Getting His Kicks
Cobbler Union Founder Daniel Porcelli believes in the transformative power of beautiful shoes
Growing up in Patagonia, Argentina, and moving to New York City with his family at 18 years old, Daniel Porcelli was always inspired by the loveliness of his surroundings. “I grew up in a place of extraordinary natural beauty, and in New York, there was extraordinary man-made beauty. It was the combination of both that inspired me to surround myself with beautiful things and what attracted me to shoemaking in the first place,” he says.
The founder of Cobbler Union, a small-batch, luxury, bespoke-inspired men’s shoe and leather goods brand, didn’t jump into creating beautiful shoes right after graduating from UNC Chapel Hill, though. Instead, he worked in management consulting in New York and Argentina before moving to Atlanta in 2001 to attend Emory’s business graduate school. He then became a partner at Gallup, a management consulting firm, before leaving in 2011 to invest in a made-to-order shoe making business in Barcelona.
“I always wanted to become an entrepreneur by the age of 40 and, at the time, I was 39. I just happened to have a very good friend from Argentina who knew a great shoemaker in Europe,” Porcelli says. “I love being a part of this incredible industry and playing a small part in preserving the craft for future generations.”
After spending three years with the studio in Barcelona that sold men’s pairs for around $4,000 each, Porcelli was dissatisfied with the high price point and lack of accessibility for a wider audience. In 2014, he launched Cobbler Union in Inman Park offering ready-to-wear shoes made in Spain at prices starting at $195. “I wanted to make something more attainable for the consumer. Not necessarily affordable, but attainable,” Porcelli explains. Last year, the retail store and headquarters moved to Ponce City Market. It also sells its goods online in 65 countries.
Cobbler Union offers around 60 different shoe models—a fairly vast collection for an independent maker. To keep things fresh, each year, 30 to 40 percent of Cobbler Union’s products are new. “We work in small batches, which allows us to frequently bring to market new styles and retire old ones,” he adds.
When asked why the retailer only offers men’s shoes, Porcelli explains, “In mensware, the shoe making is all about the craftsmanship rather than fashion or design. The word fashion is not even part of our vocabulary. We go for classic construction with contemporary twists, made with traditional methods, made to last. Womenswear is all about fashion. Our vision as a company is to preserve and promote incredible craft.”
Indeed, the Cobbler Union customer is everyone from guys who have recently graduated to older, more professionally “established” men. “Beautifully crafted shoes have the power to transform a man and allow him to express his unique point of view,” Porcelli says.”
675 Ponce de Leon Ave. N.E., Suite N219
STORY: Karina Antenucci
PHOTO: Erik Meadows