Handmade Leather Shoes

We took a trip up to Boston, where we're being featured in Vibram's only retail store in the United States.

Being cognizant of the space is important to us-- we handcraft styles that merchandise properly and are aligned with the store's values.

 
Handmade Leather Shoes

We're developing a few different totes to ship our footwear in.

As a brand that represents an elevated Americanism, these details are important to us and for the customer experience.

Still, the canvas option needs to be cleaned up. Here, the wording is coming out a bit too messy.

 
Handmade Leather Shoes

Lining material is just as important as the Upper material.

We use leather for our lining-- this adds to the comfort and durability of the shoe.

Depending on the silhouette of the Upper, the lining can also add a pop of color along the trim, after the style is stitched.

 
Handmade Leather Shoes

This is how we make eyelet holes-- space for the laces to pass through around the tongue.

There are a few different techniques we can use, but this is the tool that gives the cleanest edges. It's time consuming, but the extra detailing helps elevate the style.

Our team does this by hand in NYC.

 
Handmade Leather Shoes

Here's an example of us throwing a quick sample together just to get a feel for whether or not a style is going to work.

Josh put this together in about 20 minutes and then decided the heel cap should also be leather and that a black leather option might be preferable.

Iterating is such an important part of product development. It helps you make informed design decisions before committing yourself.

 
Handmade Leather Shoes

Sometimes we use screen printing to get different ink patterns or writing on to materials. We do this with an actual screen that has the pattern burned in to it.

From there, we clamp the screen down to the material we're using, ink the back, and drag the dye over the surface.

The pattern transfers to the material, the screen is removed, and off we go.

 
Handmade Leather Shoes

When we first cut the leather Upper, extra leather needs to be left around the base.

You'll notice in this picture that there's a lot of excess material-- it's as if the Upper keeps going, and going, and going.

This excess material is what gets pulled around the base of the Last (see yesterday's post). Without this extra material, we wouldn't be able to stabilize the shoe.

 
Handmade Leather Shoes

We wanted to show a closeup of some of our Vibram USA bottoms about to be added to our upcoming Spring styles. 

We're excited to be collaborating with them and have more styles in the pipeline specifically for their outlet.

The Lee & Barrett assortment is expanding by the minute.

 
Handmade Leather Shoes

A quick collage of a few styles from our designer team. It's interesting to watch the different approaches each of our designers has for developing a product line.

Some like to work with black and white silhouettes at first to get a feel for the structure of each shoe. Some like to work with colors to get an idea of how the overall line is going to merchandise together. 

There's also smaller details which you kind of need to be in the room to see; like, how much iteration does each person like to go through before arriving at a style? or, who likes to do a lot of interaction with others versus tucking themselves away and coming up with an idea on their own before sharing?

There's no right or wrong answer, just different approaches.

 
Handmade Leather Shoes

A benefit of handcrafting our styles in New York City is that we can buy our materials at the last possible moment.

Whereas other companies need to purchase their materials months in advance because they're overseas, we can wait to see what's trending days before purchasing the highest quality materials. It's also okay if we only find a skin or two of something really interesting because we don't need to produce in high volume.

The attached picture shows a blush, mint, and purple leather we picked up in Midtown for our upcoming Spring line.

 
Handmade Leather Shoes

Lujia's been using her industrial design background to start putting some creative ideas to work.

The digital art has been giving a different feel to our design and development process; we've been iterating our styles by going back and forth between sketching, line drawings, and digital renderings.

It's giving a cool feel to the upcoming line, and it's especially nice to be able to put so much attention to detail in to each shoe.

 
Handmade Leather Shoes

Here are a few of the many different lace options we work with at LEE AND BARRETT. These are all raw edge-- the edges of the lace are unpainted from where they were trimmed to. We sometimes refine the edges (what's typically called painted edged), but it's also cool to leave it as is.

A raw edge look can give a nice two-tone quality as the lace weaves from one eyelet to the next. Something else we need to be mindful of is how easily the leather we use can be tied. Some of the options in the attached picture, like the brown lace on the very far left, will have to be thinned out before being used. Otherwise the knot would be too bulky.

 
Handmade Leather Shoes

We use real leather on our styles because it gives character to each piece. Synthetic leathers (artificial leather, vegan leather, etc.) can be useful if you're being price conscious or if you're going for a very consistent look, but if you want different marblings and finishes that age well, real leather's the way to go.

We took this shot because it actually shows some of the inconsistencies-- notice the stray mark on the left hand side of the brown leather in the middle. After that section gets polished, it'll bring out a unique texture that you can only get with real leather.