Made in the Czech Republic – Vasky

You may know Baťa, but do you know Vasky?

Youth and Tradition

The Czech Republic has a long history of shoe production, over a century in fact.

Beyond the shadow of any doubt, Baťa is the first name that comes to mind for most people around the world when they connect the idea of shoes to the Czechs. However, Baťa is far from the only name that Czechs have put on a pair of shoes.

The name Vasky may not be immediately familiar to you if you do not live in the Czech Republic; but if you like shoes and find yourself in the country, you may want to take the time to check them out.

While Baťa represents the history of Czech shoe production, Vasky is the here and now. Company owner and founder, Václav Staněk, was only 18 years old when he officially established the company in 2016. Since then, he has taken a position of prominence among young Czech businesspeople and earned a spot on the prestigious “30 Under 30” list in the Czech edition of Forbes magazine in 2019. The Vasky name comes from an unusal diminutive form for the founder’s first name.

Built on a philosophy that puts a carefully handcrafted finished product made from high quality raw materials of primarily local origin at the forefront, Vasky is a clear indication that the tradition of Czech shoemaking is in very good hands and has a bright future.

Let’s spend some time with Vasky:

A pair of pink, ladies’ slip ons from Vasky.

If the Shoe Fits…

As Baťa did before them, Vasky calls the south eastern city of Zlín home. In fact, Vasky has their headquarters in one of the many former Baťa buildings that give Zlín its unique architechtural face.

One does not need to be in Zlín for very long to see that it’s a city that remains very aware and in touch with the role shoemaking has played in its development over the years.

It is not only the makers of shoes that connect the city to the product, but also the users of them. Legendary Czech distance runner, Emil Zátopek (1922-2000), left his mark on Zlín.

Zátopek started working for the Baťa company in Zlín when he was 16 and it was while he was working for the company that he began his career in running. Zátopek’s legacy is as ingrained into the city’s history as the Baťa legacy is and you will see tributes to him alongside monuments to the historic shoe company if you visit Zlín.

In certain ways, Václav Staněk and his company’s place in Zlín closely mirror Baťa and Zátopek:

As with Tomás Baťa (1876-1932), Staněk is a native of Zlín. Just like Emil Zátopek, Staněk has a history in competitive athletics. Through his teens, he held several national titles for running and worked his way up through the European level to the World Youth Championships before leaving competitive sport.

He also has a direct family connection to shoes as his father owns another Zlín based shoe company, Flexiko, which specialises in walking and work shoes.

While he may not have started out with dreams of building a shoe company, Václav Staněk definitely had a strong combination of history and influences to draw on in Zlín when the idea of creating his company hit him.

A mens’ low cut shoe that shows the Vasky logo stamped on the heel.

Fashion and Function

While Vasky has branched out into accessories and clothing since it was established, shoes are still very much at the heart of the brand and are set to remain so.

As mentioned earlier, Vasky places strong emphasis on a handmade end product constructed of high quality raw materials that are primarily from Czech suppliers. If you go to the company’s website or social media pages, you’ll find no shortage of pictures and stories about the individual people at the company factory who are behind the design and manufacture of Vasky shoes.

The average price for a pair of standard Vasky shoes is around 3,000 Czech crowns and towards the higher end of the 3,000 crown range if you use the self-design function of their website to create something more unique for yourself than what’s available in their standard offer. As such, they qualify as a luxury shoe brand in the Czech Republic.

In spite of their luxury standing, Vasky shoes do not sacrifice function for fashion in any way; they are made to be worn regularly and withstand some of the everyday wear and tear that other luxury category shoes might not hold up so well to.

To this end, elegance through simplicity is key to making Vasky shoes what they are. The majority of Vasky shoes are built around classic designs and comfort. The leather used in their construction is high grade and from Czech suppliers that Vasky has direct connections to.

Wearing a pair of Vasky shoes will not only make sure you’re comfortable while looking fashionable, you’ll also be supporting local Czech businesses at the same time.

A pair of blue ladies’ lace ups.

Getting a Pair and Learning More

If you’d like to get a pair of Vasky shoes for yourself, it may be something of a challenge if you are not directly in the Czech Republic. However, it’s not impossible.

If you are in the country, the easiest way to get a pair is to visit one of their physical shops. Visiting Brno, Ostrava, Prague or Zlín will give you access to a Vasky shop where you can find not only shoes, but a range of shoe care products and leather accessory items like belts, wallets, shoulder bags and laptop computer cases.

Purchasing via their website will pose something of a challenge if you do not speak Czech or Slovak, as those are the two languages their website is directly available in. However, I have found their site responds reasonably well to online translators into English.

If you order through the website, you can choose for the shoes to be delivered to you by post or to be delivered to one of the Vasky shops for you to pick up in person if you are near to one. It is also possible to have the shoes delivered abroad if you order them from outside the Czech Republic.

If you wear a pair of Vasky shoes outside the Czech Republic, it’s worth a trip to their website to report it. There is a map of the world on the website where they mark where people have worn their shoes, so you can send them a picture of yourself wearing their shoes and your story of wearing them on your travels.

Made in the Czech Republic – Modrotisk

Some examples of the print patterns you can find on modrotisk. These are from the Danzinger workshop in Olešnice.

A Rhapsody in Blue

As with all countries, the Czech Republic offers a wealth of traditional souvenir items you can take home with you: Bohemian crystal and other glassware, ceramics, Bohemian garnets, marionette puppets, traditional alcohols, spa wafers and so forth.

Many of those souvenir items are known worldwide, but do you know about modrotisk?

Modrotisk, translated to English as blueprint, is a traditional block printing technique that has been practiced in the Czech lands since the 16th century. In November of 2018, it was inscribed on the UNESCO Intangible Cultural Heritage list.

Once a widespread craft practiced in small towns across the country, today there only two modrotisk operations active in the Czech Republic; both are in the eastern reaches of the country and still run by the families that established them generations ago. In Olešnice, north of Brno, you will find the Danzinger family operation which dates to 1816. In Strážnice, in the deep south-east near the border with Slovakia, there is the Joch family workshop that was founded in 1906.

Both the Danzinger and Joch workshops have kept the modrotisk tradition alive through the generations and many of the tools and techniques they use for the dyeing process have changed little down the years. Many of their techniques are, not surprizingly, closely guarded family secrets.

At that, let’s take a closer look at Modrotisk:

A scarf from Danzinger.

A Deep Blue History

At its heart, modrotisk is an indigo dyeing technique. Indigo dyeing is among the oldest of textile colouring techniques, it originated in China around 4,000 years ago and made its way west along the Silk Road which connected Asia to Europe from the 2nd century BC to the 18th century.

In the Czech context, indigo dyeing was traditionally done on linen as flax was a common crop at the time the art form reached the Czechs. Cotton was also a traditional fabric to use for modrotisk.

The white patterns that modrotisk is known for are created through a block resist printing technique where a special water resistant paste is applied to white fabric with carved wood printing blocks before the indigo dye is applied. Finally, the resistant paste is washed out when the dyeing is complete. Many of the printing blocks still in use are very old and have been passed down through the generations.

Modrotisk became a fixture of Czech folk costumes in the late 18th century and experienced a wave of popularity with the public at large through the 19th century. Men’s and women’s clothing with modrotisk motifs became very popular through the 19th century and availability of modrotisk garments became more widespread when synthetic indigo dye was created in the 1880s.

By the early 20th century, the popularity of modrotisk went into decline and a majority of producers ceased operations.

Getting Your Hands on Modrotisk

Many of the souvenir items I mentioned at the start of this article are very traditional Czech items, but can create a headache to take home due to their weight or fragility.

If you’re looking for a souvenir from the Czech Republic that will be light and easy to transport home with you, modrotisk might just be the thing to consider. Don’t worry if your visit doesn’t take you near the two remaining modrotisk workshops in the country, modrotisk is a common item in souvenir shops across the Czech Republic

Another advantage of modrotisk is the flexibility it has for style. You can buy all sorts of items made from the material in a wide variety of print patterns. Tablecloths, wall hangings and aprons are all very common items you can find made from modrotisk as are scarves, shoulder bags and other garments.

If you want the most traditional of modrotisk, you can try to visit the Danzinger or Joch shops personally to have a look. Alternately, you can try to order from the online shops on their respective websites. Both websites are fully in Czech, but respond reasonably well to online translator functions.

This article will go further in depth into the history of modrotisk.