The history of the footwear industry in Małopolska dates back to the 1960s. It is here that such brands as Ryłko, Wojas or Badura, companies that combine new trends and technologies with traditional craftsmanship and high quality materials, have been producing shoes for decades. Thanks to that, shoes from Małoposka are known and appreciated all over the world.
From a family business…
In the past, almost every house in Stanisław Dolny featured a shoemaker’s. Similarly in Wadowice, where up to this day shoes are hand made in accordance with traditional crafts. Stanisław Ryłko founded his first shoe factory in Kalwaria Zebrzydowska in 1964, where he promoted the “jodhpur boots” that had taken the world by storm. In less than a decade, this small manufactory had started manufacturing women’s collections, and in the 1980s,
it became a brand that was recognizable both in Poland and around the world for designing footwear in line with current trends. After the crisis caused by the system transformation, the company did not stop its dynamic growth with new retail stores being opened all around Poland (the first one was opened at Floriańska street in Kraków in 1997) and Ryłko’s shoes being regularly shown in stylizations featured in prestigious fashion magazines.
… to a big business
For decades, Małopolska has been Polish footwear hub, where many years of tradition and experience are now transforming into business success and excellent quality of domestic products. Currently, Wojas employs 1500 people, Ryłko has over 120 retail stores in the country, and the biggest chain of shoe stores, CCC, exports footwear to 16 countries, with the revenue obtained last year reaching a substantial amount of PLN 3 185 million.
According to Gazeta Prawna, in 2017, Polish footwear industry achieved the highest production index since Poland’s accession to the European Union – our Polish footwear companies manufactured as many as 39 million pair of shoes. This result is due, in large measure, to around 120 companies from Małopolska, which are still flourishing on the market today.
The reputation of footwear companies from Małopolska has even reached the Vatican. It was in Stanisław Dolny that, at the beginning of the 1980s, the shoemaker Stanisław Żmija designed and handmade “red jack boots”, which were a gift for John Paul II. This comfortable and stylish footwear manufactured in his home country appealed to Karol Wojtyla so much, that thenceforth, each year a package with a new pair had been sent to the Polish pope.
Thanks to their high quality, shoes from Małopolska became more popular than their Italian counterparts. “One time, Cardinal Stanisław Dziwisz provided us with a nice advertisement. In one of his statements, he said that Italian shoes are nice, but only for one season, whereas shoes manufactured by Mr. Stanisław are forever lasting. Eternal” – mentions the son of Stanisław Maciej, who took over his father’s company.
Confident stride into slow fashion
Production of footwear in Małopolska is more than just big businesses inherited from” father to son”. There are also young and talented designers, who intertwine their management philosophy with the idea of slow fashion. Anka Letycja Walicka began her career as a fashion designer. She gained her knowledge and experience in prestigious art schools in Poland and Europe.
After a few years of searching, she found her niche – designing original shoes with character. Michał Wojewodzic “Shoemaker” thinks of creating footwear as art. In his workshop in Kraków, he hand-sews shoes for women and men, and decorates in his own unique way with accessories made of metal or fur.
Made to measure
There are many companies in Małopolska, which, apart from everyday collections, offer shoes made to measure for special occasions. Such is the offer of Butdam, a brand specializing in women’s wedding, formal, and horse riding footwear, as well as Akardo, which is located in the very heart of the footwear hub, i.e., in Wadowice.
Both manufactures allow you to choose the height of your heel, colour, type of material and finish, or even… design your dream shoes by personally selecting details such as the type of heel tips and lining.