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The Ultimate "HARDCORE" Shoe Porn Thread (Bespoke only)

Discussion in 'Classic Menswear' started by luk-cha, Jul 3, 2010.

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  1. DWFII

    DWFII Bespoke Boot and Shoemaker Dubiously Honored

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    The money is like speed...if your objective is to make shoes, the money will come. If your objective is to make money, the shoes will always be secondary.

    To make that initial choice is to decide your whole purpose...what is to be Job One...the guiding philosophy that determines the outcome of every other subsequent choice. That initial choice creates a "decision tree."

    Choose to make shoes and the first subsequent decision will be what leathers to use...and buy. Choose to make shoes and the cost will not be a factor. Ever. The next decision will be to choose where, on the hide, to cut the components...and cost or efficiency of cutting (maximizing the yield) will not enter into it or be a consideration. Ever. And so it goes through every branch of the process--techniques, tools, materials.

    And the reverse scenario is also true. Choose to make money and the vehicle is not important. Nor is the absolute quality of the materials or the integrity of the techniques. And yes, singular or incidental exceptions may be made esp. for those outfits aiming at the high end markets. But even these are " subject to change"--entirely dependent on the bottom line. When the price for high end calf starts cutting into profits, middle of the road calf will do.

    And the result will always, always be something on the order of...

    "The XYZ method of (sic) construction is expensive, time consuming and requires highly skilled craftsmanship. Invented hundreds of years ago, it is still considered the finest method of shoe construction today."

    ...almost every aspect of which, point by point, is objectively self-deception, if not flim-flam.

    edited for punctuation and clarity
     
    Last edited: Jul 6, 2015
    1 person likes this.
  2. semperexcelsius

    semperexcelsius Senior member

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    @DWFII I assume the places that PB is referencing are some of the firms that were involved in the debate about complete vs. "assembly-line" shoemaking. Do you think these places are focused on making shoes or making money? It might explain some of your disdain (joking [​IMG]) for them...
     
  3. DWFII

    DWFII Bespoke Boot and Shoemaker Dubiously Honored

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    I began to form my philosophies in this regard long, long before the question of whether workers in a factory were "shoemakers," arose or...more to the point...long before I had even considered the question.

    That said, my views regarding the "factory mentality" are inextricably entwined with my views about priorities and the search for excellence (which are also inextricably entwined).

    My views about making money the governor of all our choices can be expressed succinctly in the word "enough."

    "Our portion is not large indeed,
    But then how little do we need!
    For nature's wants are few.
    In this the art of living lies,
    To want no more than may suffice
    ,
    And make that little do."
    --
    --
     
    Last edited: Jul 6, 2015
  4. DWFII

    DWFII Bespoke Boot and Shoemaker Dubiously Honored

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    Here's a pair I'm just finishing...will probably shine a bit more before sending them out the door. Burnishable water buffalo calf.

    [​IMG]
     
    Last edited: Jul 6, 2015
    11 people like this.
  5. jerrybrowne

    jerrybrowne Senior member

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    Beautiful!
     
  6. semperexcelsius

    semperexcelsius Senior member

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    those are gorgeous... for some reason, in my head, I always have a picture of your boots being much more "Western", if you will, even though I've seen pictures of your more traditional boots like these.

    Again, though, absolutely stunning. Well done.
     
  7. ThinkDerm

    ThinkDerm Senior member

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    very nice
     
  8. patrickBOOTH

    patrickBOOTH Senior member Dubiously Honored

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    Well, when you're a shoemaker I would think the styles of your made shoes are largely a reflection of your clientele, which for DW has probably been more people who lean towards certain styles, especially given his location.
     
    Last edited: Jul 6, 2015
  9. j ingevaldsson

    j ingevaldsson Senior member

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    It's been some interesting discussions going on in this thread lately. I've been to swamped to reply anything, tried to manage to read the new posts through when I found a chance though. Have some time now though, so here we go, will be a bit of topic but what the heck.

    Regarding earning money in this business, from what I know of many of the companies in both RTW and bespoke, both big and small players, both from Western and Eastern Europe, Asia etc, and no one is making any real money. It's all relative of course, most are obviously making profit or at least end up even, otherwise it would be hard to have a company going l, but when we talk earning real money there's no one doing it. This type of shoes is nothing you should get into if you want to get rich, if your driving force is money. There's hundreds of other businesses one should choose before "quality shoes" if you're in it for the doe.

    Sure, there are international companies buying and investing in quality shoe brands, like Hermés in John Lobb Paris, Prada in Church's, Berluti in LVMH. But it's not mainly to make bucks from the actual classic shoes the companies invest in these, they want to get the heritage, the story, the aura of the companies, and have that. That's why Prada hardly have developed the Goodyear welted, better quality lines since they took over, just mainly focused on adding a Church's label to cheaper produced shoes, and that's why LVMH now has opened Berluti stores in every larger city in the world who have some shoes but also are filled with clothes and accessories. It's because the quality shoes don't make you any real money, which is an important thing for these companies. They buy the traditional brands, with an already great image to work with, and have it spilled over at other parts of business where the actual money is made. From Church's Custom Grade and Berlutis bespoke business there's still just peanuts coming when talking monetary aspects, but those elements is what makes the brands valuable and makes it possible for them to earn real money from other branches.

    And when we talk about the other Northampton firms such as Crockett & Jones and Gaziano & Girling, the West End makers like Lobb, Fosters and Cleverley we really talk small money. I mean, Lobbs actual shoemaking business earns them very little compared to the royalty check they receive from Hermés every year (and then as already mentioned that's not too much money either, relatively speaking).
    Vass of Hungary, Carmina in Spain, Meermin, Septieme Largeur and so on, all well known growing quality shoe brands, but none making anyone really rich. And then we all the hundreds of other brands who in some cases do good, some okay, some struggle to don't show numbers every year. This is not a money business.

    I can take the brand I'm working for as an example, the Swedish/Italian brand Italigente, since I know the figures here. It's midrange shoes, Blake/Rapid stitched, made in Montegranaro, Italy. Owned by a Swedish children shoe company called Kavat. This children shoe company is working well at the moment and make okay money, they also started a women's shoe brand called Blankens who has been a success but makes a really small amount of shoes, and now they wanted to have a men's shoe brand as well, so they bought Italigente from the current CEO of Kavat who started it 2007. They knew that Italigente hasn't been making any real money since the start, and they know that they won't make any real money from this either. Basically the hope is to not have it losing too much money these first relaunch years, and then get to a point where it brings in some sums each year, but everyone knows that even if Italigente turns out good they will probably make more money from the children's shoes in one month (and this is pretty good quality children's shoes, there's a lot of brands making much more money in this sector as well) than we'll make from Italigente in a year.
    And of course we know that Italigente isn't the best shoes in the world, it's not the best shoes you can get in the price point we're at either, but we try to make them as good as we can do and still keep them in the price level we're in. We could make the shoes even better if we used less of the hides, used leather as heel stiffeners instead of leather board as we do now, spent more time in production, spent more time doing the patina and so on, but then the price would have to be much higher if we were not to lose huge sums on every shoe. These shoes are intended to be available for everyone, even if they cost a lot of money in many people's eyes, it's still reasonable sums. This type of shoe is also needed in my eyes, not just the best shoes in the world, cause everyone will never be able to purchase the best shoes in the world, and those who don't should have a chance to get good shoes anyway.

    And when we talk the actual figures for the shoes, the family in Montegranaro who makes the Italigente shoes get paid fairly but they are for certain not getting rich, the sums Italigente take is very small for those going to retailers, a bit better when sold directly from our online shop but still not very high, and for retailers the margin is not especially good either. They could sell glued, branded shoes with a much higher mark up and easier sell if they wanted to. So you see, basically no one in this chain makes any real money. So, why do they bother?

    It's because (and this is something I think goes for pretty much everyone in the business of these types of shoe we're talking about here) they like shoes, they want to work with things of at least a certain quality, they like working with it, and in many cases (such as the CEO at Kavat and founder of Italigente) I can without a doubt say that they have a passion for shoes. Then there's of course some working in this sector, be it a person on the factory floor or a freelance closer in a suburb outside of London, who only does it for a living, no real passion maybe, but they go to work and do it to make a living, and this place was where they ended up at for some reason. But true for everyone here is that they don't do it for the money.

    To be even more concrete and personal. I work full time in communications, but on the side I write a shoe blog on my spare time, host a large shoe event every year, write articles for a classic style website and a style magazine, and this spring I have been working extremely much for Italigente, and from them I only get paid for ten hours a month but it's been more or less ten hours a day at some points instead. I don't do this for the money, if I would have I should have been extremely stupid doing any of the shoe related stuff mentioned. And Italigente don't tell me to work this much. I do it because I want to, because I love doing it. Because I, like many here, have a passion for shoes (and since I suck at handwork but are good writing, at least in my native tongue, and working with other aspects of things I do that instead of trying to become a shoemaker myself).
     
    Last edited: Jul 6, 2015
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  10. DWFII

    DWFII Bespoke Boot and Shoemaker Dubiously Honored

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    Thanks to everyone who commented. I never seem to surmount my "three things", however.


    I began with Western (cowboy) boots...as pB said, my clientele and location dictated that. But bespoke work is not nearly as available or as valued in the US as it is in Europe.

    That said, at some point I realized that I could specialize in Western boots until I caught the bus and at some point it was gonna feel rote and like working in a factory. No joie de creer, IOW. the thrill having gone. I thought a good bootmaker ought to be able to make shoes and make them well...and vice versa. If only because at bottom a bootmaker is a shoemaker is a bootmaker. It's all one.
     
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  11. semperexcelsius

    semperexcelsius Senior member

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    Maybe you explained this before my time, but what three things?

    I think I've also decided that someday I will work up the courage (and the dinero) to ask you to make me a pair of cowboy boots in honor of the Texan side of my family.
     
  12. DWFII

    DWFII Bespoke Boot and Shoemaker Dubiously Honored

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    Upon completion of a pair of shoes a maker should always look for three things to improve upon...no less than three things lest he fall prey to complacency, no more than three at peril of false pride.--one of the "rule's" I teach to my students.
     
    2 people like this.
  13. semperexcelsius

    semperexcelsius Senior member

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    and what, if you don't mind sharing, are the three things for those particular boots?
     
  14. YRR92

    YRR92 Senior member

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    Those are lovely. May I ask how the water buffalo performs, both in terms of working with it and in terms of wearing it?
     
  15. dieworkwear

    dieworkwear Senior member

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    Fucking hell those are nice.
     
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  16. Zapasman

    Zapasman Senior member

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    "Burnishable water buffalo calf.".

    Do you use the hot iron for that burnishing?.

    Excellent work (the shaft heights looks higher than normal which I like it).
     
  17. DWFII

    DWFII Bespoke Boot and Shoemaker Dubiously Honored

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    No. My auld granny used to say "dinna air your dirty linen in public, lad." :D


    Thank you.

    It's not meant to be a dress leather really. It has fairly open and coarse follicles which are easily seen in the close-up. That said, I'm still working on my antiquing skills and wanted to see if I could take this to a little higher level. On the cutting table, the leather was a very bland grocery-bag brown. The leather itself is very supple and wears like Iron. I have boots made from it that are 30+ years old.


    Thanks. No, I'm not entirely convinced that hot irons are good for leather. I know some makers use them to tighten the leather and draw it closer to the wood post lasting but I am dubious. Burnishing can be done with creams and vigourous rubbing on leathers meant to be handled that way.

    As for quarter height...the customer asked for it to be that height...I think that's called a "George boot" rather than a chukka.
     
    Last edited: Jul 7, 2015
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  18. jerrybrowne

    jerrybrowne Senior member

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    +1. Standard height for a George boot.
     
  19. jerrybrowne

    jerrybrowne Senior member

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    Should mention again that the proportions on this one are near perfect. Really great shoe DW.
     
  20. DWFII

    DWFII Bespoke Boot and Shoemaker Dubiously Honored

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    Thank you.

    :cheers:
     

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