Tuesday, February 13, 2007
There Was An Old Woman Who Lived In A Shoe
By "old woman," I mean me. And by "lived in a shoe," I mean beat Imelda Marcos back into the grave with the sharp heel of my beautiful Barney's stiletto boots. Anyone who knows me knows I like shoes. An understatement, I know - and I can feel my mother rolling her eyes...

But this past weekend I found a new shoe experience first - tailor made!

Many people come to China to have clothing made, but shoes? I read about it on a China web forum and decided to give it a try (especially since my genes have forced upon me feet that are truly hard to fit). I contacted some people and they directed me toward David - a cobbler with a shop based in the Beijing Fuzhuang Xueyuan (Beijing Fashion Institute/University). I sent him an email with the picture of the shoes to use for inspiration - in this case, a pair of Alexander McQueen knee-high leather riding boots that normally run anywhere from $600-1000. He sent me back an email that afternoon saying he could make them with up to 95% accuracy (I guess you can't expect them to be an exact match). I thought, why not? Then he gave me the price quote and it turned from curiosity into awe. After haggling over the price quote, he said he could do it (using real leather and hand stitching, by the way) for about 900 RMB (just over $100)!

At that, I knew I HAD to give it a try. The experience alone would be worth it. And who knows, I could end up with some really amazing shoes, right? On Sunday, I went into his workshop for a fitting. In the workshop were several young women hammering away, carving floral designs into leather that looked absolutely beautiful and really professional. Only there for 2 minutes, and already I was impressed.

David brought out the pictures that I had emailed him and started taking foot measurements. He measured everything from calf length to arch height, ankle circumference to heel width. All in all, he measured my feet (both left and right) for almost a half hour. Then we discussed the color, heel height, materials, and design. The boots I had chosen had some areas with very specific, very complex details. I knew he understood shoes well by the way that (before I had even come in that day) he had already marked and made note of the areas with special stitching and lacing and the shoes' sectioning points, zippers, and buckles. I chose a color slightly different from the picture (a darker shade of brown) and a slightly shorter heel height to personalize the shoes for my purposes, thanked David, and went on my way. I will be certain to keep you all posted on the quality and how it all comes out.

This weekend begins the Chinese New Year/Spring Festival, so the shoes have a while before they'll be finished (since everyone gets a week or so off of work). However, there will be plenty of holiday festivities, so fear not - there will be more to come!
posted by Rachel @ 10:34 AM  
THE WILD WILD EAST: Everything you never knew you didn't know about life on the other side.
In China, the people are represented by two separate, yet equally important groups. The Chinese, who call this land "home," and the expats who migrate here. My name is Rachel. I am an expat. These are my stories.
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