Correct me if I’m wrong, but every woman longs for chic, well-fitted and all-around suitable shoes, doesn’t she?
As a footwear industry insider, it’s easy to see the high value in a well-made pair of shoes, especially in a pair that can be customized to fit one’s exact needs. Much of how I built my business has had to do with catering to my clients’ footwear needs because doing so is how the best shoes are made. The made-to-order process gives consumers a say in the design process that will ultimately result in their perfect shoes, and the best made-to-order shoes (a.k.a. custom-made shoes) are those that accurately take the customer into account while offering the best craftsmanship, service and overall experience.
So, who makes the very best made-to-order shoes for women? To be frank, the list isn’t as robust as that for men’s made-to-order shoes; some of the most renowned and talented shoemakers in the world, from Salvatore Ferragamo to George Cleverley, only offer custom services for men’s boots and dress shoes. Nevertheless, there are some shoe brands that make good quality made-to-order shoes for women, though it’s important to note that the very best option for you boils down to your preferences and needs—that’s why I’ve compiled a condensed list of designers and brands to address a range of consumers.
Crockett & Jones
Crockett & Jones’ special order service allows its female clients to have a pair of one specific style, the brand’s Albert slippers, made to their specifications.
Despite the restriction in terms of style, the English shoemaker aims to make the customization options to the slippers as vast as possible. According to the designer’s website, each store keeps its own catalog of upper and lining color options, emblems and monograms. Customers are welcome to choose from these, but they may also provide their own artwork to include in the design. (This is a form of tattoo, which other made-to-order shoe designers also offer.)
Like most made-to-order shoe services, Crockett & Jones offers an 8- to 10-week lead time for such custom orders.
Girotti offers an online made-to-order service for men and women. In it, customers may specify their desired style, size, color, material and outsole height.
To find the best fit, the brand offers a size guide with tips on how to measure your foot, and for further personalization, customers can add monograms or inscriptions to their prospective shoes.
While most made-to-order brands don’t entertain return requests, Girotti offers the opportunity to exchange if its customer isn’t happy with a purchase, though some stipulations apply. For example, if Girotti’s shoes don’t fit, they’re eligible for exchange so long as they’re unworn. The brand only offers a full refund if the item is somehow faulty upon receipt, or if the item proves defective within 30 days of wear.
John Lobb shoes and boots can be customized through the brand’s By Request service. The famed English shoemaker offers its clients over 100 original designs across a range of shoe styles, from oxford to derby to loafer, as well as a slew of full-grain leather and suedes, buckle colors and soles to choose from. There’s also an option for clients to monogram their prospective shoes.
For the most part, By Request orders are taken in person; only the brand’s Lopez and City II styles, which are traditionally men’s styles, can be ordered custom online.
Looking for a certain ballerina flat? Margaux will make it. The brand, which set out to make a “wear-everywhere” shoe in 2015, crafts its footwear using Italian leather in factories located in New York and Spain.
Margaux prioritizes comfort, which is why it offers private appointments with fit specialists, but from a design perspective, the materials are limited to the options shown for a specific style online. For the Demi style, clients are welcome to design them with hand-painted details; Margaux currently offers five monogram styles and a daisy floral for that model.
In terms of lead time, Margaux says customers can expect to receive their made-to-order shoes 8 to 12 weeks from the order date.
For the perfect evening shoe, Malone Souliers has a program worth considering. Like Crockett & Jones, this designer, who crafts its footwear in Italy, offers a quintessential made-to-order shoe consultation at its London showroom, complete with an in-person fitting for the styles in which the client is most interested, as well as a color and material selection.
As with many brands that work with craftsmen overseas, Malone Souliers tells its clients that the shoe-making process will yield a lead time of 8 weeks.
Nike By You, the sportswear giant’s custom service, offers a wide range of styles for women, men and unisex styles (think Nike Air Force 1 and Nike Air Max) prime for personalization.
The program allows for dozens of colorways or material combinations on any offered pair of shoes; it also offers the option to add a personal message inside of the tongue or to the backtab and to change the swoosh style (you can choose from some pre-designed styles).
If you’re someone who generally has trouble fitting into knee-length boots, Poppy Barley is a brand you may want to look to. The label is well-known for its made-to-order boots that take your calf width, foot width and desired boot height into account—a level a detail that one usually only finds in bespoke shoemaking services.
Based in Canada, Poppy Barley partners with factories in Mexico and Brazil, and as an added benefit to shoppers, donates 1% of sales back into communities.
Ready to order your made-to-order shoes?
As always, these are just guidelines for purchasing made-to-order shoes. With over 20 years in the fashion industry, Esquivel Shoes takes pride in being a valuable resource for shoppers. To learn more about our own made-to-order shoe collection or any other products we offer, send us a message through this link. We’re here to give you peace of mind and help you find the best made-to-order shoes for you.
George is a Southern California-based designer and craftsman who designed his first pair of shoes in 1994 and began honing his craft thereafter. For over 20 years, he’s operated his namesake brand, Esquivel, which specializes in handmade shoes and accessories. In the last decade, George served as Creative Director of renowned luxury bag and luggage brand Tumi Inc. and as Creative Consultant for Italian heritage brand Fratelli Rossetti, and has collaborated with many others for his own brand. George was a 2009 CFDA/Vogue Fashion Fund finalist, and has been a CFDA member since 2010. When he’s not working alongside his team of artisans at his atelier, Esquivel House, in Downtown Los Angeles, George is enjoying time with his wife and high school sweetheart, Shelley, and their three grown children. He also loves mountain biking and hosting good friends for dinners and fêtes.