Hand lasted, hand welted shoes with handmade sole stitching priced below €150 – that are actually good looking. Not your everyday offering, but that’s what the Indian brand Blkbrd Shoemaker puts on the table. They also have a range of hand welted seamless wholecuts at only €225, which is quite remarkable.
Blkbrd Shoemaker has its own workshop/factory in Agra, India, a city most known for the mausoleum Taj Mahal. I believe they produce for some other brands as well, while Blkbrd is their own project started a few years ago, and only sold on their own website. They make all kinds of constructions, but for Blkbrd the focus is on hand welted shoes, with a couple of Norwegian welted ones thrown into the mix. The most basic models have square waists and open channel soles, some have slight bevelled waists and some have closed channel leather soles. For some reason they do 360 degree sole stitching on all shoes, which to me looks a bit off on the most sleek lasts and models, there a 270 degree sole stitch would look even better.
The usp of Blkbrd is indeed the advanced construction you get for a really low price. The shoes are hand lasted, hand welted, they use thin cork plates instead of the more common cork paste normally used in factory made welted shoes, the soles are hand stitched, and heels albeit pre-built are made of stacked leather. This video showcase the making of the shoes. Sure, sole stitching is quite sparse and it’s not the most refined finishing, but you can’t get all at this price tag.
One of the reasons they can keep prices this low, apart of course from the low labour cost in India, is that they source a bit cheaper leather. It’s still imported, as often is the case for more high-end Indian shoes, but instead of sourcing from France and Italy, they buy leathers from for example Ukraine, Belarus and Egypt. I have never seen the shoes in real life, but when you look at photos the leathers do seem to be pretty good, proper full grain leathers without too much covering or stuff like that (they do offer box calf from Zonta for an upcharge of €80). The leather soles are mainly from Argentina.
I like this approach, to focus on doing one part all-in, in this case the construction, and then make this more accessible through choosing lower priced materials. All brands can’t do everything, especially in todays competitive landscape, better to find a niche where one can offer something more unique in a specific segment.
The shoes start at just below €150 / $150 (crazy that the euro and dollar basically is even nowadays). Lasts looks nicely balanced in most cases, and there’s a mix of classic models and some more special ones, which in cases are clearly inspired by or copies of other makers models. As mentioned above they also offer a collection of seamless wholecuts, available from just €225 / $225, which would be special even for Goodyear welted machine-made ones, these are handmade. Oh, and they actually currently run their first discount campaign, to celebrate the India independence day on August 15, where you get 15% off with the code “blkbird15”, so currently the shoes are even more affordable. They ship worldwide, shipping to Europe and the US seem to cost €25, and if you’re country isn’t in the list one can just e-mail them and it will be added.