ould sir care for alligator, python or shark? Or maybe you’d prefer frog? These are some of the leathers you could choose for a pair of bespoke shoes from premier shoemaker Berluti.
The French company has been making shoes since 1859. One of its most talented bottiers, Anthony Delos, has been with Berluti for 22 of those years and began his apprenticeship at the age of 16. He has the title Meilleur Ouvrier de France, a rare accolade that allows him to wear the French tricolore on his work apron. Just one handshake of his battered, strong hand is enough to tell you Anthony has spent years working with the uncompromising tools of a shoemaker.
This September, Anthony and his team will be in Dubai to provide their bespoke shoe service.
“I travelled around France for eight years learning my job as an apprentice. I worked with a lot of old people and learnt many things. I love the craftsmanship, the tradition, and the history of making shoes.
** In 1993 I went to work in a village called Saumur in western France that is famous for the French National Equestrian School. I made boots for the horse riders. To become a bootmaker it takes ten years. But to become a good bootmaker, it takes 20 years. **
The process of making a pair of bespoke shoes begins when the customer comes into our shop. For the rst appointment I need an hour with him to understand his style. My job is to explain to the customer which kind of shoe is right for their feet.
** Taking the measurements is so important. It takes only about ten minutes, sometimes even ve minutes. To do my job well it’s very important for me to understand feet. If the foot has a lot of lumps and bumps it’s more dif cult. Two men could have the same si e feet but the shapes are very different. Feet are not dif cult. It’s the customer who is dif cult – just joking. **
I come back to Paris and I make the last. It’s made from a very hard wood called charme and is made with a big blade, not a machine. I give it to the ateliers who make the prototype of the shoe. When you make a last it has a lot to do with feeling and you have to make many lasts to understand them. If you give me a last I can tell immediately if it’s a good one or not.
** Three months later we do the tting with the prototype. I can tell if I need to make more adjustments just by feeling. The customer doesn’t need to tell me if it’s tight here or loose there – I know. If my proportions are good there shouldn’t be space around the foot and the foot shouldn’t move. The shoe should t like a glove. **
Shoes take 40 to 60 hours to make. Boots morel like 100 to 120 hours. Once the shoe is made it must wait one week because it needs to dry on the last.
** At Berluti we make bespoke shoes from just one piece of leather. I’ve made shoes from shark, crocodile and beaver. One man in Japan wanted shoes made from frog leather. I used two frogs per shoe. **
The stitching on the sole is done by a machine. But the stitching on the leather is done by hand. It’s very hard and tiring. My hands are black from bruising when I make shoes. Stitching is dif cult to learn and your hands must be strong. The needle once went through my hand – it was OK, I didn’t go to hospital.
** When I see a man walk out of the store with a pair of shoes I’ve made for him, I feel... happy.