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Grenson Handgrade?

Discussion in 'Classic Menswear' started by rabiesinfrance, Jul 30, 2011.

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  1. Pliny

    Pliny Senior member

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    yes I would love to see one or two English makers go hand lasted and welted - and even handstitched uppers, why not? if the leathers are available - but I guess it's unlikely to be a profitable venture given 1. the sums don't add up with wages being what they are in GB and 2. there's just not enough of a shoe cognescenti to support artisan production like that on any scale.
     
  2. DWFII

    DWFII Bespoke Boot and Shoemaker Dubiously Honored

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    I wonder...think Lobbs St James.

    On the other hand...and part and parcel of what I was alluding to above...most of the highly touted manufacturers are competing for low end (read uneducated & indifferent) customers...not the cognoscenti. I mean if there is only a 2-20% difference in the quality of upper leathers between high-end RTW and really low-end RTW (retail @$200.00+) and no differences to speak of in construction techniques, then there is no significant difference in quality between high end and low end shoes. So the question then becomes why the difference in price?

    If manufacturers wanted the custom of the cognoscenti, they'd do things differently. But except for the odd holdouts such as Lobbs and the few bespoke makers, most companies have written off the knowledgeable buyer or, through marketing hype, try to fool them into thinking a factory made shoe is equivalent to a hand-made shoe. So from top to bottom, factories fundamentally are presenting the same product, regardless of price, and appealing to the same market. What is really being sold is cachet or blue sky.

    The other interesting thing is that not only is there a downward pressure on prices and quality among all manufacturers at every level, there is also an upward pressure on prices (and quality) on bespoke makers. Think about that. If a cachet brand can charge upwards of $1k for a GY shoe and get it, the bespoke maker has a hard time not charging double or even triple for a hand-lasted, hand welted shoe. Especially in a market where the customer is so ignorant and so brand conscious.

    There's and old saying that was originally applied to Americans but which, I suspect, is nearly universal in this context: "Americans know the price of everything and the value of nothing."
     
    Last edited: Aug 2, 2011
  3. TKDKid

    TKDKid Senior member

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    I would guess that leather that is 20% better would cost much more than 20% more for the manufacturer purely from a demand and supply viewpoint, and it's this cost that is reflected in the final price of the shoes.

    Also, have you seen, handled or worn high-end and low-end RTW shoes? Seriously, the difference is like night and day and, to use your words, it really would take an uneducated and indifferent customer to not recognise this.

    Do you think there's no cost involved in coming up with new shoe designs, with coming up with new lasts that look nice and fit well at the same time? And as you said in the G&G thread:


    - do you think G&G shouldn't be charging for this styling, finish and refinement?

    If you want to criticise differences in pricing for the same product, what about differences in pricing between makers for handmade bespoke shoes? Aren't the construction techniques the same here too? Why does Lobb St James charge so much more than Cleverley and Foster & Son?
     
  4. countbaron

    countbaron Senior member

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    All this talk is good and fine but why the hell is nobody buying my wonderful shoes :D:D:D

    You bastards. I hate customers. especially when I get none
     
  5. DWFII

    DWFII Bespoke Boot and Shoemaker Dubiously Honored

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    And that's why leather quality across the board has gone down over the years.

    I've not only seen and handled high-end/low-end, I've torn them apart, analyzed their construction techniques and materials. What's more, I actually make shoes and boots and have done for 40+ years. As a full time career. Additionally, I actually own a copy of nearly every major work written in the last 200 years about making shoes, have read many of them...and converted some of the more important ones into digital format. I created and administer a discussion forum for bespoke boot and shoemakers for my Trade guild.

    How about you? What informs your opinions?

    Of course, but it's not substantive nor does it affect quality. We all have our own individual aesthetic sensibilities. Some like G&G, some don't. Again, what you're paying for there is blue sky in some respects. I'm not saying you shouldn't...I'm saying you need to know and understand the implications of that aspect of it.

    Trouble is, as I mentioned in another post, most people couldn't tell the difference between a veg calf and a chrome calf, or for that matter, a calf versus a cowhide, nevermind a good calf vs. a mediocre calf.

    So tell me again what are you are paying for.

    Lobbs St. James hand welts, for starters. AFAIK, none of the others big name houses do...including those you mentioned. I had this discussion some weeks/months ago with another fellow about the same issue. When I mentioned hand welting and the lack thereof, he said he'd check with the company rep and get back to me. I suspect he got an answer that didn't square with his original assertions...as I never heard from him again.

    And yes, bespoke makers not only price according to the cachet that their particular firm has accrued over the years, but again...as I explicitly stated in the above post...in response to upward price pressures from overpriced RTW.

    I suspect that most bespoke makers, as long as they are not in a high rent district or under economic pressures of a high cost of living index, don't have kids, don't expect a yearly vacation snorkeling on the Mexican Riviera, or a wardrobe anywhere near what their customers take for granted, could make a fairly good living at prices comparable to no more than half again the highest end RTW prices and still offer far better workmanship, construction techniques, and materials.

    From there, some raise their prices to separate themselves from the RTW manufacturers in the only language that the consumer understands--price. In other words, to paraphrase another old saw: "If you value your work low, the customer will too."

    Others raise their prices to reflect extraordinary skill and talent. Others just because their market is so thin and their product so much more arduous to produce and the materials so rare that a premium is almost a necessity. Because whether the factory is buying truly premium calf or not, buying by the trainload confers a price break that the bespoke maker can only dream of.

    Finally, if you read my post for comprehension, you see that it is as much about the attitudes of those who tout and defend and buy into the hype of cachet brands as it is substantive differences between manufacturers or even manufacturers vs. bespoke makers.
     
  6. Pliny

    Pliny Senior member

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    I suspect that JL St James charges so much more than Foster, G&G bespoke and Cleverly simply because they can. 'The most beautiful shoe shop in the world' and royal warrants give them a lot of cachet . I could be wrong, but I also seem to remember seeing on a youtube vid that they do all their work at the St James premises (no outworking and division of labor) and use no electrically powered machines. Their upper sewing is done on an ancient treadle. Also the most prestigious place for a student . Yohei Fukuda trained there, and his stuff is just out of this world good.
     
  7. bengal-stripe

    bengal-stripe Senior member Dubiously Honored

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    So does every other bespoke West-End shoemaker.

    All the bespoke shoes are made to 'West-End standard', which means they are made over an individual client last (not a fitted-up. already existing last), utilize individual patterns, the closing is done in reference to the particular last, the shoes are hand-lasted, hand-welted (not ball to ball), have a hand-stitched sole and are finished by hand, with not even rotary sander in sight.

    Cleverley and Foster (and G&G) also offer ready-to-wear (factory-made) shoes, which, of course, are made differently. They have to offer them, as it pays the rent. JL(London) does not offer RTW, but they get a nice, fat royalty for every gemmed pair made by JL(Paris) in Northampton.


    John Lobb (London) uses outworkers, just as every other West-End shoemaker.

    All the outworkers come from the same pool and no outworker works exclusive for just one firm. In the UK that pool is made-up from maybe ten bespoke 'closers' and maybe four dozen 'makers' ("It takes one closer to keep four or five makers in work.")
     
  8. DWFII

    DWFII Bespoke Boot and Shoemaker Dubiously Honored

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    Interesting, if true...and I've little reason to doubt it.

    I'm glad to know it, too, and and would have assumed it right from the get-go.

    However, IIRC, somewhere on this forum there is a photo of a customer trying on a "fitter's model" for a pair of bespoke shoes in the "showroom" of one of the major Northampton houses. Interestingly enough, the fit shoe has no outsole. Lo and behold, what is revealed is gemming and cork filling.

    This photo was offered up in response to the assertion that a hand-welted shoe was "complete" once it was welted--that it could be worn around with no damage to the integrity of its construction--and that a gemmed shoe required an outsole to stabilize it. You may remember the photo and the discussion.

    It can't be both ways.
     
    Last edited: Aug 3, 2011
  9. bengal-stripe

    bengal-stripe Senior member Dubiously Honored

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    I don't know what picture you refer to, but Northampton and West-End shoemakers are two totally different beasts, the first one is a factory using factory methods.

    http://cobblersweb.style.coocan.jp/cleverley23/cleverley23_fitting.html

    Jun Kuwana's site features here a typical London bespoke shoe at the “in-welt” fitting stage. The shoe is fully (hand)-welted, the last has been taken out and a temporary shank and a temporary heel got attached, ready for the customer to step in.

    This one is Cleverley, but could equally come from any other West-End firm, as they all place their fittings at the same stage of completion. Exceptions are John Lobb (no fittings: they used to do “in welt” fittings, but stopped it maybe thirty years ago) and Carreducker who seem to prefer “braced” fittings.

    Here is another pair – this time Foster/Maxwell – at the same “in-welt”stage.

    [​IMG]
     
  10. TKDKid

    TKDKid Senior member

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    I'm not sure I understand what you're trying to say. Are you saying there's a supply issue with leather, causing general leather quality to go down? Or are you saying RTW shoe manufacturers aren't willing to pay these high prices, causing the quality of the leather they're using to go down?

    My opinions are informed by my experience of wearing the following ranges of RTW shoes, with their approximate current retail prices indicated:

    Loake 1880 (GBP 180)
    Grenson Footmaster (GBP 250)
    Crockett & Jones regular line (GBP 300)
    Crockett & Jones Handgrade (GBP 400)
    Grenson Masterpiece (GBP 400)
    Edward Green (GBP 600)

    I think there's an obvious step-up in quality going from C&J regular line to Handgrades, never mind going from Loake to Edward Green.

    Is your definition of "quality" when it comes to shoes only restricted to construction and materials? You don't consider design, shape, fit and finishing to be aspects of quality?

    I am paying for shoes that look nice to me, fit me well and last a long time, at a price that I can afford. My entire shoe collection cost me less than a single pair of shoes from John Lobb St James (now at a mere GBP 3,228 including VAT!).
     
  11. DWFII

    DWFII Bespoke Boot and Shoemaker Dubiously Honored

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    Got it in two. Go back and read the anecdote about June Swann and "64 to the inch."

    Additionally, it's near-as-nevermind a self-evident truth that if an RTW maker does not need to pay for premium insole shoulder...because they are gemming rather than sewing directly to the insole, for instance...they will not. Why should they?

    In turn, as consumer acceptance of GY becomes more widespread, the demand for quality insole shoulder diminishes.

    Tanneries close.

    And pretty soon those that are left have to raise their prices to compensate for the lack of demand. As a result, manufacturers face even steeper prices...if it ever occurred to them to go back to better quality. And the whole industry, from manufacturer to bespoke maker, ends up with a scarce resource at higher prices. Eventually, because cheaper insole material is being used, it supplants the better quality in the minds of the consumer. And then the better stuff disappears entirely.

    That's when the whole cycle begins anew.

    Yes
    No. Superficialities...that's what you're really talking about. With no bearing on longevity or structural integrity.

    Fit is another thing altogether. Another aspect for another thread...but suffice it to say if you're buying RTW, in all likelihood you've never really been fit.

    I think design, shape and finishing are critical to presentation and to marketing. I want the shoes I make to be as well finished and well designed as I can possibly make them. It is a lifelong pursuit. But it has nothing to do with objective quality except as an indicator, perhaps, of whether quality was ever a real concern in the making.

    Bottom line, to buy a pair of shoes (any product or artifact)...at any price point...without knowing how they are made and what goes into them, knowing only the brand name and depending on that alone to provide some verisimilitude of quality is to be, by definition a "brand whore." It's not buying substance, it's buying pretense. Image.
     
    Last edited: Aug 3, 2011
  12. rabiesinfrance

    rabiesinfrance Senior member

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    http://www.esquire.com/blogs/mens-fashion/grenson-pitti-uomo-2012

    There's some new stuff coming out. Looking forward to their top-end stuff.

    Bit wary of their current Rose line - the shoes I looked at were not fully leather-lined, which is something you should expect at over £200. The Grenson Bleasdale had crappy white metal ski-hooks (definitely a drop in quality from last year).
     
    Last edited: Aug 4, 2011
  13. whereIGetSocks

    whereIGetSocks Member

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    Do I not bother with shoes until I'm ready to stump up GBP 3,500? Treat my feet with vinegar? :)

    DWFII; who do you consider to be the best lower middle RTW makers?

    Cheers,
    WIGS
     
  14. DWFII

    DWFII Bespoke Boot and Shoemaker Dubiously Honored

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    Well, while I appreciate the compliment in asking my opinion, the truth is that I don't concern myself that much with comparisons of RTW shoes. I suspect that to a very real degree they are all similar in quality...from $200.00 to $2000.00. Design, finish and brand cachet are the real distinguishing characteristics and the real basis for price differences. I think you can probably get a handmade shoe of admirable, if not exceptional, quality for half the price you quoted in your post. Esp. if you are willing to look a little further afield.
     
  15. whereIGetSocks

    whereIGetSocks Member

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    DWFII,

    Thank you for the reply. I had a ramble through some other threads and understand re the naming names.

    Good luck re the shoes side of things.

    Cheers,
    WIGS
     
  16. kev777

    kev777 Senior member

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    Looks like there maybe some developments with the higher end Grensons, looks like there will be some exclusively on Mr Porter .com in the next couple weeks and then appearing on Grenson website in November.

    Hi Kevin,

    Grenson Shoes wrote "Coming exclusively to mr porter.com within the next couple of weeks and Grenson.com in November"
     
  17. rabiesinfrance

    rabiesinfrance Senior member

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    Like bloody Meerkats :happy:
     
    Last edited: Sep 6, 2011
  18. Pliny

    Pliny Senior member

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    sorry very belated response Bengal, but are these outworkers operating from their backyard sheds or r they based in factories in Northhampton or what? Some would prob do a roaring trade if they advertised on SF etc
     
  19. fritzl

    fritzl Senior member

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    i suspect that. how many sf-orders did the guy from northhampton - sorry, i forgot his name - receive? ten or twelve in three years? if, i'm wrong. i stand corrected.
     
  20. Pliny

    Pliny Senior member

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    didn't advertise tho- how many of us actually knew about him? also, not number one quality shoes from what i've seen
     

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