It has never been so popular of a time to learn bespoke shoemaking. And it has never been so easy either, thanks to Schola Academy and Stefano Bemer.
Back in my day, when I did a one-year apprenticeship under Stefano Bemer (a very different company to what it is now) and there was no shoemaking school, you actually had to call up shoemakers and see if they had space available for an apprentice. That was often a long-distance phone call that cost a lot of money too. No IG in those times. And that space was often just one spot and not one that opened up regularly.
Few shoemakers, such as John Lobb St. James, were large enough to take multiple apprentices in those days but I am pretty sure that they were also the hardest to get into. And on the off chance they had a spot available, there was no help to get there if you were from another country. And if you did not speak the language, that was also your issue. It was a jump-into-the-fire type of experience. One that I can tell you forever changed my life. And yet, while you can still have that experience if you like, Schola Academy and Stefano Bemer have essentially streamlined this process to make it as painless as possible from front to back, helping you get there and leaving you prepared with all that you need to go out and become your own shoemaker. So, what are you waiting for?!
Let’s take a look at what is on offer. In the Bespoke Shoemaking Route, there are 3 Courses available.
- The Apprentice Level
- The Artigiano Level
- The Maestro Level
So, let’s take a look at these 3 options.
The Apprentice Level
You do not learn shoemaking overnight. Not even close. There is a process to it and it takes discipline and learning a lot of things that might not feel like shoemaking to begin with. In my first two weeks as an apprentice, I was lacing shoes, packing them, shining them, cleaning, running errands, and learning how to click (cut the leather). All of that was discipline training. You cannot be a great shoemaker without great discipline. Sadly, many people take this for granted nowadays. Now, chances are, aside from the shoe shining you probably won’t be doing that in this course, but rather learning the basics to shoemaking. This could include, shaping a last, cutting and shaping the insole, repairing a welt/sole, hand-stitching an apon, lasting an upper, sewing a welt etc. All of the first stages of making the shoe.
This course lasts 10 weeks and is a prerequisite to the subsequent courses. It cost €8000 which pays for the course and all materials used during the course. Remember, this is a school, much like a University and not an actual apprenticeship.
The Artigiano Level
Once you learn the basics, you need to refine them with continued practice and then start to enter the finishing stage, which is what separates shoemakers from the greats. The finishing of the shoe will dictate your skill and is what is often judged when a customer receives his shoe and/or during a competition of shoemakers. At this level you will actually complete the steps necessary to make an entire shoe, finish it and be able to put a pair of shoes to your name, blood, sweat, and even tears. It is an achievement and I can tell you something to feel proud of. It is emotional and for good reason. It is not easy to make a pair of shoes. But once you get that done, you will be well on your way to shoemaking greatness.
This course is also 10 weeks and is in conjunction with the Apprentice Level, making it a 20-week period and a total cost of €13,800 ( that being if you pay the €8000 already, your balance should only be €5,800 to then take this course).
The Maestro Level
This course, unfortunately, is not something you are guaranteed to achieve. You essentially have to be invited to do so by the master shoemaker upon which if you are selected you will train directly underneath them, further learning the tricks of the trade and refining your skills directly under a master shoemaker. Should you choose to do this course, if you are selected, your next goal would be to start your own brand and become your own shoemaker. You will have completed the path of the apprentice shoemaker and will be ready to now find your own path as Bespoke Shoemaker.
This course lasts 3 months and costs €5000
While it might seem costly, these courses are your easiest route to becoming a bespoke shoemaker. And remember, it is a school that provides all of the necessary materials with a focused and structured course to help you achieve your desired path. Never let a price set you back as there is always a way to find help. Especially in 2022. Whether you set up GoFundMe page or ask your favorite relatives to chip in, where there is a will there is a way. Plan ahead and save your money. In my time, I cashed out my 401K and used my $6k limit credit card. When I came back, I had $200 to my name and $6K worth of debt and no 401K. And it was all worth it. While I do not recommend you cash out your 401K as I did, the point of that story is to show you that there is always a solution to every problem, so do not let the fees get in your way!
If you are ready to go, they have a few spots left in their Apprentice Course with an August 22nd start date. Otherwise, the next course starts Feb 6th 2023 which gives you plenty of time to prepare. See the link below to get started.
All images courtesy of Stefano Casati