I can assure you, no shoes aside from historical reproductions are 100% handmade. Â All shoes have uppers and linings that are sewn on sewing machines, which comprises probably 80% to 90% of the stitches in a shoe. Â The handmade component of shoes such as Vass (and most bespoke shoes) are: hand sewn welts and hand sewn outsoles. Â Further, there are other tasks in shoemaking, such as lasting, skiving, and building of the heel, that may or may not be done by machine. Â In general, virtually all RTW shoes have most of these tasks performed with machines, whereas in English bespoke shoes much of this work is done by hand.
Well said. As mentioned, nearly all RTW shoes are almost entirely machine made. On the US market you have three levels at the top end: shoes that are largely machine made but that are extremely well finished, often by hand (Edward Green Lobb etc., you might think of these as "hand-grade",) shoes that have the welt and sole seams sewn by hand but which save labor by incorporating machines or pre-cut/processed materials for many of the other, smaller steps (Mantellassi, Santoni etc.,) and then you have shoes that are made in the same manner as bespoke. Vass is in that last category, as is Lattanzi I assume, though I have not actually witnessed their production. But, as shoefan said, even a Vass or Lattanzi shoe is going to have a machine-stitched upper. Handstitching would be too imprecise and uneven unless you are designing a very rustic looking shoe... Mr. Kabbaz also brings up an interesting point about the last. A hand carved last is a work of art, but you will only find those used for bespoke shoes. Vass lasts for instance, are carved by hand and then duplicated, in wood of course. Interestingly, it has become very common for top-end shoe companies to use composite lasts. Makes sense from their perspective, as it would be easier to redesign the last, and it doesn't matter as much what the last is made from if the shoe is lasted by machine. But if the shoe is hand lasted, a traditional wood last is preferable for several reasons, for instance, the way the wood reacts under the hammer. Truly handmade shoes are a real rarity these days. That's because they are a hard sell - they require MUCH more labor and care to produce, but all that handwork is hidden inside the sole, and is only apparent to men who really know shoes. Add the fact that everybody and their brother are claiming that their hand-finished shoes are "handmade" and you hardly have a easy market... Heck, I can't even seem to sell you guys truly handmade shoes for $425