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ntempleman

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Well, I’ve been sent off travelling around the US with a case of shoes I’d never seen before, selling the product based on the quality of what I was showing. There’s certainly an assumption that what you see is what you can expect to receive, otherwise why bother showing them. It’s one of the many things I had a problem reconciling to be honest, which influenced me following the path I ended up on
 

DWFII

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I've also said that I think your personal identity as a bespoke maker clouds your ability to see the industry or even many houses correctly. I think you take criticisms about bespoke personally, even if it's not about your shoes.
I wouldn't argue with you about that--I am a bespoke shoe and boot maker not a kibitzer. That's what informs my work, my attitudes, etc.. I have no desire regardless of how incidental or detached, to identify with or defend the "industry."

I suspect, that too often, you get the Trade and the Industry confused.
 
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dieworkwear

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I assume these big bespoke houses would say that showing old samples is a fair curve.
 
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DWFII

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I assume these big bespoke houses would say that showing old samples is a fair curve.
That's because they've lost touch with the Trade and, in all likelihood, couldn't define a 'fair curve' if their lives depended on it.

And would be back-pedaling like their feet were afire if asked to defend the honesty of the practice.
 
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daizawaguy

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The issue of having display shoes which are not at the same level you would get if ordered is a point I feel very strongly on. I can understand it is very tempting to show old models made years ago, but it is very deceiving as well. Has one ever searched on Ebay for John Lobb bespoke and had a look at the finish and quality of the models? These could not be more different than the models on display in the window of John Lobb St. James`s. In some cases I have seen some that look worse than fitting shoes made by some Japanese makers. There is a Japanese bespoke maker trained in UK that has on display a whole collection of his shoes that he made years ago, all beautifully finished on the shoe makers last to the standards of a concours competition with his name plaque and name imprinted on the sole - but the delivered product which has been outsourced (and I have now got information that Yen 35,000 or USD 320 or Pounds 250 is the going rate paid for bottom work - one tenth or less of the price of the shoe, as a reference) is quite different to the models on display. What is the point of having your best products which in some cases rival Tuczek on display, when the delivered product is both visually and in finish quite different from the models on display? My advice to any bespoke buyers - make very sure the models on display is the same as what you will receive - ideally using a maker that does all the work him or herself, or at least has the honesty to point out upfront the issues with the display models - but I guess that is asking too much. Outsourcing of bespoke clothing is much less evident in the finished article, but in shoes it becomes quite obvious very quickly. [Main D`Or, Bespoke Shoeworks and Kiyo are shoe makers where the product you receive are the exact products on display.]
 

dieworkwear

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The issue of having display shoes which are not at the same level you would get if ordered is a point I feel very strongly on. I can understand it is very tempting to show old models made years ago, but it is very deceiving as well. Has one ever searched on Ebay for John Lobb bespoke and had a look at the finish and quality of the models? These could not be more different than the models on display in the window of John Lobb St. James`s. In some cases I have seen some that look worse than fitting shoes made by some Japanese makers. There is a Japanese bespoke maker trained in UK that has on display a whole collection of his shoes that he made years ago, all beautifully finished on the shoe makers last to the standards of a concours competition with his name plaque and name imprinted on the sole - but the delivered product which has been outsourced (and I have now got information that Yen 35,000 or USD 320 or Pounds 250 is the going rate paid for bottom work - one tenth or less of the price of the shoe, as a reference) is quite different to the models on display. What is the point of having your best products which in some cases rival Tuczek on display, when the delivered product is both visually and in finish quite different from the models on display? My advice to any bespoke buyers - make very sure the models on display is the same as what you will receive - ideally using a maker that does all the work him or herself, or at least has the honesty to point out upfront the issues with the display models - but I guess that is asking too much. Outsourcing of bespoke clothing is much less evident in the finished article, but in shoes it becomes quite obvious very quickly. [Main D`Or, Bespoke Shoeworks and Kiyo are shoe makers where the product you receive are the exact products on display.]
I don't know how this would work at big houses. I agree there's a huge gap between the quality of the sample shoes and (some) of the new shoes. But how would a large firm even "accurately" represent the people who will work on your shoes? Lobb has multiple last makers. Would you create a separate case of samples for each last maker? And what about permutations between last maker, closers, and bottom makers?

The same thing happens at bespoke tailoring firms. At a larger tailoring house, you may have a revolving door of workers. Cutters go between houses. If you see an A&S coat on someone, that coat may have been made by people who are now dead or have moved on to new firms. A company may have created a block pattern in replacement, which may not even have much of a connection to older garments.

It would be nice to be able to get a better sense of what you'll get. But I think ultimately, you still won't know until you try something out. I've known people who go a tailoring house and had a great experience. Someone else goes to the shop and gets something terrible. I think uncertainty is inherent in the bespoke process.

For a larger firm, where there are many more workers and a revolving door of employees, I'm not sure how they could create "accurate" samples. And in any case, presumably in the past, this was still an issue. If we romanticize the old world of bespoke -- which was much more concentrated in larger firms -- how did people see sample shoes back in the day?

The fundamental problem seems to be that some firms are poorly run. Presumably, if they kept up quality control, then you wouldn't have these problems in the first place. A client at Lobb wouldn't have to worry if they're assigned to a bad last maker or a good last maker. A client at GC wouldn't have to worry if his or her order goes down the wrong "production path." The companies that have these problems in the first place have them because it starts at the management level. Introducing "accurate" samples seems like it would just introduce new problems. What message would that communicate to customers? "Would you like your shoes to be made by our good last makers or our bad last maker? Do you want your shoes to look like a blob or a shoe? Would you like your shoes to rock back and forth?"

Seems like the best way for this to be addressed is to change management or simply have more information on the market. The worst of this can be avoided if people speak candidly about their bespoke experiences.
 
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daizawaguy

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Take your point - but my issue was also displaying the finest personally made bespoke samples at a very fine stitch and finish, possibly also with different shoe trees and other details in finish, when the actual delivered product is clearly not as detailed and highly finished. I guess one has to be clear upfront, or create a series of ranks or finishes at different prices, that way the client gets a sense of what he is getting, and can at least influence the end product, even if it means paying up. There are a few makers that take this option too. I mean at the other end of the spectrum is producing a fine concours pair for display, but deliver the completely opposite end of the spectrum in terms of leather, shoe tree, level of finish etc. That method just does not create repeat customers, but catches the tourists - which maybe what most large houses aim for. There are possibly thousand of potential customers, but any one individual has a limit of the number of shoes they can order, so I guess they are targeting volume amongst new customers. I do wonder how many repeat customers Lobb has recently - I'd guess its very few. Its all a matter of degree I guess, and those customers that expect the highest quality should stick with makers that have a reputation to deliver what is on show - I guess that is my main advice. I understand the necessity to outsource (scale) and possibly other business reasons, but as a buyer, I like to be aware and beware.
 

dieworkwear

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One of the strangest things to me is how, when you go to a trunk show, the shoes on display are often made in very narrow widths, I assume because it makes the silhouette look more attractive. I've been to Lobb, Foster, and GC trunk shows. At each, the sample shoes didn't seem like they would fit anyone's feet.

Stefano Bemer has a program where you can pay more money for more handwork or better finishing. Personally prefer when there's just one price for shoes and one price for boots (and an upcharge for exotics), but I suppose different systems appeal to different people.
 

ecwy

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The people who made the sample shoes aren't the same people who make your shoes, genius. I thought you knew everything about bespoke shoes?
That's why I patronize makers who I know do most of the work themselves, genius? Not so hard to find that out. Heck, you can ask them that question when you visit. So far none of the ones I asked get offended by the question.

It's the information age and plenty of shoe pictures and reviews are online if you bother to look. Actually, a few of the Japanese makers I visited say they would like to improve their sample shoes but they don't have the time to do so.

And no, I openly admit I don't know everything but I know enough to make an informed judgement. And if I don't, I ask someone who does know better.

Anyway, if you think bespoke is crap, why do you spend so much time on this thread?!
 

ecwy

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Well, I’ve been sent off travelling around the US with a case of shoes I’d never seen before, selling the product based on the quality of what I was showing. There’s certainly an assumption that what you see is what you can expect to receive, otherwise why bother showing them. It’s one of the many things I had a problem reconciling to be honest, which influenced me following the path I ended up on
And I respect you for that.
 

dieworkwear

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That's why I patronize makers who I know do most of the work themselves, genius? Not so hard to find that out. Heck, you can ask them that question when you visit. So far none of the ones I asked get offended by the question.

It's the information age and plenty of shoe pictures and reviews are online if you bother to look. Actually, a few of the Japanese makers I visited say they would like to improve their sample shoes but they don't have the time to do so.

And no, I openly admit I don't know everything but I know enough to make an informed judgement. And if I don't, I ask someone who does know better.

Anyway, if you think bespoke is crap, why do you spend so much time on this thread?!
I don't have a problem with companies that use outworkers. As I mentioned, Nicholas uses outworkers and I think he does terrific work. I haven't seen bespoke shoes online or in person that are better, to be honest. I also use tailors who use outworkers and think they do great work. Some Asian makers make suits and sport coats from straight to finish (one person for the whole coat) and I don't think they're any better.

As I've said, I don't think you really know whether maker will work out for you until you try them, much like reading reviews about a restaurant or movie. At some point, if you want to know about something, you have to try it for yourself.

At the time I ordered my Clevs, it was in 2017 or so and I wanted to try one of the big West End firms. I considered Foster, GC, and Lobb. I settled on GC and had read Foo's thread. I also have some friends who wear GC. I asked around for opinions and figured I'd give it a go. The shoes didn't turn out well and that's that.

I'm not a rich guy by any means. But even on my meager income, I'm not sure I want to read every post on here about GC to figure out if I should buy a pair of shoes. I mean, at some point, they're shoes. It's not surgery or a home. (Not sure people who buy homes put in as much time researching as iGents). Having used a fair number of tailors at this point, I know that bespoke comes with a lot of risk. Things don't always turn out well.

Weirdly, you think that people should just look this up in the National Database of Bespoke Goods, but are seemingly upset when I speak ill of Cleverley on here. Presumably, I'm adding to the database?
 

j ingevaldsson

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^^^ As mentioned above, this is all down to management. All work systems can work very well - single person doing everything, one doing lasts and making while outworker doclosing, in-house production, outsourced production with freelancers, etc - there's plenty of proof of that (especially if you look historically). Obviously management have to be better the larger the scale of production is, and the further away you are from the ones doing the job, but it surely can work very well.

During the 90's / early 00's we saw a number of famous bespoke shoe firms take a plunge for the worse in terms of how management kept up the level of quality of the shoes made by the firm, things went to a more positive state the past 10-15 years and the ones who had declined stayed that way but those who hadn't stayed good, now in recent years things have been tougher again and we now see a new range of bespoke shoemakers going through the same type of decline as some of their competitors did in the 90's / early 00's. And this started already before corona, obviously now accelerating. I am seriously scared of how things will look once we are through this pandemic, I'm afraid many players will be out, and of those who are still in the game there's a big risk that many might not be what they once were. And it's not necessarily since they are bad people wanting to trick customers, they might just do it to survive. Either way, the outcome is bad.

There's some exceptions where the same result has occurred but due to the opposite reason, with having success and growing too fast, and not being able to manage this. I believe this is the case with Daizawaguy's example. Still, management is the problem.

Other examples, as also mentioned above, is makers who made their samples early on in their careers and who haven't had the time to make new ones according to their current, much better, standards. Yohei Fukuda, TYE Shoemaker, Patrick Frei (although he has solved it the past year thanks to his new partner Kimura) and others have made much better customer shoes than what the display sample shoes suggests. When this is the case though, customers do get informed about this, which is how you wish things would be also when it's the other way around, although one can understand why not..

Going back to the problem with declining bespoke makers, I believe the only way to stop this decay is to try to make sure that as many customers as possible are as informed as possible. If those who pay for the product doesn't accept a lower quality, they will have to keep things up. To make a long-shot allegory, it wasn't until the sponsors with the money started leaving the road cycling sport due to all the doping, that things actually started to change in the sport. Money talks, obviously.

If this means that some more companies won't survive, how sad this might be, I still think that in the long run this is for the best. No one do well with having a lower standard of bespoke shoes being established, if customers who aren't informed think that this is what one can expect, then the reason to pay up for this service won't be worth it the same way. Here, forums like this, social media, blogs like mine, and other channels have a role to play, where informed people can spread informative information (our struggle is to pass through all the less-informed info going out to an increasing extent. YouTube is a horror here, there's so many "experts" spreading faulty information on quality shoes there that I get sad every time I browse around there). But if people know what is bad and what is not, if as many as possible will avoid the bad ones and go to the good ones, the bad ones will have to go good again as well. Hopefully...

Obviously, a lot of generalisations above, but you get the point.
 

ecwy

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I don't have a problem with companies that use outworkers. As I mentioned, Nicholas uses outworkers and I think he does terrific work. I haven't seen bespoke shoes online or in person that are better, to be honest. I also use tailors who use outworkers and think they do great work. Some Asian makers make suits and sport coats from straight to finish (one person for the whole coat) and I don't think they're any better.

As I've said, I don't think you really know whether maker will work out for you until you try them, much like reading reviews about a restaurant or movie. At some point, if you want to know about something, you have to try it for yourself.

At the time I ordered my Clevs, it was in 2017 or so and I wanted to try one of the big West End firms. I considered Foster, GC, and Lobb. I settled on GC and had read Foo's thread. I also have some friends who wear GC. I asked around for opinions and figured I'd give it a go. The shoes didn't turn out well and that's that.

I'm not a rich guy by any means. But even on my meager income, I'm not sure I want to read every post on here about GC to figure out if I should buy a pair of shoes. I mean, at some point, they're shoes. It's not surgery or a home. (Not sure people who buy homes put in as much time researching as iGents). Having used a fair number of tailors at this point, I know that bespoke comes with a lot of risk. Things don't always turn out well.

Weirdly, you think that people should just look this up in the National Database of Bespoke Goods, but are seemingly upset when I speak ill of Cleverley on here. Presumably, I'm adding to the database?
You have this strange habit of distorting arguments and claiming people said something they did not. You did the same with DWF on the angled carmina photo and now you do the same here.

My position on GC is extremely clear and I can categorically state I am no fan of theirs. Yet you make it sound like I am defending GC. I said in post 3581 that I am upset with the amount of unnecessary "chatter" on flaming GC in this thread. I did not say you cannot give feedback about a poor experience.

I also need to state once and for all that I am of the opinion that if you had spent more time on the technical details, your 2017 experience may have turned out different. Son of Saphir also said quite clearly GC preys on consumers who don't know better. Yet somehow you go on this tangent that you will need to spend enough time to write a thesis on shoe making to learn about the topic.

Please, stop distorting whatever I said and changing the argument. You remind me of the work conversations that I have with individuals from a certain subcontinent.

Anyway, there is no value for either of us in continuing this conversation. Have a nice day.
 

dieworkwear

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You have this strange habit of distorting arguments and claiming people said something they did not. You did the same with DWF on the angled carmina photo and now you do the same here.

My position on GC is extremely clear and I can categorically state I am no fan of theirs. Yet you make it sound like I am defending GC. I said in post 3581 that I am upset with the amount of unnecessary "chatter" on flaming GC in this thread. I did not say you cannot give feedback about a poor experience.

I also need to state once and for all that I am of the opinion that if you had spent more time on the technical details, your 2017 experience may have turned out different. Son of Saphir also said quite clearly GC preys on consumers who don't know better. Yet somehow you go on this tangent that you will need to spend enough time to write a thesis on shoe making to learn about the topic.

Please, stop distorting whatever I said and changing the argument. You remind me of the work conversations that I have with individuals from a certain subcontinent.

Anyway, there is no value for either of us in continuing this conversation. Have a nice day.
You said that I should have checked out their samples. I clarified that their samples aren't made by the same people who make shoes. When you work with a big company, they bring samples that were made ages ago. This seems to be news to you.

I think we have a difference of opinion about how to choose a shoemaker (and I suppose relatedly, a tailor). I think of it as being similar to choosing a restaurant. If you're interested in trying something out, you go try it. If you don't like something, then don't go back. I did about as much research as I was willing to do -- I asked maybe about three or four people I know who own and wear Clevs. I also read the Foo thread.

What do you think people can do? Google "Cleveley shit shoes?" "Cleverley Yelp?" There's nothing technically wrong with Clev if your shoes go down the right "production path." The problem isn't about the construction, it's about the management.

I think it helps to have the cutter or last maker at the fitting. But in my experience buying bespoke clothes, I've also found there are important exceptions to that rule. My best trousers are from a company where I never see the cutter, I only see the fitter. I think ultimately, the quality of the product depends on the people running the company.

And just because someone online has one poor experience doesn't mean you'll have a poor experience (vice versa with good experiences). Again, in this very thread, someone earlier posted a pair of GC shoes that looked perfectly fine. My experience was bad. I would not discount that person's positive experience.

You seem to think that people should become internet experts before buying shoes. This seems totally bizarre to me. If I thought that anyone needs to become a Shoe Scientist or a Suit Scientist before buying bespoke clothes, I can't imagine recommending shoemakers or tailors to anyone.

I think that people should read about this stuff if they enjoy it, and use it as a way to better enjoy things they own. But ultimately, choosing a shoemaker or tailor is a lot like choosing a restaurant. If you're interested in trying something, then go try it. If your life is going to be ruined by a bespoke purchase, and you need to spend countless hours reading about this stuff to make sure your order goes perfectly right, then you might be better off with ready-to-wear.

My impression is that you're just mad because I said earlier that red shoes with purple soles are tacky, and that Chinese companies seem to serve an Instagram crowd. Since you wear blue hippo hiking boots and red alligator Museum calf wholecuts, you took umbrage, so jumped on my comment about Chinese makers. I still don't understand guys who are such shoe nerds, but buy such God awful looking shoes.
 
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ecwy

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^^^ As mentioned above, this is all down to management. All work systems can work very well - single person doing everything, one doing lasts and making while outworker doclosing, in-house production, outsourced production with freelancers, etc - there's plenty of proof of that (especially if you look historically). Obviously management have to be better the larger the scale of production is, and the further away you are from the ones doing the job, but it surely can work very well.

During the 90's / early 00's we saw a number of famous bespoke shoe firms take a plunge for the worse in terms of how management kept up the level of quality of the shoes made by the firm, things went to a more positive state the past 10-15 years and the ones who had declined stayed that way but those who hadn't stayed good, now in recent years things have been tougher again and we now see a new range of bespoke shoemakers going through the same type of decline as some of their competitors did in the 90's / early 00's. And this started already before corona, obviously now accelerating. I am seriously scared of how things will look once we are through this pandemic, I'm afraid many players will be out, and of those who are still in the game there's a big risk that many might not be what they once were. And it's not necessarily since they are bad people wanting to trick customers, they might just do it to survive. Either way, the outcome is bad.

There's some exceptions where the same result has occurred but due to the opposite reason, with having success and growing too fast, and not being able to manage this. I believe this is the case with Daizawaguy's example. Still, management is the problem.

Other examples, as also mentioned above, is makers who made their samples early on in their careers and who haven't had the time to make new ones according to their current, much better, standards. Yohei Fukuda, TYE Shoemaker, Patrick Frei (although he has solved it the past year thanks to his new partner Kimura) and others have made much better customer shoes than what the display sample shoes suggests. When this is the case though, customers do get informed about this, which is how you wish things would be also when it's the other way around, although one can understand why not..

Going back to the problem with declining bespoke makers, I believe the only way to stop this decay is to try to make sure that as many customers as possible are as informed as possible. If those who pay for the product doesn't accept a lower quality, they will have to keep things up. To make a long-shot allegory, it wasn't until the sponsors with the money started leaving the road cycling sport due to all the doping, that things actually started to change in the sport. Money talks, obviously.

If this means that some more companies won't survive, how sad this might be, I still think that in the long run this is for the best. No one do well with having a lower standard of bespoke shoes being established, if customers who aren't informed think that this is what one can expect, then the reason to pay up for this service won't be worth it the same way. Here, forums like this, social media, blogs like mine, and other channels have a role to play, where informed people can spread informative information (our struggle is to pass through all the less-informed info going out to an increasing extent. YouTube is a horror here, there's so many "experts" spreading faulty information on quality shoes there that I get sad every time I browse around there). But if people know what is bad and what is not, if as many as possible will avoid the bad ones and go to the good ones, the bad ones will have to go good again as well. Hopefully...

Obviously, a lot of generalisations above, but you get the point.
Thanks for the additional insight.

My impression with the bespoke industry is that most of them really function in very small firms. The larger firms seem to only exist in UK, France and Eastern Europe. I am on the side of DWF when he says that profit maximizing is inherently in conflict with quality. For that reason, I don't want to monetize any of my hobbies. I feel there is a tendency for the larger firms to cut corners and drive profits whereas the smaller one man shops are more focused on quality as they know that they can't really afford to mess up their name. Sadly, there are already some casualties such as Barbavitra in Japan due to covid. Hopefully most of the industry survives.

Talking about samples, on Patrick the first time I noticed him was when he made a pair of female bespoke shoes (before he got famous for winning the competition) and the lady posted it on Reddit here. Even for a non sample shoe, the number of layers on the heel was quite impressive!
 

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