Vlad Alexandru. The Transilvanian shoemaker.

February 2, 2019

The idea of opening a studio in which to make bespoke shoes appeared in 2013. Although I had no knowledge in the field (production), I decided to throw myself “headfirst”, so I gave up the sales job I had at that point.

I began to learn from old articles and books I found online, hoping that we’d establish a studio where to produce handmade shoes. Since we couldn’t find the proper workforce for what we needed, we changed the plan and we began to search for a partner factory that would sole Goodyear Welt shoes.

There was a highly disappointing period of time until the beginning of the year 2015, full of failed tests and unsuccessful attempts. Still, I was lucky to reach t the gates of the factory where we sole our shoes nowadays, and in March 2015 we managed to prepare the first Vlad Alexandru Godyear Welt pair of shoes of which I was satisfied.

The Vlad Alexandru shoes are made using the Goodyear Welt method. The cutting of the upper assembly is done manually in our studio, where we also process the leather and we stitch the faces, after which the soling stage takes place in a factory with a wide experience in building Goodyear Welt. For now we make MTO shoes, but we also consider extending towards MTM.

Since I didn’t have any training in the field, I was happy for every advice and suggestion received from those in this branch. Still, I owe a lot to the manager of our partner factory , who guided me from the very beginning, supported me with advises and suggestions and accepted me inside the factory, at the production line, where I managed to learn more than I would have learned from any other classes.

The Vlad Alexandru team is formed, for now, from three people: Alexandra (my wife), who helps me part-time with the administrative part and accompanies me to various fairs or exhibitions where we participated. As a profession Alexandra is an educator and in her spare time she deals with the less visible part of the studio. Mariana is the seamstress of the studio. She graduated the classes of a tailoring school, and after a short period of time spent in a tailoring studio (textile), she moved to leather tailoring. She deals with passion with the part of mounting and sewing the shoe faces. The third member of the team is the undersigned – Vlad. I deal with the tailoring and processing of the component parts of the upper assembly, the embodiment of the Brogue perforations. Aside this, I take care of the purchase of materials, the photographing of the shoes, the marketing, the sales and the customer service.

Firstly, the leather we use is of a higher quality than that which we used at first – we started with leather tanned in Romania, and later we moved to leather tanned in Portugal or Italy. Then the details, like processing the margins of pieces or the stitches of faces are things to which we pay very much attention, and we tried to improve these continuously. The inner sole of shoes is now made from tanned leather – just like the outer sole, although at first we used a cheaper material (Texon). There is evolution also related to the small finishing details (the width of the sole’s margin or the way it is profiled).

The leather that we use we buy from tanneries from Portugal and Italy. The smooth leather, the box leather, is tanned leather in Portugal, and the suede or soft leathers we buy from Italy .We made several pairs from French box calf, purchased from Kolde Leder from Vienna. The soles and heels are from bovine leather of Spanish origin.

It’s difficult to choose a favorite from those that we make, but still I incline towards the Single Monk model. Although, come to think of it, the model I wear most often is the Longwing Derby made of brown suede.

We recently also started our website, so this is a step which we have been planning for a while now and we managed to finalize it. In the future we also want to start an MTM line and to extend the sales outside the country.

I follow with interest those who I consider to be in our product category (Meermin, Velasca, Herring); of course I’m fascinated by the Carmina shoes, the Edward Green shoes, and the story and evolution of Justin Fitzpatrick makes me more ambitious. Still, one shoemaker which I closely follow and I hope to meet one day is Valentin Frunza.

If I would have to recommend a local producers connected to menswear the names would be: Mike’s Factory from Cluj – makes bags and accessories with personality. The Urban Ties from Bucharest for their ties.

I think that my biggest failure was the moment when I realized that we won’t be able to produce the handmade shoes as we planned at first. Still, we managed to “regroup” and to get over this obstacle, and today I feel very proud about our shoes.

I think that the biggest challenge will be to find quality materials. The great tanneries impose very large quantities of leather, and the intermediaries have rather high prices. It is difficult for a small studio, such as ours, to find good leather suppliers, but this aspect doesn’t scare us, and I am certain that we will manage to cope with the future challenges.