Premium Footwear is a Journey. And Maybe a Gateway to Bespoke.
Bespoke. Made-to-measure. Custom. Handcrafted. Words that can be intimidating, but ultimately the gateway to leather shoes made with serious soul. It’s where fanatics and craftsman convene, share ideas, and put designs on paper. All with a common thread in creating exceptional footwear. It’s not snobbery. It’s pure passion and a respect for the the art of shoemaking.
Let’s be real. Bespoke is only for the select few of demanding and quality-obsessed aficionados. It’s about creating a shoe that is truly unique, with top notch craftsmanship, and focusing on the slightest of details which are often invisible to the eye. It’s a language between client and maker. It’s low-profile greatness.
It’s a process that takes months to come to fruition, as measurements are made, a wooden last is carved out for each foot, and then a mock shoe is produced to make sure all is good. And finally, after countless hours of design and craftsmanship, and analyzing the mock shoe, the final product will be made.
Primo quality leather. Superb craftsmanship. Hand-painted with natural pigments. And a final glaze that’s added to make a creation that’ll last for decades.
This is a global movement. England. France. Japan. Italy. Eastern Europe. They all have super-talented shoemakers, but France still seems to hold the title due to strict guidelines on tradition and artisan craft. Their Compagnons du Devior, a sort of an artisan guild, which has been around for centuries, is the ultimate community of preserving the art of craft.
This is where master craftsmen receive apprentices to teach a certain craft, and then the apprentices go on a Tour De France, where they work in different communities. It’s an amazing platform to teach the ancient skills in creating leather shoes, furniture, or whatever else requiring a trained eye. It really does promote craft in its purest form.
Many shoemakers come from this brotherhood. One of those apprentices, Stephane Jimenez, is now one of the rising stars on the scene who is making some of the most primo bespoke shoes on the planet, and right in Bordeaux. A traditional French bootmaker, his shoes are ridiculously nice and are ultra exclusive and pricey. And for proper reason.
With an annual production of around 15 pairs, the details and hours that go into his shoes are another level. This is true bespoke. Pure and so fine. And even if you are not in the market for a bespoke experience, it’s inspiring to just view the collection and appreciate his world.
Take a trip to Barcelona and another maker, Ramon Cuberta, is making a name for himself in the bespoke scene. His shoes are a little more accessible, as he not only specializes in the bespoke product, but also offers an impressive made-to-measure line that’ll make any “shoe snob” a believer.
The designs are super elegant and materials are on par with what we would expect from a world-renowned shoemaker. As with any bespoke maker, the real experience lies when you visit him in his shop to understand the philosophy.
And outside from the whole custom bespoke scene, one global brand with serious street cred is famed cordovan shoe specialist Carmina. Based in Mallorca, and now in their fourth generation, they help define primo footwear with the likes of their Double Monk shoes and Chelsea boot collections. Their style is distinct and fans can even go on their website to ‘customize’ a pair.
With only one flagship in NYC, one can make a trip to have the whole brick-mortar experience, or just purchase online and wait for the sweet smelling box to arrive. Or tour their factory if you can make it out to beautiful Mallorca.
Back to mainland Europe and representing Austrian manufacturing excellence is iconic Saint Crispin’s. Their made-to-order collection is a definitely more on the pricey side, but just by looking at their Oxford’s or Loafer’s, one can become a believer in the quality that goes into the production.
And to provide that white glove service to their demanding U.S.-based bespoke clientele, they recently opened up a salon in NYC to consult, educate, and take some measurements. Ready in 8 to 12 weeks my man.
Bespoke. Made-to-measure. Custom. Handcrafted. Yes, these are words that depict another world, and could be intimidating at first, but this is where it’s at. Whether from a single shoemaker or from a global brand, premium leather shoes are more than investment footwear, they are an extension of our character.
The industry will continue to evolve with a new generation of both shoe maker and clientele. It doesn’t necessarily have to be a bespoke pair, but any precision-made pair of leather shoes can truly elevate your footwear game, while also encouraging you to possibly pursue the ultimate bespoke experience. Maybe one day.
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