Five cities, eight master shoemakers, and countless happy hooves – put your best foot forward!
We’ve put away all the floppy, flimsy, strappy sandals and slip-ons that carried us through summer, and now comes the reward: cooler temps and no reason not to splurge on sumptuous, handcrafted footwear as handsome as it is wearable. But don’t settle for any old kicks, step this way to discover some of the very best bespoke shoes to be found ‘round the globe.
Norman Vilalta, Barcelona
Norm used to be a lawyer, but thank goodness he gave that the flick, as it would simply be a crime against fashion for his utterly impeccable men’s shoes not to exist. Taking inspiration from his apprenticeship years in Italy, Savile Row traditionalism, rock n’ roll, the ‘beautifully imperfect’, and modernity, Vilalta’s bespoke creations are some of the most sought after the world over. Can’t get to Barcelona? Fret not, he does a couple of nice lines in RTW too (try leffot.com).
Norman Vilalta, Enric Granados, 5, Barcelona, +34 933 234 014, normanvilalta.com
E. Vogel, New York
When you’ve been in the game for more than 130 years, and into your fourth generation of family boot-makers, AND you’ve shod the likes of the United States equestrian team, suffice to say you know your insteps from eyelets. Vogel’s custom calf leather boots and shoes take you from the paddock to lunch to the ballroom, and even to the golf course, with every detail including colour, lining, sole, heel and stitching tailored to your preference. Not a horseman? You just might be after laying eyes on these beauties. Tally ho!
E. Vogel, Bldg 3, Suite 805, Brooklyn Navy Yard, 63 Flushing Ave, Brooklyn, New York, +1 718 522 3899, vogelboots.com
The consummately chic, hand-welted love children of Deborah Carré and James Ducker, Carréducker’s loafers, Oxfords, boots and brogues are the epitome of English sartorial perfection. Using premium materials like imported Box calf, oak bark and vegetable tanned leather, velvety reverse suede, and responsibly sourced exotic skins, the final word in bespoke foot candy can be custom made for you – or you can learn to craft a pair yourself at the brand’s London and NYC-based shoemaking schools. Go on, put your foot in it!
Carréducker, Studio E2G, Cockpit Arts, Cockpit Yard, Northington St, London, +44 20 7813 0093, carreducker.com
Wonder what would happen if Downton Abbey was madeover by a Japanese minimalist cobbler? Take a gander at Sonomitsu’s charming vintage-cum-mod-inspired footwear at their perfectly-posi’d showroom and atelier in heritage nabe Yanaka, and you’ll find the answer. Old school but edgy, pared-back yet stunningly detailed, and with a quirkiness only this town can truly produce, these handmade puppies are well worth the average six-month wait and then some. Best plan ahead, pet.
Sonomitsu, 2-18-6 Yanaka, Taito-ku, Tokyo, +81 3 6904 1312, sonomitsu.com
Il Micio, Mario Bemer & Roberto Ugolini, Florence
Ah, Italia, spiritual home of all things luxury and leather, and Firenze, its undisputed hide capital. Where to start. For an extraordinary, elongated silhouette, and hefty but justifiable price tag and turnaround time (up to one year!), try Il Micio by Japanese-born designer Hidetaka Fukaya; for a fabulous selection of fabrics, elegant, understated design, and relatively swift progression from hammer to horn (around six weeks), visit local hero Mario Bemer; or if it’s a distinctly Florentine look and feel you seek – read slim, chisel-toed and lightweight – master craftsman Roberto Ugolini is your man.
Il Micio, Via dei Federighi, 6, Florence, +39 055 212 295, ilmiciocalzature.it
Mario Bemer, Via Maggio, 68, Florence, +39 055 217 166, mariobemer.com
Roberto Ugolini, Via dei Michelozzi, 17, Florence, +39 055 216 246, roberto-ugolini.com