The footwear market is filled with shoe styles at all price points, which often begs the question: How do brands determine the price of their shoes? And more specifically, in the case of high-end footwear, how do designers’ processes justify the hefty price tags?
There are many factors that footwear companies may account for when determining the price of your favorite pair of shoes. Standards considerations are mass manufacturing and marketing costs, as well as any sort of cutting-edge footwear technology; for the custom shoe designer, however, figuring out how much a pair of made-to-order shoes should cost is a bit more complicated.
Since made-to-order shoes are created to your specifications—requiring you to approve the style, material and color—prices vary greatly from pair to pair. Made-to-order prices from many retailers range, on average, from $700 to $2,500. The final price will be determined by choice of style, leather and finishing, and any extras, like tattooing or rubber toppers, will run additional costs.
Once payment is made, you and the brand get to work on creating your dream shoe. You’ll either meet with a consultant to hammer out the details in person or receive fit samples and swatches at your home to make final determinations on size and color. And since this shoe is made just for you, your pair is nonrefundable, so be sure to make your selections wisely.
The material can affect the final price for your shoes
Your choice of material is the biggest factor in determining the price of your made-to-order shoe, and this is something you’ll discuss with a consultant at your fitting.
How do the various materials available differ in price? Generally, the most cost-effective material is suede, followed by calfskin leather—a very smooth yet strong leather often used for high-end apparel. More expensive is hand-burnished leather, with the level of hand burnishing also playing a role in the cost.
Regardless of whether it’s a casual or dress shoe, more hand burnishing requires more time spent on your shoes. An added finish to suede, like an oil rub to make the shoe look more weathered and worn, will also add to the cost, though it’s a less labor-intensive finish than hand burnishing.
The most expensive material you can request is exotic leather, such as alligator skin. To give some perspective, a pair of made-to-order mules in crocodile leather can run you $3,500 and a pair of boots can go upwards of $10,000.
Depending on which shoe brand you’re working with, you may be able to request two different materials for your kicks. This customization often suits clients looking to achieve an ultra-specific look as well as those who have a stricter budget. To the point of the latter, mixing a more expensive material like hand-burnished leather with a more economical suede option will generally be more cost-effective than a full hand-burnished customer order.
An additional cost is added in the details
Tattooing adds cost, and the price will vary based on the complexity of the request. Depending on the designer, one to two initials or a momentous date might not add to the overall cost, but custom shoe tattoos/engravings will charge by the hour depending on complexity.
Designers will also entertain a request for extra laces, and they’ll determine the pricing based on the kind of laces you may request. For example, silk or frilly will run at a higher additional cost than cotton or plain laces.
The complexity of your shoe design may factor into pricing
While shoppers are in charge of product specifications in the made-to-order process, it’s up to the artisans to execute those visions with accuracy and precision. From start to finish, there are countless steps the craftspeople must follow to make your perfect shoe. And it’s the time and care spent on your unique pair of shoes that are reflected in the pricing.
A knee-high boot with frilly laces and zippers will surely cost more from both a labor and material perspective; meanwhile, an ankle boot or a sandal with just a few cuts should cost less. A mule, or a backless shoe style, is usually more cost-effective because it requires less material.
A whole cut, or a shoe created with one piece of leather instead of parts sewn together, is more labor-intensive but not necessarily more expensive. For instance, although a mule is considered a whole-cut shoe, it’s made with a simpler pattern than a whole-cut oxford, a shoe with a back and a lacing system that is made with one piece of leather.
Consider that a made-to-order mule can run a cost of approximately $500 to $900, while a special order whole cut oxford by, say, Berluti can run you upwards of $2,200.
The value of made-to-order is in the hand making process
Labor can vary from 8 hours to 40 hours for one pair of shoes, depending on the complexity of the style and details requested. That’s the time it takes for the elements of your shoes to be cut, sewn and distressed by hand.
For an oil rub finish or a more distressed look on suede, shoemakers apply and massage a waxy oil by hand. If your desired shoe has perforation, they punch each hole in manually. These details take time and skill—both of which add value.
In addition to knowing that your made-to-order shoes are inherently one-of-a-kind (no handmade item can be the same), a great upside to the process is that, by the end of it, you’ll have procured a well-built product known to last for years. Many custom-made shoes look better with time and wear, unlike much fast fashion or mass-produced items.
You’re ready to order your pair of made-to-order 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. 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.