1920- 1940 . Our sandals started a long time ago on the island of Menorca, in the Mediterranean. It all began at ‘Binixems’, a farmhouse on the outskirts of Alaior. José Riudavets Pons worked on the farm, but decided to leave the country to head into town – to Alaior – in the 1920s. He set up a workshop there in 1929, on 2 Santa Àgueda street (it’s called Carrer des Grillons these days). He started to produce made-to-measure shoes on request
1940 – 1960. A few years later he opened a small shop in the front of his house. It doubled up as his shoe-making workshop, too. The locals knew José from his days on the farm. People around town called his house Can Bep de Binixems (José from Binixems’s house), or Cas sabater pagès (the farmworker’s shoe store).
1960 – 1980. José´s two sons Antonio and José learned the tricks of the shoe trade from their father. But while Antonio Riudavets opted to make dress shoes to order by hand, José decided to take the humble Menorcan sandal, the albarca, to a bigger market. By the mid-1960s, José headed off the island to tell the rest of the Balearic Islands, and mainland Spain, about Menorca’s albarcas.
1980 – 1990. By the 1980s, the albarca had gained popularity far beyond Menorca’s shores. But by the end of the decade, Menorca’s shoe industry was starting to flag in the face of competition from the rest of the world. Many factories across the island closed their doors. Menorcans continued to be faithful to their traditional sandal, though, with its recycled car tyre for a sole and simple strips of leather, sewn together the same way as they as Bep de Binixems, José’s father, had always done.
1990 – 2000. Time doesn’t stand still. Not even for a Menorcan albarca. As José’s children started to get involved in the business, they brought with them new ideas and together they introduced variations on the albarca’s classic theme. They experimented with new styles of leather, new materials for the sole and the lining and, they tweaked the shape of the sandal.
2000 – 2015. Today, we’re a long way from the farmworker’s shoe store. In its third generation, Amalio Riudavets stands at the helm. He attempts to strike that tricky balance between respecting decades of history, while taking his grandfather’s sandals into a global market – something Bep de Binixems probably would never have imagined could happen.
The albarca’s evolved, yes. But they’re still made in Spain. And the traditional, rustic-style sandals are still the most popular albarca in the collection. It seems that however far Riudavets’ albarcas travel, they’ll always remember their humble, countryside roots.