In the Ingelmo family, talent is hereditary. A fourth-generation footwear designer, Alejandro Ingelmo inherited the skills of his craft from his grandfather, a Cuban cordwainer who lived in Havana. He was known as the "Ferragamo of Cuba", and owned a beloved shoe store before the family relocated to Miami, where Alejandro grew up.
Since the resurrection of Ingelmo-made footwear, both by Alejandro's father Cristobal, and later by Alejandro himself, the name has become synonymous with forward-thinking designs and a progressive perspective. After a move to New York, Alejandro graduated from Parsons The New School and interned for Donna Karan before launching his eponymous label in 2005. We caught up with the designer to talk about the fundamentals of craftsmanship and where he finds his inspiration.
Are there any techniques that were used by your grandfather that you still use today?
My grandfather taught me many valuable things about the craftsmanship in shoes. All of his shoes were hand-sewn and that is something that I have tried to incorporate in my collection. In addition, I think I have learned to pay very close attention to small detail and this has helped me to make sure my shoes are the best standards.
Tell us about this photo of you in your office. What’s the neighborhood like? What are those photos behind you?
My office and store is in Soho in New York. I love the neighborhood: I can find myself being inspired when I am walking to get coffee. The images behind me are from my grandfather’s store in Cuba as well as his factory from the 1940s in Havana. I like to have it in my office to remind me of where I came from and my roots that ground me.
What’s the process of designing a shoe like? How many iterations of the same shoe do you go through before you settle on the one?
I will typically sketch something 4 or 5 times to get it to look exactly as I like. Then a prototype is made, which I will make corrections directly on and pay close attention to the fit and stitching and other details. Then it will be remade until it is perfect. And finally the final sample is made in the materials we chose for the production.
We have a sketch of The Tron, one of your stand-out shoes. Can you tell us a little bit about the inspiration for that one? Why was it named that?
The Tron shoe was named that because the panels looked very futuristic and it was inspired by the movie Tron, which was one of my favorite movies growing up.