English version | Neverending story

02 Sep 2021
By Vogue Portugal

There are new beginnings that quickly become ancient history. And then there are old stories that rewrite themselves with promising new beginnings. For Sanjo, "the end" became an awesome "to be continued".

There are new beginnings that quickly become ancient history. And then there are old stories that rewrite themselves with promising new beginnings. For Sanjo, "the end" became an awesome "to be continued".

© Sanjo

If you don't remember Sanjo, it probably means you belong to the millennial generation. And even this one has already learned a thing or two about the iconic Portuguese footwear that returns full strength with a new strategy, reinvented in collaborations and materials, without compromising the DNA and values ​​that made it the obvious choice for the step by step of the Portuguese people since 1933. Yes, since 1933 – almost a century of a brand that, curiously, started as headwear and only then jumped to your feet: initially a name ofhats, when the accessory started to lose relevance, the brand reinvented itself and gained ground in footwear, mainly with the exploration of new techniques and raw materials, such as vulcanized rubber, which made them jump to more sporty models. The following decades saw these first Portuguese sneakers become a cult item in the wardrobe: “Born in São João da Madeira, it was the most popular brand at the time”, says the creative director of Sanjo, Vítor Costa, to Vogue. “They were seen on the feet of the entire population, from athletes to the army". It's not an understatement - at a time when there was little import, looking inside became mandatory and Sanjo won space for its quality and coolness of the K100 and K200 models, that inhabited all over the country: a home with Sanjo was a Portuguese home, indeed.

Why, then, the gap of decades? Where did the brand go as a national phenomenon, even when the rest of the world surrendered to international brands? The fall of the dictatorship in 1974 and the entry of Portugal to the EEC in 1986, as well as the consequent increase in imports from the opening of borders, created the conditions for a fierce competition with which the factory could not compete and, in 1996, it filed for bankruptcy. A hiatus that, in fact, was only one step back to take two steps forward. The brand is back, reinvented, but without undermining the values ​​that have always guided them – they only updated them for the 21st century: a 100% Portuguese brand, now with the environmental awareness that the times demand, without destroying the lines that have always characterized it. "We mainly try to reinvent traditional elements of Sanjo with a new creative approach, respecting the past, celebrating the present and ensuring the future with new cultures, is like building a new legacy”, says Vítor Costa about this resumption of the made in Portugal label. This translates, above all, in what happens behind the scenes: the introduction of new materials and textures was carefully thought out – the rubber in the soles is no longer vulcanized, it is glued and made from recycled materials –, the chemicals were marginalized and optimized production methods to reduce consumption of water and energy and, consequently, its ecological footprint. In addition, they joined artists and designers in collaborations that ratify the image of quality and creativity they want to establish. “We are looking for partners who share the same values ​​as Sanjo, who help us tell new stories”, explains the creative director. “Sanjo's boldness doesn't stop”, guarantees the creative. “We've recently reinterpreted an iconic 70's running silhouette, as well as experimenting with more skateboarding sneakers. Another recent challenge was the workwear proposals, in which classic pieces are rethought within the brand's imagery and its sporting nature”.

The future may be uncertain, but history shows that a new beginning is always possible and this one is already proving it. “Every day there are new applications and different ways of relating to the consumer, so this exercise of adapting becomes constant. The important thing is to always keep the clarity of our origins and where we want to take Sanjo”, defends Vítor Costa. To infinity and beyond, with your feet well grounded - and with the right shoes.

Originally translated from the New Beginnings issue, published September 2021.Full credits and stories on the print issue.

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