Once again some snaps from the shoe world. This time about examples of how brand’s top ranges were developed after they made for others, about new top RTW/MTO offerings, and what calf leather could be back in the days.
Calf leather back in the days
The fact that what is called calf leather today actually comes from the quite large animals have been mentioned here on the blog before (one can say that today’s baby calf leather corresponds to what was formerly called calf leather) and that things were different before. This is another example of how large the differences was. During the first half of the last century, a lot of leather was made from animals between 1-3 months old, often the term new born calves was used. It was a long time since it was even allowed to kill such young calves in Europe. The meat from these was sold as a relatively exclusive product, and the skin became very thin, fine leather, sensitive to wear but durable to for example very tight stitches. That type of leather would be very impractical for normal everyday wear, the shoes made in this material was meant for the salons.
In fact, the name suede was initially dedicated to only new born calf that was grounded on the flesh side, and it became a real velvety feeling in the material. As much else, the language changes over time.
How the brand’s top lines were developed after the factory made the shoes of others
A shoe factory usually has a range of what kind of shoes you manufacture, it’s about placing you in a position in the market and about getting production efficient. If you are going to make both relatively simple welted shoes for €200 and super nice, more advanced made €1200+ premium shoes on the same production line, it won’t run especially smooth. For several elements there are different machines, different machine settings and different tools required for each shoe type.
That is why Loake’s factory in England makes shoes from around €220 as the Shoemaker range costs up to a new Export Grade for €400 (and developing the new top line posed some challenges for the factory, even though one still does for example open channel soles on all ranges, etc.), and for the other brands that Loake makes shoes, it is only within these segments. While, for example, Gaziano & Girling makes its standard range priced at €1,300 up to the extremely neat Deco range that cost of €1,900, and the same applies here, the Private Label shoes G&G make are only premium shoes.
Sometimes, however, a factory receives a request to manufacture shoes that they don’t normally do. An example is when Crockett & Jones in the 70’s was contacted by Hermés who just bought the rights to make shoes under the brand John Lobb. Hermés wanted to make shoes that were a few steps above those that Crockett did at this time (about the equivalent of the benchgrade range was what they mainly did then). Together they developed the John Lobb Paris premium shoes, purchased the machines needed and trained staff, etc. Since Lobb in the 80’s left for Edward Green’s factory, Crockett took the knowledge that the Lobb production had given them and created their top range Handgrade.
Almost the same thing happened to Alfred Sargent when the above mentioned Gaziano & Girling started in 2006. They did not have their own factory, initially the shoes were made at Alfred Sargent where they put the techniques and productions that G&G had since (not the Deco at that time though). And when G&G was established and chose to invest in its own factory, Alfred Sargent made their Exclusive and Handgrade ranges, which basically consisted of what they learned from the G&G production.
More premium RTW / MTO shoes in absolute top condition
Talking about premium shoes, and then real top versions of these, this is a segment where competition has been getting tough lately. Here we have a number of quite strong players already, such as Deco from G&G, Edward Green Top Drawer, Saint Crispin’s, Anthony Cleverley, Corthay, Berluti, Antonio Meccariello Aurum, and so on. And lately, several new ones have appeared.
Some of the more prominent examples are Yohei Fukuda’s very exclusive hand welted RTW launched last year, where the price is almost €2,100. Recently, the South Korean shop Shoes Fever also started selling Maftei’s brand new line RTW shoes. They are made to the same standard as their bespoke, are hand welted and handmade sole stitches, made on some of the company’s base lasts. Maftei’s bespoke is really well priced, this also applies to their RTW. Shoes Fever sells them for about €850 ($990) including lasted shoe trees.
At the men’s fashion show Pitti Uomo in Florence this week, Norman Vilalta launches his new RTW range 1202. Here as well, it’s all about shoes made entirely by hand (of course the upper is sewn with machine), and initially there’s a special version of an adelaide and cap toes to order. The price is €1,970.
In one way, it is a sign of the times we live in, that we see more RTW/MTO shoes where construction and materials are close to or in line with bespoke, but on standard lasts that can be purchased directly or manufactured faster and without fittings. More are willing to pay for their shoes, but do not want to leave the often long wait and process. At the same time, we see increased competition in all segments, as customer interest for classic shoes is still on the rise, so it can be only a natural part of this.