Here at Aquila we take great pride in creating quality men’s shoes, often using traditional Italian artisan techniques to craft the perfect shoe. Take it from us – there’s a lot more work that goes into making a pair of shoes than you might think. Here is a run-through into the Art of Shoe Making at Aquila.
From the catwalks to the high street, the design of a shoe is the main reason we either like it or we don’t. But as trends come and go with the seasons, some designs have remained unchanged for decades. These are the classics like Oxfords, Derbys, Brogues and Chelsea boots; essential shoes in any man’s wardrobe.
The challenge for men’s shoe designers is to constantly develop new ways to freshen up these timeless classics; to add a modern twist. At Aquila, our focus and inspirations is firmly on the latest design and style trends emerging out of Europe.
Making one perfect pair of shoes is a good start, but if you want to repeat the process you’ll need a set pattern; as the entire design of the shoe and its construction are determined by the pattern
Shoe patterns are created in three-dimensions to fit a specific shape, which is called a last. Usually, a white taped-together last is drawn on to determine the individual pieces. These are then cut apart and arranged flat to form the basis of the pattern.
Often, the shape of the separate pieces and the way in which they are joined is an integral and defining feature of the shoe’s design. That’s why creating a pattern takes time; trial and error is key. A reliable and resolved set of working patterns is the pride of any shoemaker’s toolbox.
Traditionally done by hand, the cutting of the leather or material shoe sections is now often done by machine to meet the higher volumes a modern market demands.
During the cutting stage the shoemaker can position the pattern to use the best section of the leather, or ensure that any textures, embossing detail or grain are aligned correctly. Cutting can add further character to a shoe through panel shapes and detailed edge finishes like a crimped edge or scalloped cut.
SEWING & ASSEMBLY
The stitching detail is another integral element of the shoe’s design. It can add texture and colour through the use of contrasting thread and piping.
Shoes are constructed by assembling the individual pieces together to create the upper, adding the shoe lining in the process. Once stitched together, a toe puff and heel counter are added between the upper and the lining.
Now the upper is ready to be lasted – it’s wrapped around the last it was designed for, which helps create the three-dimensional shoe shape. The last can radically change the character of a shoe and determines how the shoe maintains its shape and features, including whether or not it has a square or rounded toe.
For every shoe there’s a last on which forms the basis of that particular shoe; be it a sandal, boat shoe or Chelsea boot, for example. Lasts were traditionally carved from wood to match the shape of an individual’s foot. Today, they are often styled from high-density plastics that have greater structure power for repeated use.
HEELING & FINISHING
The last process to creating a shoe, the formed ‘upper’ now needs its sole and heel. There are many methods in doing so, but some of the more common constructions used at Aquila include 'cement' construction or a traditional 'Blake stitched' construction. Rubber, leather or a combination of both is used to form the sole and build up the heel.
Finally, leather shoes are cleaned and then hand-finished with various polishing creams to re-nourish the leather after the production process. This also helps to bring out all the subtle highs and lows in the leather’s coloring. Suede shoes are carefully brushed to leave a perfectly smooth nap on the surface.
So there you have it – the finished shoe! To withstand the tough wearing most shoes are subjected to, they have to be built well and with integrity - something Aquila has been renowned for for over 60 years.