Luís Onofre, 43, launched his own brand of handcrafted designer women's shoes in 1999. He started to participate in the Micam show in Milan in 2003. Six years later he started collaborating with H&M as well as high-end brands like Jimmy Choo and Marni, but continued to develop his own brand. He got a prize as best designer of accessories in the Portugal Fashion Awards in 2011 and 2012, and he was named “Man of the Year” in 2014 by GQ Portugal, winning a Golden Globe.
The Luís Onofre brand launched its first web store in 2010, initially addressing customers in Portugal, Spain and the Netherlands, and the operation went global in 2016, when Onofre added a men's line. The first Luís Onofre brick-and-mortar flagship store opened in Lisbon in 2012, followed by one in Porto in 2017.
The brand has built up a reputation as celebrities like Michelle Obama, Paris Hilton, Penélope Cruz and many others have begun wearing its shoes. Its business in Russia has declined over the years from 30 to 10 percent of sales, but the line has won many retail clients in France, the U.S. and China. The company is looking for agents and distributors to build up its relations with retailers in these and other countries.
Luís Onofre employs about 60 people at his own factory in the town of Oliveira de Azeméis. Working with local schools to attract new workers through a European program, it is now hiring 35 others as apprentices at half the regular salary. In 2009, it started to work with a neighboring partner factory that employs 150 people to ensure timely and flexible production schedules at peak times. Together, the two plants can make 2,000 pairs per day.
Luís Onofre regards himself as a problem-solver, which is probably why he was elected president of Apiccaps, and now of CEC. He belongs to the third generation of a Portuguese shoe manufacturing firm, founded by his grandparents in 1939, which worked in the past for big fashion brands like Cacharel, Daniel Hechter and Kenzo, but it started losing some of these contracts in the 1970's. Like other Portuguese shoe entrepreneurs, Luís Onofre decided then to start his own brand after working for the family company for nine years. In the last couple of years, he took inspiration from the sophisticated furniture of Boca de Lobo for the heels of his womens shoes.