As Jackie Leguizamo prepared to name her small-batch sandal collection, she found inspiration in her Yuma, Arizona, roots. Yuma will always be a special and sacred place to Jackie—not only because it’s where she spent her formative years as the middle child of five, but also because of her love of the Southwestern landscape.
“To distill the vision, mood and direction of our first collection, we took to the road—to places of wide-open spaces and stillness,” shares Jackie. “The Southwest, with its vast deserts, dunes and sun, provided the perfect location to reveal our intimate collection.”
Also firmly anchored in her present, Yumayo reflects Jackie’s new life in California and her love of wanderlust and experiencing other cultures. Expert Tuscan artisans make her designs come to life using centuries-old Italian shoemaking techniques.
“Every sandal we design starts with beautiful materials and the story that inspired them,” she says of the process. “We then work closely with a small family-run factory located in the heart of Italian leather culture to bring them to life.”
Jackie’s passion for beauty, art and culture began at a young age. After Yuma, her family relocated to Japan for three years, where she became enthralled with the Japanese aesthetic: intricate wood carvings and beautiful furniture. They returned to the California coast when her father, a Marine, was stationed in Camp Pendleton, San Diego. Jackie would finish her schooling in Southern California with an ambition to do something creative with her life.
She paid her way through college to earn a fashion degree from Long Beach State University. She followed that with a coveted internship at clothing company BCBG, which led to a full-time job. One of the few design houses that still creates its products under one roof, BCBG exposed Jackie to every facet of the fashion industry including sourcing fabrics, beading, sewing and patternmaking.
She remembers the experience as a fashion boot camp that would catapult her career. She went on to work for various iconic fashion brands such as Velvet, Eva Franco and Trina Turk.
Although it was rewarding to help bring others’ visions to life, Jackie needed a creative outlet to amplify her own voice and dream. With a love for sandals and shoe design, she decided to create her own line. After contacting many factories, she formed a bond with a wonderful woman at a family-owned factory in Tuscany. She understood Jackie’s vision and agreed to take her on.
Together Jackie and her new production partner made countless prototypes over a three-year period. During a 2016 visit to Tuscany, Jackie tapped into a family-owned leather consortium in the same neighborhood, as well as another family-owned business committed to perfecting the heels of the shoes.
“We only use vegetable-tanned leathers sourced from a Tuscan tannery consortium that works closely with the tanneries to ensure the quality and origin of the leathers,” she notes of the environmental guidelines. “It also guarantees the leather is processed using nontoxic, natural tannins in a production cycle that has a low impact on the environment.”
Despite the obstacles of getting things made in Italy—including the distance and language barrier—she is proud of the product created with her Tuscan artisans. As many of the local businesses know each other, the process and product feel that much more intimate and personal. “They are slowly made by hand, for those who value quality and champion the craftsmanship of yesteryear,” she explains.
Jackie attributes the success of her brand to having an amazing, supportive partner in her husband, Javier, her high school sweetheart and father to their son, Roman. Javier is a graphic designer and helped create the logo, photography, website and so much more.
Jackie became the model in her photos by accident when Javier took photos of her on their travels wearing the sandals. Not only did they recognize the cost savings, but also that the images of Jackie wearing her own creations in epic landscapes felt authentic and truly representational of the brand.
She dreams of building Yumayo into a fully realized lifestyle brand in the future. The care she puts into every piece shines brightly, like the sun-drenched landscapes that first inspired her. “Listen to that inner voice,” she says. “I hope you will also follow your passion, no matter the obstacles.”