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: Â 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.
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3/25/03 at 10:38am