From a technical point of view what are the brands that excel at Bespoke?
Personally l prefer the hand welted bespoke brands that use a high spi on the hand stitched soles such as Cleverley and Gaziano & Girling. It looks nicer. Oh, lets not forget Silvano Lattanzi, he is the man that seems to be able to do all the constructions to perfection, he is perhaps the greatest of them all when it comes to shoe constructions.
From a technical point of view what are the brands that excel at MTO/RTW?
Santoni limited edition norvegese and bentivegna constructed shoes are truely at the top in my experience, and of course Silvano Lattanzi is at the top because he can do everything constructionwise. Stefano Branchini and Riccardo Bestetti also do the more technical constructions really well.
Central and Eastern Europe can be fascinating places for shoe lovers. From my point of view the prices here are extremely attractive. Do you have favourite shoe makers in these areas?
Scheer bespoke. They have a unique look with extra fine detail and can have a grand last shape that makes a statement like no other shoes. They stand out above the rest in that area of the world. I also like Maftei’s work and Materna’s heavy broguing.
Many producers say that their shoes are hand made. What does handmade mean nowadays?
Handmade and bespoke can mean anything these days. You see a machine made shoe and various people advertise it as bespoke or handmhotade.
What is the next big name that will appear soon in Bespoke and MTO/RTW?
Too difficult to say. It depends on too many factors, and making predictions is impossible.
You are Australian. How is shoemaking seen in Australia? What are the producers worthy to be named?
The attitude of seasoned shoemakers in Australia is largely very negative. I spent years talking to industry people and they all said that the industry is finished and China has taken over. Most shoemakers are only prepared to glue the soles because they fear that there is not a market for shoes above $400 here. See, the public shoemakers makers in Australia are only very average and have limited training, however very recently a very keen and young Theo Hassett has come onto the bespoke scene making fully handmade shoes and he has greatly improved over the past year. I remember when he threaded one of his first bristles before he really got started, and he has come a long way since then and is very keen to make it, and he does it for the love because he makes virtually no money at what he does.
The best shoemakers in Australia are only spoken about in hushed tones that very few people are aware of. They have no internet or public presence at all, but they make the nicest handmade bespoke shoes of anyone in Australia, and they only make very limited shoes in their home garage at their own leasure. One man is an old Italian village shoemaker who specially made two bespoke shoes and various trial shoes for me privately, and another man is a top boot maker who can make boots to rival the best of them. Their name’s shall go un-named because the work they do is strictly limited.
It is very difficult to get good leather in Australia and to find shoemakers who can design well and draw good patterns because all the factories have closed up and most have retired, so the skill base is almost completely lost now. But recently there has been a fight back by using machines to draw patterns and make lasts so a modern day shoemaker can get into business quickly without having to spend many years mastering the old skills. That is the future in Australia, and the various makers will buy a machine and share it with other makers to keep costs down. Machine stitched shoes are rare and hand stitched was rarer than hens teeth before Theo came onto the scene and only those few in the know had the opportunity of having a hand stitched local shoe made. I understand l was the first person in the state in over 70 years who had fully hand stitched shoes made for me. I am also the only person in Australia who has a bespoke good year welted shoe made as a favour from an old industry friend, he actually held up an entire factory to make my shoe because he was training the workers. The shoemakers who stitch on soles will mainly do blake or fairstitch construction, but never goodyear with the exception of R.M.Williams RTW/MTO.
You are an active member of Forumnoirbuff. What do you think about other forums, like styleforum for instance?
Style Forum seems to largely lack warmth and love for their shoes. Instead it is like one big monster that is a consumption machine where wants are never ending. It’s mainly an audience uneducated in footwear and very brand conscious with lots of disposable income that seems to have a never ending desire to spend. The warmth and the true love of footwear doesn’t seem to be there, it seems more of a love for spending than a love for shoes as opposed to the way Fritz, Bengal Stripe, Aportney, Jcusey, Luk-cha and l feel about it. Most of the real shoe lovers of the past at S.F have left the forum and the new soul-less consumption machine posters have sadly replaced them. None-the-less, Style Forum played the most significant role for bringing back appreciation of traditional clothes and footwear. Soon after this forum began you started to see people wearing pocksquares again and stores stocking traditional shoe brands all over the world and blogs writing about traditional menswear and a whole new generation getting back into traditional clothing. S.F started the biggest trend back into classic clothes the world has ever seen, their influence cannot be underestimated.
Ask Andy About Clothes is better because that forum still has some soul and a love for shoes that makes one feel happy about, but the good knowledge that was once there was chased off by the poor moderation during 2005 – 6 and it never recovered.
The most pleasant experience in a shoe store?
Every time l go to Australia’s best shoe store called `Double Monk’. They know l like shoes and they always have time for me. I communicate with them privately on regular occasions and offer my help if ever they want me.
And the most unpleasant?
I visited the top women’s shoe store called Miss Louise. They hated me picking up any of their shoes because their words and tone of voice clearly disapproved. They kept on insisting they would pick up the shoes for me to look at using a cold stern condescending voice. They kept on asking me how much l wished to spend and they stated they didn’t want to show me anymore shoes because they are all the same. I feel they weren’t far off from asking me to leave because l weren’t rich and famous. Oh yes, they love their rich and famous clients and super powerful tycoon husbands that buy shoes and diamonds for their wives like candy. I have seen some incredibly extravegant scenes in that shop.
Another bad experience was when l was waiting for 20 minutes to enquire about $700 shoes in the old days, but no-one seemed to want to help me so l walked out.
What do you think about the style displayed at Pitti Uomo? Looking at the outfit of those on the market I sometimes wonder what is happening with the masculine style. Will James Bond come soon to wear a beard, monk shoes with open buckles and outfits in 7 colours?
Pitti gives off a somewhat poor impression because it shows a lot of people being image conscious and not drawing attention for the right reasons. Many of them don’t have a warm vibe that draws you to them, instead they repel you. Style doesn’t seem to naturally come to most of them, and they do appear to be trying too hard. Most seem like new comers to classic men’s styling and use sprezzatura as a cop out for their poor sense in style. The Pitti folks make sprezzatura look too carefully studied. The good thing about Pitti is that at least people are now going back to classic footwear and clothing instead of crazy designer stuff. Pitti is a sea of double monks and it makes me smile. Unfortunately Pitti is an event that draws people’s attention for not all the right reasons, but at least they are heading in the right direction. They could do a lot worse than what they are doing, but lets have people become less self conscious than what they are so audiences can warm to the people much better.
If you were a pair of shoes, how would you look like?
I would be a handmade version of the John Lobb `city’ in black on the 7000 last. That last and specific pattern for that shoe is perfection!!!
Your next pair of shoes would be…?
I recently started the process for a George Cleverley bespoke gusset half brogue shoe called the `Westminster’ in black calf. I’ve wanted it for 11 years and it suits my personality so well. None-the-less, in the mean time l am looking at having a local pair of green antiqued norvegese constructed double monks made bespoke by Theo Hassett, and am also tempted to order a green antiqued pair of Saint Crispin’s and a green shell cordovan double brogue by Carmina because l have wanted a green shoe for many years, but truthfully, l am a bespoke boy now and l have little desire for RTW or MTO anymore so l will probably stick with Cleverley, Hassett and may well try my dream shoemaker Yohei Fukuda in Japan, but Fukuda is a little while off yet. So many shoo dreams to be had, but never enough money to own them all. If l had my way l would own them all and spend much of my day looking at them.