Since Álvaro González quietly launched his eponymous sandal brand in 2013 with his partner (in life and business), Nick Vinson, the dapper duo have seen their neat take on open-toe footwear become a genderless staple for the chic set.
“I design what I want to wear that we couldn’t find for us in the market,” says González, a veteran shoe designer formerly of Valextra and Jimmy Choo. “There is still the guy who will only wear a flip-flop with a beer-bottle opener, but he’s not really our customer,” adds Vinson, a branding expert who oversees sales and marketing.
Although men’s sandals (the duo prefer to refrain from the term “mandals”) can be a tricky category, they are clearly on to something: Barney’s, Matches Fashion and MrPorter.com all stock the Italian-made label, which is crafted from supple barrel-dyed and exotic leathers that caters to a specific kind of snappy dresser.
“We noticed an immediate sell-through, especially in the U.S.,” says Vinson. Both note that male grooming and fitness have become the norm — and that pedicures for sandal season are no longer seen as just for women. “Men are happy to show off the legs they worked hard on,” says González. “Shorter trousers are everywhere, and shorts are not just for holidays now. Plus, its so pleasurable to wear sandals instead of shoes in warm weather.”
The couple splits their time between Florence, near their artisan workshops, and their offices in London’s tony Marylebone neighborhood, adjacent to their first store, which will open in February 2017 — in time for London Fashion Week — and also house their chic women’s styles. They are also expanding their men’s offering to include boots for next season, which will bow at Pitti Uomo.
But no matter how their niche brand continues to grow, the couple remain focused on their core tenets of understated, minimal styles that belie highly engineered design. “Our product translates our way of living in terms of traveling, comfort and quality,” says González.