August 30, 2012

Ali Güven: The Art Of Shoemaking

In the port city of Bodrum, the art of manufacturing footwear is still alive, sweetly complementing the picturesque scenery of the Southern coast of the Aegean Sea.

Ever since 1966, artisan Ali Güven had been working in his small atelier in a Bodrum bazaar to make leather sandals that have, in time, become famous across the world. Known for their unique antiperspirant quality, the sandals were 100% handmade by Güven, from naturally treated leather soles and leather straps that graciusly wound across the ankles. Aside from this, the shoes have the fame of being some of the most comfortable footwear in the world.

Ali Güven had started the practice of shoemaking at an early age, working at Mustafas Ustad’s atelier. A while after that, he opened his own atelier, which quicly became a success, thanks to the beautiful sandals that the artisan fashioned. Famous clients, such as Mick Jagger, Bette Midler or Donna Karan, as well as powerful names from the Turkish business and fashion world, such as designer Lakis Gavalas and models Çağla Şikel, Sinem Güven and Eda Taşpınar, all wear his sandals.


During his lifetime, Ali Güven received an honorary award from the province of Muğla, certifying his services towards Turkish tourism over the last 25 years, and a letter from the United States, praising his artisanal work. The secret of his success stood in the passion that he always put into his work (he made over 100 pairs of sandals since 1966) and also in the fact that each piece of leather that he used was solely treated with Tannic acid, a vegan product extracted from the bark of Vallonea oak trees. This technique ensured that his sandals could be worn up to 30 years, during which, the wearer’s feet would not perspire or develop any kind of rashes of corns.


Sadly, the artisanal art of shoemaking is dying, given that there are few people left in the world who master it. Before his death in 2010, Güven said that he would love to see his sandals in a museum and his craft to be handed down to the next generation. Today, his daughter, Asya, is following in his footsteps, continuing the art of making beautiful leather sandals by hand.

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