It feels ridiculous to call a pair of ~$1,500 shoes high-value, but Saint Crispin’s really do feel like some of the best deals around. For about the price of high-end ready-to-wear, you not only get a pair of handwelted shoes with a lot of the shaping you’d find in bespoke, you also get a world of customization options. So many, in fact, that you can spend nearly an hour mulling over an order. Or at least that’s how long I spent yesterday at The Wingtip, as Phillip Car is in San Francisco this week holding a two-day trunk show.
Technically speaking, Saint Crispin’s has five levels to their customization program, but you can somewhat group them into three (for all five, you can visit their website). The first level is your standard made-to-order, where you can get any of their mainline models in a variety of leathers, colors, and sole types. There are also small details, such as sole monograms and toe plates. Somewhat standard stuff, although Saint Crispin’s is one of the few companies who offers a wide range of crust leathers (a type of unfinished leather that’s handstained at the company’s Romanian workshop). With handstained leathers, you can ask for even subtler variations in color that you might not be able to achieve with finished materials.
There’s also the possibility of getting last adjustments, in case their standard lasts don’t fit you properly. Here, small pieces of cork are either added to the last before the shoes go into production, or pieces of the lasts are rasped away. You can see part of the process in the video at the end of this post. It’s an ingenious solution for people who like Saint Crispin’s shoes, but just need to get a better fit. Phillip tells me that, along with getting a better fit, customers can even ask for complete changes to the toe shapes. Useful if you, like me, want a slightly rounder toe for more casual styles.
The customization option that excites me the most, however, is the ability to design shoes from scratch. “Customers often send us photos, and they’ll either tell us what they’d like changed or they draw directly on the image,” says Phillip. “We then have to come up with the technical execution. That means either drawing directly on the last or cutting out a paper pattern and roughly shaping it onto the last using six nails.” Of course, not all design ideas work on Saint Crispin’s lasts, so it’s somewhat of a collaborative effort. “We come up with our version, and then if the customer needs, we can send photos of the mock-up – how the paper pattern looks on the last – in order to get the client’s final approval.”
Surcharges for all these services are nominal. Even for creating a new design, the Viennese company only charges something around $200. Which is why, when you consider the construction method, the customization options, and the total cost, Saint Crispin’s really do feel like they offer some of the best value in footwear.
(Photos courtesy Ethan Newton. Ethan, by the way, is working on some really exciting things. More news to be announced in a few months)