The little world of calleophiles 1 is full of great craftsmen . Those who, long ago, created the foundations of an area where the stylistic evolution is the slowest and the most complicated.
If the world of tailoring is constantly evolving, with modes that can be easily identified in time, that of botterie is more discreet. Whether in terms of forms or patronage, we evolve slowly and little, as what exists is already exceptional.
The big names in the sector are still mostly there (Cleverley, Lobb, Green, Weston …). Yet for ten years, we feel a new dynamism to create. The search for a new aesthetic especially, with more assumed forms, more worked patinas.
Whether on the side of professionals, or amateurs (often extremely sharp when it comes to shoes), we seek to restore the shoe’s nobility.
Among the first to be dedicated to the men’s shoe, the course of Justin Fitzpatrick is interesting, since he managed to move from a blog to a well established brand on the market, while trying to answer a problem enough complicated: how to be distinguished, by attaching to the fundamentals of what is a beautiful shoe?
Justin Fitzpatrick hails from Seattle and is passionate about shoes, initially sneakers. It launched in 2013 its brand, but this project is the culmination of a much longer course. A course he did not intend to the shoe. Passionate primarily for music, Justin imagined more evolve to major record companies than to footwear. Yet the vagaries of life, and the impossibility of starting an internship at a major sector will move away from the world of music. Needing a well-defined project to achieve, he then decides that it is towards the world of footwear that he will turn.
While he has been selling for a few years in a Nordstrom store (a chain of stores initially specialized in footwear), he is frustrated by the lack of quality and style of the majority of the models on offer, and more generally of what is proposed on the American market. He therefore aims to quickly create his own brand to offer more elaborate models, both in style and manufacturing. But for that, we must learn from the big shoes, and these are mainly in Europe.
Justin leaves his family and his hometown in 2008 to discover the complex and low-profile world (especially 10 years ago) of bootmakers and footwear. So he starts to go to Florence, to study bottery at Stefano Bemer, figurehead of the school Florentine (even Italian) who unfortunately left us too early. It is during this training of 10 months that he will be able to learn to make a shoe by hand, to measure. This training is a way for Justin to understand how a sewn shoe is made and to understand the technique perfectly.
After this long stay in Florence, heading to London, where Justin will be responsible for the tailoring stand of the tailor’s house Gieves & Hawkes located on Savile Row, a well-known avenue for tailoring lovers. He will stay there for 3 years. During this period, in contact with professionals in men’s clothing, Justin will refine his brand project.
And in parallel, he writes the blog PKBAZAAR.PK dedicated to men’s shoes. It will quickly become the reference blog for men’s shoes in the world. For those who would like to know more, Justin started to publish a series of articles on the blog telling his story in detail.
AN ENGLISH STYLE AND A SPANISH MANUFACTURE
In 2013, Justin announces the launch of the Justin Fitzpatrick Footwear brand. After a long period of design, the direction this brand must take is finally defined:
To offer a quality shoe, stitched Goodyear, at a competitive price compared to London references, with a classic style but which differs from what traditional brands do.
For the style, Justin will give to his models, a little of the fantasy that may be missing from some brands, it is closer to that that can achieve Tony Gaziano, offering classic models, but with more racy forms, less round than can sometimes be done by English footwear.
Justin will play a lot on colors by offering a lot of Bordeaux in addition to the usual black and brown, but also from the start of green or purple, and especially on the subject, proposing many of its models in bi-material, combining the smooth leather (box-calf) calf-velvet (suede), or denim (his brown leather boot and “jean” is one of his best-sellers).
Although he would have liked to produce his line in England, we must go to the obvious, to offer a price more attractive than that of a giant (and a reference) like Crockett & Jones, not possessing his own workshop is impossible mission. We must therefore turn to another country of the shoe, Spain.
With this choice, it is possible to offer a quality shoe, for a reasonable budget. Spain is not a newcomer in the world of shoes, it is a long time since the factories of the country provide many brands, but Spanish brands also impose themselves and become major players in the market (Meermin with his line Maestro, Carmina …), and new brands arrive regularly to us (Yanko, TLB …).
By choosing Spain for production, and European tanneries to provide leather, we arrive at a quality product just under the 400 € mark. So yes, 400 € is a budget. But for this kind of product, it’s still a good average. For comparison, the shoes are currently sold € 385, when Carmina is € 395, and Crockett & Jones € 500, The brand is rather well placed compared to its original objectives.
Regarding the realization, there are several interesting points. The leathers come from large European tanneries which also supply the other big shoes (one can notably recognize the leather museum with its marbled aspect invented by tannerie Ilcea, also used by John Lobb Paris).
The various forms proposed are based on a large form made by Tony Gaziano (one of the largest measuring factories today) for Justin, who was then adapted to make ready-to-boots.
Only the end changes then to propose forms more or less rounded (or square). The shank, the piece that starts from the heel to go down to the front of the shoe, the center piece of the shoe (it is he who keeps the shoe and prevents it from sagging) although invisible, is made of leather and metal as on high-end models.
Finally the rod, that is to say, all the parts that form the top of the shoe is mounted hand.
That is to say that the step of applying the rod on the form and pull it so that it is sculpted in the form of … the form, is performed manually. This is an important and particularly physical step.
Could we have even better?
Possible, but certainly not keeping this price range. The only defect, purely aesthetic, that I found at my pair of boots was the half-moon of leather at the point where the guarantors meet (valid only for oxfords), but it disappeared on the most recent series, and was replaced by a stopping point, more discreet and elegant finish for my taste….
WHY I HAVE HITCHED ON HERE?
The shoe market is complex. It was even more so a few years ago. Finding patterns that come out of classical patterns and colors remains complicated because they are in the minority. Especially if you want to keep an irreproachable quality (at a price not too cleavable). When Justin presented his collection, I was immediately conquered. Being an amateur bi-material, I was served, and many models corresponded to what I would have liked to add in my closets.
If I add to that the fact that Justin is trying to come to Paris once a year, which makes it possible to try the shoes and see the new models in real life, and that Justin is someone extremely friendly who does not Do not be afraid to talk to everyone and talk about your passion, what more?
In addition, he was joined in recent months by a French collaborator, Eric, whom you can directly contact
THREE CLASSIC BRANDS, FOR THREE DIFFERENT STYLES
I was a customer at Justin very early, during the first Parisian Trunk Show, I took the opportunity to try and leave with the model Wedgwood, a richelieu boot proposed for the occasion in burgundy bi-material.
Extremely elegant, it is a perfect model to change black and brown chocolate in a formal outfit. As it is an ankle, although the calf-velvet part is the majority, it remains relatively invisible.
So I’ll be honest, although I wear it regularly for almost 5 years, this is not the model that I have most frequently at the feet. The disadvantage of a richelieu boot is that it takes a little more time to lace it, to reserve the morning where we are not too late.
This first purchase was an opportunity to confirm the fittings at the Trunk Show. Justin’s shapes fit me extremely well. This boot is part of the shoes that fit me best, I can wear it for a long day standing (like Pitti) without it becoming unpleasant to wear.
After this first successful test, I decided to add a more versatile model to my closet. Leaving to have pairs that go well, as much as possible to put them as frequently as possible. I chose (during the second passage of Justin) to order the most classic model that can be found, a brown stretched brogue.
Neither too formal nor too casual, it is a model that can be associated with everything, a blue suit, gray pants, jeans 2 … The first model we should have. So I chose Magnolia in Justin’s collection. A choice that I do not regret, this pair is one of those I always have at hand, when I do not want to take too much time to choose what I have to wear, it’s one of 3-4 pairs that I have by default….
As you can imagine, if I regularly complete my wardrobe with new pairs, it is because my feelings are very positive. In use, my different pairs age very well and maintain easily (I take this opportunity to thank Romain, polish Paris, for the last beauty of my 3 pairs).
THE FINAL WORD
Successfully creating a line of shoes that is slightly more original than average, and easy to fit into an outfit is not easy. Justin Fitzpatrick has managed to become in a few years a brand that counts in the calleophilus community and to offer a consistent offer and a true vision of style.
The investment is not trivial and the 385 euros that must be spent remain a sum. But it remains a good value for this range of shoes.