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New York Called Barbara Briones

Some people move to New York to follow their dreams and some people move to New York and their dreams follow. Barbara Briones, a shoe designer from Chile, is the latter of the two. Whereas I moved to New York with hopes of uncovering my still hidden passion, she moved here with a passion for shoe design and a pre established business back in Chile. People move to New York City for different reasons and Barbara's original reason was love. She met her current husband in New York while visiting friends a while back and maintained a long distance relationship until moving here. It has been about two and half years since she came to New York to start a family with him but her story began across seas.Barbara was born in Chile but left upon completion of her primary schooling around age 20. Her first stop was Buenos Aires, Argentina where she started pursuing her love of shoemaking. Before meeting Barbara I was unaware of the great tradition of shoemaking in Argentina. She spent 3 years in Buenos Aires learning more about the whole process. Eventually she moved to London to study at the London College of Fashion's Cordwainer College for footwear design, a school also attended by great talents like Jimmy Choo. She spent three years in London before moving to Florence, Italy for an internship with Ferragamo. Eight months of this internship brought her back home to Chile, where she decided to start her own business.The inspiration for her business came more from her fascination with the shoemaking process than the outcome of the shoe itself. "It is not easy to learn how to hand make shoes. It is an old tradition that has been overtaken by the mass production of shoes made in factories in places like China," said Barbara.The process begins with her sketches. Planning for each season begins 9 months to a year out. Trend forecasting takes place each season and it takes about a month to develop samples. There are about six hands behind the making of each shoe and each person has a different job. For instance, one person cuts the leather, one person stitches the leather to the shoe form, and one person does the retouching or "photoshopping" of the shoe. Five years ago in Chile when she opened her atelier (a french word for a designer's small studio or workshop) one of the hardest parts was finding people who knew the trade. Eventually, through networking she got the contacts she needed to find the resources and team she needed.Although more expensive, the quality of handmade shoes is worth the cost. "The materials we use and the dedication and time put into each shoe makes all the difference," said Barbara of her 10 person team in Chile. One of her biggest struggles since moving to New York has been her distance from the factory. Although she travels to Chile very often, maintaining her business while living in New York has been an adjustment. I was curious whether she could move production to the city. "I don't know if I could... I have a team in Chile that puts their heart and soul into the production," said Barbara.So she isn't planning to move production to the states, but she isn't a huge fan of planning in general. "Aside from ensuring my business is organized and planning season to season, I don't like to plan too much in advance. I have had experiences in life that taught me to just appreciate where I am as much as I can. You can't plan that much in life because things end up so differently than you expect," said Barbara. For instance Barbara never imagined she would live in New York.New York, after all, moves at a very different pace than Chile. "When I first moved here I needed to figure out how to approach this whole experience. I mean this city is amazing and has so much to give but it was difficult at first," said Barbara. Her shoes are sold in various international markets but she feels she can really find her customers here in the states. She has made small adjustments to her design aesthetic based on the people here. In the Chilean market it is all about comfort and flats but in New York there is an emphasis on statement heels and boots. "New York is funny because no one wants to wear something that is 'last season' whereas in places like Italy they mix from old and new. It is not so much about the brand as it is here in the city," Barbara said.While it is a bit intimidating to keep up it is also a healthy challenge and any adjustments she makes come naturally. "I am super honest in my design. Why would you do something you don't believe in?" said Barbara. She remains consistent in her quality and design aesthetic especially when approaching trends. A girl could have her entire collection and it would all work for her from flats by day to heels by night.As for getting her brand into New York stores? "It is tough because buyers are scared of new brands since the economy changed. But I am learning how to put my elbows out and make my space," Barbara said. She is already in stores like Anthroplogie and she continues to grow her brand. Her favorite part of it is still the development and process of making the shoe. She travels to Chile often to make sure she can spend time in the factory. And while she is home she makes sure to spend time with her nephews, as those are the moments that make her happiest. "In Chile we have a different concept of family. People live with or very near to their parents until they are married," said Barbara.While Barbara is a plane ride away from home, she is lucky to have a lot of friends in New York to give her comfort. "In Chile we call it 'El mundo es un panuelo!' meaning 'The world is a handkerchief,'" said Barbara. In english we would say it's a small world. And although it is a very small world, it is not too small for big dreams, or a big closet full of Barbara Briones shoes...You can shop Barbara Briones shoes here. You can also "like" Barbara Briones on Facebook follow her onInstagram. Keep updated here on the Busy Signal.

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