If you are a connoisseur of Colombian accents, you will quickly realize that craftsman César Giraldo has his roots firmly grounded in the Viejo Caldas, or Old Caldas. But for a delegation of Spanish retailers, who accidently stroll into his shop on the Carrera Quinta, ancestry is of no consideration, given the beautiful collection of leather bags, satchels and accessories he has displayed on four walls.
Behind a sturdy wooden desk covered in leather stitching utensils, Giraldo stands to greet his clients and opens a burgundy attaché. The men are impressed and ask for prices. Business cards are exchanged and a potential deal is in the making. As a leather craftsman, Giraldo has been plying his trade for 14 years from the same shop in La Macarena. Recognition and respect, as blood Paisas believe, must be earned, every day, through hard work and dedication.
“When I was in high school,” remembers Giraldo, “it was normal to start your own business.” That was 25 years ago. In the early 1980s, Medellín was a flurry of fashion activity. Designers and textile manufacturers began to explore new clothing lines. High end accessories, usually reserved for those who could travel to Miami, became in demand by a growing and laborious middle class. Having moved from Pereira to Medellín, César Giraldo saw the potential in fashion and began to work alongside many talented designers who would go on to build big reputations in his native country. He also began designing for women who didn’t have access to many of the big names in international retail.
“Those were good days to be in fashion,” remarks César. “There was a purity in what we did.” After successfully running three clothing stores, Giraldo began to think about leather and how he could learn the craft in his free time. His hobby became an all out obsession. He closed his shops in Manizales, and the self-trained leather craftsman moved to Bogotá. Since it was founded in 1989, Taller Manual de Cuero has been offering practical leather courses in 12 sessions, lasting 36 hours, to those who walk through its doors. “It’s important to be generous with one’s work,” states Giraldo.”We should promote a culture of our ‘hand-made.’” Every item in César Giraldo’s shop is a unique creation, worked by hand and with an attention to fine detail.
Giraldo’s clients come to him from across the world, admiring an artisanal and rugged approach to a centuries old tradition. From wallets to bags and portfolios, there are few nicer gifts in this city for those who appreciate world-class craftsmanship made in La Macarena.
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