Where can I buy top handmade leather shoes? To tell you, you don't have to go to Italy, you will have it at your doorstep.
In the small alley of Xiaowen Street in Ningbo, there is an inconspicuous shoe store, but there is an old shoemaker who is skilled in authentic Italian craftsmanship.
Every morning, wisps of sunlight through the glass window, you can see him with gray hair, and he is busy in the workroom with his pair of reading glasses, "bang, bang", and knock the thin shoe spikes into the sole of the shoe. , And thread a needle on the upper for a while.
Although the store is located in a small alley, the business is exceptionally good. The pair of shoes here cost thousands of dollars, and the most expensive one is tens of thousands of yuan. However, customers who come to him to make shoes are constantly coming. The current order has been reserved for the National Day. Rear.
42 years of shoemaking
He still insists on handwork when others use machines
Walking along Xiaowen Street, there is a sign beside a simple facade with a book "The History of Handmade Shoes". This is the old shoemaker's workshop.
Opening the door, what you see is a pair of handmade shoes on the shelf, molds, leather and samples, bottles and jars containing chemical reagents such as imported Italian pigments and various semi-finished products, all squeezed In this shoe store which is only about 20 square meters.
Gu Guoping, a 56-year-old shoemaker, lives in Fanshi, Longshan Town, Cixi. At the age of 14, he followed his father to learn how to make shoes. At the age of 18, he formally became a teacher. After 42 years, the guy of that year has now passed his time and has become an out-and-out old shoemaker.
Gu Guoping said that when his father was a child, he worked as an apprentice in a handmade shoe shop opened by an Italian. His craftsmanship was "followed by his father's work" and he learned Italian craftsmanship.
How exquisite are Italian handmade leather shoes? Each piece of leather is selected from the best, and there is a special charcoal oven to help shape it after classification. In order to ensure that each pair of shoes can make people feel comfortable to wear, the soles of each pair of shoes will be filled with cork. The sewing of each shoe is also purely handmade, and the double-thread sewing process also makes the shoes stronger.
This kind of handmade leather shoes are comfortable to wear and stiff, and they are not easy to deform. Coupled with good air permeability, they can generally be worn for 5-10 years.
Later, because of his good craftsmanship, his 48-year-old father was invited to make shoes at the Zhenhai Tannery, and he followed. Since then, his life has become attached to shoes.
A year later, my father returned to Cixi to start a business and opened a "Gu Ji Leather Shoe Store" in his hometown of Fanshi, which was later changed to "Feixiang Leather Shoe Factory". In the Longshan area, no one knows the handmade leather shoes of Gu's family for dozens of miles.
After the reform and opening up, with the rise of mechanical shoemaking, hand-made shoes are no longer popular and gradually decline, and Lao Gu's shoe store business has also become very light.
Seeing that many people in the industry have switched to mechanical shoemaking, Gu Guoping still sticks to his old line. "Compared with the products produced by the assembly line, hand-made shoes can be made according to the different characteristics of each pair of feet. Each pair of shoes is unique. Each process has been meticulously polished and can stand the test of time." He said.
Leather shoes have to go through more than 300 processes
Each pair is unique
The persistent old shoemaker finally waited for his spring.
One day in 2012, a colleague from Wenzhou suddenly approached him and said that he was looking for a master who can make handmade leather shoes in the industry, and a customer wanted to order shoes.
Slowly, there were more similar invitation calls. Master Gu realized that the opportunity to make shoes by hand had come again.
In order to promote the old craftsmanship, that year, the old shoemaker in Cixi moved the whole shop to the alleys of Ningbo.
In the workshop, you can clearly see the manufacturing process of a pair of shoes: to make a pair of handmade leather shoes, you usually have to go through more than 300 processes such as measuring customers' feet, making lasts, cutting, pattern drawing, stitching, and polishing. Working days. The most difficult part is the pliers. The inner and outer threads must be sewn according to the foot shape of the customer. There are also processes such as bottoming, heeling, edging, and coloring, and each of them is sloppy.
In the process of making shoes, customers are also invited to try them on. Old Gu said that the slightest difference in the measurement of handmade shoes may cause foot pain.
In addition to good craftsmanship, if you want to make a good pair of handmade leather shoes, you need to use good materials. Master Gu's handmade leather shoes still use the unique "Goodyear" technique, and the leather materials are basically imported. The purchased crocodile leather and ostrich leather must have relevant certificates, serial numbers, etc., so that you can do your work in peace of mind.
When working, Master Gu always talked about his mantra: "What I sell is not shoes, but craftsmanship."
From the beginning of the leather selection to the final dyeing, every detail requires many years of experience of the craftsman and the focus on the things he loves. Now everyone who enters the shop can accurately tell the size of each other's shoes. .
The knuckles of Master Gu's hands are obviously larger than ordinary people because of years of making shoes.
"Private custom" leather shoes
The most expensive works are up to 10,000 dollar
In a blink of an eye, Gu Guoping has been making shoes by hand for 42 years. Although he is in a small alley, his reputation and authentic old craftsmanship have made him famous.
When the reporter interviewed yesterday, several customers came to pick up the shoes, the cheap 2,000 dollar, the expensive tens of thousands. The current orders have been arranged after the National Day.
During the reporter's interview, Master Gu’s WeChat frequently reverberated: Many customers sent pictures and asked him to make shoes in the same way.
"Now there are many customers coming, many of them are customers with various problems with their feet."
Not long ago, a groom came to the store to order shoes. He was shorter than the bride, with smaller feet, only 34 yards. Suitable shoes were not available on the market. Master Gu gave him an increase in height, and the wedding went well after wearing it. "Customers are happy to put on comfortable shoes, then I am also happy. If the customers are not satisfied, then I will also be uncomfortable." Master Gu said.
Now Gu Guoping works 14 to 5 hours a day. Because of the complicated process of making shoes, he can make up to 1,000 pairs of shoes a year. However, Gu Guoping still enjoys his 42-year career as a shoemaker.
"Workmanship is to be old and learn to be old." Now, he has also improved his craftsmanship and has made various attempts on the color of leather shoes, including frosting and splicing. In addition, it is also helping customers to match leather shoes according to their preferences.
"Now, As the chief shoemaker of LEIZILEI，there are very few people who can make a pair of handmade leather shoes from start to finish alone. My hope now is to pass on this old craft."