A century of history, craftsmanship and creativity in a ceaseless renaissance: bespoke shoes are the quintessence of Berluti. A bespoke shoe is a shoe that is proportioned and styled in accordance with the client’s morphology and personal wishes. A bespoke shoe from Berluti requires some 250 operations and 50 hours of labour!
IT ALL BEGINS WITH A MEETING
At Berluti, the client is central to everything we create. His unique appearance, his gait, his need for – and right to – absolute comfort, his personal definition of elegance: these are what determine the design and creation of his pair of shoes, which can be personalised to no end. At Berluti, it all begins with a meeting, in one of the Maison’s private rooms, in a store in Paris or elsewhere on the globe, a conversation takes place between two people who cherish craftsmanship. The master shoemaker is there to listen to the client’s wishes, understand his habits, learn his tastes, as well as to share his own expertise, to discuss and suggest: the last shape, the roominess of the fit, the sole thickness, lining colour, patina; whether to use Venezia leather or a more exotic hide, tattooing – every option is explored to establish the inimitably unique pair of shoes. While the Maison’s signature Venezia leather is the most frequent client choice for the lustrous patinas it renders possible, a wide selection of leathers is available for bespoke creations. Then follows a series of steps to craft your bespoke shoes.
BESPOKE SHOEMAKING: THE STEPS
Between six and ten measurements are necessary to assess the morphology, volume, sensitivity and weight-bearing points of the client’s foot. The client’s foot measurements are taken by the master shoemaker using a measurement sheet on which he will note all the information required to make the last.
THE LAST SCULPTING
Starting with a block of hornbeam, a hard and dense wood, the last-maker will gradually sculpt the last for the shoe using his steel-cored tool called a paroir. This shoe-shaped last will then be honed and smoothed, first with a rasp, then with sandpaper. The last-maker must be extremely precise during this very technical step to ensure the last respects the foot’s morphology while retaining the elegant line of the shoe.
THE FIRST FITTING
At the second appointment, the client will try on a model of his shoes made in a provisional leather, but nevertheless crafted from the last sculpted by the shoemaker. It is in this moment that the fit, volume and, naturally, style are assessed so as to refine the exactness of the last on which the shoes will be assembled. The master shoemaker notes any rectifications required to adjust the volume as closely as possible to the foot, thereby creating the perfect pair of shoes.
THE PATTERN AND STITCHING THE UPPER
The pattern-maker begins by covering the last with an adhesive canvas on which he draws the model. He then lays this canvas flat and reproduces it on a cardboard pattern. It is from this pattern that the pieces of leather destined to form the shoe’s upper (the main portion above the sole) will be cut using a skiving knife – a favourite tool of leather artisans. These leather pieces will then be pared and trimmed, assembled with the lining and sewn by the stitcher.
In our bespoke workshops, at each stage of the shoe’s construction, the artisans can accommodate any personalisation requirements or desires the client may have, given they are in keeping with the Berluti identity. Thus the pattern-maker can personalise a flowered tip on the vamp, create an exclusive design or even the client’s initials – the options are quite nearly endless. Special punches can even be developed to respond to novel requests. Original embroidery may also be used to enhance the “plateau” of a loafer or the upper of an Oxford.
Once the upper has been finalised, the construction step involves building the sole of the shoe. This step is highly technical and requires the most time: it takes around 50 hours to make a shoe, 30 of which are devoted to construction. There are different types of shoe construction, from the Norwegian welt to the Blake stitch, the Goodyear welt to tubular construction. Every operation within this step must be precise and requires physical strength on the shoemaker’s part, as the sturdiness of the construction stitching determines the solidity of the shoe.
The final touch on any Berluti bespoke shoe is the patina. The Maison’s refined technique transforms colours into unique shades ranging from deep to sheer. The colour palette is endless, from smoky grey-black to caviar, deep burgundy to autumn leaves. As each shoe is entirely unique in colour and shading, exclusivity is assured.
After months of work, the bespoke shoes are ready. The workshop’s master shoemakers report that the delivery is always a moving ceremony: each pair is presented to the client in a box sheathed in Venezia Scritto leather, personalised with the colours of the patina of the shoes within, as well as bespoke shoe trees, for which the client also chooses the colour and any personalised details.
Last-maker, pattern-maker, stitcher, assembler, colourist: by the time the shoes are delivered, the craftspeople of the workshops have performed no fewer than 250 operations to create perfect and wholly unique shoes for the client. As Olga Berluti has always said, “It’s as complex as building a cathedral.”