The Left Shoe Company - One step beyond
Do you struggle to find a pair of shoes that fit your feet perfectly? You’re not alone. Nils Bjornes steps out to investigate one innovative company, which promises to provide the answer…
As a boy growing up in a village in Norway, I remember visiting the local shoemaker in his workshop and listening to him telling stories from “the good old days”. I enjoyed the tales and seeing him work, but my main reason to be there was the smell. I simply loved the smell of leather and shoe polish.The local shoemaker and his little workshop are long gone, and if you want custom-made shoes today it’ll cost you a small fortune and take up to six months. That is until recently.
SIZE MATTERS. Did you know that 60 per cent of the population have different size feet and most of the time it’s the left foot that is larger? With this in mind, a shoemaker in Helsinki, Finland, started a company that combines traditional craftsmanship with cutting-edge technology. Originally The Left Foot Company, it was the brainchild of Jarno Fonsén who wanted to overcome this ‘bigger left foot issue’ and make made-to-measure shoes more easily available to customers. Together with a high tech German company, he created a scanner that takes precise images of each foot. In the fall of 2010, the company was rebranded and renamed The Left Shoe Company, and it has gone from strength to strength. Hot news in men’s fashion, it now has stores in London, Dubai, Los Angeles and Helsinki. More are planned to open soon – it seems the market for personalised shoes is flourishing.
SMALL BUT PERFECTLY FORMED. Directions to The Left Shoe Company take us to Princes Arcade in the St James’s area of London, not far from Piccadilly Circus. This arcade, with its tradition of quality, luxury and style, both classic and contemporary, consists of a blend of small independent specialist shops and exclusive boutiques. We find The Left Shoe Company in number 6, where manager Christian Haugaard, a Dane with retail experience from Ralph Lauren, New Bond Street and Pal Zileri, meets us. Compared to other shoe stores the shop is remarkably small. Of course, there are shoes on display, wonderful shoes, but the 3D scanner and the computer dominate most of the little floor space available.“Regular shoe shops need a much larger space both for their display in the showroom and for storing inventory,” says Christian. “We don’t carry any inventory since all shoes are made to order. What we need is some space to display the existing models and the scanner. At the moment we have 64 models, which all can be customised, and when new models come out we only need to make four models; one pair for each of our stores.”
IMPRESSIVE PROCEDURE. “The procedure is quite simple,” Christian continues. “The customer pulls on a pair of geometrically-patterned socks and stands on a small, round platform. The 3D scanner circles around the platform, minutely analysing each foot from every possible angle, taking a number of different measurements. And a moment later, the customer can see a perfect 360° digital model of their feet on the computer screen.”Once the 3D-scanning process is completed, the customer can individualise his choice of shoes. This is in accordance with the made-to-measure service – both in the store and on the website the customer can choose the sole, colour and leather to his liking.“After having registered the necessary data, each customer is issued a membership card which enables them to shop and reorder online, as well as combine and design their own shoes and have them delivered within six weeks. After having had your measurements done, there is no need to come into the shop again; you can just order new pairs online. And by the way, delivery is free,” says Christian with a smile.
BEST FOOT FORWARD The respected Italian designer Maurizio Mazzucato, backed up by his creative and sourcing team, heads the Left Shoe Company’s design department. All the shoes are made in Europe at factories with a long history of good craftsmanship and traditions.
The four main collections of shoes are the Classic Collection, comprising timeless shoes that can be worn for almost any occasion; The Modern Classic Collection, with over a dozen designs for a more personal style; The Contemporary Collection, for a younger, more cosmopolitan look; and The Casual Collection, with its sportier range. All models can be made in sizes from 37 to 50, and the prizes range from £295 to £395. And if you were wondering – they do make golf shoes. Currently, however, the shoes are only available for men and we enquire if there are plans to offer this service for women, too. “For women we would have to have a lot more styles and models, so our system is not suitable for them,” explains Christian. “But who knows? It could happen in the future.”
PLANS TO EXPAND. So what’s next for this inventive enterprise? “Besides a second shop here in London, there are plans to open one in New York and also in Stockholm and Copenhagen,” says Christian Haugaard.With an ever growing customer base, The Left Shoe Company and its ingenious solution to the left foot problem, is set for a bright future. And remember, a shoe has so much more to offer than just walk. And don’t worry; they make the right foot, too!