Lazuli Shoes: Portugal-Inspired Footwear

Recently, Atlas was gallivanting along the Tâmega River in Amarante and noticed something quite special through a shop window on Rua Frei José Amarante, just up from Igreja de São Gonçalo. The name of the store? Aguarela – Art Shoes & Bags.

This wasn’t your typical souvenir shop that sells magnets, teeshirts and mouse pads with the Barcelos rooster and the Portuguese coat of arms. Instead, they focused their attention on wearables made right here in Portugal. Without as much as a word to my male traveling companions I entered the shop and reached for the São Bento wedge (above) by the brand LAZULI that had beckoned me in like a fado-singing siren.

The brand had other wondrous creations featured in the shop, all fashioned from cork, goatskin leather, azulejos, nautical ropes, all for an innovative, artistic celebration of all things Portuguese. For the feet.

I ran to the counter and immediately began shoving my (unbelievably large) foot into every shoe on the shelf. Never before had I seen a brand that catered so well to the Portuguese sensibility and pride.

Naturally, Atlas had get in touch with the brand to show our enthusiasm and to find out more about them.

LAZULI’s Various Styles made with cork elements, goatskin leather, azulejos, and tile prints.

lazuli1Who founded LAZULI? When? What was the initial inspiration to create the brand?

The company was founded by two people: Ricardo Conceição (head designer), and Jeanette Vieira (head of sales). The brand’s development started in 2013 and the actual sales in 2014.

When we thought of creating the LAZULI brand, we knew we wanted a strong image that could easily be identified as representative of Portuguese culture. The Portuguese tile was chosen because of its rich history as a decorative element. This was the bottom line for the inspiration of the brand.

Portugal is famous for its shoe construction and quality. What sets your brand apart from the rest?

We don´t like to say that our brand is better than others, but what we can say is that we live and breath shoes — they are more than just an accessory. They are an important element that supports us during the day. In order to be reliable, their conception requires ongoing dedication and care.

There is real passion when our team creates shoes. Our goal is to achieve a final product with a unique design, but at the same time, a product with quality and comfort. We want people to be able to look inside a shoe store or a showroom and easily identify LAZULI amongst the other brands. We take our inspiration from our life experience, from our trips, books, and everything around us, and are constantly looking for very strong and unique images that have stories behind them.

Your brand was inspired by the histories of tiles in Portugal. Was there a particular scene or building that inspired the original concept?

Throughout the previous collections, we explored the tiles in a more traditional way, letting ourselves be inspired by themes such as Portuguese discoveries and the Dutch influence.

At the moment, we are developing our fifth collection for spring/summer 2016. For this collection, we took our inspiration from the very ancient relationship between Portugal and Japan.

For example, the artists Haru Ishii and Jun Shirasu, (who made the tile panel Três Jardins in Portugal’s Palmela train station) fell in love with Portuguese ceramic decorative elements, the train stations, old Congress centers, and public spaces with tiles. Japan was exposed to Portuguese beauty through these artists’ works, so we want to combine both influences and cultures in our next collection.

Was it difficult to find people to help execute the brand or was there a team in mind from the beginning?

We’ve been working in the footwear industry since 2008 by developing collections for different brands, so we’ve been able to gather a good team. We had the idea of creating our own brand for a long time, but we didn’t want to rush things. We wanted to have a purpose for launching a brand in the market and now that we have found our identity, our company currently employs eight people.

How many people does it take to design and create a prototype?

Besides the eight people that we have here, we also subcontract, so it’s hard to have an exact number, but at least one person is required for each step of the creative process: design, patternmaking, cutting, stitching, assembly, and finishing.

Tell me more about the head designer, Ricardo Conceição.

After four years of studies and internships, Ricardo spent two years working in shoe factories designing collections, in permanent contact with production, designs, and patterns.

Then in 2009,  Ricardo Conceição and Jeanette Vieira created their own company called Shoelutions, specializing in the design and trade of shoes and accessories. They have been developing different types of collections for children, women, and men for different brands in Portugal, France, England, Italy, Netherlands, Germany, Norway, Moldavia, Switzerland, and the U.S.A.

From your video, I see you have three separate concepts within your brand: formal and classic for professionals, relaxed and practical for casual days, and more avant-garde styles that are statement pieces. Which are your best sellers?

In general, the most sold are the avant-garde styles. The best-selling models are from the São Bento line. You can see the photo-shoot video here for a more complete look.

What are your plans for the future? Will you be focusing on expanding the women’s shoes only or are you considering men’s shoes as well?

We have always felt more comfortable developing women’s shoes. That doesn’t mean we cannot have a men’s line in the future, but we don´t think that will happen right

We are, however, including some novelties in our next collection, as we are thinking of developing a handbag line to complement the shoes. When Lazuli reaches a certain level of success, we might think of launching two separate lines: one that is more affordable and the other that is a more exclusive, high-end line.

Most importantly, where can we buy your shoes here in Lisbon?

Here in Lisbon, you can find them at:

Chocolate & Gengibre directions
Rua Coelho da Rocha nº85,1350-073 Lisboa
213 971 221

Living Light (Amoreiras) directions
C.C. Amoreiras loja 2139, 1ºpiso, 1070-034 Lisboa
938 465 942

Zuky Off Limits (Colombo)

Av. Lusiadas, C.C. Colombo, Lj2004/5,1500-392 Lisboa
tel: 217 167 633

If you don’t live in Lisbon, see LAZULI website’s store locator.

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