How Bespoke Italian Leather Shoes Are Made
I think the passion, you really need it to create something on a particular level. You need to give everything from yourself in there and that’s the difference I think. Bespoke means for me, that I discuss really with the client what he wants. You have ideas here, you can see different materials, different models. It’s very important to listen. Nowadays, many people don’t listen anymore.
The last is really the copy of your foot on which we create the shoe. But nobody shows you how to make a last, really, so you have to train it by yourself, and to get the feeling by yourself, how you should do it. You have certain measurements from the foot, but the feeling of the client is always different. I love using leather because you get this particular different touches. What I appreciate so much from this tannery is they use a Swiss calf. Maybe it’s because it’s cold and these animals live on a very high level in the mountains. It’s always a cow, but cows are also different. I think it’s something which you can wear for a long time and the leather the more you wear it, it really gets more life I think. I will draw the model from the client. This drawing, I will translate then on a flat paper model, which I put on the leather, then we sew it together.
From there, we start creating really the shoe. I think the handcraft and this concentration of different craftmanships in Florence is really coming up from the Medici family. If it’s a jeweler or if it’s a painter, or a sculpture maker, they’ve always tried to get the best artisans in town. The upper will be nailed and pulled over the last. I will start sewing with the linen thread, which is made waterproofed with wax. When you stitch you have two threads which go into the same hole and as you pull, the wax goes hot, it will seal together, so the water can’t go through.
This is a very particular and very old process. It’s very rare to be a woman in this shoemaking world. When I started, everybody looked at me and said, this lady is going to close down in a year. A woman in a man’s job, it’s not going to work. Now, they all proud in this area that I’m still here. We fill in the wooden shank and back support because that’s the part under the curve of your foot, which will not be bent so it has to be supportive and stiff.
The front part we will fill with cork. This is to give you a cushion effect, as you bend it the whole time it’s important to have it soft. We apply the sole. We will glue it on and afterwards make a channel. We will stitch the welt and the leather sole together through the channel so it gets more the shape of a shoe and you see it more as a finished product. When we work normally in the workshop, it’s a very calm feeling. We are in a meditation, because you are so concentrated on what you do. You can feel that all of a sudden, the energy comes down. Everybody’s concentrated on his particular step. The last big step to put on is the heel, which will be built out of single layers of leather. We will glue them and nail them on, and then cut them in shape. At the end, we pass some glass, sanding it. And then burn it with hot irons, so all the pores are going to be completely closed up.
The last step is to shine the whole shoe. And then we can pull out the last and then the client can wear it. If you count the hours, we would work around three weeks on one pair of shoes. When I see a finished shoe and the client really tries it on, it’s always the moment of reality and relief, if it really fits well. When this person is really happy, you can just see in their eyes without explaining that it’s the best feeling ever. I think a shoe is more than an object. A shoe really reflects the person who is wearing it. The leather they choose, the color they choose, and how they wear it. Because it’s not just the pair in the beginning, it’s the pair over many, many years.