A shoe is born
|Photo gallery: Shoe artisan|
By Paula Rath
Advertiser Staff Writer
By Paula Rath
What is the difference between a high-quality pair of shoes and a subpar one? Attention to detail, construction and fit.
Nowhere is this more apparent than in the making of a pair of handmade shoes — an art that is rarely observed today.
Not all of us can own a pair of these shoes. But we can learn from them.
We took advantage of a recent visit by shoe experts from Louis Vuitton to learn more about what goes into a handmade shoe, watching expert bottier (shoe artisan) Anthony Delos as he stitched a pair of men's shoes at a demonstration at Ala Moana Center. We talked to Olivier Jacques Barre, Louis Vuitton's product manager for shoes, and Friedrich Schwegler, the company's director of merchandising for footwear, and learned that all shoes are not created equal.
Shoes have been made since the 13th century in the Veneto region of Italy, where Louis Vuitton shoes are made. While the materials (finest leathers and skins, specially tanned threads, sturdy hardware) are critical, it is also the workmanship that makes the difference. A well-made shoe will be more comfortable and will hold up to hard wear and bad weather.
Here are some things to look for when shopping for shoes:
Materials. Is the best leather used for the uppers? Look closely and question its origins. The lining should be leather, as a synthetic will not breathe, and the shoe will be extremely warm, especially in our climate.
Construction. Are the uppers and lowers connected by stitching or glue? Put the shoes on a flat surface. From tip of heel to toe, the shoe should be in balance. Even the narrowest stiletto should not wobble.
Look at several sizes next to each other. The proportions of each shoe should be exactly the same, whether it's a size 5 or 9. In a well-designed shoe, heel heights should be adjusted according to size. Louis Vuitton graduates its heel heights five times for each design.
Comfort. A well-made shoe should be comfortable right away. Don't believe anyone who says, "You can break it in."
IT'S ALL ABOUT CRAFTSMANSHIP
It takes approximately one week and 36 steps or more to produce a pair of shoes of this quality.
Two key people are the last maker and the designer. The last maker (a last is a wooden form) is responsible for fit and comfort; the designer is responsible for the aesthetics.
Louis Vuitton’s designer is the talented and visionary Marc Jacobs.
It takes three months to tan the leather for a pair of Louis Vuitton shoes.
The sole of a driving shoe requires at least one hour of stitching on a special machine. The cross stitches must match the perimeter stitches perfectly.
Most makers glue the uppers to the lowers, but a well-made shoe requires pulling, stretching and stitching uppers to lowers.
Reach Paula Rath at firstname.lastname@example.org.