A comeback for shoemakers

Millennials are beginning to fuel a comeback for customized shoemaking, and even insisting that the manufacturing of the product be local.

On the macro scale, a number of bespoke shoe manufacturers have entered the digital marketplace over the last few years with millennials as the prime customer target. Chief among them is Awl & Sundry, a New York-based company that allows customers to design their own shoes.

Bu the shoes are made in China.

Other larger-scale bespoke manufacturers, such as Cobbler Union and Jack Erwin, are also importing their goods, typically from Spain or Portugal.

So while millennials want customized shoes, they want shoes made by someone closer to home. They want to be aware of the process, even seeing the shoe being made around the block. To millennials, that means there’s quality and care used in the shoemaking process. As a result, local shoemakers are starting to emerge in larger cities.

Marcell Mrsan is leading the charge. A sixth-generation Hungarian shoemaker, Mrsan owns Duffy Street Store, a shoe business in millennial-hopping Savannah, Ga.

He also runs the Koronya Shoemaking School in Savannah, and other shoemaking schools have followed in its path. The Chicago School of Shoemaking has leather classes and a master class, and the Brooklyn Shoe Space offers dozens of classes, such as a $1,300 sneaker-making workshop.

TRENDPOST: As millennials constantly seek a local connection with everything, expect to see more bespoke shoemakers (and other fashion-focused artisans) in larger American cities. With that, expect to see an influx of schools touting expensive classes geared to create tomorrow’s batch of fashion artisans.

 At the same time, the customer base is limited. Millennials on average have relatively modest household income, are saddled with college tuition debt and are the generation with poorest rate of small business start-up on record.

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