“MAT­TERS OF THE SOLE”

Be­spoke footwear is an art which can only be cre­ated by proven masters of the craft

MillionaireAsia India - - News - AB­HISHEK KU­MAR VERMA

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 reected 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 indenable 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

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