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Art and Sole

William Kissel

Makers of custom shoes might employ centuries-old techniques, but their footwear still can appear surprisingly modern. Take, for instance, the shoes made by Tony Gaziano and Dean Girling of England’s Gaziano & Girling. "Instead of making a bespoke shoe that simply takes the shape of the foot, we make it a shape that enhances the foot, even in the most extreme cases," says Gaziano, who has worked for such renowned British shoemakers as Edward Green and G.J. Cleverley. The duo’s latest designs include sharp-toed, slim-fitting spectator styles cut in crocodile, buckskin, and other exotic hides. "Our goal is to make even the simplest shoe have such an aesthetic attraction that you can’t help but pick it up and look at it," adds Gaziano.

Shoemakers as diverse as America’s Michael Anthony and Perry Ercolino, Italy’s Silvano Lattanzi, and France’s Olga Berluti also employ old-world methods to fashion contemporary styles. In Anthony’s case, he cuts his soles slightly off-kilter and shapes his heels with an inward tilt. Ercolino prefers more conventional brogue and blucher styles, but he often produces them in exotic materials, such as saltwater crocodile. Lattanzi uses perforated leather uppers for a pair of classic men’s spectators. He also puts his stamp on a boat shoe model that Lattanzi’s sister company, Gatto, originally produced in 1912 for Benito Mussolini. His special-order version has nearly 200 feet of marine line embedded in the soles. A diagonal overlap of leather reaching from the laces to the heels has a trimming effect on Berluti’s oxfords. She also continues to toy with antique finishes for leather, creating color shadings that appear to be the result of years of wear.

Though best known for ready-made shoes, Santoni, Edward Green, Michael Toschi, and Barker Black have launched collections of bench-made shoes. Their footwear is made of alligator, ostrich, or kangaroo and adorned with unique details such as gold hardware.

Other shoemakers also are incorporating precious metals into their designs. Italy’s Sutor Mantellassi makes a special-order pair of crocodile sandals appointed with pure platinum buckles, which account for the $20,000 price tag. California shoemaker George Esquivel offers a pair of $6,500 wingtips with solid yellow gold eyelets and $40,200 alligator monk straps with jeweled buckles that double as cuff links. "These shoes are designed for a very special individual who understands why a pair costs $40,000 or even $80,000, for that matter," says Esquivel, who also makes a series for car collectors who want to wear shoes that complement the models and color schemes of their autos.

Salvatore Ferragamo, Ralph Lauren, and Ermenegildo Zegna have introduced limited-edition and special-order footwear, including custom shoes, and Gucci has added a comprehensive made-to-order shoe program that allows you to commission any Gucci model in a choice of six different skins, including ostrich and crocodile. The shoes can cost as much as $14,000, depending on the finish and details, which can include monogramming.


212.966.2166, www.barkerblack.com

212.439.6400, www.berluti.com

+44.20.7839.0202, www.edwardgreen.com

212.421.4488, www.zegna.com

714.670.2200, www.esquivelshoes.com

+44.1536.511022, www.gazianogirling.com

212.826.2600, www.gucci.com


877.686.7244, 650.508.4420, www.toschi.com

215.348.5885, www.perryercolino.com

888.475.7674, www.ralphlauren.com

212.759.3822, www.ferragamo.com

212.794.3820, www.santonishoesusa.com

212.734.2962, www.zintala.it

212.688.2868, www.stephenkempson.com

212.582.0042, www.sutormantellassi.com

212.359.0300, www.tomford.com

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