My Capsule Collection

Before you go out and get all the colours in your favourite loafer, consider making a collection that will serve you well across a wide range of occasions, trouser/shirt combinations and look classy even after years of wear.

Nowadays I get suggestions from some readers and clients on what my next post could be. One such suggestion was to recommend how and where to start building a capsule collection of goodyear welted shoes. The idea sounded interesting and challenging because style is very subjective, but I got thinking about this and the whole appeal of classic shoes is that it is timeless. With these 5 shoes, you should be able to style out the rest of you with ease and not have to look outside the 5 for footwear options.

no.1 Of course, the black cap-toe oxford is first on this list. Preferably on a round of almond toed last. You never tire of it, you need it for the formal meetings, to pair with dark slacks, or suit up and look sharp but not dressy. My personal play on this is to make it a punch cap oxford. Purists will cry out loud that a cap-toe should be plain and simple. If there is only one shoe you can have or the first you must have, this is it.

no.2 A derby plain toe or blucher in dark brown or if you feel a bit more adventurous in an earthy tone for the casual look with chinos or jeans. Not to be worn for work if you can avoid it, but nowadays, these rules don’t apply anyway. Double sole will give it a long life and a nice tough side profile and a model with storm welt if you want it casual.

no.3 A wing tip oxford in brown, to pair with textured trousers like tweeds or herringbone patterns but also looks at home with a pair of jeans or evening jacket to the neighborhood store. This can be with a rubber sole so on days with inclement weather, this could be the pair that looks good for work and practical to get to.

no.4 A pair of dark brown suede loafers.  Best for weekend wear with light coloured chinos or linen tousers but also look great to wear for a casual evening out for a meal or a walk by the beach. While many fear that suede is difficult to take care of, this couldn’t be further from the truth. Its one of those myths that need debunking asap. They feel soft and comfortable from the first wear, the matt effect of suede keeps it understated and versatile over a wide range of colours and textured trousers.

no.5 Chelsea boots in burgundy full grain or suede for the weekend in the countryside but look just as sharp to wear for a casual meeting on weekdays. There is extraordinarily little said about how easy it is to get in and out of Chelsea boots as they are the only slip-on variant of boots there is!

That’s it for my capsule 5. I have an extended collection that I will talk about soon but just with these classics, I could style myself for any occasion with a wide variety of outfits for years to come.

RTW, MTO, Custom-made, MTM, Bespoke- The full spectrum

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.

A MTM where the client had a lower instep so I worked on an existing last to accommodate his requirement

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.

Breaking into Goodyear welted shoes

One of my favourite and oldest pair I made myself 3 years ago. It started off a bit stiff especially the box calf upper, but now its my most comfortable and go-to pair in my wardrobe

While seasoned goodyear welted shoe users know this, a lot of first-time users of this construction have a few questions usually about the concept of breaking into your shoes. Mostly the why and the how.

The Why- The materials used to make the shoes, vegetable tanned insoles, outsoles, the welt, cork and some upper leathers all tend to be a bit stiff to start off with. This is simply down to the nature of the material and perhaps it has been made and sitting in storage over some time. From the time the leather bends was made in a tannery, to being made into a pair of shoes and then perhaps lying in a shoe box for a few months, can be anywhere from 4 months to a year or more. This makes the leathers a bit stiff while it is waiting to be used or ‘broken-into’.

The How- It is recommended not to wear your new pair of good year welted shoes for a long time the first time you wear them. The very first wear can be around the house for up to an hour. The next day a couple of hours and step out with it. This will help roughen the sole bottom if it is a leather sole. Then give it a break for a day and perhaps wear it the next time for half the day. By the end of it, you should now be starting to soften the insole and outsole but the upper might still be a bit stiff depending on the type of leather. Suedes will be soft from the first wear, but box calf type leathers soften with body temperature and sweat over extended periods of wear.

Shoes made with softer uppers like this vegetable tanned shrunken goat skin leather break-in much sooner

It is said that about 10 hours of wear is what it takes to break into a shoe. This is very subjective as it depends on the materials, the environment of use, the weight of the user and other variables. But this should give you a ballpark figure.

Once you have broken in, the insole will have an impression of your foot which will deepen with time and darken in colour due to the character of vegetable tanned leather. The cork below it will also start to mould to your feet and by now hopefully they are starting to feel comfortable!

Also, remember to rotate your shoes and not wear the same pair every day. This gives the shoe, time to breathe and restore itself, hopefully in a good shoetree. Of course, it also elongates the life of the shoes.

A shoe tree in rotation and some TLC will ensure your shoes will last a very long time and look more beautiful as it ages

Goodyear welted shoes as a sustainable consumer choice

A suede loafer is versatile for a Sunday morning walk to the news stand as it is for a stylish evening meal

Considering the recent trend of consumer choice shifting towards sustainable practices, I thought a post was warranted with respect to Goodyear welted footwear, the oldest shoe construction method. Even though it has been around for centuries, its adherents have chosen it for its comfort, longevity and versatility, the last two points, capturing some of the essence of the concept of sustainability.

The comfort advantage stems from the premium materials the construction demands, to withstand the manufacturing process and subsequent wear. Thick leather insoles, a cork paste, leather upper & lining materials mould to the shape of your feet creating a custom fit like no other materials can. Leather being a natural ‘living’ material ensure the shoe remains breathable through the course of the day. At the end of the day, if you use a shoetree to store your shoes, it brings the shoe back to the original shape as these natural ‘live’ materials stretch out to the take the shape of shoetree and with a bit of care, feels fresh and new for your next wear.

This cross section shows the many premium natural materials and complex construction techniques that go into making a Goodyear welted shoe (Disclaimer: Materials seen here are not fully representative of those used in Bridlen shoes as this is a generic shoe photo )

The premium materials used as mentioned above, also give the shoe a much longer life. Of course when I say this, I am assuming, full grain premium aniline leather for the upper, drum dyed crust lining leather for maximum breathability and natural touch/feel and finally compact, highly abrasive resistant vegetable tanned insole and outsole bends that mould well to the feet and give long life. Combine these fine materials with a robust construction technology like goodyear welting, means your pair will last you a good five to seven years with other pairs in rotation or at the very least 2 years of excessive wear. while at the same time, looking better with every wear as the leather takes a naturally patina over time, giving it character and a unique look. Unlike cheaper footwear that are cemented or use poor quality materials that look best when out of the box and deteriorate over time.

A resoling project where we swapped out an old leather sole for a new one

Once your soles are starting to thin and starts to feel a bit papery, you know its time to change the soles. Versatility. After wearing down you leather soles, you can choose to change over to a rubber sole or perhaps double leather soles or simply another set of good quality leather soles. A pair of Goodyear welted shoes can be resoled for a fraction of the cost of a new shoe and it will give it a renewed lease of life for another 2-3 years. This can be done at least a couple of times after which if necessary, the welt can be changed too, extending the life of the shoe for another set of sole changes when needed. This is comparable to keeping the same nice car and simply changing the tyres when needed and after excessive wear, if needed perhaps the wheel rims too. Why would you want to do this? As you break into a pair of Goodyear welted shoes (Read: Breaking into gyw shoes), they take the shape of your feet making them extremely comfortable that you will wish to continue wearing them for as long as possible. Similar to a nice car that you fall in love with, you grow into it!

The other aspect of versality is given the styling of Goodyear welted being mostly classics, they tend never to go out of style of look outdated. It will be possible to style them casually, or formally and with the capsule collection of Goodyear shoes with a few styles, leather and sole types, you will be sorted for a sustainable footwear wardrobe that will allow you to style them with a wide variety of looks over the course of your life.(My capsule collection).

A new pair of oak bark tanned JR soles will last you a long time even with frequent use

And finally a more controversial reason but one that I have reasoned with many(myself first) and found to be true and a satisfactory element of sustainable practices. Leather is made from animal hide that is a byproduct from the demand for meat. Historically, the leather industry itself emerged as an answer to the huge number of skins that were going to land fill after the meat was used for consumption. First pickling technology came around to stop the hides from putrifying, then tanning and finishing technologies to give the hides a wider variety of usability so it can be used for purposes of clothing, upholstery , footwear and much more. The alternative to leather would be to use synthetic materials such as PU that are derivatives of the fossil fuel industry and virgin materials(first usage) and not to mention the excessive use of other natural resources in its manufacturing process such as clean water. Or plant based materials that have not yet proven to be commercially viable due to their low supply and again mostly use of a raw material as a first time of usage, not recycled like leather is. This is in direct comparison to leather hides that are used as a down stream material and when made with sustainability in mind, that most tanneries nowadays adhere to, use minimum water in the manufacturing process, have zero environmental discharge and use natural dyes and pigments and where either absolutely necessary or beneficial to the end product, harmless and non-toxic chemicals. All in all, a very sustainable product taking all things into consideration.

Leathers from Annonay are made in France where the environmental norms are some of the strictest in the world. Leather is a beautiful raw material to make many things be it shoes, hand bags or other good that will look better with time

So there you have it, a case of goodyear welted as smart choice if you are looking to move towards sustainable fashion and help reduce land fill and help the environment. For me This has personally been a very big part of my motivation when I decided to get into the world of goodyear welted shoemaking half a decade ago.

Fake pop-up Brands and wrong claims

Lately we have been getting a lot of phone calls simply to check if we are indeed a real factory brand or its just one of the new(?) scams on the internet claiming to be selling Goodyear welted shoes usually at ridiculously low prices. We got an insight into how this scam works.

  1. Fake pop-up Brands

Advertisements on Instagram lead to brand’s website usually with an Italian sounding name claiming their shoes are “Made in Italy” and the photos used in the product page have been lifted from other popular brands which have simply great looking shoes(well-made too) and good photography to match with. sometimes they claim to be making goodyear welted when in fact they are either Blake or cemented. The price for me was the giveaway because it is in the $100 range so anyone with a little bit of background research will know that good quality shoes if made in Italy and looks as good as the photos cannot come that cheap! But some unfortunate bloke gets excited and orders a pair only to see that the shoe they receive is wildly different from what they saw on the website. When they contact the website, it is told that the photo is only a representation of the product and not an exact replica or some gibberish about the shoe being hand-made so it can be different sometimes! Two wrongs have been made here: Delivered a shoe that is not true of the image shown and claims that they are made in Italy when in fact they are made in India solely for this brand or even worst, stock shoes from factories trying to get rid of their seconds or excess/unsold stock.

So how does this affect us? Well as a young brand, we are only now starting to get noticed and while it is a good thing that some potential clients are calling to check if we are really making what we claim to be making, there are many others who just won’t make the effort to call. If they have had a bad experience in the past, they might just look the other way when they hear of us for the first time or even the second. The hastier ones might fall for the trap and then join the club of once-bitten-twice-shy group of shoe lovers who are very skeptical to try new brands again. Also it creates a bad name for “Made in India” which as it is we are facing an uphill struggle to show that not all shoes out of India are low quality to mediocre, we now have also have deal with fakery!

  1. Wrong Claims

Claims of selling a good year welted collection but in fact they don’t. This surprisingly happens even with some nationally well-known brands, so we know they are legit brands even if their quality of materials and making leaves less to be desired. The problem of false claims has been around for a while now for example where  claims of ‘handmade shoes’  are in fact factory made or, hand welted when they are Goodyear welted and Jesper of in his blog has written extensively on this topic (You can read here).

But for us this seems to create a technological problem with the bulk of our new customers ‘discovering’ us on the internet where the word ‘Goodyear welted’ (and some other key words) seems to be hijacked by false search engine optimisation (SEO) tagging by said well-known brands who have huge marketing budgets and drive searches from google to their website when in fact their website doesn’t have Goodyear welted shoes. We cannot compete with their marketing spends with Google or Instagram/Facebook but the way SEOs work and keyword search works, the more a brand spends on those words, the more likely they are to come up high on a search request and we get pushed down with our smaller marketing spends.

While I think the problem of improper SEO usage will go away as we get more recognition over the years, some poor customers looking for quality Goodyear welted classic shoes is being taken for a ride. Also, it is frustrating to see your marketing budget being less effective than in should be simply because of some fraudsters and wrong claims from deep-pocketed brands.

What is 360° Channeling Welted Goodyear?


On a 360° Channeling Welted Goodyear, the feather line of the shoe is very prominent and clean.

With the Bespoke grade Goodyear welted collection, we have been trying to push the boundaries of factory made shoes by incorporating as many concepts of bespoke shoe making especially where the latter has a clear advantage in terms of comfort, durability and longevity over the former. I must say though there are areas where factory made also has clear benefits over bespoke shoe making but I will keep this slightly controversial topic for another post!

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In bespoke shoe making, the leather bends insole is of full thickness, usually upwards of 5 mm because a channel has to be carved on the insole edge to hand stitch the welt. Thicker insoles while adding weight to the overall shoe creates better comfort and lasts much longer allowing for resoling without having to touch the insole. Also by stitching the welt directly to the insole, this construction is a lot more durable and allows for the welt to sit flatter on the shoe so there is less cavity to fill with cork between the insole and the out sole. Furthermore during preparation for lasting, a thicker insole takes better shape on the last  by nailing it to the bottom sometimes also by first dipping the insole in water. This allows for better lasting, a fine feather line edge throughout the shoe making the shoe much more beautiful as it is more true to the last shape.

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In factory made shoes, usually either Texon board of 2-3.5 mm (it is a kind of compressed paper of cardboard) or  leather bends of 3 mm is used and a cotton rib is attached by adhesive to the insole. The welt is stitched to the cotton rib by a Goodyear welting machine or sometimes even by hand stitching the welt to the rib. This rib after welting creates a deeper cavity to fill with cork in the next stage. But the biggest weakness is the attachment of rib with a adhesive which in my humble opinion is a major deviation from the advantages and spirit of welted shoe construction. The fact that all parts of the shoe are held together by stitching allows for a “suspension bridge effect” where the stitches of the out sole to the welt and the the welt to the insole make it the most robust form of construction and allow for deconstructing the shoe with ease. Also with the cotton rib construction, if you want to make a tight heel area, you need to stop the welting breast to breast (270 degrees welting) and add a seat piece to the heel area which creates two cuts sometimes visible. Some bespoke makers also do this but a very clean job of attaching the seat piece to the ends of the welt. The heel piece in this case is nailed to insole and bends when it hits the metal plate of the last. While I don’t know of any complaints of nails hurting the wearer due to this process, the idea of having to ‘nail-up’ to the heel area sounds dangerous and can always be a hazard in the future if the insole starts to wear down. When we started off, my Japanese clients clearly wanted to do away with this potential hazard so we were happy to offer the 360° channeling welt where there are no nails going up in the heel area.




The 360° welted Goodyear Construction is a lot flatter like bespoke shoes  and the welt goes to the side wall of the insole allowing for a more flush insole so less cork is needed to fill the cavity

In 360° Channeling welted Goodyear, we use the same full substance leather bends as bespoke shoe making and create a channel by slitting open the edge of the insole. After lasting, the welt is Goodyear stitched 360 degrees to the channel and sits flatter on the insole therefore requiring less cork filling in the cavity. This gives the benefits of bespoke shoe making in Goodyear welted factory made shoe while being able to achieve better precision in stitching and a better count of pairs per day thereby creating value. The thicker insole in more comfortable and the break-in period of the shoe is shorter. Of course this insole lasts longer allowing for multiple resoling over the years without having to touch the insole or the welting. It is also said that since the welt stitch goes on the side of the insole( and not on top to a cotton welt), it allows for better flexibility though personally I have not seen this benefit yet, manifest in the shoes I am making.



We plot and plan….


Yea, that had to wait for while!

“We plot and plan, and we plot and plan but God is the best of planners.”

So goes a verse from the Quran that seemed like a timely and humbling reminder to myself and some of us who have taken the time away from work due to the ongoing Covid-19 lockdown to introspect, pause our otherwise busy lives and hopefully return to our schedules soon enough as better people. Reading this, reinforces two things for me: 1. For us to lead our daily lives, we do need to make plans and plan we will. We make daily plans how to spend the day to be most productive with the time we have at work, what to do when we get home etc. We plan our week, our month to make visits to friends, family, business trips, to the supermarket, to make a move on slow moving projects (read clean my cupboards, empty my bottom drawer, finish that puzzle next Sunday…!) And our long term plans, to achieve our goals, maintain health, build wealth and more such lofty ambitions. This verse encourages us to do all that but…

2. God knows a plan that may be better for us. So, every so often he likes to intervene and set us on a better course. This gives strength by asking us to continue with our plans but be humble enough to accept the course correction when it comes and know that this will indeed be to make your plan even better! This is the part that is the silver lining- when we find ourselves so out of control with our future plans now that Covid-19 has come to disrupt all that we know as normal be it the way meet and greet people, the way we travel, do business and much more- to be consoled that what is coming is actually going to be better.



Many shoes like this will be waiting to be given the final brush before being packed and sent to the customer


As of the 24th of March, we had to close the factory bringing our production to a sudden and complete halt. Some orders were pending when we closed, some ready for dispatch but couriers are not working and many incoming material shipments all on hold in ports across the world. The last one month, I have been contemplating how this crisis is going to change the world, the way we do business, the way we travel and quite honestly, the answers are not clear yet. We still do not know how much worse it is going to get before it starts to get better. But some things are clear:

  • Passion drives us more than the business itself. We are an owner-driven small factory with a global supply chain (we are constantly seeking the best materials available) but we are doing this to feed passion as much as to do a business. During these tough times, while many businesses worry about survival, it is our passion that fuels as to get back up and continue to do what we do best. Make good quality shoes. We think this will hold us good in the long run to have another good reason to reinvent ourselves while we bounce back to doing business.


  • Our global and local supply chain will be disrupted permanently. Some of our local suppliers that we have nurtured over the years to make components for us with the same attention to detail that we look for in the final shoe itself, might not be reopening their doors. We will have to look for alternatives and start building new relationships that will need time and patience to make them understand our needs and philosophy of work. But hey Rome wasn’t built it one day. We will strive and rebuild our supply chain slowly where it is broken or needs mending.


  • Our customers will expect better online services. With retail outlets closed for the foreseeable future and more customers becoming comfortable buying things online like clothes and even shoes, we need to meet these expectations with clarity and effect. Our decision to not have physical stores and be an online-first brand looks like not just a pragmatic one right now but also the right one for the future. We are seeing that it is possible to do online appointments with clients to speak to them about fit, last and styling and not necessarily need to be face-to-face. I used the down time the last few weeks to make short videos explaining the different styles in our collection, the features of our last and about shoe care. Of course, there is nothing like a good face-to-face conversation with a well-informed salesman when you want to buy a nice pair of shoes, but we are trying our best to bring a similar experience online.



Uppers waiting to be lasted when we return to work soon

We are supposed to re-open the factory on May 4th after a 40 days break. This is the longest my factory in its 30+ years of running has ever been closed. The second longest break was for 5 days during the 2015 floods and we thought that was bad! I can wait to get back and start making shoes again.



Amsterdam Super Trunk Show-Review

Bridlen stall (2)

The European launch of the Bridlen Bespoke grade goodyear welted collection at the Amsterdaym Super Trunk Show

The first Amsterdam Super Trunk Show hosted by Bas Van Exter of The Shoe-care Shop and Jesper Ingevaldsson of shoegazing blog was held on March 7th just before the whole world started to go on lock-down mode due to the COVID-19 pandemic. It has been less than a month and it looks like the world as we knew it will never be the same again. But first, the trunk show itself.

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It was joy to meet fellow shoemakers, shoe lovers and generally be customer-facing. I got a sense of how passionate so many people are about classic shoes, and how big the market for it still is, despite the recent trend towards sneakers and more casual shoes. It seems that the world of good quality Goodyear welted shoes is not small and there is always a place (or quite a few!) in a gentleman’s wardrobe for classic shoes. Working inside a shoe factory for most of the year and being an online-first brand, this is a rare treat, to get to meet potential clients and understand what they are looking for in a pair of shoes. Since returning to work, I have been busy tweaking the website and soon putting up short videos explaining our styles, lasts and unique construction so even if we cant be speaking to the customer directly, our website can talk to their needs and concerns as much as possible.


For me, it was my first time exhibiting at a trunk show alongside other big names of the game like Edward Green, Magnanni, Santoni and even bespoke shoemaker Patrick Frei & Kazuya Kimura amidst others. This humbling experience, rubbing shoulders with experienced brands gave me the inspiration to push our limits of quality and finishing even further. What was also very nice was the camaraderie, openness and how casual my fellow shoemakers were, as we swapped tips and vented our challenges over dinner that evening. I am happy to report, while some of our brands might appear to be, we shoemakers are not a stuffy lot!



I also got to finally see the top three shoes from the World Shoe making Championship 2019. These three shoes have been doing a world tour going around the best shoe stores and exhibitions. Since last year, I missed it in Tokyo in September by a week and again in Bangkok by a day! Finally, I got to see them in the real in Amsterdam and spend some time examining and appreciating them. The detailing and execution on them were just impeccable! The first place when to Daniel Wegan for his super slim waist execution and the heel stack made of multiple thin layers of sole bends. The second place was awarded to Corthay for yet another unique heel and lovely detailing on the upper. Third to my favorite Japanese shoemaker Eiji Murata of Main d’or Bespoke Shoemaker for the most wearable and classy oxford brogue I have ever seen.

The Dutch Shoe Shining Champion 2020 is Theo of Shoe Spa Amsterdam

The Dutch Shoe Shining Champion 2020 is Theo of Shoe Spa Amsterdam

Amsterdam also got to see its first Shoe Shining Championship where participants tried to achieve a mirror gloss shine of a pair of shoes in 15 minutes. While this sounds very difficult, they all managed to do it with varying degrees of success and accuracy. I’ll soon make a post on how I do a mirror gloss but certainly take more than 15 minutes to do mine!

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While we were supposed to continue our European Trunk Show in London in April, It was postponed  as the severity of the corona virus was became alarming as the number of infected cases in Europe started rising quite dramatically and at a very rapid pace. Travel restrictions were put in place, so much so that as I write this during the last days of March, the whole world more of less is in lock-down mode with international travel almost completely restricted. For now, London is scheduled for October 10th 2020. Hope to see you soon at the London Super Trunk Show.






Bespoke Level Preparation

After watching the movie Julia and Julia with my wife, I started to think of the factory as a kitchen! If you have good quality ingredients and you do your preparation meticulously and thoroughly, it makes the cooking easier. Whats more, if you follow the cooking manual, it makes the process of cooking systematic resulting in a product of great taste, quality and consistency.

In factory made shoes, the preparation being a time consuming and laborious process tends to be given less attention at best or ignored at worst. In my factory, we spend a lot of time and effort trying to learn how bespoke shoe making concepts that we can incorporate in our process and prepare materials in advance of the production.



Preparation of the beveled waist on the insole



Channeled 5 mm leather insole


Our 4.5-5 mm thick leather insoles for example are first channeled 1.5 mm deep, then we skive the inside waists using a special tool custom developed for the purpose. then we block them by wrapping them around a last so it takes the shape of the last bottom resulting in a beautiful feather edge on the shoe and a well seated insole when seeing the inside of the shoe.


Blocking the insole


Our leather stacked shanks are pre-shaped by scouring them to give a medium fiddle back effect so the out sole thickness can be left as it is thus not compromising the wear resistance around the waist.

The counter stiffeners and toe-puffs too are hand scoured after skiving to take off the edge better so that they do not create impressions on the leather after lasting.

And finally the upper preparation itself demands a lot more attention to detail than one usually gives it. Just to highlight a couple of them:


Spring attachment gives shape to the upper even before lasting


  1. Spring attachment

Recently we went back to the drawing board and started to redraw all our patterns to give ‘spring’ to them. Then we started attaching the components on the last which meant that the resultant upper already has a fair shape of a lasted shoe even before lasting. This then means that in the process of lasting, we don’t have to use unusually high levels of pressure to pull the leather over the last, nor excessive heat to get the shoe upper to sit tightly over the last, This is achieved more easily and naturally. By not applying excessive force or heat, we are able to retain the originality of the touch/feel effect of leather and give it longer life.



  1. Minimum Adhesive upper making

We didn’t stop at springing the upper. We sprung the lining too so when the shell upper and shell lining are attached together, they fit snugly together and we don’t have to use adhesives to keep them together. This allows for full breath ability from our 1.4-16 mm drum dyed  natural crust lining. Normally, any adhesive blocks the pores of even the best crust lining thus rendering it less breathable and causes hardness on the upper leather. This way, the touch/feel originality of leather is further retained on the upper and now also in the lining, where crucially  your feel are in contact with the shoe(even if through a sock!).


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Extra backers but no adhesive or reinforcement cloth


The only place we use adhesive is along the edges to keep the components together until they are stitched together and this too we are trying to do away with by using a fine double side taping system. More on that when/if we achieve it. Readers might wonder why we don’t try the ‘hold and stitch’ approach but that means we can’t do spring attaching and that as have come to find out recently is making a world of difference is giving the full shape of the last to the shoe, staying true to the last and in retaining shape even after extensive use.


The lining sits tight with the upper without any adhesive thanks to the spring pattern

As my mentor put it, to get clean river water, we have to work to remove impurities and pollutants that there may be upstream and don’t stop until you reach the top of the mountain. We are trying to go back to every step of shoe making process, leaving no stone un-turned, to understand why somethings are done a certain way, challenge conventional factory wisdom(which was usually formed due to pressures of production -quantity over quality) and learning that there is a lot that has been taken for granted as standard production process at the cost of quality. But if we challenge it and find a better way (usually the ‘original bespoke’ way) we can achieve great results at a surprisingly low cost to quality ratio.


What is TRS about?


As most unwritten blogs, this one has been coming along for a long time. As most written blogs sites, I hope this goes on for a long time, with regular updates and serving the purpose I set out here:

  • To inform the reader, shoe enthusiasts, fellow shoemakers, clients and potential future ones of the shoe-making process in our factory using bespoke processes but using the help of machinery where better and more productive to do so;
  • To document for the sake of posterity, techniques, processes, small lessons/hacks and of course mistakes that we learn by doing this job day in and day out so that we may remind ourselves at a later point or for others to learn from our mistakes;
  • Our journey from a small shoe making factory in south India with a sharp focus of quality, craftsmanship and honesty in all that we do, to presenting ourselves on the world stage as we humbly attempt to stand (cap)toe-to-(cap)toe {pun not intended:p} with the best shoemakers in the world.

Now with that out of the way to give me focus, who are we?

We are a shoe factory based in Chennai, South India making shoe uppers for the European markets since the 1980’s, Blake shoes shortly there after and since very recently Goodyear welted shoes. From the very beginning, our intention was and still is to set ourselves apart as quality shoemakers and sticklers for detail. This much later caught the attention of a Goodyear shoemaker from Japan (Mr. W) who has since collaborated with us to set up a Goodyear welted shoe making line to make shoes that are comfortable, beautiful and long lasting. To achieve this, our shoes are made by blending the use of machinery where it’s more accurate, precise and time-saving over handmade processes; and  age-old hand made techniques/materials used almost exclusively in making bespoke shoes. This results in a unique bespoke-grade machine-assisted factory-made shoe made available at a price point hitherto unseen in the shoe world.

Bridlen, an online-first brand was started to bring bespoke-grade factory made shoes directly to the customer so we can offer the best value and take direct feedback from users so we can improve as we go. The past 8 years we sold only in Japan, the most discerning of markets where quality is foremost and even the slightest compromise or defect is frowned upon. With the feedback and support we received, we decided to take it global with a .com English web page more recently. The name of the brand is derived from a bridle, the headgear used on a horse to control the animal and keep its eyes on the road. My inspiration comes from the fact that if I keep my eyes on the road ahead and do one thing and one thing only, to make some of the best classic shoes in the world, it would be a life well spent.

Along with  over 40 years of Goodyear welted shoe-making experience that Mr. W. brings with him from Spain, England and Japan and embracing my late father’s ideals of honesty, quality and innovation I have a job cut out clearly for me: to attempt making some of the finest bespoke grade factory made shoes.

Why The Reluctant Shoemaker? That’s for another post. Today, I simply love shoe-making and all things shoes!