Ber­luti’s mas­ter shoe­maker Jean Michel Casalonga re­veals the se­crets to mak­ing and own­ing be­spoke footwear

India Today - - CONTENTS - —as told to Jahnavi Chakravart­y

The de­fin­i­tive guide to be­spoke shoes

What started of as a uni­ver­sity in­tern­ship,

an ex­per­i­ment at best, has turned into a life­time pas­sion for me. As a stu­dent of physics, it was an un­usual choice to opt for shoe­mak­ing as a sub­ject, but I was driven to “do some­thing dif­fer­ent”, like I sup­pose all stu­dents are. I still re­mem­ber the day I first walked into the Ber­luti lab. The mas­ter shoe­maker was in deep con­ver­sa­tion with a cus­tomer, dis­cussing minute de­tails and I was fas­ci­nated. My ap­pren­tice­ship con­sisted mainly of sit­ting in a cor­ner and ob­serv­ing shoe­mak­ers at work. That was 16 years ago. To­day, I travel the world and take the art of Ber­luti’s shoe­mak­ing ex­per­tise to con­nois­seurs.

In­vest in lux­ury

Like a tai­lored shirt, a be­spoke pair of shoes is, quite sim­ply, cre­ated for you. Be­spoke shoes are a lux­ury, of course, but they are also meant for those who love tra­di­tion and have an un­der­stand­ing of shoe­mak­ing. There are some high end shoes that don’t qual­ify as fully be­spoke, but those who opt for com­pletely hand­crafted shoes can feel the dif­fer­ence. It is this dif­fer­ence that makes it worth the in­vest­ment. Be­spoke shoe­mak­ers fol­low the mor­phol­ogy of the foot, un­like pairs bought off the rack. I have cus­tomers with homes in Paris, New York, Sin­ga­pore and New Delhi and they like to have their favourite pair of be­spoke shoes in each city be­cause they hate car­ry­ing too much lug­gage. Ul­ti­mately, it is an in­vest­ment in your own com­fort.

Cre­ate pre-de­cided sets

A great way to save time is to cre­ate cloth­ing sets, com­plete with shoes. A jet-set­ting cus­tomer once told me that he had so many de­ci­sions to make in a day, the last

thing he wanted to think about was what shoes to wear with which suit. So I started cre­at­ing sets with jack­ets, trousers, shirts and match­ing suits.

Keep it ba­sic

One needs only half a dozen pairs of shoes in or­der to have a com­pre­hen­sive wardrobe. There is one per­ti­nent rule, though: You do need to ro­tate the shoes you wear, be­cause no mat­ter how great the qual­ity, they will be dam­aged if worn daily. One must al­ways use shoe trees (a piece of wood that is in­serted in the shoe to main­tain the shape.) A shoe tree also helps ab­sorb mois­ture and kill germs. Shoes must be kept clean, although not nec­es­sar­ily with pol­ish. The dust and wa­ter needs to be re­moved daily while pol­ish can be ap­plied only when shoes start to look dull.

FEET FIRST Hand­crafted shoes are an in­vest­ment in one’s own com­fort

MAS­TER OF THE CRAFT Casalonga brings the art of be­spoke shoes to global cus­tomers

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