As a made to order brand, we get many requests for customization which we are happy to oblige if its not much trouble in terms of the process of making but sometimes, clients go beyond to ask for changes to patterns, even changes to shape of the last that they assume can be made since they shoes are made to order. So here is a post to clarify the spectrum of production types, what each entail and how this usually is an indicator for the price you pay for what you get.
RTW Shoes made to stock give good value to the maker and the customer in terms of price
Ready-to-wear (RTW) is as the name suggests, already made and ready to simply put on, try for size and purchase. The shoes would have been in advance in batches, small or big, across sizes and some colour options possibly and a selection of styles. The customer gets to choose from what is in stock. It could be that the shoes have been made any where from a week ago to also months or even years in advance, waiting in a box to be bought and worn. This option gives the greatest value to the manufacturer because they can produce in bulk and tap on economies of scale in production but also to customers who want a pair to wear immediately and not have to wait. It helps keep prices in check and hopefully pass on the good value to the consumer.
MTO is produced in small batches sometimes even just a pair. It gives the shoemaker the time to care for smaller details even in a factory setting. Small changes like in the case loafer where we interchanged the tassel for a leather lace was accommodated for a client as it requires no pattern changes
Made-to-order (MTO) are made only after this purchase is confirmed. This means a pair has to be cut, sewn, lasted and finished in batches or sometimes even singularly as in our case sometimes. This is great to keep a check on rising inventory from pre-produced stock, but it also means you miss out of customers who want a pair to purchase immediately. While a certain about of customization is possible, a different type of sole, or a leather option not normally available in that style could be made upon the request of a client this is where the level customisation stops. Anymore and it goes to custom-made territory. This process from start to end depending on the type of construction and readiness of materials and factory can take between 2 days to 2 weeks or more so customers must wait a bit. It also means that the shoe has been made solely for you which means the manufacturer is trying to not stock shoes which can be costly and lead to unsold stock in sizes that are rare or styles that are not as popular. Exchanges should be possible upon request for size issues if a prior fitting was not done.
A custom made seemless wholecut and a chukka boot where the customer wanted a higher boot than our running style so we did a pair just for him
Custom-made- where materials can be chosen to more-or-less what you want, a certain amount of pattern changes even but usually not making changes to the last. In terms of value in the manufacturing process, there is more time involved here to collect materials, spend time in changing some patterns with a pattern maker or designer and finally going to production. In an MTO, depending on the seller, exchanges might be allowed given that the style is their own and they might be able to sell the shoe to someone else who wants it but in custom-made since the pair is made as per a client’s customisation and taste, the pair normally won’t be exchangeable.
Made-to-Measure (MTM) Changes to last might be entertained but to a limited extent. Things like a higher instep or a wide bunion on a toe can be accommodated for by adding material to the last and making small changes to an existing pattern. This will require the inputs and time of a last maker, pattern maker, and a careful hand of a shoemaker so this is a more expensive process. Your measurements will be taken and matched to a stock last and any changes needed to the measurements will be made on them keeping in line with the style and aesthetic you want.
In bespoke as the joke goes, the last comes first! All kinds of customisations can be made and best of all, allowances for any irregularities of the feet will be made
Bespoke, the holy grail where everything is customizable because you go to the basics and build the shoe step by step starting from the last. The toe shape, all measurements from your foot and small differences between your left and right foot are also taken into consideration. The fully customized last is basically a mould of your foot and your foot only. There is also the process itself where everything will mostly likely be handmade. The patterns will be drawn on your last, hand lasted, welted and stitched. Since this method has no precedence in the shoe making process, it will take a couple of fittings and possibly one or two shoes made in the interim before the final pair is made and finished. This of course is reflected in the price of the shoe and the time it takes from order to delivery can be any where between 3 months to a couple of years depending on fittings, where you are and where the shoemaker is, his/her order book and other such variables.
As it is quite obvious by now, the price is reflective of the time spent in the preparing and making of the shoe besides the obvious other considerations like material, experience of the shoemaker, popularity/ rarity that will dictate the price too. Hope this helps to clear any misconceptions of customisations and sensitise people about the time it takes to make a pair of shoes. It all depends on what you want, and what you are willing to pay.