Finding the intersection of the modern shopper’s need-it-now mentality and the 3,000-year heritage of bespoke shoe making proved to be instinctual for celebrity-stylist-turned-entrepreneur Anita Patrickson. The idea for Amanu, Patrickson’s new, modern-day cobbler on Los Angeles’s stylish Melrose Blvd., at first came simply from the sheer impossibility of finding a sandal that both looked and felt good.
“I set myself a task,” she says, “[and] put $5,000 aside to go and buy as many sandals as I could that I was madly in love with, that fit me perfectly, and are colors that I love. And I literally couldn’t spend the money.” After realizing that many of her celebrity clients all shared the same frustrations, it was clear to Patrickson there was a void in the market. This, combined with a trip to Capri where she had a pair of custom sandals made by one of the island’s famed cobblers, planted the seeds for what Amanu would eventually become: A casual shop where women can design their own custom sandals (from $160) by riffing off models ranging from chic gladiators that lace up the ankle and clean-lined slides to playful flip-flops, and have them made to fit their feet perfectly in 30 minutes flat.
The natural byproduct of having a pair of made-to-measure sandals, she discovered, was a connection to them that is rarely found with something bought off the rack. “When I got my first pair of sandals in Capri, I watched every nail go in, and had such an emotional attachment to that product,” Patrickson says. And with Amanu, she hopes to replicate that experience for her clients. After browsing the sample styles laid out around the beachy, South African–inspired boutique (a nod to Patrickson’s Johannesburg roots), clients select every aspect of their sandal, down to the sole color, strap materials, and shape. One of Patrickson’s young cobblers—all of whom were trained over the course of two months by a Capri-based artisan that Patrickson flew to LA specifically for the purpose—then measures their feet, marking where each strap should hit to ensure the most comfortable fit, and double checking that everything feels just right before nailing them in.
The idea for Amanu at first came simply from the sheer impossibility of finding a sandal that both looked and felt good.
By allowing her clients to choose something that is going to fit their feet and their personal style perfectly, Patrickson hopes they’ll hold on to it for longer than they would some other pair—designer or not. “I want people to wear [my sandals] until they are actually falling off their feet,” she says, “and then we’ll make you another one. Because that is going to be the most sustainable way to do this.”
Sustainability, then, is something that Patrickson takes seriously when it comes to her new venture. “The fashion industry is the second dirtiest industry after oil, and that is pretty horrific,” she says, “we have a responsibility to do better in everything.” And while she hopes that by immersing her clients in the process of crafting their sandals will be an anecdote to the ills of fast, disposable fashion, she strives to also make every aspect of this process as sustainable as possible. Her sandals use little glue (opting instead to bind leather soles together through stitching and nailing the straps in), and by manufacturing each as they are ordered, there is little product that goes to waste. Any materials that are left over are re-used for playfully tasseled keychains or turned into labels for the brand’s reusable bags.
Patrickson’s commitment to the sustainability of her brand has also led her to a surprising end: the decision, at least for now, to offer only real-leather soles and straps. “A lot of people have been asking me about a vegan shoe, and it’s so funny because there is no easy answer,” she says. “I’m really interested in it, but [vegan soles] don’t last as long, they end up in landfills, and we can’t even compost anything in the way that we can with leather. All of these things are really complicated,” she admits, “but the fact that we are even having this conversation [with our clients] is awesome.”