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The Art of Shoemaking

Shoes as art…the concept is intriguing. Not only is the shoe, the end product, a piece of art, the entire process of shoemaking is, in effect, art in the making. We have become so accustomed to everything being done by machines…in factories…without a human touch, that it is hard to fathom the care, love and great skill required to create luxury or custom shoes. Cobbler Concierge, which repairs and maintains these fine, yet loved works of art, has a deep appreciation for the work that goes into creating fine footwear.

Most of us have never seen a shoe made by hand so the process of shoemaking is unknown to most of us. Short of seeing Kinky Boots on Broadway or while on tour, our first experience with each new pair of shoes is either online or in the window of our favorite shops. Cobbler Concierge is here to offer you a peek into the art of shoemaking as it exists today – and with your favorite, luxury brands.

Shoemakers used to handle to creation of each pair from start to finish. It was a laborious process with intricate detail and a lifetime of honing one’s craft. Today, departments within shoe factories specialize, meaning each one handles specific functions during the various stages of production. This division of labor in this manner is known as nesting. The shoe, in its various stages, goes from department to department as the shoemakers complete their specific tasks until the completed shoe is ready for moving on for sale. Though there are variations from company to company, the types of tasks one generally will see are: designing the shoe, stamping (the cutting or stamping of leather or other fabric to make the shoe), sewing, die assembling (where the shoe is put together), and shoe room finishing (where final touches are added and quality control is take care of).

Some of the truly classic lines – Ferragamo, Prada’s handmade collection, Louboutin and others, still involve mostly [if not a complete] handmade process. The process has been featured on television shows about fashion and can be watched on YouTube videos or read about in books that detail the craft. The handmade process is time consuming, with each pair of shoes taking may manhours to create (the exact number depends on the detailing of the particular style). Such shoes are truly a work of art. They use the highest grades of leather and embellishments to ensure a finished product that will cradle the feet of the wearer and  turn the heads of passers-by.

For those interesting in a career in shoemaking, there are still a few schools that teach the fine art of shoemaking. Chicago has one of the best known and there are several in Europe where students interested in carrying on this craft can learn their trade. Further, many still study under the tutelage of seasoned craftsmen to learn and practice their skill. And, of course, there are workshops and classes that focus on all aspects of the process offered by fashion and footwear associations and coalitions on both sides of the pond. For those simply interested in more information, there is an array of reading material from which to choose. Perhaps one of the books will spark the interest of a future footwear designer who will take our breathe away with magnificent designs and level of quality.

The industry is a small one. It is not easy work – combining so many different abilities – from builder to artist. Few rise to the top as true craftsmen. There are, of course, different techniques for men’s shoes, women’s shoes, and boots. However, the skills do overlap. But, quality is quality.  When one works in the luxury industry, there is a level of expertise and quality that is anticipated by the clientele. That does not change.

It is for this reason we, at Cobbler Concierge, are grateful for their commitment to their craft, their dedication to the beauty and quality for which top brands are known, and their ability to wow us time after time, pair after pair. We welcome the new entrants to the learning process. They will be the standard bearers for the industry in the future. We offer our thanks to all those who spend their days creating works of art that we might have the perfect pair of shoes.