Made-to-order fashion is becoming more mainstream and consumers are seeking more customized garb to better represent their unique style. This pertains to everything from suits to dresses to jewelry and, for the purposes of this blog post, footwear.
Put simply, custom shoes are ones created to your specifications. Be it an everyday shoe, a boot or a dress shoe, the process calls for you to choose the style, material and color before a custom shoe designer gets to work on bringing your vision to life.
To understand the basic nuances of custom shoemaking and how you might go about ordering your first pair of custom shoes, read on.
Bespoke and custom (a.k.a. made-to-order) shoes are not quite the same
All custom shoe designers will begin with standard sizing when creating a pair of shoes for you. This doesn’t necessarily mean they’ll take measurements to make a shoe for each of your feet separately; that service is reserved for bespoke (a.k.a. made-to-measure) shoe-making.
Yet, what remains similar in both classes of shoes—that is to say, what sets them apart from off-the-rack shoes without distinction—is the attention to craftsmanship. From John Lobb to Berluti, for each pair of custom and bespoke shoes, every element is stitched, distressed and otherwise manipulated by hand.
Expect to pay at least double for a pair of bespoke shoes, for which a designer must create a mold based on your specific measurements, and the fit will surely be assessed and reassessed to achieve a distinct fit.
If you love handmade products but have neither the budget nor the inherent need for a bespoke shoe, custom could be for you
The charm of customized shoes is the element of uniqueness, without getting too technical, and as a result, too costly. If you require special attention to foot length, width or arch support, carefully consider going the bespoke route to ensure your needs are met. However, if your specifications are standard and you want to design a pair of shoes to best fit your taste, the custom shoe-making process could be for you. In it, you’d simply choose the structure, material and finishes, including hand-painted monograms or tattoos.
How might you choose the right shoe brand for you? Consider your style and the type of shoe you’re looking for, as most custom shoe designers have a niche. For example, Ferragamo, Berluti and Paul Stuart focus on men’s dress shoes, while Jimmy Choo offers a selection of evening shoe styles exclusively for women.
Ordering your pair of custom shoes is a process
- Claim a style: Contact the designer with the style that you’re admiring. If you have a specific color or material in mind, provide that information as well to get a better idea of pricing straightaway.
- Get up-close and personal: The custom shoe-making process is more personal than typical shoe shopping because you’re in a position to make particular selections. Schedule an appointment to visit the designer’s showroom or opt for the designer to send your coveted shoe style and selected swatches to your home before making a final decision. It’s important to try the style on to confirm sizing, as each person’s preference for the fit of their shoes may vary.
- Add your unique effects: Upon confirming the basics, you’ll have the option to personalize your shoes with monograms, date plaques or graphic tattoos. To satisfy more practical needs, you may ask the designer to add a rubber topper to your shoes for better stability and traction in wet weather.
4. Confirm your order, then sit tight: Once your order details have been confirmed, the designer will provide an estimate for how long your custom shoes will take to complete. Lead times often vary depending on the designer and size of the company.
On the wait time and delivery: Great things take time
Handmade shoes take time because there are countless steps the cobblers must follow to complete your one-of-a-kind shoes. This is why once your order has been confirmed, you could be waiting anywhere from five weeks to six months to receive your custom shoes.
Another reason is that many European countries go on holiday in August and December. So, if you’re making or anticipating an order during these seasons with a company that manufactures overseas, you’ll want to ask if the lead time provided to you (calculated from the time of order to delivery) factors in the weeks off. Small enterprises, particularly those based in the United States, tend to extend shorter lead times. For example, Paul Stuart offers a lead time of six weeks for its custom footwear. When your shoes are ready, you can pick them up from the showroom or have them sent directly to you.
Ready to order your pair of custom shoes?
Be sure to note, these are just guidelines for procuring custom shoes. With over 20 years in the fashion industry, Esquivel Shoes takes pride in being a quality resource for shoppers. To learn more about custom 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.