Last week I had my second fitting for the bespoke shoes I’ve ordered from British Gaziano & Girling. Here a review of how it went, plus a glimpse of how it looks in the G&G’s “small factory”: Daniel Wegans home.
It was almost a year ago that I made the order of a pair of bespoke austerity brogues from Gaziano & Girling in their store on Savile Row (read about it in part 1 here), and then I had a first fitting in Stockholm at Skoaktiebolaget (read part 2 here). At the first fitting the shoes quite clearly were too tight, so the Swede Daniel Wegan who is leading the company’s bespoke department needed to work quite a lot with the lasts. Since it already were a lot of so-called fitting pieces on the lasts (leather pieces glued on and shaped), he decided to make new pair of lasts to start from, so he sent the lasts to Hervé Brunelle in France and got back a new pair in all wood but with the same shape as the modified lasts had before. On these, he then put some new fitting pieces after the marks made at the first fitting. He has especially increased volume around the ball of the foot, its widest part, and made more room for the pinky toes and the inner toe ball. The arch has been shaped off a bit in the front, the last’s bottom edge (called feather edge) has been placed further in at the heel, and then the pattern was changed a bit where my relatively low positioned external bun on the ankles were squeezed a bit.
I can tell straight away when I put on the new fitting shoes that the fit is much better than the first pair. Although it’s in the evening after I’ve been walkoing a whole day around London with already a bit sore feet they feel comfortable. The edge on the outside of the ankle bump doesn’t feel at all, and they are almost perfect at the arch, even though they look pretty wide there. It’s since the quite thick heel stiffener goes all the way through the arch, it fills the space up and makes it look larger than it is. The first pair was deliberately made with rather limited internal build up, as mentioned in previous posts, so one as easy as possible could see how the foot pressed and where there would be creases and so on. This time they are built like the plan is to have the final pair made. Gaziano & Girling cuts their own heel stiffeners for their bespoke shoes from the so-called shoulder of oak bark tanned leather bends from the UK tannery Baker (where both insole and outsoles also come from), one advantage of this is that they can control the size themselves. Daniel Wegan says that otherwise it’s not uncommon that if a customer needs or requests that the stiffener should go far under the arch it’s simply move the ready-made leather stiffeners many uses forward on the inside, which entails that there is less of it left on the outside. For some, it may then be that the foot is pushed outwards when they have no strong material to stop it, which could be negative from a fit point of view. On my shoes, Daniel says that it will be needed the quite long stiffener that runs along a large parts of the outside and far forward on the inside. Just a tad more material needs to be removed at the front part of the arch, otherwise it’s really good there. It should also be removed some at the instep so the lacing opens a bit more.
After I have worn the fitting shoes for a while and walked around in them a bit, I notice that they are still a bit tight in front, especially on the outside of the left foot. Here Daniel marks to add material. Firstly he makes marks on the shoes, but since we have my lasts here in place (he has also begun to take these with him to the fittings, it simplifies the work for him) so he can mark directly on them what needs to be done. Daniel also cut up the shoes at certain places to get an even better picture of how the fit looks. He also cuts a bit at the heel on the top a little since it’s been raised a bit too much. The pattern should also be adjusted slightly, so the vamp is extended and the toe part is shortened slightly. It was really the only corrections that needs to be made for the final pair. That’s how you want it for the last fitting, that only minor adjustments remain.
As mentioned I had the fitting made at the home of Daniel Wegan in Kettering, Northamptonshire. I was in London over the weekend and thought it seemed more fun to go up and pay a visit there than meet in the G&G store. Daniel Wegan have lived in some different places in Kettering since he came here seven years ago, now for some time, he lives in an apartment on top of a small grocery store, a fifteen minute walk from the center of Kettering. It is very practical, since now he can bang and make noise late in the evening and at night without having to worry about neighbors. For his home is more of a workshop than anything else. You go up a narrow staircase and enters directly into the kitchen, where you are met by a shelf with lasts directly to the left and then a big workplace and a filing cabinet where all the patterns are stored. Then two of the four rooms in the apartment are workshops. In one, he has a new sewing machinge (he just makes closing work for fitting shoes and stuff like that, the company’s closers do the real uppers, but he thinks it’s fun to learn that bit too) and storage of materials. In the second, theres two workplaces for bottoming, one for himself and the other for apprentices who are often there and spend time with Daniel. Also in the living room is a decent amount of shoe stuff, large plastic boxes of material and old uppers where something has gone wrong, his own shoe closet, and more. And in the bedroom stands a bookcase full of books about footwear, most of them quite old ones.
Daniel Wegan is primarily a lastmakers, he’s meeting customers and takes measurements, and then manufacture lasts for them. He also does most of the work of the production of patterns. That is what he is hired for, what he does during the day at the factory in Kettering. For Daniel, it is just one part, since he works at home on evenings, nights and weekends with bottom work (the manufacturing of shoes, when they are put together and the finish is made) for the company, here he works on a freelance basis, you could say, and get charge for the number of pairs that are made. This part is voluntary one can say, he does it because he wants to learn as much as possible about the footwear, and be able to develop himself as quickly as possible.
During the time I was visiting at his home in Kettering the apprentice Richard Churchill was there working on a pair of shoes at first, then later the Swede Andreas Reijers was there and worked on some bottoming as well. Andreas Reijers is employed as a bottoming apprentice and do it during the day in the factory, but frequently visits Daniel on weekends to get extra time to learn from his more experienced colleague, and have himself developing faster. And it goes well for Andreas, he started with the company only a few months ago but is already working with shoes for customers. He has been training a lot in the evenings and weekends during the year he lived in England before and learned from Daniel already, but it’s still pretty impressive. The main thing now is that Andreas is rather slow, he needs to learn to work faster, and he needs to learn to take it easy when problems arise, usually you can resolve things in a good way. That is why it is particularly useful to work together with Daniel, then he can get guidance and tips directly.