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Bespoke Shoes From Koronya In Budapest – Part 2, Test Shoe

Fabro

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This is the second part in a series describing my experience commissioning a pair of bespoke shoes from Marcell who runs Koronya shoes in Budapest. To recap the story: I was fortunate enough to meet Marcell in Budapest last fall, where he did the tracings and measurements of my foot in my hotel. I wrote about this in my earlier post here here. I'm having Marcell craft me a pair of shoes in the Budapest style, executed in scotch grain with a classic double sole and goyser stitching.

This post is about the test shoe, which is the next step in the process. Measurements and tracings are fine for capturing a snapshot of the foot at rest, but feet change continuously as they move. A shoe that feels fine standing still could become uncomfortable when subject to the variable load experienced walking down a street. Some problems may not even be immediately obvious. They may only appear as the shoe breaks in over the course of many days of wear. The test shoe lets the shoemaker and the customer test the last under real conditions, and to tweak the design while the stakes are still relatively low in terms of effort and cost of materials.

Marcell makes his test shoes using special "crust" leather, which actually creases relatively easily and deeply. This is actually desirable, not just from a cost savings perspective, but because it's revealing. The creases and seams that develop with wear tell the shoemaker a story about fit. Does the vamp fold too far forward? What does the abrasion pattern on the soles disclose? Is the heel firmly locked in place, or does it slip while walking? In contrast to the first or second fitting of a bespoke suit, the fitting of a test shoe demands wear. Get out and walk; run for the train; sit at your desk; stand still. The customer is an active participant as well as the observer.

Usually a test shoe is a temporary waypoint. Wear, scrutinize, but discard when the final shoe is complete. However, I am an unusual case. I have a difficult foot, so Marcell and I agreed that we should make the test shoe wearable long term so that we could gain a deeper insight into fit over a period of weeks. We even discussed sending the shoe all the way back to Budapest for an up-close evaluation of it after significant use. I was pleased with this. It's the beginning of a long-term relationship, not just a single shoe experiment.
\t
I observed in my earlier post that Marcell is a blend of old world experience tempered with a genuine interest in modern styling developments and technologies. This obviously extends to the Internet, which managed to shrink the distance between Vancouver and Budapest to little more than time zones, keeping Marcell and me in close touch as the shoe took shape. I learned about his trip to Vienna to buy the scotch grain leather for my final shoe. The last took longer than he expected because Hungary is down to only a few traditional last carvers, and all the shoemakers have to contend for their attention. Pictures rolled in of options I hadn't considered, like the spinning goyser stitch, which is a nice alternative to the traditional parallel rows of a triple goyser stitch. It kept anticipation high, and eased any concern about not being there to discuss things in person.

The test shoe is about fit, not style, embellishments or finishing. The final shoe is to be a classic Budapest, with full broguing and the sweeping wings extending from the toe cap back to the quarters. The test shoe, in contrast, is much simpler and austere, though it shares the high, abrupt toe of the Budapest style. The leather is smooth. There is no broguing and the toe and vamp are a single piece. The quarters are a classic blutcher design and the counter is sewn in a straight seem up the back. The point is to keep it simple to emphasize fit, not style. Marcell called it a "country shoe." I actually like the fact that it is significantly different from the final product, because emerging from this I will have two wearable, but quite different, shoes in my closet.

Despite this being only a test shoe, Marcell put a lot of extra effort into it to make it wearable longer term. As you'll see, the soles are nicely finished with brass nails and closed channels over the stitching. He even antiqued it, darkening the toe and some of the quarters. This shoe is made to be worn without looking awkward or flimsy.

Once Marcell was finished, he started looking into shipping options. Couriers quickly priced themselves out of the market, and regular post carried the day. In the end, it cost about $25 to ship between Budapest and Vancouver, and it took just under two weeks. To put this into perspective, anytime I buy clothes from someone on the East Coast of the US, it takes about a week and a half to arrive, and isn't too much cheaper than that for similar weight.

So, here is the shoe.

img29031xz6.jpg














I have to confess, I just love the Budapest toe. Despite the overall weight of the classic Budapest design, there is still something very elegant about that toe. Pictures never seem to do it justice--even those in the Vass book. You really need to handle one and see for yourself.

The first thing that struck me when I put this pair on was the lacing. The quarters actually closed. This was the one of the a-ha bespoke moments I was looking for. Think about it: on all your RTW shoes, there is always a gap to accommodate different people's feet. On some shoes it's wide, on some it's narrow. Here there is no need for any gap; the quarters can touch perfectly and deliver just the right tightness throughout the shoe. I was reminded of the first time I put on a bespoke shirt and was struck by the completely different look of high, fitted armholes. Now RTW shirts look ill fitting and blousy to my eye.

Not surprisingly, the crust leather began to crease immediately. The deep folds on the vamp formed rows of micro-creases, like an old, well-worn shoe. C'est la vie. Interestingly though, the creasing doesn't look out of place set against the antiquing and the simple, country form of the shoe.

The real test though was wear. This was interesting, because I found myself obsessively searching for something to point out to Marcell. The real insight though"”which in hindsight is obvious, but at the time was a revelation"”is that if bespoke shoes work, there is nothing to feel. It's the absence of anything to talk about that is the real measure of success. They should just fit. To accept this, I needed to go back and try my other shoes: an old, vintage pair of EGs; some new C&J that I'm still breaking in; a pair of pre-Prada Church's. They all delivered some discomfort that I habitually ignore. But when I went looking, it was there and indeed obvious. The Koronya's don't have any magic in them; they simply fit. I could easily walk across town on the day I received them. My C&J's actually have a bloodstain on the inside heel from the time I tried that trick the day I got them.

That said, they aren't a perfect fit. I have a perennial issue with heel lift. I noticed a little lift in both as I walked, particularly the right. This seemed to diminish as the shoes molded to my foot, but remained noticeable such that Marcell is going to tweak the last.

In the end we decided that returning them to Budapest was not necessary. I took a series of pictures from various angles, showing them on, in trees, the soles, etc, and emailed these to Marcell. He found all that he needed in these, combined it with my feedback, and adjusted my lasts.

Stylistically, the test shoe is different from the final, so there wasn't much to comment on here with one exception. The heel was pretty high. Between the traditional double sole and the heel, we're into Saturday Night Fever territory. I'm 6 feet, and I actually bumped into a ceiling mounted light fixture at home (OK, it was a low fixture to start with). Marcell promised to lower this to a more contemporary height.

Bottom line: am I happy with what I have so far? Yes. Absolutely. No question about it.

That's where we are. Next post: the final shoe.
 

teddieriley

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Awesome post. I thought some members were being a little harsh in the other thread because this type of explanation wasn't coming from Marcell or the other guy, which of course couldn't have.

I wish them the best of luck because true artisans like this are hard to find.
 

Kuro

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JLP doesn't do this, but IMHO for US$5800+ they definitely should....
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Fabro

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Originally Posted by dopey
Great post. Thanks. Are the test shoes unlined?

They are lined, except in the heel. I have a picture that I'll upload to imageshack when I get home tonight.
 

MarcellHUN

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They are lined in the heel too, but that part of the lining leather is turned (flesh side out). Maybe thats why you think that it's not.
 

amlai

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Those test shoes already appear phenomenal... I can't wait to see the real shoes.
 

dopey

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Originally Posted by MarcellHUN
They are lined in the heel too, but that part of the lining leather is turned (flesh side out). Maybe thats why you think that it's not.

I just didn't look carefully. On the inside, to the side of the heel, you can see where the interior stitching is. While you are here, what do you think your favorite leather is to use for dressy business shoes? How about for a classic Budapester? What about for a country shoe?
 

macuser3of5

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These test shoes are better than any shoe I see around the corporate headquarters.
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Concordia

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Thanks for the useful post. I've never had the hots for a Budapester last, but those plain-toe guys are very special.
 

crazyquik

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Great post. I had no idea a 'test shoe' would be useful. It's a real shoe! I can't wait to see the finished product with broguing, wingtip, etc.
 

Eustace Tilley

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Great post and shoes Fabro.
 

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