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Back from budapest

post #1 of 8
Thread Starter 
Well, the trip went off without a hitch. I would highly recommend Budapest to any who might want to visit. It is a very beautiful city, and it's clean, safe, and cheap. Joe G was right about the food. It is incredibly good and very cheap (for a visitor.) I took six people out to a full meal - including starters, dessert and drinks - and it only cost $100.. And it was some of the best food I have ever had. About Vass: For those of you who have the book, the shoes are made EXACTLY as it describes. The only difference between the ready-to-wear models and the custom shoes is that the custom shoes are built on a custom last. All other processes are the same. If Lattanzi sews their uppers together by hand, as I have read, then they are probably the only company in the world that puts more handwork into a ready-to-wear shoe than Vass. There are only four machines involved in the crafting of a Vass shoe - a sewing machine for assembling the upper, a gimping machine for the notched edge decoration on a brogue, a planing machine they use to shave insoles to the right thickness, and a small hand-operated stamping machine that stamps the Vass logo on the insole cover. Everything else is done by hand. Using a sewing machine to construct the upper does not make a Vass shoe inferior. For example, an examination of the website of the respected bespoke shoemaker Jason Amesbury reveals that he uses a sewing machine as well. Here are a few pictures showing the hand-sewing of the welt, the hand sewing of the sole, and the finished welt before the sole is attached: As you may be able to tell from the last picture, Vass uses a skived insole. The insole is the thick piece of leather that your foot rests on. Combined with the welt, the insole holds the shoe together. The shoemaker cuts two grooves into the bottom of the insole - one at the edge and one a little farther in. The welt and upper are attached by stitching them to the area of the insole between the grooves (which area is called the feather.) A skived insole is rarely used outside the workshop of a bespoke shoemaker. Most other firms use a glued on linen feather or "raise" the feather with a machine. You may be wondering how Vass can produce a completely handmade shoe at such a low price. First of all, Hungarian curency is very weak in comparison to the dollar and the Euro. Secondly they subcontract two of the processes. After the uppers are clicked (cut out) they are sent to a professional closer that works outside the shop. Also, after the lasts are designed, the final last (or lasts in the case of ready-to-wear) are produced by an independant last-making company. It is a very old traditional company, established in 1878, and it provides lasts and shoe-trees to top shoemakers in England, Austria, Hungary, the Netherlands and Italy. There is not any exploitation going on at the Vass shop. While the shoemakers were very hard working, they were not being driven in any way and they were not subject to any harsh conditions. Many have been shoemakers for a very long time. The clicker has been working at his craft for over 40 years. The quality of the finish is evident from the picture below: As the book says, these are "shoes of supreme quality". As Alan Flusser points out, most bespoke shoemakers use the exact same processes to make a shoe. So what sets them apart is styling. In Austria and Hungary the preference is for a shoe that is much heavier in scale than an English shoe. In particular the toe is quite high. There were a few models there I didn't personally like (that is true for every maker) but overall I was quite impressed with the styling - much more so than I thought I would be. The shoes look MUCH better in person than they do in pictures. They do some models that are quite unique and incredibly stylish in my opinion. Also, they are quite flexible so it shouldn't be hard to order a shoe you would like. Below are some of my favorite Vass shoes: At the request of a customer (a store) they are developing a model that is very reminiscent of the bespoke models Cleverley does. They are not sure if they are going to sell it yet - I really hope they do:   All in all, I think Vass deserves to be counted among the best shoemakers in the world. Let me know what you think of the shoes - comments and questions are welcome.
post #2 of 8
Welcome home,Andrew. Beautiful shoes. So,how long before we can expect to find them available from either your eBay store,or retail outlet?
post #3 of 8
i like that 4th/5th one there. so, how much do these shoes actually go for?
post #4 of 8
Harris, Great pictures. SO, the question of the much.?.?.? and where can we get them.?.?.? Don't leave us in suspense too long
post #5 of 8
Sorry I didn't have any specific recommendations. I can't say I've had a meal I'd rate less than "very good" in the few times I've been there. Kudos for bringing up labour conditions and such. Hungary right now, for a variety of reasons, is a place where things are just less expensive. A global economy will throw up such places, completely non-exploitatively. Austrians, in particular, love Hungary. A funny thing one sees when entering Hungary from Austria by train is the composition of the border villages. They are full of dentists (and not "Little Shop of Horrors" hacks but by all accounts excellent dentists), hair salons, and the like. Everyone speaks German, even amongst themselves. And it's not just the unteremittelstaende who go there, either. I hear that the afternoon train from one of the "Austrian Villages" on the other side of the border to Vienna is packed with women sporting their evening coiffs before the Opernball. But back to the shoes. Some of those shoes look beautful. They do have higher toeboxes and heartier build than the British or Italian shoes many favour* I especially like the monkstraps. Peace, JG *Anyone who's lived through British, Italian, and Central European winters will instantly why their cultures of cobbling evolved the ways they did. Interestingly, the high toeboxes evolved because of life on the Steppes. One would actually fill his shoes with straw during the winter, to keep his toes from going brittle with frostbite. Austrian soldiers actually brought these problems up during WWII, asking for oversized shoes for the Eastern Front. Alas, Prussian quartermasters demanded the utmost precision, and as a result countless German conscripts lost their feet to frostbite, and froze before ever even seeing a Russian.
post #6 of 8
Interestingly, the high toeboxes evolved because of life on the Steppes. One would actually fill his shoes with straw during the winter, to keep his toes from going brittle with frostbite.
Isn't it amazing how you can get different explanations for the same fact? I always believed the high toe box of Austro/Hungarian shoes derived from the Haferlschuh (for Joe G: "Goiserer" in Austria). That shoe evolved in the mountainous regions of the Alps; here the high toe box (even raised to a "Schiffchen" (little boot) was designed to enable freedom of the toes while walking down the mountains; then the toes get pushed into the forepart of the shoe and in a narrow shoe might get wedged in: Oh well, well, be it as it may. Another observation is how fond the Austro/Hungarian shoemakers are of the Blucher style (almost all bluchers); while in England the Derby is more or less restricted to the country. I guess in the States it is about 50/50 between blucher and balmoral. What do people here on the forum prefer, blucher or balmoral? How does the Vass workshop deal with made-to-measure shoes? Most workshops make a trial shoe (allegedly Olga Berluti expects you to wear it for three month), while the King of all workshops John Lobb London does not. After Mr Vass has taken your measurements, are there any other fittings? How long does it take to get the finished product? And what are the costs? You mentioned at one point $ 400, is that still true. I believe once Hungary has come into the EU, prices will pretty quickly adjust to the European average. What is the currency in Hungary? I know it's the Florin, but has these days the Euro taken over, which seems to be "lingua franca" (understood everywhere) in the former eastern block?
post #7 of 8
(even raised to a "Schiffchen" (little boot)
Sorry wrong spelling. English translation should have bee "little boat" not boot.
post #8 of 8
Thread Starter 
At the moment the only Vass shoes that are available for sale in the US are the shoes they make for Baldessarini (Hugo Boss.) Retail on those is about $900 a pair. We are working on getting them into more stores - I'll post an update when they become available elsewhere.
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