Casa Hernanz- The House that Espadrilles Built
Former Madrid resident and INC member Ashley Wehmeyer explores the art of buying Spain’s national shoe–the espadrille
“Will you walk into my parlor?” said the spider to the fly;
“Tis the prettiest little parlor that ever you may spy.
The way into my parlor is up a winding stair,
And I have many curious things to show when you are there.”
I was reminded of this poem, The Spider and The Fly, written by Mary Howitt (1799-1888), as I waited my turn to enter the Casa Hernanz espadrille store. I had heard about this store from some of the American ladies living in Madrid. Before returning to the United States, my friend, Nickie bought several pairs for herself and her girls. I’m so glad she got to go before she left Spain. She and I had been talking about going for months, especially when the weather turned warm. She told me how you stand in line and look at all the styles in the window before entering. She and the other ladies who went with her took pictures with their cell phone cameras in order to show the clerks exactly which shoes they wanted. Then you try and buy.
Here is what one magazine wrote about Casa Hernanz :
“It started over 150 years ago selling espadrilles in four colours. Their affordable price, lightness and, above all, the feeling of coolness they provided have led fashion icons like Yves Saint Laurent to include in their collections this shoe, originally worn by peasants. Espadrilles are timeless and Casa Hernanz is proof of it, selling up to 100,000 pairs in a year at their store on Calle Mayor. Their shop is so busy that the lines can even be seen from Plaza Mayor, a phenomenon which has been captured in the pages of the prestigious newspaper The New York Times. They currently sell espadrilles –with a jute sole and made of small pieces of fabric sewn by hand- in 36 colours just for the flat ones, sizes 18 to 47. Over time they have incorporated new fabrics, like cotton, canvas and silk, as well as new prints, although their cosy shop and their charming counters are still a part of the most traditional Madrid.”
When my in-laws came for one of their many visits, we went into Madrid, as we usually did. Once I’d seen Nickie’s shoes, I knew I wanted to go check out Casa Hernanz for myself, and my mother-in-law seemed pretty interested as well. Women and shoes…the cliches really are true ! So while the two of us waited in line, the guys walked to Plaza Santa Ana for some coffee. With my digital camera, I snapped pictures to show the clerks and yes they do take credit cards !
This clerk’s no nonsense approach reminded me of the famous Seinfeld episode, “The Soup Nazi.” No smiles, but at least I never heard her say, “No zapatos para ti!” (No shoes for you!)
We showed our clerk our choices on my camera, and now we wait…I felt a little bit like Cinderella…
Score…two pairs for me and two for my mother-in-law…
I went back with another friend, and got another pair. They didn’t have them in my size last time. We got the feeling that since they make the shoes right there in the back of the store, styles, sizes, and colors may vary from week to week…
Do you have a favorite espadrille store here in Madrid? Please share your favorites with us!
Casa Hernanz, Calle de Toledo, 18 28005 Madrid (near the Mercado San Miguel)
Tel. +34 913665450 Hours : Mon.-Sat. 9:00 am to 1:30 pm/ 4:30 pm-8:00 pm