For the first, and perhaps the last time, I’m hereby presenting the highly prestigious Shoegazing Bespoke Awards, where me, myself and I have decided which bespoke shoemakers I think deserves to be awarded in four different categories: Creativity, Finishing, Patterns and Highest Minimum Level.

 

First of all, don’t take this too seriously, it’s my personal opinions on things and based on my experience (all included are brands that I at least to some extent have seen and handled in real life). And also for me it’s difficult to list things like I’ve done below, I could surely argue with myself on several of the spots. I’ve also deliberately tried to spread it out a bit even if one could perhaps argue that some listed could be part of more categories than they are, and so on. If I include the “honourable mentions” the positions are relatively well-spread among the largest shoemaking countries. We have eleven spots taken by Japanese makers, six spots by French, five with British brands, four Italians, and one to a German and one to a Russian maker. With that said, would be very interesting to have you readers comment on the awards and not least do your own lists in the same categories in the comments section below.

 

CREATIVITY

1st place – TYE Shoemaker

One of the most beautiful loafers I’ve ever seen, with an intricate yet very wearable design.

TYE Shoemaker is the brainchild of Japanese masterminds Tsuyoshi Ohno and Yohei Shiwamura, based in Asakusa, Tokyo. Few brands combine classic shoemaking and historic styles with modern twists and fashion, like TYE Shoemaker. The mix of the types of shoes that leaves their workshop is incredible, but they all have the same very luxurious and distinct “TYE feel”, and the creativity shown in their creations are often sublime.

Read a report about TYE here.

TYE always do two different designs for their fitting shoes, and let the customers choose how to proceed for the final shoes with these as base.

Oxford in elephant leather. Simple yet perfectly executed design, which shows that creativity doesn’t necessarily have to scream.

 

2nd place – Tranchet Vif / Atelier du Tranchet

Creative stuff indeed.

Christophe Corthay, 2nd placed in last year’s World Championships in Shoemaking, is one of the most creative persons I’ve ever met, who get an outlet for his creativity in many different ways, through various types of crafts, building amazing Lego creations, and of course making shoes. Together with Sebastian “Toulouz” Algans and Phillippe de Paillette he has created Atelier du Tranchet, with the shoe brand Tranchet Vif. Their shoes are almost always amazingly artistic pieces with loads of nifty details and clever, often crazy design solutions.

Listen to Christophe Corthay speak about shoes and art in this episode of the Shoegazing Podcast.

One of many examples of Tranchet Vif’s work, a French tribute to Japan.

The sole, and heel.

 

3rd place – Patrick Frei

Saddle oxford with calf-croco combo, made to perfection. Picture: Patrick Frei

The German Patrick Frei got real famous after he won the first World Championships in Shoemaking 2018, but he has been making shoes for 12 years, and is one of these makers who work very hard on every little detail of the design. This makes even relatively simple models having something extra, something that sets them apart. Frei is an excellent example of how creativity doesn’t have to mean extravagant or crazy stuff.

See Patrick Frei’s amazing winning shoe in the world champs here, and read the first part of a report series on a bespoke order from him here.

A shoe made to look like old bespoke samples from the makers that’s been around for 100+ years, despite being made today.

A very sharp shoe, which works with the brogueing to create a dynamic appearance.

 

Honourable mentions:

  • Il Micio – The Italian based Japanese known for his artistic creations and sharp, elongated lasts. Read report here.
  • Clematis Ginza – The most Japanese oozing shoemaker I know of, with a distinct style and characteristic designs. Read a report here.
  • Berluti – The French giant has a bespoke department that consists of some brilliant minds that create really creative stuff. Read a report here.
  • Alte Art – Their art shoes are one thing, amazing for sure, but also their customer bespoke shoes are inspiring and personal stuff. Read a report here.

 

 

FINISHING

1st place – Main d’Or

Impeccable stuff.

Main d’Or, the brand of the mythic Japanese shoemaker Eiji Murata, is truly a benchmark when it comes to finishing. The very precise work on welt and edge finishing is extraordinary, and what’s crazy is that it’s almost always completely flawless. The fact that I’ve seen some of the most famous names of the bespoke shoe business stand holding shoes of his and discuss how the heck Eiji Murata manages to get the edges so incredibly smooth and delicate speaks for itself. Finished 3rd in last year’s shoemaking world champs.

Read a report about Main d’Or here, and a large buyer’s guide here.

Different stitch density. From the left: 18 spi (stitches per inch), 16 spi, 14 spi.

Look at the edge finishing above, the extremely close cut heel, the sublime welt fudging, and so on.

 

2nd place – Akira Tani

Akira Tani is a champion of understated perfection.

Nothing screams about Akira Tani’s shoes. There’s black and muted brown colours made in old school Italian designs, only aniline box calf (no patina or museum calf etc.) and some textured leathers and suede, and so on. The finishing though is on a very high level, super smooth where it’s supposed to be smooth, super sharp where it’s supposed to be sharp. Almost looks like the shoes are computer engineered sometimes, in a good way. He made a name of himself when he raised the level of the finishing at Stefano Bemer’s bespoke department to new levels, and now he continues to make bespoke shoes in Florence, Italy, under his own name.

Also square waists can be incredibly beautiful when done this well.

Razor sharp finishing. Pictures: Akira Tani

 

3rd place – White Kloud

Distinctly made boots.

White Kloud is perhaps a new name for the traditional menswear aficionados, but a praised celebrity within the workwear community (well, at least among the real nerds). The brand of Japanese Show Goto, based north of Tokyo, is making bespoke and MTO boots with an amazing attention to detail. Most striking is the shiny edge finishing, created with some sort of shellack I believe, but it’s just one small part if you take the time to look closer. As with all these makers the shoes also do look incredible after years of wear, which is an important thing to note, it’s not just of the shelf beauty, it’s long lasting one as well.

Shiny.

White Kloud’s boots are often made with a type of double stitched soles, where the welt is attached to a midsole with handmade sole stitch, then the midsole to the rubber sole with machine-made stitching (since you can’t stitch rubber soles by hand). Pictures: White Kloud / Show Goto

 

Honourable mentions:

  • Stephane Jimenez – A Frenchmen that surely could have taken a place in the top trio, he makes very refined and super neat French style bespoke shoes.
  • Catella Shoemaker – World champion in shoemaking 2019, Daniel Wegan, knows how to finish off a shoe to the highest level.
  • Gaziano & Girling – The British brand’s bespoke shoes are known for the high level of finishing, still the case now with Kiichiro Ozeki (previously at Hiro Yanagimachi) as the main in-house bottom maker.
  • Yohei Fukuda – Probably the most famous of the Japanese bespoke shoemakers, and for a reason. Makes beautiful stuff with beautiful finishing.

 

 

PATTERNS

1st place – Aubercy

Lovely derby pattern. Picture: Aubercy

To make well-balanced patterns for standard model can be tricky, but all good bespoke shoemakers should be able to do this. To make well-balanced patterns when you constantly make new and never before seen designs is very difficult, so much can – and quite often do – go wrong. Almost never when it comes to the French brand Aubercy though, who have an amazing eye for getting even the most weird and on paper unbalanced models look natural and logic.

Simple yet unique.

Three models that, on paper, should look like shit in my eyes, but which Aubercy manage to pull off.

 

2nd place – Hiro Yanagimachi

Wide variety of models, all perfectly balanced and sweet on the eye.

Japanese bespoke shoemaker Hiro Yanagimachi and his crew do everything from the most classic models to some very special stuff, always with the same almost clinic execution. Their apron ghilie saddle derby looks as natural and given as their plain toe derby, their triple monk strap boot is made with the same ease as their single monk straps, and so on. I know that few work as systematic as the Yanagimachi workshop, which shows in the end results.

Read a buyer’s guide to Hiro Yanagimachi here, and hear him talk about the Japanese shoe scene in this episode of the podcast.

An apron saddle ghilie type of shoe.

When speaking of making unique models that are as wearable as the classics, this above is just that. Picture: Hiro Yanagimachi

 

3rd place – Gaziano & Girling

Gaziano & Girling bespoke alligator oxford.

The British firm Gaziano & Girling has since the start had focus set on both their RTW / MTO factory-made shoes and their high-end bespoke. The models made are often entwined between the two legs, always with one thing in common though, excellent last shapes and well-executed patterns. It’s a reason that G&G’s shoes are among the most copied. G&G has developed several modern classics, like the twisted strap loafer and the model that’s called Grendon which has a special brogued pattern going along the laces over the top of the vamp.

Read an article series following an order from G&G bespoke, all parts found under Bespoke on this page.

Twisted strap loafer with skin stitched apron and split toe. Picture: Gaziano & Girling

A quite spectacular bespoke make-up of the Grendon model, often seen in more toned down versions. Picture: Sole Preacher

 

Honourable mentions:

  • Philippe Atienza – The Grand Old Man of French shoemaking now runs his own brand, where he canalise all his shoe knowledge, and knows how to put together a shoe.
  • Stefano Bemer – The Italian brand who continue on the legacy from its founder, with a mix of classic and progressive Italian shoes of the fines kind. Read a report about Stefano Bemer here.
  • Guild of Crafts – An institution in Japan, run by Chihiro Yamaguchi  with 40 years in the trade. Feels like they’ve made every type of shoe thinkable, and manage to make the most of their clients often creative wishes.
  • Per Nobile – One of the larger bespoke makers in Russia (do both shoes and clothing, which is quite special), who showed what a magnificent eye for pattern they have with their 9th placed shoe in last years shoemaking world champs. The same goes for their customer shoes.

 

 

HIGHEST MINIMUM LEVEL

1st place – Yohei Fukuda

Shoes made to perfection.

To make a superb pair of handmade shoes sure is difficult. To make superb pair of shoes time and time again, year after year, is very difficult. Few master this as well as the Japanese bespoke shoemaker Yohei Fukuda with his staff. The shoes are advanced made, yet constantly more or less flawless. A seriously impressive highest minimum level.

Read a report about Yohei Fukuda here, and hear him talk about brand building in this episode of the podcast.

Bevelled waist sole.

Do click the images, do zoom in on them, do be mesmerised.

 

2nd place – Main d’Or

A plain cap toe oxford that is everything but plain.

Eiji Murata of Main d’Or is like a breathing shoemaking machine. He make shoes around ten hours a day seven days a week all year round (when he is not teaching shoemaking at one of Tokyo’s shoemaking colleges), and do everything himself. And continues to keep an extremely high level of the making pair after pair. It’s very impressing to say the least.

Superb all around.

Square waist grain leather derby.

 

3rd place – Catella Shoemaker

Catella Shoemaker goodness.

Catella Shoemaker is obviously a young brand, but Daniel Wegan made hundreds of shoes for Gaziano & Girling during his time there, and we take that into account here as well. Cause the 2019 world champion in shoemaking not only has an extremely high level of making, he has shown that his minimum level is almost as impressing.

Hear Daniel Wegan answer readers’ questions in this episode of the podcast, and see Catella’s shoes here.

Neat sole stitching at 14 spi (stitches per inch).

Fiddle back waist.

 

Honourable mentions: 

  • John Lobb Paris – The French powerhouse might not be up there on the absolute highest of levels with their bespoke, but they are more or less always on the level just below, you always know that you get great stuff here, even if production numbers are huge compared to most bespoke brands.
  • Marquess – Shoji Kawaguchi’s brand has grown a lot the past years, maybe almost too fast at one point, but now they’re back at offering a continuously excellent level of shoes. Read a report about Marquess here.
  • Antonio Meccariello – The Italian is most know for his RTW and MTO shoes, but he still produce full bespoke and it’s into these shoes most efforts are placed, which shows in the end results.
  • Nicholas Templeman – The British maker has had a steady stream of really solidly made shoes come out since he left John Lobb Ltd. and started his own brand five years ago. Read a report about Templeman here.

 

That’s it. What do you think of the lists above? And again, you are more than welcome to share your own top names in the categories Creativity, Finishing, Patterns and Highest Minimum Level in the comments section below.