THE ART OF SHOEMAKING

With shoes we stand in life, with both feet on the ground

Sensitive as they are, they would freeze in winter and burn on hot sand in the summer. With shoes, humans first got moving and there was no stopping progress – or shoe fashion. In days gone by, they revealed the standing one could afford in society. In today’s age of mass production, they are effectively a visiting card for good taste. Because the trendsetters are revealing style and material providing clues to the opinion their wearers have of themselves. This is no different in today’s society from the situation 500 years ago, when noble patriarchs decreed that the protruding toes of the nobility’s crakows could be 60 centimetres long. The common people had to be satisfied with 15 centimetres.

In an age of cheap production, it is the handcrafted and bespoke shoes that keep the dreams of shoemakers and shoe fetishists alive. Ever since Fritz Unützer’s apprenticeship, when, instead of following in his father’s footsteps and taking over the fashion shop with its long tradition in Munich’s Maximilianstraße, he went to Burberry and then the traditional Church company in London, his passion for shoes has been unabated.

Even as a young man, Fritz Unützer was captivated by the dream...

…of designing his own ballerina flats – the flat shoes for ladies who do not need them for dancing, but want to take quick steps to get ahead. Not just any old shoe of course, but the very special kind in the finest calf, ultra-soft goatskin, or even snakeskin or crocodile skin. More than 20 years ago then, he established himself as a shoe manufacturer in Veneto in northern Italy. The region around Venice has always enjoyed a special status in the world of shoemaking. Here, where, in the 17th and 18th centuries, the nobility erected their wonderful palaces and villas, thousands of Italians are engaged in the production of shoes, either in the Manufacture or at home. In the past year alone, they have produced more than 50 billion pairs of shoes for leading luxury brands.

Only experienced shoemakers are allowed to lay their hands on Unützer shoes

Every handhold is professional, every fit true to size, without stressing the foot. The shoe should not only appear elegant to the eye, but should fit the foot with sinuous perfection.

It is our objective to be even lighter and more comfortable. The outsider cannot imagine how much effort goes into ensuring that the shoe does not just look like a work of art, but actually is a work of art. A beautiful shoe is like a three-dimensional, intrinsically flexible sculpture and it requires harmony, elegance and balanced proportions, a lot of style and, above all, craftsmanship.

Shoes make one happy; lots of shoes make one even happier. It is no wonder that so many are almost addicted to more and more new models. Because shoes, which are the only item of clothing we can see ourselves in without using a mirror, have a significant effect on our mood: depending on model and brand, they allow us to appear elegant or avant-garde and often quite sexy – and all without regard to dress size or age.

At Least 100 Operational Steps

At least 100 operational steps are required from the selection of the material, control of the quality and shades of colour, to the final inspection and acceptance of the shoe. Every pair is cut out using a cardboard template and pulled over the last by hand before the uppers are hand-stitched. Dexterous fingers give the model a high-gloss finish. Even the soles and heels are made in-house. Production functions like a human assembly line, on which each craftsman completes a detail and then passes the shoe on to the next.

Fascination is always guaranteed when watching, say, Italo over his shoulder, a true master of his trade: sitting on a wooden chair with his apron bound. In front of him is the workbench with its typical utensils, such as awl (needle-like tool) shoemaker’s knife and waxed thread. He pricks out hole after hole in the leather, working freehand with the awl – without so much as a tape measure, but with an expert’s eye – then threads the waxed thread through the holes and stitches the uppers of the fine moccasins together.

A Master of Their Trade

Basics such as ballerinas and loafers remain unchanged in the range, but it goes without saying that avant-garde signals are set – true to the motto: classical and elegant,

but never boring. Variety as opposed to monotony: riding and hunting boots in elastic nappa with brogue perforation, classic high-heels in diva style, peep-toes for the evening and warming lambskin boots, complement the line. By the way: as well as caring for shoes, correctly storing them is a recipe for long life. The best thing to do is to insert a shoe-tree into the shoe when it is still warm from the foot. Danger lurks for shoes when travelling. The true connoisseur therefore travels with a special leather case. But even less aspiring shoe enthusiasts do not begrudge their favourites a little comfort: with shoe-trees inserted and packed in flannel sacks – the pair then travels as though it were in business class.