Mestre Antoni: forward-looking, with one foot rooted in the past

Mestre Antoni, fundador de Lottusse

It is impossible to talk about the journey Lottusse has taken without first mentioning Antonio Fluxá Figuerola, the man who started out on the path more than 140 years ago. As its founding father, he is known to all at Lottusse as ‘Mestre’ Antoni. ‘Mestre’ is the Mallorcan word for ‘maestro’, and this is always used with the respect and fondness that only an almost paternal figure can inspire. It shows how much we all see ourselves as one big family at Lottusse.

Mestre Antoni was born on 26 January 1853 in the small Mallorcan town of Inca. The town, at the foot of the Sierra de Tramuntana mountains, was by that time home to fledgling economic activity. Especially when we look at it in contrast with other towns in nineteenth century — and pre-tourism — Mallorca, so isolated and shut off from the rest of the world. But it would not be until some years later that Inca would become a reference point in footwear production, a status it continues to enjoy to this day

Mestre Antoni himself made a decisive contribution to this. In this article we explore the first steps he took that would in time lead to this great adventure. Above all we can see the aspects of his legacy that still inspire us today, still informing the decisions we make and reminding us who we are and where we have come from.

From bread to leather shoes: Mestre Antoni, entrepreneur

Mestre Antoni was what we would now call an entrepreneur. His character traits developed at an early age — a combination of intelligence, tenacity, bravery, perseverance, and the knack for finding opportunities — what we would now consider entrepreneurial DNA. His parents Lorenzo and Francisca Ana ran a bakery. So it was that the young Antonio Fluxá became familiar with commerce at a very early age; and however modest, this was what nurtured his vision and capacity to search for opportunities that would become so important in the future. This has especially been the case when dealing with crises such as the loss of Cuba and the Philippines or the First World War.

So how does one make the jump from bakery to leather footwear? Aged 19, Mestre Antoni began working in a small shoemaker’s workshop, one that was still run very much in line with the ancient shoemakers’ guild standards, dating back to the fifteenth century, when the Shoemakers’ Guild was founded in Inca. This meant that every workshop would have a master shoemaker, two officers and an apprentice. There was also hardly any division of labour, or the type of mechanisation that would define modern shoemaking firms some decades later. With his expertise and tenacity, Mestre Antoni had worked his way up to being a shoemaker’s officer in just two years.

His climb through the ranks came to an abrupt end when he was enlisted to fight in the Third Carlist War in Catalonia. But his thirst was unquenchable. When he was granted leave, he would visit Catalan shoemakers’ workshops to learn more about new footwear production methods. 

Let’s not forget that at that time, Catalonia had cemented its status as one of Spain’s most prominent centres of textile and footwear production. It was the best possible school for Mestre Antoni.

So, when he returned to Mallorca after the war ended in 1877, Mestre Antoni brought more back to Inca than just his threadbare military uniform. He also brought new ideas, all very different to what he had learned making leather shoes in Mallorca. But Inca had also changed in his absence: the first railway line link with Palmaopened in 1875, something that undoubtedly encouraged economic growth in this small town.

Straight away, Mestre Antoni recognised a window of opportunity, and he founded his own shoemaker’s workshop that same year. Lottusse had taken its first steps: in those early years, he worked on men’s shoes only, and from the start of the twentieth century he commenced production on women’s shoesMestre Antoni certainly proved to be an entrepreneur

So much so in fact, that Mestre Antoni had already succeeded in a feat we now consider to be the true marker of an entrepreneur: generating and boosting talent. Thanks to the knowledge they gained at Lottusse, two of his workers took the plunge with personal projects, setting up important mechanised factories. And in the case of Gelabert, this even went as far as creating a bank in 1920.

All of which of course required a great deal of hard work and tenacity. These are both qualities Mestre Antoni possessed, as evidenced by his fierce pursuit of penetrating the remaining national markets. As his daughter Francisca Aina said in a letter to her husband, Mestre Fluxá was relentless:

‘We have been in this one in Madrid for two days, from where I am delighted to be writing to you. We plan to leave for San Sebastian tonight or tomorrow. Given that we have now left the house, father wants to take advantage of the time to discover the unknown.’

Francisca Aina’s observation is noteworthy, in that she is describing her father’s drive to discover new opportunities. ’The unknown’. Her appraisal was in no way an exaggeration or rhetorical licence. In fact, Mestre Fluxá succeeded in introducing his products to a market as complex and competitive as Catalonia’s. He managed to overcome any doubts his offering could conjure up, which were largely magnified by the poor regard of Mallorcan footwear held in Catalonia. And he did so by making a firm commitment to product quality.

His decision to improve the quality and lend prestige to his products led to particularly positive results. Lottusse soon gained interest from shops and warehouses to distribute his products in Barcelona. The growth of the Catalan market culminated in him recruiting a representative for the region. Mestre Antoni had opened up new paths and broadened the Lottusse horizon.

Mestre Antoni and his legacy today: slow fashion is in Lottusse’s DNA

After his death in 1918, Mestre Antoni not only left the legacy of a highly mechanised and advanced shoemaker’s workshop. What he left above all was a way of understanding and doing things: of conceiving shoe production, a business mission and relationships with workers, among many other things.

Mestre Antoni was, after all, a man of his time: he was forward-looking, with one foot rooted in the past. He was someone who, coming from the deepest roots of tradition, always maintained a curiosity for the new, and always incorporated it if it would help him get ahead. An example would be his commitment to mechanisation, the rationalisation of work, and even the embryonic stages of brand image.
But he never did this to display his pursuit for imposed modernity: rather, it was to absorb everything technological advances could offer to help develop his ideas and passion. This is precisely what inspires us most at Lottusse. The son of Mestre Fluxá, Lorenzo Fluxá, who went on to lead the company for decades, continued his father’s vision with a phrase he liked to repeat over and again, and one that has been a part of our lives ever since: ‘calm, tact and patience’.

This is where our slow fashion concept stems from. Yes, we like to move forward, but without unnecessary haste. To walk, you need to take a step forward with one foot, but you need to support yourself on the other. It is only when we walk calmly that we can enjoy the way, see the horizon in detail, and turn around and contemplate what we have left behind. We prefer to update than innovate. We like change, but we keep the essence intact. Because some things, like Mestre Antoni’s own legacy, always stay alive.