Ladies often declare themselves shoe or handbag types. Men, who only wear a bag for practicality, can only be (or not be) a shoe type.
A shoe man is the one who pays attention to detail: not only does he have great style, he’s also the one who on a date is going to notice that your nail polish is matching your lipstick, supposedly.
At MFM, we’ve had a bit of shoe fever lately. But for those who take their obsession to another level, what would make a better treat than a custom made, authentic, unique pair? The fascination is all about an almost forgotten craftsmanship. I envision shoemakers as eccentric perfectionists, who owe the quality of their finished work not only to their talent, but to the years spent surrounded by soles and layers of leather. It comes without saying, these bad boys come with a price tag matching their exclusivity. It would be ideal if more people were able to invest in bespoke shoes, the made-to-measure beauties that can be repaired and last a lifetime. Shoe-making would get the credit it deserves rather than being taken over completely by industrial mass production footwear. However, there is still a market for a custom made pair and London spoils us for choice.
You can buy Jeffrey West’s infamous English shoes at the Piccadilly Arcade in London. Mark Jeffery and Guy West started making shoes together at the age of 16, designing and selling them at markets in Northampton and also at Kensington Market in London. They would initially use rejects from factories, customise them and sell them on.
Their brand, eventually launched in 1987, aims to portray the traditional Northampton craftsmanship, putting a twist on the classic English shoe with their signature. As West says, “If you want a classic English shoe, I wouldn’t hesitate to say go and buy one from Crocket and Jones, Trickers, or Church’s, whereas if you come to us you’re buying that manufacturing history but it’s with our handwriting, our twist, our slant on it.”
“The right care and attention will ensure your John Lobbs retain their style, elegance and durability for a lifetime, and will enhance the grain and colour of the leather over time,” reads the Lobb’s website. An investment, a promise of a lifetime with your Lobbs: I believe in this kind of romance! In London since 1866 and in Paris since 1902, John Lobb established himself as a premier boot and shoemaker, providing a bespoke service to the aristocracy as well as the political and business elites. John Lobb was acquired by Hermès in 1976, apart from the St James’s street shop John Lobb Ltd that continued to operate independently from the rest of the business. Nowadays, the ready-to-wear collections are designed and handmade in Northampton and sold in the boutique in Jermyn Street in London, as well as in those throughout the world. To buy a bespoke pair, I’m afraid you’ll have to go to the Paris atelier, in 32 rue de Mogador.
Some big international names are joining the made-to-measure trend, and one of them is Luis Vuitton. Launched at the end of June, the custom shoe service is now available at the brand’s Maison in London’s New Bond Street store. With 3,000 possible design combinations, customers will be allowed to manipulate every single detail – from the shape, material, and finish to even the invisible details, such as hot stamped initialing or numbers inside the shoes. Even better, you can get a matching belt: luxury at its utmost.
I might be biased, but there is no doubt Prada / is in prime position(?) to create beautiful shoes. With the capsule collection called Walking in Milano, available in the boutiques since June, the brand gives a lesson on combining modern design and craftsmanship.
Last but not least, Gucci has also started a made-to-measure service, which is not restricted to shoes, but also extends to suits. Customers can choose from 178 possible combinations of colours, fabrics and extras, such as satin lining. As for the customised shoe service, you can select the material, width and colour, as well as embossed initials. Available at the Sloan Street store, London.