Lottusse as time goes by: the loss of Cuba and the Philippines

Lottusse durante la Guerra de Cuba

Lottusse was founded in 1877 in the small Mallorcan town of Inca. A modest handcrafted shoe shop that, in a short time, would become an international footwear export company. This was the moment when the local and the global formed an everlasting bond in the history of Lottusse. And naturally, this small workshop located in the very heart of Mallorca began to experience first-hand the global issues that were taking place far beyond the confines of this small Mediterranean island.

Since then, Lottusse has faced many crises, some which were rather significant, such as financial crises and wars that we now read about in the history books. The first of these crises was undoubtedly the collapse of the Spanish colonial empire in 1898. This was the first challenge that Lottusse had to overcome and in doing so, the company proved that, with tenacity, sacrifice and, above all, humanity, it is possible to emerge from any crisis and endure. Do you want to know how this crisis affected Lottusse and how the company overcame it? Read on to find out.

The Lottusse shoe trade in Cuba and the Philippines: the family grows

 Let’s start at the beginning. When Lottusse was founded in 1877, a few corners of the Spanish colonial empire remained. These were mainly island territories in the Caribbean and the Pacific and represented only a pale reflection of that centuries-old empire on which “the sun never set”. 

However, during much of the 19th century, they still served as export sites used by many Spanish enterprises for trading. It was very common, for example, for companies in the already thriving Catalan textile industry and the solid Valencian footwear industry to export their products to the colonies. Today we call it internationalisation, but at that time it was more similar to domestic expansion. Let’s not forget that these colonies had representatives in the Spanish parliament as they were considered to be provinces.

Lottusse began exporting shoes to Cuba and the Philippines in 1886. We should clarify, however, that Lottusse did not exist as a brand at that time. The current name was not used for the first time until the 1930s. Until that time, the footwear was marketed under the name of the founder, Antoni Fluxá Figuerola.

These were times of growth. Orders were increasing from overseas territories. Mestre Antoni’s workshop began to manufacture up to 200 pairs of shoes a week. As a result, the workforce was expanded. And so, the workshop went from employing three people (Mestre Antoni himself and two apprentices) to having a workforce of up to 20 men and women. In just a few years, Lottusse had managed to expand the family.

At the same time, the company committed to the early stages of mechanisationwith the purchase of the machines like the edge trimmer and seamer. The pace of work was feverish and production never ceased at Mestre Antoni’s workshop. Ships full to bursting with Lottusse footwear orders headed for the Caribbean and Pacific islands. Everything was plain sailing until what would go down in history as “The 1898 Disaster”.

In 1898, following long-standing conflicts in which the United States had become involved, the last vestiges of the Spanish colonial empire were lost. It was a national disaster and led to the abrupt closure of many very profitable markets for Spanish companies. This setback, of course, was felt with particular intensity by Mestre Antoni’s workshop. The story goes that the shoemaker was seen weeping by the sea on the harbour shore as he watched the ship returning with the last order sent to the colonies a few months earlier.

Overcoming “The 1898 Disaster”: reaction, readjustment and searching for new opportunities

 After the tears, however, came the work. And hard work at that. Mestre Antoni began searching for alternative markets and found them in Catalonia and France. It was a risky bet, as both territories already had solid and highly mechanised textile and footwear industries. 

Although the mechanisation of the small Mallorcan workshop was in its early stages,Mestre Antoni was not discouraged. He was so committed to the new venture that he began to study French every night between the years 1900 and 1905 after he arrived home from gruelling days in the workshop. He paid two and a half pesetas for these classes. 

In the end, all his hard work paid off. Mestre Antoni not only established a presence in the markets he targeted, but Lottusse footwear also gained a reputation comparable to that of Catalan and French footwear. Indeed, with considerable intuition and wisdom, Mestre Antoni became a frontrunner in embracing what we would today call brand image. He began branding the inner sole of the shoes with the words “Calzado sólido. Con la prueba está el éxito”, which we might translate as “Solid footwear. Success lies in quality.” This was essentially a commercial slogan!

The commitment to quality and brand image would result in the change in the workshop’s name to Calzados Antonio Fluxá. The new name summed up everything achieved after the crisis caused by the 1898 Disaster: celebrating the product and promoting quality footwear to create a brand.

With these ingredients, Calzados Fluxá began selling regularly in Paris and Barcelona. Through transformation and improvement, Mestre Antoni had at last managed to overcome the crisis. And not only for him, but also for the numerous employees who at that time formed part of the Lottusse family.

 Lottusse: “calm, tact and patience”

 Overcoming this crisis represented not only a change in business strategy. It was a change in values. A new DNA that is maintained to this today: that of overcoming difficulties and finding new opportunities. This first experience with a global crisis forged Lottusse’s character, as the loss of Cuba and the Philippine was by no means the only crisis nor the most severe experienced by the company throughout its more than 150 years of history

The person who best personified this spirit was Mestre Antoni’s own son, Lorenzo Fluxá. He was the company’s director during some of the most troubling times of the last century and often repeated the phrase “calm, tact and patience”. This mantra remains one of the slogans that to this day serves to uphold the spirit of Lottusse in difficult times.

“The 1898 Disaster”, as we said, was not the greatest crisis suffered by Lottusse. It was just the first. There would be more crises to come, and some of a more complicated nature. This small Mallorcan workshop endured each of them, continuously improving to become a benchmark in the handcrafted footwear industry, as can be seen by the numerous Lottusse stores all over the world. The company’s capacity to adapt to change is the cornerstone of its long history and values. Patience and determination, the traditional and the modern. The idea that there is no need for haste, just to maintain a steady pace. Characteristics which have made Lottusse what it is today: a brand to trust.