(Phil @ April 08 2005,15:13) I think the lack of brand recognition hurt Vass, as some have aluded. Â No one knows the brand is pretty accurate. Â Not only that, the shoes are made outside of the popular and well known shoe making centers of the world. Â There may be a long and illustrious history of shoe making in Budapest (I think thats where Vass is, right?), but to consumers, they like their expensive shoes made in England or Italy. Â Thats a hard mentality to break. Â No matter how handmade something is, its still made in Budapest, and to the average consumer, its outside of their scope of experience. Â Im not saying I agree, cause I dont, but think of it this way: A new watch brand comes along, made in Slovakia. Â Great watch, but its not Swiss made. Â I think it would have a hard time. Â Even if it was the most well made watch in the history of watches. Â Hand made suits from Turkey. Â A guy sets up shop, makes the most beautiful suit ever, but works in Turkey. Â Its just not gonna get the same respect as perhaps a lesser tailor in England or Italy.
This point has always been bugging me regarding Vass, that there is a great tradition of shoemaking in Hungary (which I do not doubt), but what happened to that "tradition" during the post war years? Â How were the skills retained? Â We do not hear of Communist leaders being well shod, in fact, we hear the very opposite (other than those who shopped in the west). Â Who maintained the skills? Â Were there clients in Hungary during the Communist era who could afford these handmade shoes? Â Without patronage, most industries usually die out, and the skills and traditions along with them. How did the shoemakers get access to the very best materials which were found in the west? Â Were there western shoe afficionados who travelled to Hungary during the Cold War to get their "Hungarian" fix? Â I mean no disrespect with these questions, I just wanted to pose them since I have not really gotten any decent answers to how people can claim a 'tradition', when such artisanal skills usually went into steep decline under the Iron Curtain (of course there are exceptions, for example Moser glass which was patronized by the Czech state). Â I have no doubt that Vass shoes are extremely well made, it is just the 'tradition' that I am wondering about. Â Hungary is not like the UK, or Italy, or even France whom has an unbroken linage of high quality shoemaking traditions.
T4Ph: I think your musings are very useful; and they mirror mine, for good or ill. I also think Grayson chimed in a with a few useful observations early on, in his inimitably pithy way. This was sort of the line I was circling around in one of my posts on the recent Vass thread on AAAC. I'd give more leeway to Hungary and one or two other post-Soviet-bloc nations for various reasons. Czech would be one, Poland another; though I do not doubt the crippling effects that the Soviets had on these countries, I also know (or at least I think I could put forth a decent argument had I three free days and 100 pages) that many of these countries retained their craftsmanship inspite of Soviet influence, chiefly because they were in a "middle period" with respect to industrialization. An appreciation of the aesthetics of "old-world quality" (and I apologize for the inexact phrase -- which encompasses many things) is usually only really present in a post-industrial world. That is, it has to have passed before it can be present. That, plus considerations of how to market this notion of an Austria-Hungary Empire (which is what Vass is doing), when Hungary was the weaker of the two, and actually quite denigrated by Austria itself. This is just a really bloated way of saying that there are a lot of factors that I think need to be considered before one is able to market with any confidence a shoe made in Hungary. I know someone who's got a product that has similar ethos to Vass and one that comes from the same region; the way that person has handled its presentation despite an ignorant public, is an interesting one. At rate, more when I have time. All this being said, I admire some of the Vass shoes, esp. the traditional Budpest-style. Don't care for the "contemporary line" from what I've seen. I don't know when I'll next be in Europe, but when I do, I'll certainly look into taking a train to Budapest and picking up a pair of their shoes. I happen to like the idea behind the marketing (more than I do the quality), I just don't know that many others do.