In the past, shoemaking was one of the most important crafts, focused on the production and repair of shoes. Repairing and making leather goods was quite difficult and required a lot of dedication, and strong hands. The shoes of that time did not wear out because they were made of genuine leather and strong soles of gyon (a type of thick and hard leather). In Plovdiv, the region of Kapana as the district of crafts was full of dozens of such studios in the times before socialism. There were also small workshops in the neighborhoods, and the craftsmen enjoyed great respect. They passed on their craft only to those who were really willing, ready to apprentice for a few years and to study on the spot. The best leathers were used for production - calfskin, napa leather, lamb's kidskin, suede, and the soles were always made of gyon.
Gradually, however, the introduction of assembly lines, and rapid production, exported to low-wage countries, totally displaced the work of shoemakers and turned them into a pale copy of those of the past. Here and there we find studios for handmade shoes in the creative district - we have introduced you to one of them in more detail in our article A shop for handmade shoes, but in general, even repairs of pairs purchased from the store are now totally unnecessary. Usually, the strong seasons in the craft are two: spring and autumn, but with each passing year the work decreases abruptly.
You meet a shoemaker who is not of retirement age even less often. In most places, the machines are old, and the cost of labor and materials is difficult to cover the payment for the activities performed. The truth is that we’ve almost stopped bringing our belongings for repair, and in the era of fast fashion and overconsumption it is much easier to buy something new, which can even turn out to be cheaper than a repair.
There are a few places that are still the last Mohicans in the city under the hills. You will certainly not see them in the central parts or come across an ad on the Internet. Rather, you should walk around the neighborhoods and ask where the masters are and if there are any left.