Kirby Allison, Founder of the Hanger Project, sits down with Zachary Jobe, Principal of Saint Crispin's of the Americas to discuss Saint Crispin's and shoes. Zach goes through what makes Saint Crispin's different and the process of their hand welted shoes.
Hi, I'm Kirby Allison. Here at The Hanger Project we love to help the well-dressed take care of their wardrobes. Today I'm here in New York with Zachary Jobe, principal of the Saint Crispin's of the Americas, and we're gonna be talking about Saint Crispin's and shoes. Zach thank you. Thanks for having me.
Thanks for coming all the way to New York.
You know it's always a pleasure to be in New York. You know I just really enjoy being here. So you've got this beautiful showroom that's right here off of West 57th Street and you know you're doing some pretty incredible things with Saint Chrispins of the Americas. For someone that's not familiar with the brand you know puts Saint Chrispins in context of kind of how they're different.
Sure. So Saint Crispin's started in the early 1980s and quite frankly were pattern makers for other shoe makers for a brief time and then slowly moved into bespoke shoe making for discerning gentlemen based mainly in Europe given that was a very small company. The company started doing business under the name Saint Crispin's in 1992, and it's very very slowly but surely grown and evolved since then and is now I don't want to say mid-market but we exist in a space that's a little bit different from most shoemakers. Most shoemakers are known either as Bench made or bespoke. Given our history in our frankly our technique etc etc we make to a bespoke level of quality and a bespoke standard. We aren't strictly bespoke. We certainly do produce ready-to-wear shoes made to order, made to measure which is a little bit different but all using the same bespoke level of materials, the same bespoke techniques, the same quality of make that you would generally find in a much more expensive shoe. You know we're quite small. They have a workshop of about 25 to 30 craftsmen at any given time and you know four to five back office staff. We make about 1,500 pairs of shoes a year so our production is very artisanal. It's completely by hand from the ground up. There are some machines involved as any shoemaker would have to, but nothing is mechanized in the sense that the shoe doesn't get put through a machine and just come out. Our offer is again bit different from a lot of shoemakers because we offer the ability to customize your shoe not just in design, material, details, et. We can also customize the fit without having to go through the entire frankly time-consuming and incredibly expensive traditional bespoke process. So we actually we can modify existing last and small places, and then we can also like a bespoke maker create new last and we can turn new last for new clients but to be honest with you 99% of people don't need bespoke. They don't need a lot of customization. The simpler you keep it the better for both the client and the artist and the producer. That being said we offer all things to everyone which is a little bit unique.
Talk a little bit about that and how that's different than you know a you know say a made-to-order program. You know say it like from Gaziano where you're able to make some small adjustments versus like a complete bespoke process as you would get with like a John Lobb London.
What we do with the personalized last is we're able to use a few key measurements to really redefine the shape and the volume of the shoe and keep portions of the foot. It's not true bespoke in the sense that we are making minute tiny little adjustments and you know on the inside of the arch you know like things like that, but we can reshape arches. We can customize that sort of thing but really what it is, is looking at the foot sort of through the fit in the forefoot, the arch, the instep, and the heel. It's not as complicated as people might think it is, but at the same time we're able to use you know a few simple things to refine that last. We still focus on the artisanal craftsmanship. Every pair of shoes that we make is made by hand from start to finish but we're hand welted meaning someone actually sews the welt to hold fast by hand, and then the sole is stitched to the welt. Like all of those those sort of handmade processes allow us to create the structure in the shoe, to create these structural integrity in the shoe, allow us to shape the fit. You know those the all those tiny little details we can only do by hand. That really can't be done by machine.
Traditionally that is something you'd only find in a bespoke shoe...
Well traditionally it's something you would find that every shoe. In modern history and not to be pedantic but in modern history yeah hand welting is something you would only find in a bespoke product.
And so the hand welting I mean you know I mean aside from you know being kind of an element of craftsmanship you know and handwork you know how does that translate into an actual better shoe.
Well again being able to create all of this structure and different fitting you know accommodations that sort of thing in the shoe is something we can only do if we're hand welting but hand welting itself is ideal as a shoe making technique for durability and longevity because blank stitching you know this sole was stitched to the shoe. It doesn't really lend itself to resoling over time. It can be done. Not ideal, you need a special machine etc. Goodyear welting is better but the Goodyear welt is still glued to the upper and then the sole is stitched to the welt. Better than Blake in most cases not always, but then you get to hand welting. With hand welting we can replace the welt. You know add basically fix the shoe at infinitum bar for a few.... if the shoe gets cut in half and things like that but it really lends itself to durability and maintenance overtime.
Talk to me a little bit about how much does that cost, what does that process look like, you know how does that affect the cost of the shoe afterwards. I mean the way it starts is obviously with the personal fitting and a consultation. We evaluate the person's foot, there were particular fit preferences, etc etc. Their lifestyle, you know are they a lawyer on their feet in court all day? Are they a doctor on their feet in the in the operating room all day? Do they sit behind a desk all day? Are they retired? You know that sort of thing. Once we get through that process you know we take it through a sort of tracing of the foot. We do the measurements etc, and then we develop what's called a trial shoe. It's a fitting shoe. So we make the last and then we actually create a fitting shoe out of scrap leather just to reflect what the last is going to sort of result in a final shoe. And generally speaking we charge $625 for that and prices vary depending on time of year and exchange rates and all that sort of thing but generally speaking it's around there. That includes the creation of the last and the fitting shoe itself. Now from there you have to pay for the shoe. So generally speaking your first shoe is in the $2,100 to $2,200 range but once we go through the process and we get the fitting done and we you know we produced the final shoes thereafter the client doesn't pay to use that last again. So it's a little bit different from bespoke where you're paying a bespoke price every time you order a pair of shoes. In the sense that your first pair is a little bit more expensive but thereafter you're just paying basically an MTO price for the shoe itself.
You know talk to me a little bit about you know kind of why someone would seek you out. I guess you get the customer that's seeking about for fit . Maybe you've got the customer that's seeking because they're really kind of romanced and interested in the craftsmanship, but you also have a customer that just really wants cool shoes.
Yeah I mean I think you covered the basic the entire range of our clientele. Yeah it ranges from everyone who frankly just can't find a shoe that fits them to people who are shoe collectors. You know people who want lime-green alligator loafers, and then there's there's sort of the the middle range of people who appreciate craftsmanship and durability and the value of investing in a shoe that will last them quite a long time at the same time providing them with fit and you know comfort long-term. You know the youngest client I think we've ever had here is was a high school student and they just needed the shoes for prom. The oldest client I think we've ever had is in his 90s who frankly doesn't walk very much but appreciates craftsmanship and is a shoe collector. You know, yeah it's really a pretty diverse group of clientele. It's not necessarily just you know wealthy bankers, and lawyers, and doctors, and that sort of thing. It's really is a pretty interesting cross-section of at least on this side of the world American society.
I know that you travel quite extensively, and you know in addition to you know the approach towards shoemaking being quite unique I really think that your approach towards the customer relationship and experience is quite unique. Can you talk about that a little bit. It's important for us.
You know we're a small company and we live and die by our ability to make our clients happy. Part of that particularly in the U.S. given that it's such a big just geographic area and we don't have a huge retail presence on this side of the world. It's important for us to get out in front of clients so people see the product. It's not really a product that especially for someone who needs fitting services it's not something we can necessarily do very well by email you know etc etc. So, it's important to us to get out and actually you know interact with clients personally and see clients. You know not everyone gets to come to New York. Not everyone gets to go to Honolulu where we have a retailer or New York where we have a retailer where we are. So, yeah it's important for us to get out and actually see the clients and be able to manage that process from start to finish.
And so, for a fraction of the cost of a bespoke shoe I mean somewhat for all intents and purposes is really receiving the bespoke experience that one would get you know not just in you know the kind the ability to customize and really have anything made you know to really kind of personalize and customize to fit but also just in their client relationship with you.
Yeah, I think that's a fair statement and you know ideally that's how it should be in this world. When you go see a tailor you know in Italy, or Japan, or England or wherever it may be, Chicago wherever it may be. You know you want to deal with the artist and the person and you know granted I am NOT a shoemaker. I'm not the artisan. We have talented people who make the shoes, but people want to have that relationship with someone from the company or one of our great retailers you know etc etc. So building those personal relationships for us is just as important as the product that's on people's feet.
So how does someone get in touch with you. There's lots of ways. So we've got social media presence, Instagram, Facebook. The company overall has a Twitter account. People can always find us online at saintcrispins.com or saintcrispinsamericas.com. Email Americas@saintcrispins.com or firstname.lastname@example.org. People can always call us, 212-804-8255. But yeah we're we're frankly fairly accessible and easy to get ahold of. We do publish our trunk show schedules around the world frankly. No matter where you are. They're all on the SaintCrispins.com website and then obviously we send emails and mailers and that sort of thing about trunk show dates and published information on social media.
Wow Zach! Well thank you so much for sharing your passion with us. I mean as you know have a personal fan of Saint Crispin's. I've got a few pairs myself. You know we've used them in the shoe shine tutorials and you know thanks for I'm sharing all that so.
My pleasure. Thanks for coming all the way out here.