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Tuesday, November 24, 2009
A couple of interesting articles in the Nov 15th El Paso TImes

The art of the boot: Stallion Boots designer puts his stamp on Western icon
By Victor R. Martinez / El Paso Times

It's not unusual to see high-profile fashion designers from Dolce & Gabbana, Ralph Lauren, Tommy Hilfiger, Celine of Paris and Christian Dior streaming into Pedro Muñoz Jr.'s El Paso shop looking for Western inspiration.

After all, the iconic designer of Western boots and owner of Stallion Boot & Belt Co. in South-Central El Paso has been designing boots that have been shown on the runways of Paris, Milan and New York for close to 30 years.

What is surprising is how nonchalant Muñoz is about being the boot-maker to the stars. He is by no means starstruck.

"For me, every customer is a celebrity," Muñoz said. "I don't think who you make the boots for makes you a good boot-maker. All our customers are important. When I die, I don't want people to say that I made boots for so and so or so and so. All people are great. All people have their own uniqueness, and if somebody is willing to spend money on a product that I make, to me that makes them a celebrity in my book."

For the record, Muñoz has designed boots for Bob Dylan, Madonna, Robert Plant, Ashley Judd and Tom Cruise.

Stallion Boots, all designed by the 52-year-old Muñoz, can be found in exclusive boutiques in 17 locations in seven states, including Boot Star locations in West Hollywood and Las Vegas and Bergdorf Goodman in New York.

The custom-designed, handcrafted boots can also be purchased in Canada, Europe and Asia in fine shops such as Colette in Paris and Trois Pommes in St. Moritz and Zurich.

"I
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heard about Stallion boots from a couple of people who own a pair in Austin," said Austinite Dena Stoner, who was recently touring Stallion Boots Co. "We were up in Santa Fe camping and went to the square to try on boots, and there is place called Boots & Boogie there. We were trying on various boots, oohing and ahhing about the intricate designs, and the gentleman there said the absolute greatest boot is Stallion.

"I tried on a pair and thought, 'Oh, my God,' it fit like glove,' " she said. "The gentleman said Stallion Boots are made with the finest workmanship, and I asked where are they made and he said, 'El Paso, of course, where all the greatest boots are made.' "

Stoner said she owned about 10 pairs of boots, but not one designed by Muñoz.

"It's an inspirational thing; one day I'll buy a pair of Stallions," Stoner said. "We've seen some wonderful boots all around town. El Paso is the boot capital of world."

It was with humble beginnings that Muñoz began his love affair with cowboy boots.

"As a young man, I was brought up on a ranch in Chihuahua," Muñoz recollects fondly. "My grandfather took me to one of those general stores in Zaragoza, Mexico, that had everything you can imagine. He had taken me for the first time to the ranch when I was about 5 years old. He told me I couldn't go up to the ranch without a pair of cowboy boots. I wore those old boots until they wore down to nothing."

Muñoz smiled at the memory of his mother's reaction.

"My mother used to have me dressed up very nice all the time," he said. "She always tells her friends that when my grandfather brought me back from that trip, I had cow manure on my hair and my ears and I was a totally changed man. That's where my love of Western wear began."

Back then, the look of the cowboy boot was a rugged tough shoe. It had to be when working on the unforgiving open range.

But during the past 40 years or so, the cowboy boot has undergone a transformation. It has gone from practicality and functionality to an art form with no end to the variety of styles and colorful designs available.

Muñoz's venture into the fashion boot industry began in 1980 at the height of the "Urban Cowboy" craze.

"I was 23 years old studying chemistry and biology," he said. "There where two main industries in El Paso at the time -- the jean business and the boot business. After 'Urban Cowboy' came out, people wanted cowboy boots, so that's what I did."

Stallion Boot Co. was founded in 1980 by Muñoz and his two partners, Jose Gallegos and Plutarco Rodriguez. Muñoz is now the sole owner.

"We filled a very small niche," Muñoz said. "Not very many customers wanted designed, custom-made, high-end boots at the time. For me, that was that market. Otherwise, to manufacture in mass and to compete with the big guys would have been impossible. I would have ended up out of business. I just started to fill niches for people who wanted a better made boot."

Stallion Boot & Belt Co. has been featured in many international, national and regional magazines and newspapers over the years, including being named one of the top 25 Custom Bootmakers by Texas Monthly in 2002 and featured in the book "Art of the Boot" by the late Tyler Beard and the New York Times.

"I still remember the first pair of boots I designed," said Muñoz, who also collects all styles of boots. "It was a very plain boot, just a nice calfskin boot."

Muñoz said he has about 160 pairs of boots in his personal collection.

Many people are surprised when told Stallion Boots is headquartered in El Paso.

"Texas and fashion don't naturally find one another in the same sentence -- particularly when we're talking El Paso," the New York Times said.

Muñoz simply scoffs at comments such as these.

"The people here love their roots," he said. "El Paso used to be the boot capital of the world as far as boots manufactured and quality; now it's the boot capital for the quality. If you want a quality-made boot, this is the only place you'll find it because the boot-makers, some who have been with me for 30 years, care about their craft."

Muñoz is constantly surrounded by alligator, crocodile, horned-back alligator and crocodile, caiman, lizard, elephant, hippo, python, ostrich and stingray skins. But most importantly, he surrounds himself with family and friends.

"What El Paso has been able to provide for myself is an understanding of the biculturalism that exists here because I grew up that way so that was a big advantage to me," he said. "Now, when I travel throughout the world, I have no assumption about anybody else's cultural or beliefs or standards. If I am willing and wanting to do business or pleasure, I need to fit my way of thinking to that of the area of the people. Having that exposure of being here gave me that understanding."

And when people ask him what he is doing in El Paso?

"I just tell them, 'I'm making boots' -- it's that simple."

Darn good ones at that.

Victor R. Martinez may be reached at vmartinez@elpasotimes.com; 546-6128. This story originally appeared in Style magazine.



About Stallion Boots
# What: Stallion Boot and Belt Co.
# Owner: Longtime boot collector and designer Pedro Muñoz Jr. designs boots for sale through trunk shows and couture retailers such as Dolce & Gabbana and Christian Dior.
# Specializes in: Replicas of classic boots emphasizing starbursts and flame stitching, as well as buck stitching and lacing.
# Prices start at: $500.
# Turnaround time: Six to 12 weeks.
# Has made boots for: Madonna, Robert Plant, Bob Dylan, Ashley Judd and Tom Cruise.


by: TIM'S BOOTS

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