Raul Ojeda Mentee, Shoe Designer And Maker

raul ojeda

Rual and Anthony Bourdain 

Raul Ojeda Handmade Footwear Merges Craft and Fashion

A friend from El Salvador pushed Ojeda to try shoe shining and see where it landed him.  Raul Ojeda was reticent at first.  But decided to set up shop at the Century City mall next to many office towers teeming with professional types.  Instantly garnered him a steady flow of work.  Over time, his customers began encouraging him to expand from just shining shoes to also repairing them.  Planting the seeds for a career to come.  “The thing is that a lot of my business ideology really comes from talking to people and listening to advice.  A lot of my clients are businessmen and entrepreneurs that just talk to me about opportunities and say, ‘Have you thought about this?  Have you thought about that?'”

raul ojeda
Learned How To Make Shoes

A woman he was dating lived in Hollywood and when he visited her, he would pass a curious shoe repair shop called Willie’s.  He stopped to peak in.  “I fell in love with the way Willie’s looked.  It was real tabletop sewing machines.  I was so curious and I just started to come in slowly and build a friendship with Willie.  I liked him and was interested in getting to know him, I just started coming in every week.”  Willie was in his 80s at the time.  Raul Ojeda notice the shop was suffering from a lack of organization.  Ojeda regularly on his own, without pay started tidying up, and, most importantly, learning how to make shoes from one of the last great masters.  “I was brought up by makers and merchants. Back home in Mexico City.”
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Willie And Ojeda’s Bond Grew

and the aging store owner sold the business to 25′ year old Raul Ojeda.  Owner of Willie’s Shoe Service.  Wasn’t without its moments of utter panic. “I had no business education, nor finish high school.  Thankfully the response of me taking over the business was just drop dead amazing.”  Raul Ojeda was more interested in designing and handcrafted shoes than repairing.  Keeping a small business afloat meant holding on to the steady stream of income he could. “I was auditioning to take over the shoe shop and just start making shoes.  “That’s what excites me the most.  Talking to someone, making shoes for them, trying the shoes on, making the shoes really pretty.  But you can’t survive on shoe making alone because it takes so much time.”

 We Are Going To Do Whatever It Takes

“We learned with blood sweat and tears that it’s not just making a shoe.”  You cut it, sew it, stitch it real nice.  Such a beautiful shoe.  We guarantee the fit.  That’s what makes us different.  That statement. We are going to do whatever it takes.”

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One of many shoe styles

2011, Raul Ojeda Founded The Bespoke Shoe Line Don Ville, Named In Honor Of His Mentor.

raul ojeda

The shop brought together everything Ojeda had learned from the charismatic store owner over the years while allowing him the time to truly design a unique piece of footwear for his customers, sometimes taking as long as six months from start to finish. Detailed and lengthy,

Ojeda’s process all starts with one simple question that he asks every one of his Don Ville customers What’s the reason you’re having these shoes made?

By Jessica Jardine/KCET

Photos/Raul Ojeda

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