Elevate Your Footwear Game With a Pair of Custom Shoes
The concept of customizing casual footwear might seem commonplace nowadays—even sneaker juggernauts like Nike and Adidas allow near-full personalization of their most iconic styles. But what if you want to create a pair of dress shoes or boots from the ground up? A talented cobbler could tackle light cosmetic modifications, like alterations to the outsoles, to those close-to-perfect shoes you already own. But if you’re picky about the toe shape or insole, or want a specific combination of materials, you might find yourself out of luck (or shelling out thousands of dollars). Until now: Meet Le Majordome, a Swiss luxury shoemaker that has been producing high-quality custom footwear in Europe since 2012.
Founded by former architect Gian-Luca Cavigelli as a temporary shop in Zurich, Le Majordome soon exploded into a thriving business with three boutiques in Switzerland and an online store. In November 2021, Le Majordome opened a flagship location in New York City along with a U.S. website, so men on the other side of the Atlantic now have access to the brand’s selection of hand-lasted custom and ready-to-wear footwear.
But what is it that makes Le Majordome’s approach to custom shoes so novel? Soon after the brand flung open the doors to its newest boutique, I zipped up to Midtown Manhattan to find out for myself.
Not Your Average Shoe Store
Even before stepping inside Le Majordome, it was clear that this shopping experience would be very different from the sea of high-end menswear labels found along Madison Avenue. Located kitty-corner from the towering spires of St. Patrick’s Cathedral, the nondescript storefront looked more like an artisan’s atelier or photo studio than a footwear boutique. Inside, the compact space was illuminated by floodlights and studio lamps and its whitewashed walls were left bare, save for a handful of shelves and a row of wooden shoe lasts hanging behind the back counter.
The minimal styling was effective—right away my eyes darted to the diverse array of shoes displayed atop stacks of shoeboxes: plain-toe Derbies, cap-toe Oxfords, Chelseas, penny loafers. Even the trim on each shoe, from the type of leather to the hardware and the colors of the stitching, was distinct. Despite the variety, there was a clear common thread: Each shoe was elegant and expertly crafted, combining classic silhouettes with modern, playful accents.
These shoes were just the ready-to-wear options, and although you can buy them as-is, they’re also meant to inspire customers to mix and match features for their own made-to-order pair. When I walked in, I was immediately paralyzed by indecision on where to begin. Luckily, Le Majordome co-owner and president (and childhood friend of Cavigelli) Daniel Bucheli was there to help.
Custom Shoes, Simplified
Like Le Majordome’s founder, Bucheli also made a career pivot when he joined the brand in 2016. After earning a doctorate degree in theoretical physics, Bucheli decided he preferred a job centered on tangible products, as well as one that offered more human interaction. Guiding his fellow men through the process of crafting their own shoes turned out to be the way to go. At Le Majordome, there’s no catalog to sift through. Rather, every experience begins with an open dialogue: Which design is the customer drawn to? Are there any specific requirements, in fit or function, that need to be considered?
According to Bucheli, the majority of custom shoemakers tend to focus solely on reinterpretations of heritage styles. And while most fashion labels produce footwear that may be more design-forward, they often end up being mediocre in quality.
“What makes us different as a brand is that we find ourselves at the intersection of both,” he told Men’s Journal. “Our goal is to create future classics—shoes that are well-made and inspired by traditional craftsmanship, yet have an updated, modern look to them. Each year we come out with around six new styles, and are always trying to fine-tune our aesthetic identity.”
Le Majordome also stands out because of the way the brand has streamlined the production process. The company partners with a renowned, century-old shoe factory in southeast Spain for all their orders. Working with just one factory saves the customer months in turnaround time and thousands of dollars compared to other shoemakers that offer made-to-measure fittings, such as Aubercy in Paris and George Cleverley in London.
“Our concept is simplified to reduce time and expenses in a way to make it appealing to a broader audience,” Bucheli said.
Creating Custom Shoes
I arrived at Le Majordome with a mission: Fill the empty space in my wardrobe reserved for a killer pair of boots. I spent a solid 30 minutes examining the dozen or more ready-to-wear options on display, with Bucheli providing the guardrails I needed to mentally sketch my own pair. Le Majordome’s hands-on approach encourages feeling the different materials and seeing the potential add-ons in person.
But first I needed to nail down my preferred style. Did I want a Derby boot, jodhpur, or an urban hiking boot? I realized I was longing for the latter, but could it come with a square toe?
“Of course,” Bucheli said. “And with this style, I recommend a solid wooden sole instead of the chunky rubber one. What about the uppers: leather or suede? And in what color?”
My eyes were drawn to a dark brown leather chukka across the room.
“I love that material, but can we add in the brass eyelets on that pair?” I ask while pointing to an alpine-inspired galosh boot.
“Yes we can.”
And just like that, my personalized boots were coming to life.
Next, Bucheli had to ensure that the fit would also be unique. I slipped off my socks and stood on a box equipped with a scanner that mapped the topography of my feet. From there, the measurements would be cross-referenced with a large library of prefabricated lasts in various lengths and widths to determine the perfect fit. My personal profile would be archived in Le Majordome’s database, available for whenever I’d like to build another pair in the future.
As for shoe possibilities, Le Majordome’s library includes around 60 models, three toe shapes, and 15 sole constructions, plus nearly 100 different materials to choose from: suede, distressed leathers, marled wool, and more. Bucheli estimates about 10 weeks from design to delivery, which he says is about half the time quoted by other custom shoe shops.
Despite these innovations, Bucheli doesn’t think bespoke footwear will overtake ready-to-wear options anytime soon.
“Both from a customer and production perspective, ready-to-wear just feels easier,” he explained. “Le Majordome sees custom footwear as a great alternative for those who want something more unique, or who already have envisioned the shoe they want.”
Bespoke shoes are great for people who want to depart from the usual lineup of classics, or give them a unique spin—adding bold colors or interesting textures, for example.
“Since custom shoes are a way of expressing yourself visually, we want to make sure we can give each customer the best vocabulary possible.”
Want to get your own pair? Head over to the Le Majordome website to browse ready-to-wear styles or make an in-store appointment.