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Interviews

Perry Ercolino

May 26, 2014

Perry

Where did you learn to make the first pair of shoes?

I began about 50 years ago in my fathers workshop here in Pennsylvania.
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Who had the greatest influence on choosing your career?
 
That would have to be my father but many after him helped refine my work and ideas.
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What memories do you have of your first order?
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Being totally unprepared and nervous as hell…
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The key elements of a good shoe would be…

Good esthetics and proportion front to back.

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Are young people willing to learn the craft today?

America’s shoemaking tradition is slowly passing away save for some of the bootmakers out West. There are young people who contact me almost every week who want to learn the craft.

Is the business climate today “shoemaking-friendly” if I may say so? 

The shoemaking climate today is very friendly for the mass market and RTW buyers.

In your opinion would Bespoke be killed by MTO in the future?

I would say that the bespoke business my not die off completely but the MTO is starting to make a serious dent in the marketplace.

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What other American Craftsmen do you admire?

One of the American artists I find very compelling is Dale Chihuly.

You seem to concentrate on bespoke shoes. What is your proportion of bespoke to Made to Order  in terms of sales?

My bespoke is about 60 % and the Custom-Measure is 40%.

How creative can you be in shoemaking?

Tradition and innovation are somewhat polar opposites. As in nature it’s all about keeping the  the proper balance.

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Please give a quick run-down of the whole process…

We require an appointment for a first fitting and we measure the feet in about 7 different  measures. We discuss with the client his wardrobe, professional image needs, colour palate, etc. This takes about 1 & 1/2 hours.
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The next step is to start drafting the foot impressions to create the roadmap of the lasts. Once the lasts are developed we design the patterns on the form for accuracy and proportion. Upper & lining patters are cut and we prepare a pullover on the last to make certain the uppers are designed and proportioned properly. The bottom/Insoles are prepared and then the completed uppers are attached for welting.
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Once the the uppers are welted we attach a temporary bottom and have a second fitting with the customer. Any adjustments are made after the 2nd fitting. The shoes are then taken to the final phase off attaching and sewing the outsoles and heels are attached and trimmed to shape. Polishing  is next. After we make & fit the trees to the original forms. Bags are made for the shoes and we have the final fitting with the customer. Total time is about 4-5 months wait on first orders.
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What is the origin of the leathers used?

We use only imported calfskins and hides native to the EU.

How many lasts are available?

We have 8 main lasts in out collection. 5 dedicated to lace styles and 3 for slip-on styles

Is there a way for international clients to order  bespoke shoes without having to travel to Doylestown?

 There is really no way that we can do business long distance without seeing the customer in person.
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What is the most interesting shoe you have seen come through production?

We made a pair of Ostrich driving mocs for one of our customers.

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What are your favorite models and why?

I personally like whole-cuts and an elegant monk strap.

Tell me more about your customers and the challenging orders over the years.

Most of my customers are professionals in their respective fields. We are seeing more foot issues than ever due to improper fit issues and generally bad shoe choices over the years.

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What are the top five advices that you would give to a young Gentleman that is in searching for shoes?

Research your available makers and speak to them. Make certain that you can communicate your ideas and that what you want is clearly understood and attainable. Make certain it is economically viable. Lastly, make certain you can get after sales support if needed.

What is the most important thing that you have learned about shoemaking since starting your business?

 Don’t assume you know everything  and be willing to educate your customers if needed.
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What is your favorite word?

Mellifluous.

What is your least favorite word?

No.

What turns you on (creatively, spiritually or emotionally)?

Impressionist art.

What turns you off?

Pretentious people.

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What is your favorite curse word?

I like all of them!!

What sound or noise do you love?

Wind & water while sailing.

What sound or noise do you hate?

Children crying.
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What profession would you not like to do?

OB-GYN.

If Heaven exists, what would you like to hear God say when you arrive at the Pearly Gates?

Hey Perry, are my sandals ready yet?

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