Sewing your own dress in this age of instant retail gratification? This and other workshops, surprisingly, are drawing participants who see value in getting crafty.

Ever bought a pair of shoes only to realise that the fit is not right? If you could make your own shoes, that problem wouldn’t occur.

“Shoes sold off the shelf are made in standard sizes and shapes, but your feet are not,” says Kit Lee, co-founder of Shoe Artistry. The bespoke shoe company is based in Hong Kong, but Ms Lee and her husband, Jeff Wan, are expanding the business to Singapore and Indonesia.

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The couple started out offering bespoke shoes, but soon received requests from customers asking if they could make a pair themselves. “That’s when we realised that there is a market of consumers that we could target,” says Mr Wan. “These consumers love the idea of ‘experience buying’ their products, where they can experience and enjoy the process of making their products.”

In Singapore, the couple work with The General Company which helps organise their shoe-making workshops.

Ms Lee, 36, is trained as a fashion and jewellery designer, while Mr Wan, 36, is a product designer. Both only learnt shoe-making when Ms Lee took over Ming Kee Shoes, a bespoke shoe shop in Jordan, Hong Kong, which was forced to close due to high rental costs.

Ms Lee gave Ming Kee Shoes a new identity, building up its customer service, business operations and shoe designers. “The objective was to revitalise this heritage of shoe-making and pass it on to the next generation,” she says. She recruited several shoe-maker masters to join Shoe Artistry, and learnt the craft from them.

The couple conduct several shoe-making workshops at The General Company. There is the Shoe Design and Pattern Making Workshop for beginners, where students learn how to design shoes from both a creative and a technical point of view.

Students learn how to transform their 2D shoe designs into 3D designs onto the shoe last (which is a mechanical form that has a shape similar to that of a human foot) and then turning them into 2D patterns. This is actually the first and most crucial step of shoe-making. This course focuses heavily on designing shoes on a given foot template, drawing on the shoe last, cutting out and flattening the shell and pattern-making. In this workshop, no shoes will be made, and a course is priced at S$150.

From there, students can then proceed to the other workshops, learning how to make ballet flats, baby shoes, slip-ons and tie-string shoes. Such workshops cost from S$250. Regardless of workshop, students are given an appropriate shoe template, which they can customise with their own choice of materials.

Students will cut and piece together the patterns they have already cut out on leather and also work with the shoe lasts to take the shape of the shoes. Depending on the complexity, it can be a two-day course, but students get to go home with their very own pair of shoes.

Each class comprises about five to six students. “As shoe-making involves many steps and processes, we prefer to keep the class small so that students get our full attention,” says Ms Lee.

Mr Wan says that the biggest challenge for shoe-making students, is that “they get to build muscles on their hands. Most of us use only our fingers, but through shoe-making, they maximise the full potential of their hands.”

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