http://www.sina.com.cn 2008年01月02日 16:09
If the shoe fits, wear it. If not, design one that does
2007-2008 学年 第20期
By Elizabeth Olson 郑睿 译
EVEN for the most dedicated shopper, finding just the right pair of shoes can be elusive. A store-to-store search — whether on the Web or at the mall — can take hours. Shoppers may think they’ve found the perfect pair, only to be stymied by a problem with fit, style or color.
It’s not that retailers don’t try, as the huge shoe sections in department stores and Web sites attest. But for those with very individual or exacting tastes — and with money to spare — some Internet retailers offer design-it-yourself options in footwear. Customization is more common with athletic shoes, but fashion footwear is beginning to catch up.
Makers like Vans and Nike are among the companies that offer customized shoes, allowing both women and men to create their own look from existing styles, colors and materials.
Cale Valdez, a college student in Huntington, Calif., went to vans.com to find a memorable look for his wedding last month. He designed some red and black canvas slip-ons for the wedding party, including matching lace-ups for his father-in-law. “My groomsmen had black tuxes and red vests, so we thought it would look great to have red shoes,” he said of the slip-ons, which cost $40 a pair.
Nikeid.com, which attracts almost as many women as men, has customers who order hundreds of pairs. The hip-hop disc jockey known as Clark Kent, of Brooklyn, has designed 350 pairs of shoes on the site. “The biggest attraction is the ability to shock,” he said. “You want a pair that people notice so they ask you: ‘Where did you get those?’”
While customized sneakers are available on many athletic shoe Web sites, fashion shoes are harder, although not impossible, to find.
For women who are willing to spend a hefty sum, there is Tupli. “This is ideal for the woman who can imagine the perfect shoe but can’t find it,” said Kathy Myczowski, 34. She went into the individual shoe design business with Tamara Chubinidze, 26, who is from the Republic of Georgia, where such shoemaking is more prevalent and where Tupli’s shoes are made.
Amolyn Peart, a banking manager who has purchased three pairs of shoes from the company, became intrigued with the idea after spotting a woman wearing Tupli footwear (a name derived from the Russian word for shoe) at a business gathering.
“The shoes were so gorgeous and unusual, so I immediately asked her where she got them,” said Ms. Peart, of West Orange, N.J. Like many people, she is hard to fit: her shoe size is between and 9, and ready-made shoes are often too tight in the toe.
Tupli’s clients — who include the actress Susan Sarandon — have a choice of leather and suede, as well as embellishments like rhinestones and personal logos, and initials on the upper or even on the sole, said Ms. Myczowski.
The first made-to-measure Tupli shoe that Ms. Peart designed for herself was a black and red pump for an event at work. “Everyone noticed it, especially because they were all wearing black shoes,” she recalled. Since then, she has ordered another pair of shoes and a pair of boots.
Prices for Tupli shoes start at a hefty $750 for shoes and $1,450 for boots, and customers must wait six to eight weeks for them.
Those who want a less expensive made-to-order shoe that won’t take as long to arrive can turn to Stevemadden.com. Steven Madden, founder of the company, says more than 100,000 pairs of design-your-own shoes have been sold through the site, where the prices range from $90 to $170.
That’s what Robert Klemm, 27, a loan officer in Bethpage, N.Y., did last summer after he learned about Steve Madden Ltd.’s “Design Your Own Collection.” A shoe aficionado — he owns 60 pairs — he wanted to create some shoes to surprise his girlfriend, Kate Feehan, for her birthday.
Starting with her size, 9, he clicked through the site to select a style, heel and color, putting together a navy gingham open-toe pump with a cork heel and sole that Mr. Klemm thought “would look good with everything from jeans to dresses.”
He spent $150 plus shipping and tax. The site charges a 20 percent premium for made-to-order shoes, which are assembled in China and are not returnable. The turnaround time is three weeks, according to the site.
RIGHT now, Stevemadden.com has almost no online competition. But Jeffrey Van Sinderen, apparel analyst for B. Riley & Company in Los Angeles, predicted that other makers would not be far behind, despite the large investment needed to set up a factory to make the shoes and a system to distribute them.
Made-to-order shoes are profitable, he said, and “it answers the question of how you make the product more compelling to the consumer, and that’s to give them the power to design it.”
In shoes, passion often trumps the practical. To Mary A. Johnson, 22, online design is about owning something unique. Ms. Johnson, a student at West Los Angeles College, owns 200 pairs of shoes, but that didn’t stop her from going to Stevemadden.com recently to design some ballet flats in a purple shade and trimming them in red. “This is something you make yourself,” she said, “instead of settling for what’s out there.”