Monday, August 13, 2007

Individual style versus Designer mass production: Where do you stand?

In the glamorous thirties, individual style, made to measure sartoria was the distinction of the ‘haves and have nots,’ today, fashion democratisation led by mass produced designer gear has only led to bling and chavs' mismatch clothing. If fashion reflects zeitgeist then no clearer indication of this trend can be seen than in the Beckhams as they settle in the full glare of the Paparazzi in Hollywood.
On field Becks appeases the animal right lobby but off field the well dressed man wears custom made shoes from the exclusive G.J. Cleverley & Co. Ltd., in Old Bond Street, London. Prior to moving to LA David Beckham flew from Spain to have his first shoe fitting. Quality bespoke (made to measure) shoes require several fittings before the final shoes are ready to wear. Once the feet have been measured and the customer chooses their shoe design, leather and shape, a precise wooden last (copy of his foot) is made and kept on file. The leather parts are assembled with fine adjustments made at the second fitting. The shoe is then finished by by crafts men who hand-stitching the soles. The company also supplies hand tailored shoe trees to keep the shape of the shoes when they are not in use. G.J. Cleverly & Co Ltd., was established in 1958 and soon gained a reputation as a shoemaker to the gentry with their distinctive chisel toed shoe. The founder, George Cleverley was born into a shoe making family, and after serving his time and his country, during the Great War he started working for a high-society shoemaker in Mayfair. There, the craftsman developed the Cleverley shaped shoe which became popular with the nouveaux rich as the English Style of clothing prevailed in fashion. Rudolph Valentino, Humphrey Bogart, and Sir Lawrence Olivier among many others from film, finance and high-society smart set, all clambered to wear quality shoes. He set up his own company and continued to service a diverse client range of clientele including Sir Winston Churchill to Charlie Watts (Rolling Stones). From its inception, Cleverley shoes have been made on the premises with the focus always on quality. The company has never advertised nor operated multiple locations around the world. The reputation for their quality leatherwear has been gained through word-of-mouth by its customers and remains that way to this day. A pair of bespoke Cleverley shoes start around $3,000 (US), but the company also offer 41 ready-made shoe styles including its signature slip-on black cap-toe or pin-point oxfords to its brown calf-skin elastic-sided shoe, and popular brown calfskin raised apron Norwegian. Cleverley’s ready made shoes start at about $600 (US). Founder, George Cleverly died in 1991 but the tradionons of the company are still maintained by successors George Glasgow and John Carnera, who now co-own the company. Bespoke footwear remain very popular in the “well heeled” community in the US and George and John regularly make visits to measure new and long time clients for custom- and ready-made shoes.

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