Bespoke shoes go online
If you know your fashion, you know bespoke and the mystical allure that it exudes. A man in a bespoke suit and a custom pair of wingtips enjoys both attention and admiration because these pieces are a materialisation of one’s own vision and an expression of one’s true self. The idea behind custom-made ANYTHING attracts so many followers and the exact same logic naturally follows when talking about fashion – especially fashion.
The novelty it provides and the artistic expression it affords its wearer are valuable enough for someone to go to great lengths at great cost in order to acquire bespoke fashion. No pain, no gain. For a long time, this was the rule of the game. Not anymore. The game has changed altogether. How? Along came bespoke on the web.
What does that mean? No more scouring the streets of La Citta Araba with a map on one hand and scribbles of vague directions on the other. No more befriending snooty ladies at society luncheons to discover the name and location of a secret shoemaker in Milan. Personal, custom-made fashion is engaged in a revolution – one which promises to breathe new life into an age-old tradition – and among the front liners is Shoes of Prey.
It’s an interesting name for an interesting venture. In a recent interview with La Moda, Jodie Fox, Director of Fashion and one of the founders of Shoes of Prey, explained the idea behind the name. “The idea is driven by the insight that women often ‘shop’ by checking out what other women are wearing. So every day a woman walks down the street, she is on the prowl for a new look.”
“When she spots it, there’s a moment of fashion lust and she then relentlessly hunts down the item – often ending an exhausting shopping experience, and not always ending with her getting the item! Shoes of Prey allows women to seek out the shoes they lust after, with the greatest of civility, ease and sophistication,” Jodie added.
The Sydney-based company is offering customers a new way to acquire bespoke creations by leveraging the global accessibility of the web. Shoes of Prey produces handcrafted shoes based on the designs composed by customers through an online shoe design tool programmed by no less than a former Google software engineer. The company markets its products to all women across the globe. “Women who know what they want, women with funny shaped feet, brides, fashionistas, women who have worn to death a favorite style that they can no longer buy,” Jodie explained.
Users choose a shoe design, which can be anything from gladiator heels to ballet flats, and are then presented a very wide array of leathers – including snake skin and fish skin in delectable colours (Fish skin in deep blue is notably exquisite!). Decorations can be added while the back, toe, and heel (up to 4.5 inches) are customisable to some extent.
The website’s service is great for women who want their shoes to be truly theirs. But its existence raises some very important questions in the world of styling and the elaborate rules by which it goes. With design-your-own shoes, customers are essentially dropping the talented and highly-trained designer out of the equation – which begs the question: Is the average woman confident enough to design her own bespoke shoes?
“We have found that some women are overwhelmed by the choice available to them – which is why we created a gallery page, where women can see photos of previously designed shoes that we have made. We have found that this alleviates the ‘blank page’ problem,” said Jodie.
For someone with a strong eye for design, this service is good tool to materialise one’s vision. But in the wrong hands, an atrocious pair is bound to come out. Jodie agrees and, because they enable people to design their own footwear, they do not get to have an opinion on what’s hot and what’s not. Shoes of Prey designs the elements that customers work with on the website – decorations, straps, heels, et cetera – so they have some control over the probabilities, but a badly-designed pair can still be ordered.
“However, one of the things that I really adore about fashion is the moment when something that is by itself pretty ugly, gets styled into an outfit that is just amazing. We need to trust that our designers have a vision for how this shoe will be worn,” she further commented.
Luxury purists like many of us are also going to opine that Shoes of Prey is democratising bespoke fashion and therefore helping to diminish its exclusive appeal. On a technical level, that’s true. “An increase in supply will of course increase accessibility, decreasing exclusivity of the product. However, we aren’t in a position to make this a really cheap service. Our lowest price point is $195AUD (~ AED 640) – accessible, but not cheap. Additionally, we are providing a quality handmade product from divine raw materials – so the quality of the product is not tarnished by what we are doing,” she said.
Since its launch in October 2009, Shoes of Prey has created 60 pairs of custom handmade shoes for its clients. In the future, the bespoke shoemaker plans to branch out to creating custom handbags and begin catering to the footwear needs of fashion-aware men around the world.
“You can see that there are a lot of possibilities for this site and we are prioritising and working through the list! Currently, we are working on strengthening the women’s options first – i.e. we are introducing Italian silks for wedding shoes shortly (but of course, not strictly for wedding shoes!), and we do need more strappy options and potentially boots.”