žiri shoemakers. The shoemaking tradition in Žiri was exceptional, and many people kept pieces of its legacy in their homes. Today, however, there are hardly any shoemakers left in Žiri able to make shoes from start to finish. Aleš found his mentor in Franc Kranjc, who is more than happy to pass on his knowledge and experience.
Initially, shoemakers in Žiri largely specialised in hardy work boots. Aleš draws from this tradition. His main interest lies in traditional patterns adapted to a modern user and details he would like to introduce to contemporary yet timeless footwear. In 2014 he set up the AK Alojz Karner workshop, where he explores and revives traditional shoemaking techniques.

Karner’s shoes are handmade using the tools that were traditionally employed in shoe construction. He makes wood-pegged, Goodyear-welted and Goyser-stitched shoes in high-quality natural leather. He still has some materials left to him by his grandfather; some of what he needs he buys at Alpina, but much of it often comes from renowned foreign manufacturers.
The process starts by measuring and outlining the client’s foot. The next step is designing the last, which is the soul of the shoe, and the pattern. Shoes are made up of the sole and the upper. The upper is sewn on an old treadle sewing machine and then pulled around the last, where the insole (footbed) has already been carefully placed. The longer the upper stays on the last the better its shape. Next come midfoot overlays, welt stitching, the outsole, heel, finishing touches and the insert. In most cases he makes a test shoe first to determine whether the last and the pattern work. The entire process takes three to four weeks. Aleš continues to build on his skills at Mario Herzog’s shoemaking workshop in Pesnica pri Mariboru.

Aleš Kacin makes high-quality custom footwear. His shoes are highly durable. They are hardy and age really well, as they only get nicer and more comfortable with time, so they require precision crafting and the best materials. Prices vary depending on the material, pattern and construction.
He makes men’s and women’s shoes for a variety of purposes, but they are always made of natural materials, are comfortable, durable and adjust to the foot. He is particularly proud of the pair he made for architect Blaž Budja, recipient of the Plečnik Award. The shoes were inspired by architect Jože Plečnik’s boots, which are kept in Plečnik’s house in Ljubljana. These are so-called Chelsea boots, whole cut with elastic side panels.