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New Generation: Joana Esteves, Josefinas

15 Jan 2024

Stories New Generation: Joana Esteves, Josefinas
She holds a degree in Languages and Translation from the University of Minho and has recently completed executive training in Luxury Management at the Catholic University of Lisbon. She is the co-founder and head of Josefinas, a footwear brand created 10 years ago that aims to empower women and value the know-how of master shoemakers.

Was it a priority to join this project? And why the footwear sector?
My involvement in this project came about by circumstance, while I was still at university. But I believe it was meant to be, as it brought together the right team, at the right time, to a project with so much meaning and a very clear purpose.

The footwear industry and the luxury segment are exciting, and I realised at a very early stage that I wanted to help make dreams come true. To this day, shoes never leave my mind, and this adventure has been both challenging and incredible.

How would you define the brand, and how does Josefina stand out in the market?
Josefinas continues to make a difference, to grow and to become more mature and expressive. It celebrated its 10th anniversary in 2023. It proudly continues to hold its own as a Portuguese digital brand of luxury footwear and bags created with the clear purpose of inspiring and empowering women, while celebrating and perpetuating the Portuguese heritage and savoir-faire of our master shoemakers and artisans in the four corners of the world.
Furthermore, it has been acclaimed and endorsed by women committed to the fight for equality, by the most prestigious media and is the choice of many celebrities and influencers around the world.

At Josefinas, we believe that every piece we make is a work of art and therefore special. We are also of the opinion that only time can create exceptional pieces that will last a lifetime. We work with the best master shoemakers and artisans who use the most meticulous techniques and finest and noblest materials to transform any product into something magical and exclusive. Our mission is defined by the continuous search and the use of materials that tell our history, tradition, and culture, which we want to elevate and perpetuate in the history of fashion today and in the future.
Josefinas continues to chart and develop its course, working hard to internationalise. It currently exports to more than 160 countries and aims to become a fashion benchmark on a global scale, alongside the great Maisons, in the coming years.

What have been the biggest challenges to date?
Even when we think we’re on the right track, we still come up against difficulties. The internalisation process is difficult, the legal costs of brand protection are immense and hard to bear for small brands. We are still an "emerging” brand, with less investment capacity. This makes it more difficult to promote it in more competitive and tougher international markets.

As we look back on the beginning of our journey, we remember and share some difficult moments. Josefinas was founded in 2013, in a country in turmoil, where dreams were an extravagance. However, we always knew that the mission to inspire and empower women through handmade and sustainable footwear and bags that showcase the savoir-faire of our Portuguese master shoemakers and artisans, with years of experience, know-how and dedication, had to be spread because it is a legacy that must be preserved.

Along the way, we have reinvented ourselves in difficult times. During the pandemic, there was a paradigm shift in the lives of all companies, and Josefinas, which already had a digital business, experienced a period of growth. However, the small businesses we support, such as artisans, were more affected, so the fact that our work continued to flow and grow also enabled us to support these sui generis businesses to maintain their dynamism and structures. 

What advice would you give to a young person starting out?
Today, we believe that it is increasingly important to think about and invest in building a project/brand with "feet and head”.
Identifying the needs and gaps in the market and clearly defining the identity of the brand/project are important steps: What makes it unique? What is its value proposition? It’s crucial to have a narrative that resonates with the intended target audience.

We believe that every journey is unique, and that experience is the best guide.
Adapting to change, learning from mistakes and staying focused are essential components of success.
"The path is made by walking”. It’s up to us to take the first step and make the magic happen.

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