In the last decade or so, fashion has seen such a great brand boom. New labels launch so frequently and have a niche focus whether it be sneakers, wholly handmade or 90s-inspired garb. And with the internet and social media easily facilitating direct-to-consumer transactions, the amount of choice can actually make it difficult to find what you’re looking for. In a sea of such specific offerings, even offerings that involve some level of customization, how do you decide from which custom shoe brand to buy?
To order custom shoes online, it’s important to figure out who has best adapted the made-to-order process, which is traditionally an in-person experience, to be virtual. You’ll also need to determine how you’ll ensure your needs are met when you’re working with an interface instead of a consultant.
Below are some things to consider when searching for standout made-to-order brands online.
First, understand that made-to-order offers are more rigid with online ordering
With an in-person made-to-order shopping model, clients have the final say on everything from fabric to color to shoe art (like personalized tattoos or engravings) for their orders. Consultants may offer an option to add rubber to the soles of your shoes for better stability and traction in wet weather and entertain requests for extra laces. They’ll also likely advise on the best size for you based on the style you’ve chosen and how you like your shoes to fit.
With an automated process, clients forgo a dialogue with any given brand consultant. In which case, you’ll need to be certain of your shoe size as you’re placing the order. You’ll also need to have a better understanding of what you’re looking for in your perfect shoes, as you won’t be able to talk through any ideas with a brand representative.
If you’re interested in learning more about the standard made-to-order process, check out this guide.
Have some prior knowledge of—or experience with—the brand, and if you don’t, be aware of its return policy
You will need to know your shoe size when placing an order online because return policies for custom orders are pretty specific. This personal knowledge usually comes from prior experience with the brand, like having tried on samples at a store or having purchased other styles by the same designer.
A shoe design can make a world of difference in terms of fit. For example, a woman who is generally a size 7 might take a size up in some Manolo Blahnik shoes, because certain styles tend to run small.
Again, this is important because custom orders are often for final sale, so there likely won’t be an option to return or exchange. This is why it’s so important to be sure of your selections upon placing your order. Of course, there are some exceptions to this. Ultra mainstream brands like Nike and Vans entertain some, if not all, return requests, while some new-age brands like Undandy and Girotti offer only exchange with some stipulations.
Go with brands with a reputation for great handmade techniques
When ordering online, there’s no way to truly replicate the in-person experience, but that doesn’t mean you must trade quality and craftsmanship—major values of the traditional made-to-order process—for convenience and time-efficiency.
Since some may use machinery to cut time and costs, you should do what you can to evaluate how liberally a prospective maker is using the term “handmade” to define the process.
When experienced artisans (rather than automated machinery) make the products, there is an assurance that no detail will be overlooked and that the quality will be exceptional as a result. These craftspeople dye the leathers to your liking. If your shoe style has perforations, they hand punch the holes. Essentially, they’re working on the shoes every step of the way and thus minding the quality and workmanship from start to finish.
Superlative shoemakers (Salvatore Ferragamo, Berluti and the like) also rely on traditional shoe-making techniques because they’re known to ensure long life. Again, exceptions to this would be the work of some mainstream makers. Nike, for example, might not follow such an artisanal process, though it has great brand recognition and customer service as a sort of counterpoise.
You’re ready to order your pair of made-to-order (custom) shoes
Be sure to note, these are just guidelines for acquiring made-to-order shoes. With over 20 years in the fashion industry, Esquivel Shoes takes pride in being a quality resource for shoppers. To learn more about made-to-order shoes or any of the products we offer, send us a note through this link. We’re here to give you peace of mind and help you make the best buying decisions 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.