“MATTERS OF THE SOLE”
Bespoke footwear is an art which can only be created by proven masters of the craft
Founder and CEO of Indiano Pelletteria, Abhishek Kumar Verma is a fashion and luxury industry professional with over ten years of experience in the eld having graduated from premier fashion colleges.
What you like is what you wear and if it is a well-crafted pair of shoes made specially for you, it sure spells ultimate comfort. You need nothing better and you are all set to take on the world. It would be worthwhile to understand that designing customised shoes is a knowledge-intensive process. One of the crucial points in modern shoe manufacturing lies in shoe design, a determining factor in selling best tting or custom-made shoes.
It starts with the measurement of a foot. To ensure a best t, measurements are taken at strategic locations and the shoemaker uses both linear as well as volume measurement to construct a shoe last. They take the measurement of Throat opening, Length, Foot Girth, Ball Girth, Waist Girth, Instep Girth, Heel girth, Recede Toe, Heel to ball, Toe spring, Tread, Flare. However, in order to save time and achieve perfection, digital scanners are used nowadays to take the measurement of the foot. Three-dimensional (3D) scanning cameras, such as Microsoft’s Kinect, are used to take images of an object. A shoemaker will then use that data create a Shoe Last. The t of a shoe depends on the design, shape and volume of the Shoe Last. The Shoe Last must represent the anatomical information of the foot, at the same time giving nished shoe a pleasing and fashionable appearance.
The next stage is the selection and nalising the toe shape of the shoe. In case of men, some of the common toe shapes are the Snip toe, Square toe, Round Toe, D-toe, J-Toe, R-toe, W-Toe, U Roper, and others.
With respect to footwear for women, the heel height needs to be selected along with the foot toe, given that it is on the basis on this that the Shoe Last is made. The most common shoe toes for women are the Peep Toe, Pointed Toe, and Round Toe.
We move on to the stage of making a Shoe Last. The Last is the wooden reproduction of the foot, as designed by the shoemaker. This dummy is essential in the early stages of
manufacture of a shoe, when a two-dimensional piece
leather needs to be turned into a threedimensional object. This object has to be made with the best quality wood, such as maple, beech, oak, elm or walnut. However, the ideal wood is copper beech and hornbeam.
Design, leather and trim selection comes next. Men can choose from a wide range of styles like Moccasin, Oxford dress shoe, Derby shoe, sneakers, Double Monk, and Chelsea Boot; women can opt for Platform, Pumps, Peep Toes, Stilettos, Kitten, or Ballerina Sandals. The best shoes have traditionally been made from tanned calf leather. Welted shoes can also be made of horse hide.
Once the style is nalised, the model drawing is started directly onto wooden Last. The lines traced onto the Last in three dimensions are transferred to a two-dimensional pattern that indicates the cut of the pieces of leather and lining for the upper part of the shoe. These patterns are then mutated to a cardboard template, individually cutting out various parts of the shoe from a cardboard sheet.
The next step is to cut it—a very delicate process bearing in mind the price of the leather—and can be done either by hand or by machine for greater precision. These cut parts are sent for printing of the brand name and logo on the insole along with sizes and initials of the customer if required. If any part requires embroidery or stone work it is done at this stage. The next stage is the trimming. All pieces, including the lining and reinforcements, are carefully sewn together with a thread made of cotton and acrylic to ensure that the backstitch is as tense as possible, which in turn guarantees a long-lasting quality. We are ready with all the parts stitched together, making the upper ready for Lasting.
We have arrived at the Lasting, Assembly and stitching of last and welt. The leather is tted over the Last in a semi-manual process. Once the assembly is completed, the shoe is left on the Last for four days, so that it will acquire the permanent form that ensures its durability. This is a critical part of the shoe making process and once we are convinced about the tting, it is sewn to the innersole using the superior Goodyear Welt construction technique.
The next step is to even out the edges of the platform, preparing the shoe for heel attachment. This is done with layers of sole laid one upon the other to obtain a compact body that will never crack or shift. The heel is made using layers of taut leather and is rst trimmed to t the sole. It is then attached to the sole and the heel and sole are adjusted and trimmed one nal time before the artistes decorate it themselves. The sole is coated with a layer of primer, which limits daily wear and tear apart from enhancing the look and feel. It is decorated by knocking small nails into the sole.
At the painting and nishing stage, the sole edges and undersides are painted with wax and carnauba palm wax dyes to obtain a natural, long-lasting shine that embellishes the shoe. The leather is treated with waxes and beeswaxes with ermine-hair brushes and tinsel cloth. This helps to obtain the multi-toned polish.
Finally, the shoe is inspected in totality and then packed in the shoe box with the requisite accessories, i.e., shoe dust bags, shoe tree, shoe horn and a wax polish along with lots of butter paper.
A key aspect of the tradition bespoke footwear is the care of the shoes. The value of the product purchased is reected in the advice shoemaker gives his client. Without going to the lengths of the Duke of Windsor, who expected his laces to be ironed, bespoke handmade shoes certainly deserve to be looked after with due care and attention. After all, these shoes represent an investment and unlike their industrially made counterparts, they become more beautiful as time passes, acquiring that indenable allure of age.
A Last is the wooden reproduction of the foot. It is the most important tool of shoemaker’s craft and has come almost to symbolise it