Wednesday, 20 June 2012

J. Torrens, Barcelona

In June 1910, the magazine Nuevo Mundo published an advert for Barcelona's high-end shops, disguised as the results of "the Barcelona commercial competition." To the question "which luxury shoemaker offers the most comfortable bespoke shoes?", the answer was J. Torrens. This is the earliest mention of Torrens I found but we can assume his shop on the Rambla de las Flores had already been opened for a little while.
Over the following two decades, several printed adverts appeared in Catalonia's best selling newspaper La Vanguardia. Some invoices from the same period are also on sale on the internet. The last time the name appeared was in 1936, on the eve of the Spanish Civil War. Did this dramatic event have an impact of J. Torrens's business, or did it simply closed after its owner retired?

As luxury bespoke items, Torrens's shoes were not cheap. In January 1936, Jaume Armengou, from Manresa in central Catalonia, purchased several pairs for himself, his wife and his children. Prices for adults were between 70 and 80 pesetas, and 24 pesetas for kids. Eighty pesetas was equivalent in 2001, before Spain's national currency was replaced by the euro, to 17,650 pesetas. Converted into euros, the price would have been just under 110 euros. This may seem pretty reasonable for bespoke shoes but it is worth remembering that in 1936 in Spain the average daily wage in the industrial and service sectors was 11.79 pesetas for a skilled worker and 8.36 for an unskilled one. In the agricultural sector, daily wages on average only reached 7.03 pesetas. Additionally, by 1936, 60% of a household's income was spent on food and 14.6% on housing, while 9.4% went towards shoes and clothing. In short, Torrens's shoes were well beyond the means of the immense majority of the population!

J. Torrens
[J. Torrens

J. Torrens
Rambla de las Flores 6.

Even though Torrens's shop was on the Rambla de las Flores (also known as the Rambla de Sant Josep), the stretch of the famous Barcelona street between the Carrer del Carme and the Carrer de l'Hospital, these ghost signs can be seen in a narrow street of the Barri Gòtic. His workshop was certainly located in this building, and looking at an aerial view of the city, it probably communicated with the shop.

Location: Carrer del Cardenal Casañas / Pictures taken in November 2011

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