• Getting bespoke shoes is coming back in vogue as people look for comfort andclass – and the chance to make a personal style statement

    A long time ago, my uncle gave me a bit of life advice: “you can really gauge a person by the quality of their shoes – always look there frst.”

    And he has been right more times than you can imagine. I have learnt that it doesn’t matter what label is attached to a suit or dress, just whether it complements your physique.

    And jewellery and fashion accessories are mere accents and will undoubtedly change over time to something trendier.

    But shoes – shoes are what people put a little bit of themselves into. The design fits our personality and the comfort suits our health. These two pieces of personal preference are what make getting a pair of bespoke shoes made specifcally for me the only way I’ll buy shoes ever again. Mine actually change the way I walk and the way I move.

    Taking the frst step

    If you’re looking for a shoe made from the fnest materials, then Amin Verani, owner of The Italian Shoe Factory in Dubai (italianshoefactory. com) offers a full service. For more than twenty years, the small workshop has been a go-to bespoke local shoe manufacturer.

    You can fnd them in the Al Quoz Industrial Area. Making an appointment is the easiest way to ensure that you’ll be able to get the service you need upon arrival. Make time for the frst visit, it’s important to start on the right foot.

    Every type of shoe imaginable was elegantly perched on a wall display for my perusal when I arrived. I chose a simple yet elegant cap-toe oxford, although there were also Oxfords, Derbies, Monks, and even a large selection of heels and boots for the ladies.

    Once I had chosen a style, it was time to consider the material and the color. What immediately caught my eye was a lovely dark-wine coloured burgundy. The supple and soft leather sample was brought from the backroom for my approval. With almost no hesitation, I knew this was the colour and leather that would make my oxfords.

    The frst step was now almost complete, all that was left was to get the proper measurements to make my ‘Last’ or foot mold that my shoes would be made around.

    This was accomplished by a short meeting with the Master Last-Maker. Measuring the circumference of multiple places along my foot as well as the width from toes to heal, he made sure that my bespoke selection would fit like a glove, would flex to my muscle density of each foot, and be more comfortable than any other pair of shoes I’ve ever worn.

    If the shoe fits

    I was excited when I got the call ten days later that the trial pair was ready for inspection. A dedicated artisan had prepared a mock-up of my order. This ‘trial shoe’ is placed on the Last and left until the leather hardens in the same fashion as your specifed pair. Once removed, it is ready for the frst fitting.

    During the frst fitting, you are asked to try on the trial pair to check the shape and size of the shoe on your foot. I was asked to walk around a bit to see if it pinched or felt loose anywhere…which it certainly didn’t. The old saying of ‘fits like a glove’ couldn’t have been more accurate.

    The Master Last Maker had done a superb job and the shoes were a perfect match to my foot, it was now time for fnal production. All I had to do was wait.

    Stepping out

    My cap-toe Oxfords were complete a short four weeks from the initial measuring. The entire production takes an average of 50 man-hours and each of those meticulous hours could be felt in the shoe’s perfect fit.

    Once I slid them on my feet, they did in fact fit like a glove if not better. The arch support in the middle of my feet made each step feel as if I were walking in a pair of trainers rather than some fancy dress shoes.

    Price wise all this TLC ain’t cheap of course – you’re looking at around Dh3,000 to Dh4,000. But the shoes are guaranteed for a minimum of 15 years and some highly important care instructions are imparted before you leave.

    The most common problem is the sole and heel being worn out, but I was told that the team could easily replace it and have done so from time to time since they opened.

    “The bespoke shoe is better in this way instead of those that are off the shelf, even if they are of the highest quality. The reason is because it’s stitched instead of glued to the sole. Once I remove the stitches, I can make it as good as new and you’ll never know the difference.” said Amin’s son Moin, who has been a part of the family business himself since being able to tie his own laces.