Summer Time Research Lab is an action-research project in design by Pedro Carvalho de Almeida which is based at ID+ Institute of Design, Media and Culture, Central Saint Martins University of the Arts London, and at footwear brand Cortebel. Following up on previous work (Brand Archives, 2012), this project is funded by FCT through the award of a post-doctoral grant in the field of design. It further develops an approach to industrial ethnography and brand archaeology, through design intervention within Cortebel. The aim of the project is to construct and explore Cortebel’s physical and digital archives, which are key strategic generative resources for reinterpreting the brand’s visual identity and product series from its own historical and cultural perspective.
Cortebel is a Portuguese footwear manufacturer founded in 1965 in Cortegaça, in the Aveiro district south Porto. The heyday of the company endured throughout the 1970s until the 1990s, for it provided the Portuguese army with specialist footwear, as well as casual shoes for well known international fashion brands. In the Portuguese market, Cortebel was best known in the 1980s and early 1990s for the light Summer Time PVC and cotton shoes, as well as the popular plain white and elastic sapatilhas for Gymnastics. For the past years, the company strives for survival due to market rapid changes and international fierce competition. In the year it celebrates the 50th anniversary (1965–2015), Cortebel could well be a representative of a strand of Portuguese locally specific small industries with potential to stand up for cultural difference.
Within this framework, this project aims at documenting the factory and its context of production—both the physical conditions and the human side of manufacturing—along with the recording of a design process which involves archival research onto the brand’s contextual history and iconic designs. Secondly, the creative exploration of the archive is set in progress through using exclusively internal resources available, from fabrication knowledge to machinery and stock materials, put together to produce a celebratory series of Cortebel’s most representative shoe designs. Thirdly, the project not only addresses an opportunity to celebrate the company’s 50th anniversary, it also attempts to inscribe the brand’s overall significance to Portuguese 20th century design culture through an exhibition and catalogue, and a short film documentary.