Female founded, Turkish owned:
Rafiks are the most authentic shoes of their kind in the world. They are Turkish Modern yemenis---my version of the classic unisex shoes and boots that have been made by hand in my native Turkey for around 700 years. When I embraced my country's ancient shoemaking tradition nearly a decade ago I became intimately involved in every step of production--from choosing the leathers to learning how to stitch a pair myself. The designs are novel, but the materials--the highest quality leathers--and the craftsmanship are faithfully traditional. I make Rafiks the same way they always have been: hand-stitched using two long needles and a waxed string that joins together the sole, the insole, and the upper. The stitching is what gives the shoes their distinctive look. It's also what makes this such a physically demanding craft. I am the first woman to embrace this tradition, and out of all of the crafts I have endeavored to learn this has been the most fun to share.
-Seyda Carter, Founder of Turkish Modern and Creator of Rafiks.
What you get when you buy a pair of Rafiks:
A beautifully made shoe that's comfortable, surprisingly versatile, and well-nigh indestructible. Thanks to the wide range of colors and styles, Rafiks can be worn casually, or in formal venues--especially our boots and nubuck slip-ons. Rafiks are made to last, and you'll surely be wearing yours for more than one season. Moreover, Rafiks only get better with time as the high quality natural leathers soften and stretch to accommodate your feet, making them feel like a second skin that was stitched just for you.
Protecting the leather:
Rafiks have weathered tropical thunderstorms in New Orleans, snowstorms in Maine, as well as the waves of the Aegean, Mediterranean, Atlantic, and Pacific oceans and lived to tell the tale. In our experience the upper (top of the shoe) stands up reasonably well to rain/sea spray (they make for excellent topsiders) even without treating the leather with sprays and creams. A specialty nubuck brush is recommended for maintaining/rehabilitating our nubuck Rafiks.
Rubber outer sole:
This shoemaking tradition remained relatively unchanged for hundreds of years; however, starting in early 20th century Turkish shoemakers began to stitch thick rubber soles and heels to the traditional leather slippers in an effort to make them more street friendly. We apply a thin strip of rubber over the original leather soles of all Rafik slippers, shoes, and boots to protect the original leather sole from water. While doing this enables us to preserve the shoe's classic silhouette, the rubber soles are not stitched to the shoes and may begin to peel as the leather breaks in and molds to your feet--especially if, like us, you wear these shoes every waking day of your life. When this happens we suggest you bring your pair of Rafiks to our Istanbul or San Francisco shops and we will glue or replace the rubber outer sole for free. If you can't make it to Istanbul or San Francisco you or any cobbler can do the same at little cost.
Quality, not quantity:
Because we practice this tradition as faithfully as possible--each pair is meticulously hand-stitched using the same tools and methods that have been employed for generations--Rafiks are produced in small batches that take days to finish. But limited production enables us to go carefully about our craft. We closely inspect each shoe to ensure that it meets our standards of beauty as well as durability before sending a pair to you.
If you would like to place a custom order, or have any questions about our products, please email us at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Rafiks creator Seyda Carter
Learning the ins and outs from master stitcher Cem Dikici, whose family has stitched yemenis for several generations (his last name literally means stitcher in Turkish), in Gaziantep.
These antique yemenis were among the first ever to have rubber soles. The soles were often made from used truck tires and nailed to the original leather soles. Note the lack of difference between right and left foot.
Here we have a somewhat more refined yemeni. The soles curve inward slightly and the vamp has been straightened and brought back farther to give the shoe a more snug fit.
A more modern version of the shoe to the left. This style was ubiquitous in the middle of the 20th century, and includes thick, hand cut rubber soles.
Yemenis with upturned fronts (like our boots and "Baroque" Rafiks) have also been around for centuries. This version hides the stitching that holds the whole shoe together under a thick leather sole--except where it is used to secure the piping and outer heel piece. It also features an ornate tongue, which would later be incorporated into the vamp in other models (see right).
This classic style of yemeni is probably the most recognizable. Notice that the vamp (referred to as the "ear" in Turkish) is now nearly identical to Rafiks'. The stitching on the front of this modern rendition of the shoe is purely decorative.
Another classic style of yemeni includes a heel but no visible stitching on the outsole. An early version of Rafiks included a heel (which we retained for the slides and boots). This style also has a vamp which is identical to the ones above (right).
This style is nearly identical to the one on the left when viewed from above. The important differences are the presence of stitching and the absence of a heel. Also note that a thin strip of rubber (no more truck tires!) has been applied to the outsole--making this the closest precursor to Rafiks we were able to find!