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Vass bespoke shoes - u last

post #1 of 11
Thread Starter 
My Vass bespoke loafers (aka slippers) have arrived.  They are made on the U last, which Vass says is Italian in style.  The shoes are very nice, with a narrow waist and an attractive line.  The 'cognac' leather is finished in a medium shine, which I prefer.  All in all, very nice, though the finish of the leather does not have the elegant patination that distinguishes E Green shoes.  Certainly a bit more fashion forward than most Green/Lobb shoes, perhaps reminiscent of Berluti's, absent the Berluti finish? Links to various photos of the shoes (I hope): Vass shoes - front view Vass shoes - topview Vass shoes - front and profile Vass shoes - sole view Vass shoes - single shoe topview - note pronounced shaping of forefoot/ball area of shoe
post #2 of 11
Very nice, Shoefan. And the links worked perfectly.
post #3 of 11
Wow, those are gorgeous shoes.
post #4 of 11
Very nice shoefan. The U-last is awesome. I am however confused by the use of the word bespoke in this instance, since there is a stock last involved at some point. Would this fall more in the category of MTM?
post #5 of 11
Quote:
I am however confused by the use of the word bespoke in this instance, since there is a stock last involved at some point. Would this fall more in the category of MTM?
I hope that shoefan posts about his Vass experience in more detail, but my understanding is that Vass doesn't create their bespoke lasts de novo but rather modify stock lasts based on the measurements that they take. That makes it sort of like an analogue to MTM in the clothing world. Now, I don't really know whether a significantly better fit can be achieved by making lasts from scratch rather than modifying a stock last. Perhaps one of the forum participants who has shoes made by both Vass and the likes of GJ Cleverley or Lobb St. James can offer some insight. I do know, however, that if I ever find myself in Budapest, I'll order some Vass bespokes. And even though I don't usually like slip-ons, shoefan's shoes are beautiful. I hope that the fit is as good as the look.
post #6 of 11
Originally posted by jcusey:
Quote:
Perhaps one of the forum participants who has shoes made by both Vass and the likes of GJ Cleverley or Lobb St. James can offer some insight.
Lobb Paris uses "billets" in a rough shape of the foot, which they then carve to make your last. Not exactly modifying a stock last since the billet of wood is just a rough approximation of a foot.
post #7 of 11
Thread Starter 
I was going to find, copy and paste a posting I did at the AskAndy forum in December regarding my Vass visit, but I can't get the @^*#'ing site to work (so what else is new?). So, here goes: The Vass offering is, IMO, somewhere between Bespoke and the Stock Special offerings of Green et al. In my visit, my choice of styles was implicitly limited to the various styles in the Vass line, rather than being a de-novo design developed through conversation with Mr. Vass and his daughter. However, certain options, such as the treatment of the welt, were open to variation. In this regard, I would say the offering is akin to the stock special approach. However, the last used for my shoes was based on the measurement of my feet. Yes, Vass does start with a stock last and modify from there, as opposed to starting with a block of wood; however, it is my understanding that this is pretty common for bespoke makers, particularly, for example, for the US bespoke bootmakers who primarily make cowboy boots. The skills to make lasts from scratch are very rare indeed. Also, my understanding is that the variation in feet is less than that of the body in general, and moreover it is pretty straightforward for a skilled shoemaker to alter a stock last to mirror a customer's feet in all the pertinent measurements. Further, in contrast to a suit, which is not sewn on a form representing the customer's body, the shoe is made on the form (the last); therefore, analogizing the MTM suit to the Vass shoe is, IMO, not really too accurate. [If suits were made like shoes, and a stock body form/model could be modified to exactly mirror the customer's body, then there is no reason per se that, with respect to fit, a MTM suit would be inferior to a bespoke suit; the problem is that suits (a 3D product) are cut from 2D patterns, and the pattern certainly isn't a perfect reflection of the customer's body. Also, note that the pattern for the Vass "bespoke" shoe is made on the modified last before the leather is cut and the shoe is "closed". In this sense, IMO, the shoe becomes more analagous to a bespoke suit than a MTM suit.] That being said, I was somewhat surprised by the fact that the lasts were made starting from stock lasts; Vass' book certainly talks about the bespoke last as being made from stratch. Further,the measurement process was fairly limited in comparison to the Vass book description; the measuring process only involved 4 measurements plus the outliining of my foot and did not include use of a ped-a-graph or even a profile tracing. Note, however, that I also was measured by a UK shoemaker, and he only did a bit more in terms of measurement. Others here and at AskAndy have discussed the measurement process, and there seems to be a significant variation on the measurement process across makers (Lobb Paris seems to be among the more exact in this process, perhaps also Perry Ercolino). In terms of fit, I haven't really worn the shoes much; they seem a tiny bit snug, but will probably loosen up with wear. Also, note that a loafer is the toughest test of a shoemaker's skill, since the fit must be perfect (no laces) and it is difficult to hold the heel in place in a loafer (loafers have a larger opening for the foot -- since you can't loosen laces to enable insertion of the foot into the shoe -- making it harder to hold the heel in place); many bespoke makers will try to dissuade customers from ordering loafers as their first bespoke pair of shoes for this reason. Vass would prefer to have customers try on a pre-finished shoe, but this was not possible given my US residence. I'll report back when I have a better handle on the fit.
post #8 of 11
Thread Starter 
Finally got AskAndy to work. Here is what I originally reported there:
Quote:
I just returned from a trip to Budapest and London. In Budapest,I ordered a pair of Vass loafers in the new "Italian/U" last, which has a longer, squared off toe - the loafer/"slipper" model shown in A. Harris' posts re: Vass shoe offer on the StyleForum http://www.styleforum.net/cgi-bin/ik...1f5a31aea4ffff act=SF f=1. I chose a cognac brown leather, fairly close to the E. Green "Burnt Pine." Interestingly, the price of this the shoes on this last was 130,000 Florints (~$585) -including shoe trees-, only a 10,000 Fl. premium over their regular bespokes. The leather on the new, Italian-last shoes is finished to a very high shine, much more so than the other Vass shoes I saw at the shop; it is apparently the same leather as on the other models, but boy does it look different. I met Mr. Vass, and he took me to his showroom, where he showed me some new models from another last he has developed; they seemed more like the E Green line, with a nice rounded toe and a bit lower toe-box, relative to the traditional Budapest styles. As described in Kai's earlier post regarding Vass, the measurement of my feet involved only 3 measures plus the outlining of my feet. Clearly a less detailed process than that described in Mr. Vass' book. The shoes should be completed by the end of January. Also, I had with me a couple of pairs of E. Greens, which Mr. Vass inspected with great interest and whose quality he complimented. Then, I went to London. As I have mentioned in an earlier post, I am looking into the notion of learning shoemaking. I arranged to meet with one of the top shoe sub-contractors in London. He does work for virtually all the leading west-end shoe makers, including the one with initials JL. A bunch of interesting observations from my conversation with him and others: The bespoke shoe firms sub-contract the majority of the work on their shoes, including the clicking/closing and the "making" of the shoes; only the lastmaking and the final polishing is done in-house, in addition to managing the overall process and supplying the materials. Therefore, much of the work on a pair of shoes you order from any of the major firms is likely to be done by two (one closer and one maker) of a fairly small group of outside providers, who work for most of the firms. So, the distinguishing characteristic of the different firms is the last. If you buy from Lobb, you are basically paying a big price premium for the privilege of the name, plus the work of their lastmakers. It is a pretty tough living being a shoemaker in London; it takes about 2 days to "make" a pair of shoes (i.e. stretch the shoes over the lasts, then add the insoles, welts, outsoles and heels to a pair of uppers), for which one gets paid approximately $400. The clicker/closer gets paid around $70 - $100 for a pair, but can produce a couple of pairs a day. In either case, this is after having apprenticed for very low wages (say $10,000 a year) for a minimum of 2 years. Given the expense of living in London, the income they make is pretty bad (and remember they don't have any company benefits, paid vacation, retirement plans, etc). When I asked whom my friend would recommend for a pair of shoes, he said Foster & Sons, as Terry Moore of Foster's is "the best lastmaker in London." Much better and more productive than the lastmakers at ___.... For what it's worth, Moore can produce 4 or 5 pairs of lasts a week, whereas those at another, better-known firm are only expected to produce one pair a week (lastmakers are the one significant labor source in the process who are employed on salary by the firms, so they have no motivation to work quickly). Lasts from the latter were also said to be looking "strange" these days, and also seemingly made uniformly wide to avoid customer feedback as to tightness (regardless of whether these wider lasts are truly necessary/appropriate for the customer's feet). Unfortunately, Moore is getting pretty old and may be retiring in the near future. There is quite a shocking variation in the quality of the sub-contractors working in London; because they are paid on a piece-work basis, the motivation is to crank out as many pairs as possible, often at the expense of quality. I saw some work that was pretty poor, given the $2000+ price for bespoke shoes. My friend said that he really would only trust two or three closers and makers among the (relatively) large number of people in the trade. Some of the people in the business take a great deal of pride in their work, but many others seem to care only a bit about their finished product; moreover, there seems to be a fair amount of resentment of the name firms from the outside suppliers, as the latter clearly know the economics of the business and resent their small slice of the ($2000) pie, and this resentment clearly influences the commitment to quality of some suppliers. Also rather discouraging was the apparent lack of quality control by at least several of the name firms. The firms are not run in a terribly efficient manner; there is no real production planning, and the management and scheduling of the outside suppliers is haphazard. A supplier shows up with his finished work for the firm, and they give him some more work, if they have it. When asked why it takes so long to get a pair of bespoke shoes from some of these firms, my friends had no good answer, other than tradition, lack of production coordination, and consequent inefficiency. It appears that a lot of what is done ends up being done at the last minute, when the customer calls and inquires as to status or states a need for the finished product. [Contrast the 4 month to 1 year lead-time for the British to the 9 weeks or so (including the Christmas/New Year holiday season) of Vass.] The system of training apprentices, aside from lastmakers, suffers from lack of commitment from the firms. My friend said that, when he was learning, his master got paid all of $50 a week to train him, so basically his master paid him almost no attention and gave very little guidance or training, since time given to training would reduce the master's own time spent doing the closing or making. So, it seems the system is not really helping any of the parties to it.... Two interesting areas of contrast between Vass and the British: Vass apparently modifies a stock last for their bespokes, whereas the British truly make the lasts from scratch. On the other hand, Vass employs the closers and makers in-house, whereas the British do not. Given that Vass also make their shoes for Ready to Wear, thereby having a larger and more predictable production volume, their approach makes sense for given their business model. The British approach makes more sense for pure bespoke makers, since their production volume is lower and less predictable; controlling the lastmaking makes it difficult for customers to do an end-run around the firm to work directly with the sub-contractors, while sub-contracting the other work reduces their fixed costs and lets them pit the subs against one another, keeping prices down. Still, it seems to me that from a quality-control and efficiency perspective the larger west-end firms would benefit from doing more in-house.
From a later posting in the same thread:
Quote:
One other thing perhaps worth pointing out: I think I would describe the Vass bespoke offering as sort of an extension of the "stock custom" offering of Green et al, with the addition of a bespoke last. By this I mean that the British RTW companies will make up any style of shoe on any of their lasts in any of their leathers; the Vass offering is essentially to allow you to pick from their variety of models and leathers, and to have these made up on bespoke lasts. What the Vass offering does not include, and what I think the British bespoke makers offer, is the chance to truly design your own shoe. For example, I would love to have had my shoes made up with a hand-stitched center seam down the front, along perhaps with a skin-stitched apron (sound familiar to you Green fans out there?), and perhaps with a slightly more rounded and shorter toe, or alternatively with a bit more chiseled toe. These and other options were not discussed, and the conversation was basically one of which model in which color. This is not meant as a criticism, as I'm sure it is this approach which, in part, helps Vass keep its prices down. But, the difference in approach does remain.
The whole thread is here:shoe report link
post #9 of 11
Thanks for the report shoefan.. One point - Mr. Vass certainly does have the skills needed to carve perfect custom lasts from scratch (it is my understanding that he designs and prepares all the lasts for the RTW shoes for instance.) However, they find it much more efficient and cost effective to use a stock last as a blank when creating your custom lasts. If your experience mirror's mine, then they will be a bit tight at first and loosen up to perfect later. Enjoy..
post #10 of 11
Thanks for the detailed report shoefan. I had totally forgotten about orginal report on AskAndy. It's all coming back to me now.
post #11 of 11
Quote:
However, the last used for my shoes was based on the measurement of my feet. Yes, Vass does start with a stock last and modify from there, as opposed to starting with a block of wood; however, it is my understanding that this is pretty common for bespoke makers, particularly, for example, for the US bespoke bootmakers who primarily make cowboy boots. The skills to make lasts from scratch are very rare indeed. Also, my understanding is that the variation in feet is less than that of the body in general, and moreover it is pretty straightforward for a skilled shoemaker to alter a stock last to mirror a customer's feet in all the pertinent measurements. Further, in contrast to a suit, which is not sewn on a form representing the customer's body, the shoe is made on the form (the last); therefore, analogizing the MTM suit to the Vass shoe is, IMO, not really too accurate. [If suits were made like shoes, and a stock body form/model could be modified to exactly mirror the customer's body, then there is no reason per se that, with respect to fit, a MTM suit would be inferior to a bespoke suit; the problem is that suits (a 3D product) are cut from 2D patterns, and the pattern certainly isn't a perfect reflection of the customer's body. Also, note that the pattern for the Vass "bespoke" shoe is made on the modified last before the leather is cut and the shoe is "closed". In this sense, IMO, the shoe becomes more analagous to a bespoke suit than a MTM suit.]
What you say about US bootmakers is certainly true. I recently ordered a pair of boots from Dave Wheeler, who is one of the best-respected American bootmakers. He uses stock lasts as his base and modifies them based on the client's measurements. I've had an e-mail conversation with Lee Miller, who is another of the best-respected American bootmakers. He does the same thing as Dave Wheeler, and he doesn't know of a single US bootmaker who makes a client's lasts from scratch. I get the idea that the bootmaking world is incestuous -- everybody knows everybody else, and if a well-known maker was making his lasts from blocks of wood, Mr. Wheeler and Mr. Miller would know about it. In any event, I really can't imagine that the quality of fit offered by a Vass bespoke shoe would differ significantly from that of a shoe made on a de novo last for any but those with extremely non-standard feet. That's part of the reason why I'm interested in hearing from anyone who has tried both Vass and Cleverley or Lobb or other makers like that.
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