Armenians Begin a New Era in Moscow
Armenians Begin a New Era in Moscow

Sole Satisfying

Second-Generation Craftsman Continues his Father's Legacy

Artur Hakobian puts exotic animals on the feet of exotic customers.

His designs are not for everyone (and surely not for those who oppose using wild animal skin for shoes). Nor can just anyone afford his work. While the shoes made by Hakobian from traditional leather start at about $1,000, others—made from alligator, python, ostrich, iguana, kangaroo, rhinoceros or elephant—can cost up to $15,000 a pair.

He serves an elite clientele, some of whom remain from when Hakobian's father, Rafael, started the HRS brand 15 years ago in a small workshop not far from Red Square.

His father had spent a career working in the Masis shoe factory in Yerevan (the most popular Armenian shoe brand during Soviet times). He moved to Moscow for the opportunities of the huge city. Kremlin officials soon were among his clientele and his reputation as a craftsman spread.

At the time of Rafael's death three years ago, Artur worked as a leather and fur sales manager for a local company. The son didn't know what he would do with his father's shop and tools. The solution came after some reflection.

"Perhaps, as I grew older, I developed the desire to create something of my own—something extraordinary. Besides, it was difficult for me simply to shut down my father's workshop in which he had invested so much. I decided to create shoes of nontraditional leather," says Artur, 39, a graduate of the department of political science at Yerevan State University. (Artur moved to Moscow soon after his father.)

Today Hakobian has a small portfolio of clients. But the most important thing, he says, is that people keep coming back.

"You can't call it a large business, as it does not bring in huge sums of money, due to the limited number of orders. But I earn enough to afford to live in Moscow. HRS is not a mass production where a single shift might produce a thousand pairs of shoes. It is rather for the love of art, in my case largely for the sake of my father's memory, and I get pleasure out of what I do and how I do it."

Hakobian says that he makes several special orders a year.  He also makes accessories—bags, phone cases, belts . . .

He works with three other craftsmen and oversees each step of the process—from meeting a client to discuss a style, to taking measurements, preparing a mockup, right up to the fitting.

The cost of materials for such shoes is the main overhead. A typical pair of boots, for example, requires two crocodile hides, for which Hakobian pays up to $3,000 per hide. He gets the skins from any of several suppliers in Moscow.

"In shoemaking things are quite simple and fair—if the shoes are of high quality, they will be worn for many years," he says. "I still wear the shoes made by my father, and the high standard of quality that he put into any of his shoes has also become the standard for me."

Originally published in the May 2010 ​issue of AGBU Magazine. Archived content may appear distorted on your screen. end character

About the AGBU Magazine

AGBU Magazine is one of the most widely circulated English language Armenian magazines in the world, available in print and digital format. Each issue delivers insights and perspective on subjects and themes relating to the Armenian world, accompanied by original photography, exclusive high-profile interviews, fun facts and more.