Maco Custodio: From One Great Thing to Another
Monday, 6, July 2015

"Pinoy made. Pinoy fabric. Pinoy design.”

Taking notes off indigenous fabrics and elements of classic yet modern footwear, Maco Custodio brings forth Filipino footwear to the international arena.

Maco lives and breathes shoes. With his accumulated knowledge from Industrial Design, Shoe Engineering, the Philippine Footwear Academy and dues paid in the fine art of shoe craftsmanship, it was only a matter of time for Maco to rise as one of the leading shoe designers in our country. He takes in every moment, either good or bad, as an opportunity to take his career to new heights.

We’re expecting bigger and brighter things to come for this awesome designer! Read on and step into the world of Maco Custodio.

What was your turning point that led you to be a shoe designer? Have you been a shoe designer from the beginning?

During the time I graduated from Industrial Design, I met a friend who was one of the scholars of Philippine Footwear Academy in Marikina. She shared her insights that the school focuses on how to really make shoes. Like most fresh grads you don’t really know what to do, I thought here is an opportunity so let’s just do it! A month right after graduation I joined the school’s program. From then on, things just fell into place.

Checking on new and young designers now, I ask myself if I wasted any years. And I would say I haven’t, because my entire career has been focused on shoes.

Tell us how you’ve started. How did you come about in being identified as one of THE shoe designers in the Philippines? We’ve heard that you’re pretty hands on regarding your shoes.

Starting out, it was just really me... I got in contact with some Marikina shoe factories to create my designs. This was the time I was creating silhouettes for ladies shoes. While they were handling the production I maximized the time and got into accessories like bags, purses and leather fashion pieces. Eventually, to be more in control with the shoe production I hired my own sapateros. The men’s shoes now are all ours.

Now we are a team of six including me. I have 2 sapateros, an upper maker, a runner and an assistant. I watch over every process in the making of each shoe. I’m very hands-on. Beyond designing, I also choose the materials, look over the silhouettes, handle the clienteles and usually I’m the one who cuts all the patterns - such as the shape of the wingtips and its brogues. Brogues are the outline perforations, which is done all by hand. I do the finishing for all the shoes. Meaning I cut the extra lining, meticulously check for quality, place the shoe laces and pack the shoes.

On the business side, it’s just me. Sometimes it can be very tasking and hinder creativity, but that’s the reality of being a business man.

As a brand I started in 2008, when I did a collaboration with JC Buendia for Fashion Watch. Being identified as a brand by working with JC was more by chance! Coincidentally I was doing silhouettes as a requirement to enter into a school abroad. For them, they didn’t want the actual drawings. They wanted the actual shoes to be photographed then have a portfolio sent to them. All in good timing, my shoes diverted towards the collab. Right after the show, I received a handful of bridal shoe orders.

So that is how it started, and until now here I am.

What makes up a “Maco Custodio” shoe? Do you follow a certain DNA or look and feel for every pair? Feel free to get into details.

Color, patterns and a well defined silhouette. I really love color combination and now I like the idea of mixing materials, like mixing elements of wood with floral. I think for me, that’s what makes it a designer shoe, because there is a thought process when choosing the combination of the materials.

For my latest collection, all soles are tires. The tire sole was more of an accident design. I was looking for a particular sole in a shop and the closest thing they can suggest was rubber from old tires. When I used it, I found it extremely durable.

There’s no single theme to my shoes.

With my first collection, I started out with clean yet prominent heel designs. I didn’t believe in beading at all, for me even a simple silhouette should be a design on its own. It shouldn’t need added accessories like beadings to make it beautiful. The silhouette, style and combination of materials should be enough for it to capture the heart of the wearer. But now, I thought why not use additional details, so let’s do it. I did derby’s with beads, I also used lace. I created a capsule collection with Joel Escober, who is famous for using zipper heads. I started with heels, but now I’m having fun with derby shoes. I’ve also entered in creating boots.

I ask myself, why would you limit your creativity when it’s there?!

What would be your biggest break? Those ‘this is it’ moments?

The validation from other designers that they really consider you as a shoe designer. Like the time when my designer friend highly recommended a client to have her wedding shoes made by me. This is my break. Features on magazines or printouts, are more of perks. The real break is when a fellow designer would entrust shoes for you to make for an important event like a wedding.

I also consider positive feedback from clients as a break. When they compliment my shoes for its comfort and style, or when they compare my shoes to a reputable luxury brand and in the end... prefer my shoes.

We notice your latest collection uses some indigenous materials and a lot of prints. Usher us in and tell us more about it.

Some of my new styles I use Yakan, a traditionally woven fabric made in Basilan Mindanao. 1 meter would normally take them a month to create. With the 1 meter I can only make 2 pairs.

I’ve also used ethnic weaves such as Abel Iloco and Penagabel from Ilocos Norte and Ilocos Sur. I wanted to create something very Pinoy with an international look. Pinoy made. Pinoy fabric. Pinoy design.

We really don’t have that Pinoy shoes. If you look in the fashion scenes in Paris, London or the like - you don’t see it! When I saw the prints of our traditional fabric I was like “dude, this is beautiful”. This should be shown internationally. The intricacy of the fabric also tells a story. For example the patterns resemble a python and a crab. You can tell where the weaver of this fabric came from. Knowing its story and heritage gives you a deeper appreciation. It’s not just a woven fabric.

Of all the shoes you have designed can you name your top 5? Those that define you as a brand and as a designer.

Floral Derby. I love the combination of material and color. They’re also one of my best sellers.

Yakan Derby. I was aiming for the rubber shoes feel but formal enough to wear with a suit.

Fur Shoes. I made it just because I wanted to have fun with the fur!

Maco x Joel Escober Yakan Heels. Yakan pumps with a zipper corsage.

Dino Shoes. The Dino shoe collection is my first ever capsule collection that came out from international magazine SURFACE ASIA.

Your toddler collection “MACOlit” is extreme cuteness. What made you decide to enter into kid shoes? Was it an instant decision?

I have so much scrap materials! So I tried making tiny coin purses and accessories but no one was buying. Of course not much people would find the need to buy a premium coin purse. It was pointless, so I thought – why not make shoes for babies?

I launched MACOlit on 11-12-13. Since then it’s been doing extremely well. I have 15 patterns ready for MACOlit, which I plan to release soon.

What do you keep in mind when you design shoes? Do you always have your customers in mind when you are coming up with a new shoe or do you design for yourself first?

In shoe customization we consider the colors that you want, most of our clients prefer neutrals. Then with the pallets that you choose I may give my suggestions in adding highlights to make the custom pair more unique, like adding details of gray or lime green. Often my clients would say yes! I think it also serves as a little break for my client themselves, because most of the time it would be their first shoe to have hints of neon. It’s exploring something new for themselves.

I feel since it your time to have shoes customize might as well make it really yours.

It really is different from case to case. I have clients who give the colors and they entrust the entire design on me. Which is the most challenging part in shoe customization, but so far they have all liked my designs.

I have also experience doing color combinations which I don’t quite approve. I do voice out, suggesting that it’s not a normal color combination but then you’ll learn from where the client is coming from. For example, the client wanted the shoes to match the accessories of her outfit. The shoes as is look weird, because it has so much colors. But when she wore it with the entire outfit and accessories, it turned out nice.

It’s just not a matter of you being the designer for them to comply with, most of the time you have to listen. There are times that it’ll go your way, and there are times that you have to listen to learn something new.

They say entering into shoe industry can be tricky; can you share with us your biggest learning curve?

In any business, if you know the technical or the basic skills of the business it will propel you to success.

If you really want to be in the shoe business, it’s not enough for you to appreciate shoes. You should know how it was made and the different techniques in creating a shoe. Imagine the difficulty when your workers tell you your design in not possible. It’ll be hard to change things or question them because they have been doing the shoe making craft almost their entire life. You can’t do anything about it. Unlike someone who has the experience and skills to show them otherwise. Instead of it being a dead end, it can turn out to be a learning curve for you and the cobbler.

This same concept works for any given business.

From your experience, can you give our aspiring shoe designers 3 tips?

1) Have Passion. Love what you are doing. It will show in your work.

2) Have Perseverance. There will always be hurdles to face. Take it as challenge. Even mistakes can be considered as a learning process. The mistake is sometimes there for you to achieve another design.

3) Have FUN. I’m still here because I still have fun with what I do. Without it, coming to work will feel like “work”, like a routine. Enjoy what you do above everything else.

Describe the people who wear your designs.

Shoephorics! They have extreme appreciation of shoes. The take in all the details and give their honest feedback.

Any message for our community?