The Shoe Snob Blog

July 14, 2014

Written by , Posted in News

Awl & Sundry – Customization Made Easy

Awl & Sundry Shoes The Shoe Snob

 
As I have said before, it is always interesting to see a new shoe brand coming out and thus figuring out what it brings to the table. Those that bring nothing, usually fade away, but those that create something unique and unlike what anyone has done before (or better than an existing company) usually do well and stick around for at least a while. In comes Awl & Sundry, a new brand who has only just recently launched but who actually started making a buzz about their shoes before they even had a site or anything up (a landing page but that was it). It became very mysterious and intriguing and I was anxious too see what the fuss was going to be about. It kept my attention and I thought it was clever marketing on their part. When they finally launched, I thought, he is a brand that is here to stay….

 

You can see all of the choices that I went through to arrive at my shoes

You can see all of the choices that I went through to arrive at my shoes

Awl & Sundry Shoes The Shoe Snob Awl & Sundry Shoes The Shoe Snob Awl & Sundry Shoes The Shoe Snob Awl & Sundry Shoes The Shoe Snob Awl & Sundry Shoes The Shoe Snob

The idea of what Awl & Sundry want to provide is clear: a customizable, handmade shoe at an affordable price. The concept is clear, concise and simple but the execution of doing it right is not so simple. But from the looks of things, they spent A LOT of time planning this whole thing and putting all of the necessary systems in place to get it up and running. For that I must commend them as I believe that it must have been a logistical nightmare! Back to the idea of getting the customer a shoe that they want, made by hand, and at a low price. Sounds great doesn’t it? Of course it does. We live in a world where everyone expects champagne on a bum’s beer budget, so needless to say offering handmade shoes at bottom level prices is like every man’s dream come true. So how did they do it?

nice logo and boxes

nice logo and boxes

nice texture on the box...details

nice texture on the box…details

Awl & Sundry Shoes The Shoe Snob ??????????????????????????????? Awl & Sundry Shoes The Shoe Snob

Clearly there is a trend of going to Asia to get high quality shoes made, as let’s not lie here the wages are a very small fraction of that in the West. But hey, while that is neither here nor there, it does come into play when asking about how they manage to keep the retail prices low. So, Awl & Sundry, who are very honest by the way about it all, found a small group of craftsman in China who were able to make shoes entirely by hand and do so in a customizable manner providing that they had all of the pieces of the puzzle put in order. Therefore, as A&S wanted to offer MTO shoes at the end of your fingertips, they made 5 lasts, 4 models (loafer, oxford, derby & monkstrap), 3-4 design details for each model and then cut out about 10 million patterns (not really but a BIG number for sure). Then they created a very hand’s-on website that allows you to see visually how you could create one of those 10 million outcomes without having to guess how it is going to look. Quite cool no?!

I liked the soles...

I liked the soles…

Awl & Sundry Shoes The Shoe Snob Awl & Sundry Shoes The Shoe Snob

the pebble grain

the pebble grain

a bit of a wonky stitch on the sole, but not really a bid deal or anything...the quality doesn't change for this..it happens in handmade shoes!

a bit of a wonky stitch on the sole, but not really a bid deal or anything…the quality doesn’t change for this..it happens in handmade shoes!

Awl & Sundry Shoes The Shoe Snob

the lining leather was nice

the lining leather was nice

a tad bit rough, but not too bad

a tad bit rough, but not too bad

Awl & Sundry Shoes The Shoe Snob

So now what about the shoes you ask? Allow me to divulge. Firstly, they are completely handmade (welted and sole stitched by hand). They cost $350 and that comes with nice shoe bags, a shoe horn and even better, shoe trees. And no, they are not lasted trees. They have a very robust feel and look about them. They feel like a handmade shoe. But they also look like a handmade shoe that is not so refined as a European bespoke. But if you like heavy looking shoes, then this is good for you. If you don’t, well…. I have to say that I really liked my pair, but when I look at them online in the pictures of other’s, I wasn’t so convinced about them at all. I can’t really place why? Whether it’s that my pattern was good and other’s aren’t or that the pictures taken by others are making the shoes unattractive or not. I don’t know. I do see that some shoes have WAY too much toe spring, where as mine did not. It leads me to believe that there is some inconsistency going on somewhere but I just can pinpoint where.

The shoes felt great. They did feel a tad bit big though and I asked for a UK6.5 (US7.5) which is normally very snug on me, so there are some slight sizing issues there. The shoe overall was a great value for money. My only concerns where the quality of the leather (not that I had issues but for aging is my curiosity), some of the finishing techniques and the height of the heel (too big IMHO). The edges of the uppers were quite rough and not as tidy as one would expect. The suede was nice and had a great nap, but the pebble leather, while not giving me really any reason to think that it is bad quality was just something that I had never seen before from any of the reputable tanneries. So, most people fear what they don’t know. But I could be wrong. Only time would tell. The real concern (and this is from pictures alone) would be the calfskin, which does not seem like it comes from any of the famous European tanneries and does’t look so great in other people’s pictures. I would be curious to know where it is sourced from.

Awl & Sundry Shoes The Shoe Snob Awl & Sundry Shoes The Shoe Snob Awl & Sundry Shoes The Shoe Snob Awl & Sundry Shoes The Shoe Snob Awl & Sundry Shoes The Shoe Snob Awl & Sundry Shoes The Shoe Snob Awl & Sundry Shoes The Shoe Snob

 

Aside from my doubts about the leather, the shoes seem quite good for their price. I think judging it as a whole, I would prefer a pair of A&S (ones like mine, with good pattern and low toe spring) over a pair of many of other shoes at that same price-point and there are a lot of them in the States. I have to say that what they are doing is very cool. Most people don’t want just a plain shoe that you can get from everywhere. People want customization, especially if it is easily done and doesn’t take that long to receive. A&S quotes a 4-5 week turnaround, which is quite good when you think that other MTO brands quote anywhere from 2-4 months. So overall, a good concept done well. I believe that like most new brands that they will have teething issues. And reviews like this might make them question the flaws and sort them out. So who knows how good the shoes could be in a year from now?

Either way, I was pleased for what I was getting for what they cost. And while the shoes are currently only available in the US, the owner has told me that from the 21st of July, they will start to ship to the EU, Australia and Canada, so start making your designs now at:

https://www.awlandsundry.com/

p.s. if you like my design and want to get it too, it is called the Ronaldo (don’t ask me why 😉

Awl & Sundry Shoes The Shoe Snob Awl & Sundry Shoes The Shoe Snob Awl & Sundry Shoes The Shoe Snob Awl & Sundry Shoes The Shoe Snob Awl & Sundry Shoes The Shoe Snob Awl & Sundry Shoes The Shoe Snob Awl & Sundry Shoes The Shoe Snob

  • PaulvdHart

    What a wonderful place! But like you said, sizing seems to be a bit of a problem. Whilst checking around, I had a look at their size conversion table, and it doesn’t really tally with what I know… I have a EU size 43, occasionally 44 which generally translates in a size 9, occasionally 9,5 UK size. Usually when I order shoes to those sizes, it works.

    But with Awl & Sundry a UK 9 would tally with a EU 41,5 in which case my shoes would be way too small, or my EU 43 would tally with a UK 10,5…

    To be honest, if I would have to order a pair of shoes on the basis of that information I would shurely hesitate to plunge € 250 into an unknown….

  • Obnoxious Dude

    Really fun concept, love the idea. The quality look very poor though (but hey, it is a $350.00 pair of shoes, what can you expect…)

  • JDO

    Hi Justin,

    Thanks for the review. I have also been following Awl & Sundry as their model seems pretty innovative.

    Do you mind expanding on the impression the pebble grain gave you? You say that it is not like anything you have seen from the reputable tanneries you are familiar with. What about it seems unusual?

    The reason I ask is that I’ve been thinking about ordering a pair of shoes from A&S in pebble grain, but maybe the suede will be a better option.

    Thanks as always,

    JDO

    • nik

      Hi JDO,
      we are working on publishing details on our leather tanneries. We don’t compromise on the quality of the product as you can see from the pictures. I have attached some additional pictures here for your reference.

      Please feel free to get in touch if you have any additional questions.

      Best,
      Nikunj
      Founder, Awl & Sundry

    • TheShoeSnob

      sorry for the late reply JDO…it did not look like a proper pebble grain, a bit too shiny and treated looking. I hope that this helps…

  • Alex B

    I had a look a while back and was put off by the last shapes: yours look quite attractive -which last?

    • Nikunj Marvania

      Hi Alex, Justin ordered the Harvey last.

  • DBD

    I went all out with the two of these. I will stand by these designs.

  • Simon Muster

    Unfortunately they do not ship to europe….

    • TheShoeSnob

      i am sure that they will be fixing that soon