Espadrilles haven’t always been a summer fashion staple—they were once footware for peasants. Originally crafted in the Occitania and Catalonia regions of France and Spain since at least the 14th century, the name derives from ‘esparto’, after the plant that was braided to create its iconic sole. Worn by both men and women, they were made with a canvas or cotton fabric upper and a flexible sole made of jute rope, and laces wrapped around the ankle to hold the shoes securely in place. In the thirteenth century, the King of Aragon’s infantry wore them, as well as miners and priests. The shoe also became synonymous with the Catalan national dance, Sardana, where dancers wore espadrilles with ribbon ties around the shin, known as ‘Espardenya’.
Over hundreds of years, espadrilles have endured as a stylish, comfortable shoe. You might remember Lauren Bacall wearing a pair of ankle-laced espadrilles in the 1948 movie Key Largo. In the 70s, Yves Saint Laurent popularized the shoe by offering a “wedge” espadrille. And in the 80s, they were again revived when Don Johnson wore them in the TV show Miami Vice. They are a throw-back, retro shoe and today espadrilles are back in style.
Litchfield interior designer Lisa Horne found a pair of espadrilles in the Caribbean twenty years ago, and they were just what she wanted: double-thick soles, great fabric and very comfortable. Eventually, she wore them out and when she went to replace them, she couldn’t find any that came near the original pair. Several years later, her oldest daughter found a similar pair in the British Virgin Islands which she also adored. She encouraged her mother to develop it for other women who are looking for an attractive, simple espadrille to be worn on many occasions. Thus began the Lulu Espadrille Collection.
Lisa knew she wanted her espadrilles to be hand-made locally, and with her background as a designer, the fabrics had to be special. She began developing her espadrille collection three years ago. The soles which are made of jute, are from a small fishing village in France, and the shoes are actually put together in Torrington.
Initially, she sold them at trunk shows, but now she mainly sells them online or by phone. Lisa’s espadrilles are available in solids and patterns, linen or cotton. Black is very popular. Also available for dressier occasions is a red and green striped taffeta. Lisa takes special orders and will also work with your own fabric. Even the ankle ribbons, which can be tied in the front, back or side, can be customized. The ribbons come in two styles, grosgrain or twill, in solid colors. It took a while for Lisa to find a ribbon that wasn’t stiff or scratchy on your ankles. The toe kick tab is made of hemp, which is an authentic detail. The espadrilles sell for $140 a pair and come in great little bags, like linen sacks, which are great for travelling.
What’s in the future of Lulu Espadrille? “Children’s espadrilles, a matching tote bag, and colors in the inside soles,” says Lisa. And soon gift certificates will be sold online. For now, Lisa hopes you will buy a pair of her Lulu Espadrilles and wear them out. “They get better with age, as they acquire that lived-in look.”
To order your own pair of Lulu Espadrilles, call Lisa Horne at
860.508.5770 or visit the website: lulu-espadrilles.myshopify.com