This is my second pair of Winson shoes. I was quite satisfied with my first pair and saw a very big potential in Winson. This time I wanted to try out the Grandeur line—Winson's flagship line. So, I called Emil of Winson up. I was very pleased with the result. Here's my review.
From the outset I knew I somehow wanted to incorporate some crocodile leather. Crocodile is probably one of my favorite leathers because of the texture. And texture always adds a lot of interest to any item. But I had to make sure to do it in a very subtle way. Otherwise, the shoes run the risk of looking tacky.
After a lot of back and forth with Emil, and especially after seeing Simon Crompton's Saint Crispin's wingtips that incorporated crocodile leather in the lace opening (see: [https://www.permanentstyle.com/2016/05/saint-crispins-shoes-review.html]), Emil and I settled on the current model. We elected to use an adelaide design as Emil already had experience with this design. I should add that I provided Emil with the crocodile leather. Hence, no up charge.
The remaining leather of the upper is made of crust leather, whose color Emil matched with the crocodile leather. The crust leather feels smooth and uniform, and is a considerable improvement from my first pair, which feels rough and almost flaky.
The shoes come with seamless heels. Of course, the seamless heels on my shoes are not as difficult to make as, say, seamless wholecuts (which Winson can also make, by the way). But this detail should not be taken for granted, especially considering that makers such as Yohei Fukuda still use back seams on their heel counters, even for their bespoke offerings (see: [http://shoegazing.se/english/2016/04/10/buyers-guide-yohei-fukuda/]).
B. Last and Fit
I used Winson's Qilin last, which is their more elongated and chiseled last. This last goes really well with the overall design of the shoe, which is very sleek, especially with the soles (discussed in depth below).
I ordered this pair in size 43, which is the same size as my first pair of Winson shoes (Marilyn last). The last seems to be true to size.
The last is very tight around the waist, but the shoes do not feel constricting. The heel cup looks quite small and the opening even smaller. This means that the heels are properly hugged, which prevents slipping. Aesthetically, this also further emphasizes the curve in the heel.
C. Construction and Soles
The shoes are 270° handwelted with a closed channel. But the sole stitching is only 180° and the waist is secured by wooden pegs.
I chose wooden pegs as they add more interest to the sole. But more importantly, I subsequently found out that the wooden pegs actually allow the waist to be cut closer to make the waist look slimmer.
I was first interested in Winson a few years back because of their soles. Back then Winson was the only Indonesian shoemaker I knew that offered fiddle back waists. Naturally, I went with a fiddle back waist. Emil put a museum finish on the soles with a darker waist. I didn’t ask for this but have to say that it works well.
For the Grandeur line, Winson gives customers the option to nail their initials on the waist. I wanted one shoe to retain a clean waist and thus elected to only put my initials on the right sole. Winson usually only does one letter per sole, given the size of the nails. I asked if Emil could put a stylized version of my initials (which was smaller and slimmer, as otherwise the initials could not fit on one sole). He happily obliged but warned me that the fiddle back may lose its shape. In the end, the line on the fiddle back was still very sharp, but I have to say that the placements of the nails could be neater.
The toes are supported with brass nails to prevent premature wear. I initially wanted metal toe taps, which Emil initially confirmed could be done. However, towards the end of the production, I was informed that he had run out of metal toe taps. Not wanting to wait any longer, I chose to settle for the brass nails.
I ordered the shoes with Cuban heels, which are nicely tapered inward. The gap between the sole and the upper is very small, such that there seems to be an uninterrupted line from the top of the heel to the bottom of the sole. I personally like the Cuban heels, but I can see how some people may see them as too feminine.
The soles are squared off in the corners, which I did not ask for. I am not a fan of this and had asked Emil to make them more rounded and less protruding. However, Emil said that it was difficult given that at that time he had removed the shoes from the last. Since I didn’t want to make a big fuss about it and just wanted to receive the shoes, I did not push back. Even though I am not a fan of it, I can see how the squared corners can work with the shoes, which are very sleek. But for my next order, I explicitly told him not to do this again.
D. Shoe Trees
I ordered my shoes with lasted shoe trees for an extra charge. Emil informed me that his shoe trees are still in R&D. But I didn’t mind being one of his guinea pigs.
The wood doesn’t give off any scents and feels quite heavy. The surface is very smooth and doesn’t look porous (almost looks to be finished or varnished, but I'm not sure).
The shoe trees are in a two-piece construction, held together with a string. I rarely see this type of construction. Most lasted shoe trees I see are either hinged or in a three-piece construction. I understand that Emil has made hinged and three-piece shoe trees. I don’t know the reason why he chose to make my shoe trees in a two-piece construction. My guess is that he is simply trying to develop this type of construction. I am not complaining on the construction of my shoe trees as I can use them without issue.
As to the shape, you can see just how small the heel is compared to the rest of the tree. Due to this, I initially had issues removing the long part of the shoe tree as the shoe kept pulling the shoe tree back in. But with some technique (i.e., by twisting the shoe tree to the outside) I learned how to remove the shoe trees. Thereafter, I could remove the shoe trees with relative ease.
The shoe trees fit quite snugly in the shoes, but there is some space in the vamp area. In terms of the shape, however, the rest of the shoe trees is spot on. One of the main reasons I ordered my shoes with lasted shoe trees is because of the chiseled toe. I feared that regular shoe trees, which are usually more rounded, could deform or stretch the chiseled toe.
E. How it Fits in One’s Wardrobe
Given the formality of the last (long and chiseled) and the color (dark brown), I wear the shoes most often with dark suits. Charcoal and navy are the safest. Doesn’t work with black suits though. Also further to my point on fit above, the pictures below really show how well the heel cup hugs the heel.
Even though the last and color are quite formal, given the texture of the crocodile leather and the broguing (which add informality), the shoes also go very well with more casual and light-colored suits or odd trousers. But for anything above the suit or below the light-colored odd trousers in the formality spectrum, the shoes would not work. Thus, I would not wear these with tuxedos (this should be obvious) and chinos or jeans.
The shoes are very much a result of a creative process. A compromise, if you will, among my vision, Emil's vision and what is physically possible in a shoe. In this respect, I have to say that Emil really shines. The process of nailing the details down was very fun and Emil always puts in effort to meet my desires.
One area where Winson falls short is the delivery time. I ordered the shoes on 28 October 2017. I was given a time estimation of two months, for delivery before the new year. The shoes were finished on 12 April 2018, which was more than three months past the original time estimation. The shoe trees took an additional two weeks to complete, but this was not included in the original time estimation. I ended up taking delivery around early May 2018 after they had been glacaged by Patrick of Semir (@semir_idn).
I do appreciate that Winson is a small business and may have limited resources. However, I would have appreciated it more had I been informed from the outset that the shoes would take five months to complete. Would I still have ordered the shoes if I knew from the beginning that it would take five months to complete? Probably yes. But this would certainly not be the case if time was of the essence (e.g., for weddings).
The shoes cost me a little over IDR3 million (including the shoe trees, flat laces, glacage and local delivery). This is certainly on the high-side among Indonesian shoemakers. But for the price, Winson offers some of the best values in shoemaking anywhere. I cannot think of another brand that offers handwelted shoes with lasted shoe trees for that price, let alone with the amount of detail I elaborated above. The other shoemakers offering this that come to mind are well around and above the USD1,000 mark.
When ordering from Winson, it must always be kept in the back of your mind that Winson is a small business with limited resources. Frankly, I have neglected to remember this a number of times in the five months I waited for my shoes' arrival. And the wait was frustrating at times, especially when there was seemingly no progress for months.
This is something that you must consider when ordering a pair from Winson. The wait might be long, but when the shoes finally arrive, they will be very much worth the wait.
If you’re still not convinced, here are some extra pictures:
Written by: Nikki Krisadtyo