If The Shoe Fits


[trip style = sun + urban + adventure]

I recently met some fellow travel connoisseurs whose custom-fit footwear company was inspired on the road. As a lover of shoes and sojourning abroad, I had to share Justine and Kendall's story and show off their ethically made soles {I have a pair (below) and wearing them is like walking on air}. 


While shopping along the boho-chic blocks of Bali's Seminyak stretch, Justine popped into a leather goods store and settled on a pair of boots. Unfortunately, they didn't have her size {normally making the shoe purchase a no-go}. "No problem, I’ll measure you and make you a custom pair!" the cobbler said as he pulled out a measuring tape. A week later, the idea for Poppy Barley came to her while thinking about her experience in the shoe shop: "Why can't women everywhere have the same custom experience?" 

When Justine arrived home from the tropics, she and her sister Kendall {below} set their sights on pairing the traditional business of handcrafted shoemaking with a modern-day online twist. That was 2012. Today, Poppy Barley receives orders online {and at pop-up shops}, a dedicated team of craftspeople hand-make the shoes at a studio in Mexico, and the finished product is shipped to customers all over the world. 


Trip Styler Tip: Custom-fit footwear is the ultimate personalized Christmas gift. Buy a gift card, or sneak someone's measurements and send in the order. If the shoe doesn't fit, they remake them. 


Curious how Poppy Barley continues to pair travel and shoes, we asked co-founder Justine how she settled on Mexico for her company's production, how she extends her work trips for pleasure, and which shoes she doesn't leave home without.


What drew you to Mexico for shoemaking?
We chose León, Mexico for its rich history in manufacturing footwear. For the last 400 years the city’s main industry has been shoemakinggiving us the deep talent pool of artisans we need to build a scalable custom footwear company, and a short 36 kilometre supply chain. Further, because Mexico is relatively close to Canada and the USA, it makes product development trips and shipping easier. Plus, our product falls under NAFTA, so it's duty-free!


How often do you go to Mexico for work?
I go to León three to four times per year. Most of the time, I stay at Nueva Estancia, a simple yet styled hotel with all the fixings close to where I need to be for work. On my last trip I tried AirBnB, which gave me a deluxe apartment for $75 per night {I could have brought the whole Poppy Barley team}. At least once per trip, I make a point of eating out at Argentilla, one of León's poshest eateries drawing the who’s who of the city. León has a lot of Spanish, Italian and Argentinean restaurants due to the immigrants who have come to work in the footwear industry. After my first trip I realized that you have to make a special request for Mexican food, otherwise most people go out for Italian food. {They eat Mexican food at home!}

Leon, Mexico

Leon, Mexico

Do you ever extend your Mexico work trips and tack on a vacation?
Yes, so far I have visited Guanajuato {45 minutes from León} and San Miguel de Allende {2 hours from León}. Both are colonial-era towns that achieved great wealth in the 1850s due to the region’s silver mines, and as such, left an amazing heritage of Baroque architecture. The towns are set in valleys framed by mountains and have narrow and steep cobblestone callejones {alleyways}, shady plazas dotted with monuments and cafes, pastel-hued buildings and techni-colored flowers. Guanajuato and San Miguel de Allende were re-discovered and settled in the 1930s and '40s by artists and writers from around the world; now they are home to students, retirees, and creatives. 

Guanajuato, Mexico

Guanajuato, Mexico

What trip styles do you favor?
My ideal vacations combine the Urban and Active/Adventure trip styles. I love to explore, and I get bored quickly on the beach. For my last big trip my husband and I traveled to Turkey, spending time in Istanbul, hiking the Lycian Way, and wandering the underground cities in Goreme. My next trip is a work-play combo heading back to Guanajuato and San Miguel, but this time I am bringing my husband!

Carry-on or checked bag?
Checked. I hate the rush to board the plane to secure room in the overhead containers for my carry-on. 


Which shoes always accompany your travels?
My go-to travel shoes are the Poppy Barley Black Python Classic Point, the Poppy Barley Chelsea Boot {above right} and my running shoes.

[photos via poppy barley]