I have had the pleasure of being allowed to use a very very interesting post/interview conducted by the author of Romanian blog, Claymoor, in regards to Maftei shoes (and left almost in his own word). While this is only a bit of the entire original post, which is far larger, it provides some very nice insight into who Maftei is, the shoes that his company makes and a bit of history in regards to their craftsmanship and culture. If you wish to see more pictures, please visit the original post. (All pictures belong to Claymoor blog, as well as commentary. This is just relayed through me, to you. Enjoy!)
As well as allow me to use this, the author of the Claymoor blog also did a nice interview on me, of which he asks me questions that have never been asked before and may provide you some more insight into who I am and more of my background and how I came to be. Just thought you might be interested in this….
Maftei Post/Interview by Mircea Cioponea:
Alexandru Maftei, one of the best Viennese shoemakers, was until recently almost unknown in Romania. Maftei is the creator of a great product: men’s bespoke shoes. What Maftei makes, you can only call it art. This art is not yet appreciated at its value in Romania but ultimately no one is prophet in his country. I can only hope that in the near future, Maftei’s shoes will come as a natural choice for bespoke shoes lovers.
The Maftei Store is located in Louis Pasteur Street 38 in Cotroceni, an old and chic neighborhood of Bucharest. I passed by his window shop many times and I was always drawn to the window to look at the shoes. What can I say? I love shoes and his one were exquisite.
Recently, in a cold winter evening, I made an appointment. When I finally entered I had the impression I entered the gentlemen’s saloon worthy of famous Beau Brummel, breathing elegance and style. Places like this once so common in the Small Paris (Bucharest Belle Epoque nickname) are now very few left.
In the Maftei shop I met Mr. Radu Morariu the nephew of Alexandru Maftei and firm representative in Romania.
Romania now is an interesting country in the changing process. After a very bleak period of communist time stains of color and fashion tend to appear but they are not always in style, sometimes just jazz ups. The Romanian men for some time lost their model in style. The Maftei shop is a good way to start on your travel for becoming a well dressed gentlemen. Maftei is a landmark.
A tale of two cities
Maftei Viennese brand has deep Romanian roots. The story began in Piatra Neamt, Romania when Alexandru Maftei started up at just 14 years old as an apprentice in a shoemaker’s shop. His special talent was quickly noticed by the old masters but Romania was a communist country where the possibilities were severely restricted. He had a strong desire to evolve and he was dreaming about escaping to West, especially to Vienna. Vienna was the cradle of the legendary shoe manufactures: Rudolf Scheer & Shona
He succeeded to escape from Romania in 1988, but on his way to Vienna he was “hosted” in Hungary, in a camp for immigrants.
Arriving to Vienna through his labors in different low jobs he never let go of his dream of becoming a shoemaker. One evening on the way home, Alexandru Maftei passed by Scheer Shop and he looked in the window where amazing shoes were exposed. Alexandru stopped and contemplated the shoes and the magnificent window. That was his moment of fortune because Scheer himself walked out of the shop in that exact moment.
Scheer noticed the foreigner who was contemplating the windows and started a conversation that drifted to shoe manufacturing. When Scheer found out about Maftei passion he proposed him a trial week in his workshop.
That week was followed by many others. Maftei found his place among Scheer’s artisans team. Once admitted to the team Maftei was born for a second time. He worked for Scheer for a time refining his work methods and gaining experience working with a number of renowned craftsmen. Their histories knitted together nowadays his brother, Ionica currently is artisan of the famous Viennese company.
1996. The birth of Maftei
After the Scheer period, proven an entrepreneurial spirit, Alexandru open his own shop ” Maftei” in 1996, in Vienna, Kunhplatz 6.
Currently he creates unique shoes for celebrities from around the world and he had become the supplier of some of the most demanding clients both in Europe United States and Russia. Not many people know that at various Congresses and Summits world leaders are wearing Maftei creations, as Radu Morariu (Alexandru Maftei nephew’s) says.
In Romania many people buy labels and not the product, and the interest in mens shoes is quite small, not because there is no potential but there is yet no developed culture of exceptional crafted products . “However lately things changed for the better, Romanian men became more aware that the products sold at MAFTEI are customized products with a very high degree of manufacturing and the rigors are maximum. Also I noticed with joy that more and more customers are coming back pleased. They also have an improvement in taste and choosing. They are becoming more refined in choosing the model that fits them. It is very important not to pick a model that you like, but one that fits your stature and constitution, and that fits your health too. Furthermore I can see a growing interest in the way the shoes were made in craft technique like soleing “says dl.Morariu. When you are beginning to be interested in this kind of details that means you are a ‘connoisseur’that is aware on what he spends his money. Before, the customers were interested in the price. The quality was second and essential details such as skin or how the shoe was built were not of interest.
Maftei bespoke shoes. The process and the final product.
At Maftei all models are bespoke.
First visit is for measuring so if you want to make yourself a shoe on your first visit Mr Radu Morariu is going to take your exact measures. A 3D model of the foot – last, will be created. (Maftei has a special room for last like the legendary last- room of John Lobb). By the time the shoe will reach the destination-your foot you will, if necessary, visit the shop more than once for intermediate trying on. These visits are necessary, and Radu Morariu wants to be sure that the initial “trial” shoe follows your anatomic line and the your comfort is perfect. Throughout the journey from idea to shoe (from concept to model), the customer will keep in touch with Radu Morariu so there will be no misunderstanding.
Some technical details of Maftei shoes:
A big difference between Maftei and other well know craftsmen is that Maftei is not attributed to only one style/model. “We can customize the model, we can create different models of German, Budapest, English inspiration, classical models, Italian or northern models, working with all kinds of leather from calf to cordovan, reptile or shark leather“ says Mr Morariu.
Another advantage is the price: 700 Euros for wooden nails (pegged shoes) plus 100 Euros for the last. Price is valid for calf leather models. For models with exotic skin price increases, but it does not exceed 3,000 euros for alligator.
For models with hand-sewn soles price is about 900 Euros (calf skin) but it is about half that of the main competitors of equal quality . At this price the customer can choose any model he wants and any type of customization, says Radu Morariu. Another plus is the speed. Maftei manufactured shoes can be in your foot in a very short period of time. ”We made our first bespoke shoes for Bucharest, (for a famous lawyer and politician) in 3 weeks which is a very short time in terms of manufacturing speed ” recalls Radu Morariu.
The leather used in Maftei shoes is mainly from France and Italy and is vegetable tanned. “We chose France because it has an old and still respected tradition in vegetable tanneries”. The customer can pick from snake, ostrich, elephant, big cats, seal, shark, crocodile, alligator skin or any other skin that he pleases as long as the skin is legally obtain. The genuine shell cordovan is provided by the well-known Horween, in Chicago, USA.
“To produce a piece of leather used for making bespoke shoes, our leather suppliers are using only 5% of the hide. For the final product warranty is 10 years since purchase, not including consumable items: sole (of foot) and heel. Maftei also offers a repair service which begins with the sole repair, replacement of leather frame, layer of cork, sole, and revitalizing the skin. This shoe Maftei ensure a lifetime of over 20 years” says Mr Morariu.
An important aspect is the collaboration with John Lobb on the soleing part.
“With respect I can say that Maftei is among the best in the world in terms of soleing. Due to the collaboration with John Lobb, we managed to reach a far better understanding of the last technique”. ”We are very proud of our collaboration with John Lobb” says Mr Morariu
I ended the conversation with Radu Morariu after almost 3 hours in which he showed me different samples of leather, of shoes (some fantastic shoes I can say) and some special techniques. “Even if a man visits the shop out of curiosity, if you manage to make him understand what a bespoke shoe is, how much work and dedication is put into every stitch, you have won yourself a regard as a craftsman. And if the visitor will become a permanent customer, satisfaction is even greater” (…) This was an interesting view about Romanians and the possibility of being successful in producing luxury products.” However I can say that in Romania there are very skilled craftsmen, and generally very talented people. But what we lack is organization and discipline. My uncle is especially proud in life of two things: he managed to carry on the rigors of craft learned from Scheer and developed “Maftei” brand and he also managed to build in Piatra Neamt Romania, the city where he first sewed a shoe, an excellent manufacturing place that can compete with any top shoemaker shop in the world. By his hard work he won a reputation” says in closing, Radu Morariu.