In a previous article on Lottusse’s experience during the loss of Cuba and the Philippines, we explained the first major crisis faced by the small handcrafted footwear workshop. We also explained how it overcame this crisis and that to do so meant a rethink in the company’s strategy that soon began to bear fruit. Years of prosperity followed until one of the most pivotal events in the 20th century took place: the First World War. In this article we tell you what this conflict, which soon turned out to be a major global disaster, meant for Lottusse.
From this time full of difficulties, many lessons were learnt that served to help Lottusse face other complicated situations. Persistence, resistance and adaptation were fundamental to Lottusse’s success in those difficult years. But above all, they were the key to knowing how to prepare its response to new global challenges that would soon arrive in the tumultuous 20th century. That spirit of resistance is what has undoubtedly brought us to where we are today. Our vocation to prevail and to respond to challenges is the backbone of our identity. And, of course, of our long life as a brand to trust.
The Belle Époque in Lottusse shoe production
Lottusse’s first decade was characterised by prosperity as a result of internationalisation in European markets and a progressive mechanisation in the manufacture of both shoes for men and shoes for women. This was also the time in which Europe as a whole was experiencing the Belle Époque, when technology, the arts and communication flourished. It was, in short, a time of peace.
Lottusse was marching in step with the sign of the times. In 1910, it inaugurated its emblematic factory with a modernist façade, the style that today is so representative of that unforgettable and self-confident era. There seemed to be nothing to foretell of the disaster that was to come and change the face of Europe and the world forever.
But it happened. On 28 June 1914, Archduke Franz Ferdinand of the Austro-Hungarian Empire was assassinated in Sarajevo. This would trigger a conflagration involving no fewer than 30 countries and, after four long years of conflict, would result in the deaths of 16 million people. The unprecedented scope of this conflict would, of course, severely affect the European and global economies and, by extension, Lottusse.
The effect was immediate. The outbreak of the war very seriously afflicted the banks, which froze trading on certain bills. This circumstance had a great impact on trade relations. In addition, Germany, where Lottusse imported significant quantities of leather, paralysed exports to focus on the war effort. Overnight, Lottusse faced a challenge and it started to react quickly.
Lottusse and the war economy
To understand Lottusse’s response to this immense challenge, we must consider two circumstances. Firstly, Spain did not participate in the war. Our country’s neutrality significantly mitigated the economic disaster, so Lottusse was able to continue its production. However, this was far from conducive to business as the limitations were strict. The military authorities and the new trade unions were firmly in control of any commercial exchange. Not to mention the problems faced in the provision of materials that goes hand in hand with any far-reaching war.
And secondly, and even more decisive, was the fact that the First World War was the first large-scale industrial conflict. This meant that all production and the economy were focused on the war effort. Some warring countries, such as Germany, even implemented economic planning exclusively for military purposes. In addition, the unprecedented scale of the war effort, in terms of both material and human resources, meant that not all the nations involved could take on wartime production in its entirety, thus passing it on to other countries.
Lottusse stepped forward and began producing military footwear for the French army. Although this solution seems straightforward, the limitations were soon revealed. In just a few months, it became apparent that the agreement with the French army was not as good as it seemed. Francisca Aina Fluxá, who would assume Lottusse’s leadership after the war, said in a letter to her husband about the situation that:
The blessed gun-metal footwear has given us a lot to think about. First, we made significant purchases of specific articles for the situation and, as demand has halted we have the goods in storage without knowing how or when we will be able to get rid of them. It seems the French government has exhausted its funds and is therefore purchasing less. We are in business with the Italian government. We will see what will happen.
This situation called for quick action once more. The lesson learnt was that it was best to focus on markets that were not plagued by war. And luckily, these markets were not far away. Spain was and would remain neutral throughout the conflict. And that was that. Lottusse intensified its trade in the domestic market, especially in regions such as Catalonia and Andalusia. Such was this intensification that by the end of the war Lottusse footwear had expanded across the whole Peninsula and the Spanish territories in Africa.
However, this new strategy was not spared from difficulties. The conflicts in Spain, although not of a military nature, were also very intense. Here, it is important to mention the revolutionary strike of 1917. Inspired by the Russian Revolution, which took place in that same year, directly influenced by the war, this strike caused serious disruption to the national economy. And yet Lottusse managed to overcome this, as well, mainly due to the great family culture that Mestre Fluxá himself wanted to instil at his workshop from the outset.
It was a difficult time worldwide that gave rise to a new era. Even in this, Lottusse’s history is aligned with the sign of the times. In 1918, the devastating conflict came to an end, but this year also saw the collapse of old empires and the birth of a new world. It was also the year in which Mestre Fluxá passed away. And so, one cycle in the history of Lottusse ended and a new one began, under the direction of his daughter, Francisca Aina Fluxá.
From now on, everything would be very different to how it was before the war and that cheerful and happy Belle Époque. The 1920s would bring the definitive consolidation of the industrial production model to the footwear industry. A challenge that was firmly taken up by the second generation, through Francisca Aina and, later, by Lorenzo Fluxá. Mestre Fluxá was thus the bridge between two worlds: the artisanal and industrial, the traditional and modern. His passing at that time was an eloquent metaphor of that changing era.
If you want to know more about our more than 150 years of history, here we take you through the History of Lottusse step by step.