He began work in his trade at the age of 14 and his innate gift and knowledge led him to become first a teacher in the school of arts and crafts and then foreman for a team of more than 75 people in the largest shoe company in Honduras.
His talent was such that he was offered a scholarship for the Polytechnic in Italy, he got his company to sponsor him and spent 6 months learning the trade in Italy. When he returned, his life collapsed when hurricane Mitch left the country devastated. After a few years of struggling to survive, he had no choice but to emigrate to Spain to find a way to support his family.
"When I arrived in Madrid, the feeling I had was the same as being thrown into the sea with my backpack during army training."
The beginnings in Spain were not easy either but Rafael's talent did not go unnoticed by one of Caravaca's big businessmen, who not only offered him a job but also helped him to process his residence permit and bring his family from Honduras, after not having seen them for over 3 years.
In 2020, Rafael had just plucked up the courage to become self-employed when COVID once again disrupted his life, leaving him in a desperate situation.
Today Rafael leads the espadrille production project of IMM Shoes in Caravaca de la Cruz and has designed the Olivia sandals.
"If we can make IMM Shoes the success it deserves to be and if I can continue working on this incredible project, my dream will be fulfilled.”
Born in Santa Cruz de la Sierra, the city considered the economic center of Bolivia, she was going to a kindergarten teacher, but the harsh reality drove her to emigrate to Spain in the hope of being able to help her family and give her children a better, less arduous life.
She taught herself to sew punto ojal (espadrilles stiching) with a sole and a cut that she sewed and unsewed day and night until she learned the trade.
"When I arrived, I was paid 10 cents a heel while I was learning the trade. But I learned it and then I taught many other women in need so that they wouldn't take as long as I did and would have a way to earn a living."
Today Erika has been sewing espadrilles at home for more than 10 years. The scars on her hands, the operations, and the 3 hernias she carries from working 6 days a week for as many hours as it takes because the day is counted in pairs and not in hours are testimony of it.
Resilience, courage and the will to improve and progress made her one of the most recognized sewers of Caravaca de la Cruz, the world epicenter of espadrilles. Erika continues teaching and transmitting the good know-how always with the needle in her hand and the metallic plate glove sewing pairs with the highest precision and keeping the tradition alive.
Gonzalo started making shoes almost before he could write. As a kid, he was punished by doing small jobs at his father's shoe atelier every time his school grades were poor. He was 7 years old.
Gonzalo spent most of his life in Bolivia between heels, threads, leathers and soles, he loved being able to make the entire collection, until the Chinese goods flooded the market and their economic situation worsened.
“I love my country, my people, my family. Having
to leave my home was the hardest thing but I had
no option. It was pure survival”.
He arrived in Seville in Spain, carrying his experience of over 15 years in hand-making shoes, his remarkable ability to take on projects beginning to end, and his hope for an opportunity to contribute with his leather-work mastery.
And above all, a chance to provide his family with a better life.
Necessity teaches wisdom and, in Rosalba’s case, calls out great virtues. Born in Honduras to a humble family, Rosalba became a single mother of 3 at the age of 23. Having to provide for her children and parents, she became teacher by day, dressmakers by night, and attending university in between. Rosalba developed the sharpest multitasking and resolutive skills seeking for better opportunities. But it wasn’t enough for so many mouths.
“Nothing is harder than having to leave
your children behind. It is a piercing in
your heart from which you never recover.”
Now in Seville (Spain), Rosalba is the magic-maker of the needle and coordinates for IMM a sewing atelier for refugees with our partner Sevilla Acoge to help others on the first steps towards integration.
Originally from Israel, of Moroccan heritage and a migrant herself, Lital graduated from the Bezalel Academy of Arts and Design prior to taking off on a global exploration and inspiration tour from which she draws some of her artistic influences. Attracted by the capital of fashion, she moved to Paris where she completed a master at the Parsons School of Art and Design which opened the doors for her to collaborate with some of the most famed names in fashion: Balmain, Philip Lim, Yiqing Yin and Iris Van Herpen.
In 2016, she launched her eponymous couture label in Paris, showcasing a strong identity characterised by nearly sculptural dresses infused with a sublime elegance and a metissage of haute couture techniques that transport you from the heart of Japan to Marrakesh.
With IMM designs, Lital seeks to represent possibility. The possibility of reinventing and elevating from the bottom up; proving that the most humble origins, like the jute or the Indian moccasins, can be transformed into pieces worthy of a runway.
Sara is no fashion designer but a magic-maker, an art director, visual storyteller and walking sun-shine smile. Responsible for the creation of the visual identity of many renowned brands, (including ours!), she didn’t hesitate for a second when asked if she would design one pair of espadrilles to represent the soul of the brand. For Sara everything is possible and if there is a will there is a way.
She chose the scarab beetle as the symbol of the brand because besides being a popular amulet in Ancient Egypt, it also symbolised the cycle of creation, rebirth and good fortune. The sacred beetle amulet is meant to offer the wearer magical protection against the dangers of this world, so she made it the icon of the brand, wishing that the IMM scarab will bring good fortune to the designers, the makers and the ones who wear them.
Sara was born in Spain but having lived in the UK, China, Malaysia, Singapore and now France, she’s became a “usual migrant” with an outstanding ability to become a local wherever she goes.