***Written by Jesper of Shoegazing, edited by myself***
Here’s a substantial review of all the amazing competition shoes – 29 black balmoral boots – that entered the World Championships of Shoemaking 2023. Info about the makers and the shoes, comments, pictures of the shoes, and in some cases also the manufacturing process. So much shoe greatness.
It has taken some time, as it always does (I’ve spent more than 60 hours the past few weeks putting these posts together), thank you for your patience. But here it is, the summary of all contestant shoes 2023. Loads of shoe greatness for you to go through.
Part of the London Super Trunk Show at the beginning of May was the fourth edition of the World Championships of Shoemaking (see here for more articles on this contest and find the summaries of previous year’s shoes), organized by Shoegazing and The Shoe Snob. It’s organized in collaboration with online retailer Kirby Allison, book project Master Shoemakers, and private person Parker Schenecker, brother of the shoe aficionado Edmund Schenecker who sadly passed away two years ago. These contribute with the substantial prize money of £3,000 to the winner, £2,000 to the second place and £1,000 to the third place (note that we organizers don’t make any money at all on this contest, the money is paid directly from the partners to the shoemakers). Also, they receive one handmade awl by Phil Norsworthy.
The top three boots also will go on tour around the world now (together with the winning shoes in the patina championship), to be showcased to as many shoe lovers as possible. As usual a mix of some new locations and stores, and some that have been part of the tours in previous years. The shoes will also be showcased at the New York Super Trunk Show on October 14. The preliminary (locations are set, apart from ones marked *, but dates mays still change) tour schedule is as follows:
|Aug 29-Sep 2
|New York Super Trunk Show
|New York, USA
|New York, USA
|Nov 27-Dec 7
|Jan 23-Feb 3
At the London Super Trunk Show, all competition shoes were on display for the 1,300 people who visited the event during the day, and at the award ceremony in the evening, the top ten were presented. The shoes and the competition always gain a big interest and admiration, and also afterward the attention has been large. This contest has really found its place, which we are really happy about. The overall level continues to be raised. Which in a way is good not least for those who want to see superb craftsmanship, rather than shoes made by people early in development.
The jury gathered at The Valet in London for the jury review.
The day before the event the shoes were reviewed anonymously by the jury, which consisted of (seen in the photo above, listed from the left):
Masaru Okuyama, bespoke shoemaker
Jean-Michel Casalonga, bespoke shoemaker, workshop manager Berluti
Kirby Allison, founder of the Kirby Allison webshop
Sebastian Tarek, bespoke shoemaker
Daniel Wegan, bespoke shoemaker, winner 2019
Justin FitzPatrick, The Shoe Snob
Jesper Ingevaldsson, Shoegazing
Gary Tok, author of Master Shoemakers
Dominic Casey, bespoke shoemaker
(A note on having JM Casalonga of Berluti part of the jury, when the winner was from the same company. They work in different workshops, and Casalonga didn’t know Sephocle was entering. In fact, he didn’t recognize that the shoe was a maker from his company, which he was a bit embarrassed about. Either way, to secure things, we did points calculations where JM Casalonga’s points were removed, and it actually didn’t change a single position.)
The criteria that were set out for the competition shoes were as follows:
– Balmoral lace-up boot model, closed lacing, with a brogued / punched cap toe (3-5 separate leather pieces excluding tongue, only brogueing/punching along the toe cap)
– One left shoe, size UK8 (or corresponding size), maximum 2 width sizes up or down from an acceptable standard width
– Smooth black box calf/aniline-dyed calf upper (so not surface-dyed black)
– Leather sole
– Hand welted, handmade sole stitch
– Black sole and heel edges, natural colored bottom (decorations with for example wheels or nails are ok, but no dye or burnish)
– Finished inside of the shoe, with sock lining etc.
– No branding
Errors with respect to the above specifications resulted in deductions of points, a 5% deduction of total points for small errors, 10% deduction of total points for larger errors. If the shoe would not follow specifications at all, it could be disqualified, but have never been the case yet.
Competitors could enter both as a company or as a person. All persons that have been part of the making of the shoe should be stated, and which process(es) each person has made.
Degree of difficulty (maximum 10 points per jury member)
The jury looked at how complicated the construction methods that have been used, how advanced they have been built both in large and in smaller details, etc.
Execution (maximum 10 points)
The jury looked at how well the various parts of the shoe construction have been made, how neat and clean the work is, how well executed the level of finishing is, etc.
Design/Aesthetics (maximum 5 points)
The jury looked at the overall aesthetics of the shoe, proportions, balance etc.
So, below first is the full list of results, then a walkthrough of all competition shoes, from position 1 to 29 (1-10 in this post, 11-29 in another post coming soon). Do take your time and look through things, study the photos etc, to really appreciate things. There are more pictures and text on the top position shoes, with so many entries I have to do things a bit more condensed to make it workable, but all have a brief summary and at least four pictures of the shoes from various angles. In some cases of the top ten shoes, I’ve also included pictures of the making process.
(Click on maker/brand to go directly to summary)
Table of contents
11. Attila Shoes
12. Jihoon Yun
13. Daiki Fujiyama
14. Kim Junghwan
15. Dmitry Avdyukhov
16. Calzoleria De Fumo
17. RAB Bespoke
19. Yasunari Shimozaki
19. Zhencheng Wang
21. The Last Shoemaker
23. Ryota Hayafuji
25. Karol Stanios
26. Marat Ablakov
27. Badhatbrothers & Co
28. Kim Kyungseok
29. Lisa Teng
.The rest will be shown in the following post
1. Athanase Sephocle
The winning shoe this year is surely intriguing. Made by the Frenchman Athanase Sephocle, who works for Berluti. When you look at it, the first impression is a fairly traditional old-school balmoral boot. You look closer and see that it’s definitely very well-made, you see the seamless vamp piece, the Wegan-inspired ridgeback, hand braided top-line stitch, and so on. A great shoe, no doubt, but to put it bluntly, nothing that stands out so much that you understand why it’s the winner. Then you pick it up and turn it over to see the bottom…
Here, it’s everything but classic and traditional. Here it’s bells and whistles, exaggerations, drama, creativity, and both very high difficulty and high level of execution. Remarkably enough it doesn’t clash at all with the more classic upper part, they work great together. It’s a bit hard to explain the sole, waist, and heel in words, much better to just look at the photos, where you can more appreciate the spectacular design with a front sole part done only at the edges, then a cross-sectional super slim waist going over in a horseshoe heel that ends in a very delicate thin outside part. You have braided decorative stitching with brass thread (!) inside the heel and a lovely brass plate toe tap.
– I like the emotions the boot creates, with the simplicity of the model and the surprise effect of the outsole, Athanase Sephocle says.
What all the shoemakers of the jury were most amazed by was how Athanase managed to last the waist and heel part of the upper in such a perfect way, following along so far underneath, something very difficult to achieve. And to braid stitch a rather thick, stiff brass (I believe it’s brass or some other gold-colored metal) thread so delicately. Overall, it’s also a very beautiful boot, well-balanced with excellent proportions and carefully added design elements. A superb shoe in all regards.
Athanase Sephocle started his journey in shoemaking within orthopedic shoemaking and making show shoes, he has done a Compagnons du Devoir trainee program, and now for almost ten years, he’s been working for the French luxury house Berluti, their second bespoke workshop run by Anthony Delos in Main et Loire. He’s mainly doing bottom-making. He entered the shoemaking world champs in 2019 as well and finished in 15th place, which was a big disappointment to him.
– ‘I realized that to win this contest, I had to relearn everything. I built up a workshop at home to be able to spend more time doing shoes and do it with concentration, and worked on my technique extensively during these three years,’ Athanase Sephocle says.
Around 200 hours were spent on making this contest shoe, a serious effort. Lyse Simon stitched the upper, the rest was made by Athanase.
– ‘I learned a lot of new techniques and pushed my mental technical and mental limitations. I have to keep working to learn even more. And for the future, for me, this contest is like the “Champions League”, I won my first star but I hope not the last.’
Athanase Sephocle is the first winner from France, there’s been two podium places though, Christophe Corthay’s second place 2019 and Philippe Atienza’s third in 2018. The least known name for sure, but working for the most well-known firm that ever had representatives in the contest. With the amazing shoemaking heritage France has, and knowing how much the French love and appreciate contests, it’s an extra nice thing to finally have a French world champion.
More photos of the masterpiece.
2. Victor Vulpe
Romanian Victor Vulpe’s boot is perhaps the most spectacular entry of this year’s contest, with so many great features and techniques showcased. He made everything himself. It received the highest points on the difficulty of all shoes in the contest, but many of the jury members gave it a bit lower on execution and design/aesthetics compared to Sephocle’s boot, which meant it finished just behind in second place. An interesting thing is that perhaps the most eye-catching thing of the whole boot is something that some might not even understand what it is. The fact is that the top piece covering the opening is actually the tongue of the boot.
Personally speaking, this was my favorite of the bunch. – Justin FitzPatrick
The shoe is made with a so-called “full-close construction”. The tongue goes up and covers the entire opening, and not only that but it’s also stitched to the upper. There’s no way into the boot. How the last has been removed, is…magic! Victor Vulpe had been told about this type of construction, about how a Romanian shoemaker had won a large shoemaking contest in Vienna in the 1930s with a boot made this way.
– ‘It took me a long time to figure out how to make this, and to make it well. The championship is the perfect place to showcase this strange thing, not many people have seen something similar,’ says Victor Vulpe.
This is certainly not all on this shoe. The upper is superbly decorated in many ways, with holes at the shaft to reveal the empty inside with hand-stitched “buttonhole” seams, double layer punching at the toe cap, the main seams have a machine-stitched center thread, and then hand-braided gold thread, the back center seam has intricate beading, and so on. Moving down on the shoe, the sole stitching of 30 spi of course is seriously incredible. And on the bottom, the heel is a world of its own, hard to describe in words. The high level of difficulty has resulted in some parts with small issues, some uneven welt areas, heel tapering a bit irregular, etc. That’s when one is really nitpicking. Cause rest assured, this is a masterpiece worthy of being in a museum.
Victor Vulpe from Romania has worked as a leather craftsman for almost 30 years, and for about 15 years he started to make shoes as well. Amazingly enough trained by himself by looking at other shoes, reading lots of historic books, and so on. He finished fourth in the world champs 2019, and for this year, he decided to put in even more effort.
– ‘I think I’ve spent around 300 hours on the making of this boot. It became an addiction, and I’ve learned a lot of new techniques and developed my skill making it,’ says Victor Vulpe.
If you look at Victor’s Instagram you’ll see that most of his works are rather special stuff, cool designs with special techniques used. For a small niche bespoke shoemaker like him, based in Romania, he says that the world championship contest is vital for him to be able to continue making shoes.
– ‘This contest is a great opportunity. Without this, I would have to put down my tools and stop making shoes altogether. The attention that my work gets from this is absolutely vital for me, and I think it’s important that all of you guys involved in the contest know this.’
3. Louis Lampertsdörfer
Louis Lampertsdörfer from Germany, who runs the brand Mogada, has made the most classic and toned-down shoe in the top three, but it’s so clean and well-made. I think it’s good for the contest, this mix of more dramatic showpieces and more classic stuff, there the lather still can reach very high if done to top-standard. Earlier examples of podium positions with more subdued entries, we have Philippe Atienza in 2018 and Eiji Murata of Main d’Or in 2019. When asked about what he’s most pleased with about the shoes, Louis says:
– ‘How the last, the pattern and the shape of the bottom work well together. That is always my main objective when making a shoe to have these three things in harmony. With this competition shoe, I was very pleased how the curves of the pattern pick up the last shape and everything just looks balanced.’
This boot is truly timeless. A lovely sleek soft square toe last, where the narrow waist makes the upper come in beautifully in the middle part of the shoe. The vamp is made of a seamless piece of leather, so it’s been pulled over the last in one part and then cut out, raising the difficulty level. Also, the excellent 20 spi sole stitch shows skill. Here it was execution and design that were the main point gatherers, it’s superbly well put together, and the aesthetics if flawless.
The upper making was made by Raz Maftei in Vienna, the rest by Louis Lampertsdörfer. The big trend with horseshoe heels we have also here, even if a more conservative version, but personally I have to say that I think the boot would have looked even better with a classic heel, it would have harmonized even better with the rest. But otherwise in general, when you look at this boot, you don’t find any flaws anywhere, which is quite impressive.
Around 150 hours were spent on the making of the boot. It’s Louis’ second attempt in the contest, his first in 2019 he finished sixth. Then he was just finishing his apprenticeship at Gaziano & Girling’s bespoke department, for which he then worked for a while. But for the past two years or so he’s been back in his home country Germany, in Munich, where he has set up his own bespoke brand (and now also a small selection of RTW) called Mogada.
For Louis Lampertsdörfer, the contest is an excellent way to push himself. For his 2019 entry, he was challenged by a 16 spi sole stitch, now that’s a standard thing to do. Here he had to train a lot to do a seamless upper part, something he now feels he can handle comfortably.
– ‘The competition always gives you a little push to try things of which you first were afraid because they seem hard but you really grow from doing that and it gives you a good and secure feel towards your normal work, knowing you are able to do such things. That’s why it is amazing to have such a competition, and I am already looking forward to entering again.’
4. Nayuta Takahashi
Last year we had three Japanese makers in the top, this year the highest place ended up just off the podium. Nauyta Takahashi’s entry has a very classic base, with round a round toe last and very classic proportions. The execution is exemplary, while the difficulty is a bit behind the highest ones. Along the top line and facing he has made a really interesting decorative detail with twisted leather pieces, this certainly has required an effort.
Nayuta Takahashi is from the Kanagawa region southwest of Tokyo and has worked as an out-worker for several brands for several years. He also runs his own bespoke brand, where especially this type of intricate upper details, special types of brogueing etc is his specialty. Nayuta also has an interesting project together with Kiyo Uda, called Tweed & Mouth, with superbly beautiful shoes. Nauyta Takahashi has made all parts of his entry himself.
5. William Efe Laborde
This boot could literally have been made many, many decades ago, both in terms of design and materials used. London-based bespoke maker William Efe Laborde has created a typical Victorian model made entirely from vintage and self-made materials, down to every detail including vintage box calf upper leather and linen thread and nails dating from the 1950s. It’s a class boot in all regards, from the superb 20 spi closing by Lucy Smith, to all the bottom work and finishing by William Efe Laborde. Sole stitching at 21 spi, a high Victorian heel with thin lifts, and so on.
William Efe Laborde was born in France but has now lived in England for many years. He started his venture into shoemaking at a course with Carréducker a bunch of years ago, and now he’s running his own brand out of London, as well as making freelance work for some famous UK bespoke brands. He’s fascinated by historic shoemaking and has done a lot of research on this topic, as well as running a side business selling vintage tools and materials, which makes it a given his entry would look the way it does.
6. Acme Shoemaker
The Chinese brand Acme Shoemaker has created a boot that is well in line with their regular RTW to bespoke offerings, just pumped up in terms of difficulty. One such thing is the way the joint between the vamp and shaft is hidden under a hand-braided stitch, almost invisible. Another is the seamless wholecut vamp piece they’ve used and the tight sole stitching. The shoe is also overall really well-made.
Acme is a workshop based in Beijing, which has a setup where each worker specializes in a smaller part of the making. That’s why the list of persons being part of the making is longer than usual. Shoe design: Yin Junqun, Xue Zhong. Upper Making: Li Hailiang. Lasting: Sun Jianhua. Stitching welt: Chen Xiangsheng. Rest of bottoming: Zhou Zhihai. Finishing: Zhou Xing. Acme has made a name of itself by offering RTW made to proper high bespoke standards at a relatively good price, and now also has a more affordable, still fully handmade range.
7. Yoann Pannelay
Yoann Pannelay from France has made a booth that is both really nice looking – received high points on design/aesthetics – and very well-made – received high points on execution. It has various special design details that work well and gives it a unique character. I’m particularly fond of the way the tongue and backpiece match each other in shape.
Claire Daubé made the closing of the upper, Yoann Pannelay the rest. Yoann went through the Les Compagnons du Devoir trainee program between 2016-2019. He then worked for the company Cordonnerie Raineu in Nantes for a few years, and now works as a shoemaker in Paris, Les 2 Lutins.
8. Kenjiro Kawashima
Last year’s bronze medalist Kenjiro Kawashima, who made the entire boot himself, has made a very impressive entry this round as well, but as always it’s tight in the top, so a bit further down in the results list this year. The creativity sure is there, with so many great features, many that I’ve never seen before. For example the hammered sole, the way he has carved the leather top line to look like elastics, the various ways he connects the leather pieces of the upper, and so on.
Kenjiro Kawashima comes from Japan, but he lives in South Korea for a few years. Between this, he trained under Norman Vilalta in Barcelona, and he is his main bespoke shoemaker. Kenjiro is now also building up his own bespoke brand slowly but surely, which looks quite interesting with some special stuff going.
9. Yim Shoemaker
Yim Shoemaker from China has made a boot that is high in all regards. A high heel, high shaft, high toe box. Especially execution is terrific, more or less flawless making. There are skillful hands behind this boot – no doubt about that. The sweeping seams on the upper shaft also give it a bit of a personal character, together with a small thing like how it’s laced.
Yim Shoemaker is the brand of Gray Yim, a shoemaker from Guangzhou. One of the first Chinese makers that made a name for himself internationally, first through a collaboration with Japanese firm Hobu, later through his own Instagram. And things go well, he is so busy with work that he still hasn’t removed his Instagram info on that he hasn’t started to accept orders yet, which has been there for years.
10. Andrey Kaveshnikov
Andrey Kaveshnikov from Russia has an entry that certainly stands out. One part is the upper with its peaks, stars, and overlapping leather pieces – one part is the bottom with my personal favorite pieces of the entire contest, the “glass” parts with golden glitter layers. Especially at the heel where the green color adds depth and really makes it feel like an ocean crate. Something I’ve never seen before on a shoe, which is one of the things that I love about this contest, new stuff.
Andrey Kaveshnikov has the bespoke brand Moscow Shoemaker, and also holds shoemaking courses, including online courses. He’s one of the more famous Russian makers. He’s been entering the contest several times, and has been improving his position every year. Four people were involved in the making: pattern by Nadezhda Artemova, closing by Galina Krutukha, glacage by Alexey Vrublevskiy, all other work plus design by Andrey Kaveshnikov. The shoe received a 5% points deduction due to now having a natural sole finish.