The brand creates handcrafted unique espadrilles made of designers’ vintage scarves.
Michael Tonello used to look for the perfect pair of seasonal espadrilles while living in Barcelona. He quickly realised that they would be the same each year, due to the same colours always used.
“It all began very organically,” says Tonello, the founder of Respoke, who used to be an Hermès reseller. It all became a total yawn for me [to buy espadrilles], but at the same time, I loved espadrilles as summer footwear.”
His love for this typical Summer footwear led him into establishing his own brand, Respoke. He first had the idea to create a pair of espadrilles using a vintage cotton bandana, before he developed other designs.
“As I thought that idea through it dawned on me that if I could find a workshop to make me a pair using a bandana, then they could make me a pair using a vintage Hermès scarf,” explains the founder. “That became the foundation for the Respoke brand: repurposing iconic designer scarves.”
With a shop in Provincetown, Massachusetts, the label quickly became a go-to for seasonal travellers in search of a one-of-a-kind summer staple, but not only.
“Our customer is looking for something very unique and isn’t afraid to stand out in a crowd,” says Tonello.
Respoke only develops handcrafted items, designing products that are unique. “I’ve always had a weakness for luxury goods,” explains Tonello. “I’d prefer to have one fabulous pair of handmade unique espadrilles than a dozen pairs of generic.”
The use of designers’ scarves adds the luxury detail espadrilles never had, before luxury brands started designing their own. “You owe it to that iconic beauty to use only the best craftsmanship,” says Tonello of the use of silk scarves.
The label mixes style with function, creating comfortable yet fashionable footwear; Tonello describes the Respoke style as “chic with a twist and witty”.
He used to resell Hermès items before starting Respoke; experience he described in his book Bringing Home the Birkin. This experience ended up being particularly helpful for the development of the brand, especially as sourcing fabrics plays a major role at Respoke. “I knew how to go about sourcing and authenticating the silk,” explains Tonello. “I already knew the best resale shops in Paris and beyond and the best auction houses.”
Respoke has now a range of items that goes from footwear to hats and from ready-to-wear to masks. A bunch of collaborations is on its way, as well as the development of ready-to-wear offerings. “We just launched sneakers in the past month with great success,” says Tonello. “Who knows what’s next… I look at everything now with an eye wondering how it would look Respoke’d.”