Bane Shoemaking

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Branislav Stajić is a unique Belgrade craftsman. On one hand, he is dedicated to very old, almost extinct techniques and tools from the shoemaking trade, while at the same time he resonates a lively entrepreneurial spirit: he registered the domain obucar.rs (obućar is the Serbian word for shoemaker) where he is hosting a nicely laid out website with rich documentation of his products and services, as well as a Facebook and Instagram accounts that are followed by thousands. Some of the photo albums he shares on Facebook showcase the complete process of creating a custom, handmade pair of shoes. He is also active in shoemaking online forums, where he exchanges experiences and information with likeminded colleagues from across the globe.
His grandfather started the family trade, and in 1940 officially became a majstor (master of crafts) with an appropriate degree received after passing the master exam. His father also followed in those footsteps, and despite being less motivated, he was known as an excellent pattern maker and expert for working on upper parts of a shoe. Already at the age of 10, Bane took an active part in the family work around the shoe hand making, and later on attended specialized school for leatherworkers, upgrading his solid knowledge base with aspects of the industrial type of shoe production.
Branislav then worked for 12 years in the shoe industry Beograd, as an expert technician for both lower and upper shoe parts. He left the firm in early 1990s. He then turned to his own private practice mostly working on shoe repairs, and since seven years ago he is exclusively dedicated to producing leather handmade shoes.
Anyone willing to commit 7— 10 days to a learning process of how to make your own leather shoes in a traditional way can sign up for a one-on-one course with Bane. In this way, he is dedicated to transferring his unique knowledge and skills to motivated individuals who will hopefully help this impressive craft not to die out, who are most often highly-educated young people with full-time jobs. He developed a specific format of a curriculum for basic training, as the complete knowledge base of the craft cannot be learnt within one week. He stays in touch with most of his students and keeps supporting them.

Already at the age of 10, Bane took an active part in the family work around the shoe handmaking, and later on attended specialized school for leather workers, upgrading his solid knowledge base with aspects of the industrial type of shoe production, as those schools were actually grooming future factory workers for the leather industry. Bane is very keen on sharing his knowledge, be it online by posting details of his work process and explaining it, or in person through one of his shoemaking courses that are an integral part of his array of services.

Branislav moved his workshop to his own home and is using less than 30 m² of workspace, with scattered old tools and sewing machines, traditional kilims and craft certificates of his father and grandfather on the walls, reminiscing the spirit of a traditional workshop from another time. This is also the space in which he realizes his shoemaking classes.

When it comes to tools, he had to source many of the old ones online, looking around his grandfather’s workshop, or even making new ones himself, which he based on the old ones, which mostly date from the early 20th century, or even before. He is focused solely on handwork, and uses only the machines that are truly necessary, like the sewing machine. Most of the traditional techniques are employed to connect the soles with the upper part of shoes. This joining can be done in very different ways — blake sewing, frame sewing, forged sewing, goiser sewing and others. When it comes to materials, the biggest challenge is constant supply and quality. Italian products are mostly available when it comes to leather and soles, mostly because big Italian brands hire small workshops in Serbia, and then other craftsmen are basically able to purchase their material leftovers, which are of high quality.
The workflow starts with customer’s visit, when all basic details are discussed and measures are taken by Bane. He will then prepare molds and patterns, cut the leather and start assembling the upper parts on the mold, and finally connects it to the sole, which is also made of thick layers of leather, as well as the heels. The customer then visits again, before final tweaks are added.

Branislav works on handmade shoes only, and exclusively in his own complete production. He rarely works on entirely new designs, but closely follows customer’s desires and rolemodels. All of the shoes he works on are pre-ordered, so he does not keep or produce any backstock. He deals with all of his customers personally. As he explains, a customer who is not aware of the process does not have enough knowledge or reference to distinguish between a low and high-quality product, and will end up looking only at the price of the final product, usually going for the cheaper one. He does mainly focus on classic men’s shoes in many variations, that mostly end up on the feet lawyers, managers or different executives.