Friday, August 18, 2023

Shoemaking competition 2023 Hosted in London. Our Balmoral boot entry

My Journey to the World Championships of Shoemaking 2023

Hello, everyone. I’m Allan Donnelly, the founder and owner of Don's Footwear and The Last Shoemaker, We are a bespoke shoemaking company based in Thailand and York UK. In this blog post, I want to share with you my experience of participating in the World Championships of Shoemaking 2023, where I submitted a boot that came 21st out of 30 entries.

The World Championships of Shoemaking is an international contest organized by Shoegazing and The Shoe Snob, in collaboration with Kirby Allison the Youtuber and Master Shoemakers, the Bookywook, with support from Parker Schenecker (I met his brother back in 2022). It’s a prestigious event that showcases the best craftsmanship and creativity in the shoemaking industry. The final takes place during the London Super Trunk Show on May 13th, 2023, where the top three shoes go on a world tour and the winner receives £6,000.

This year, for the first time, the contestants had to make a boot instead of a shoe. The theme was a balmoral boot in black, which is a classic and elegant style that can be worn with formal or casual outfits. The boot had to be made by hand using traditional methods and materials, and it had to demonstrate high quality, originality, and innovation.

I decided to enter the competition again for the 3rd time because I love a challenge and I wanted to test my teams skills and learn from other shoemakers. I also wanted to represent Dons and The Last Shoemaker and show our passion and dedication to our craft. It was a long and stressful process, but also very rewarding and fun.

I started by making the boot last, which was plastic form this time( that gives shape to the boot). I wanted to create a distinctive silhouette that would stand out from the rest. I chose a large toe box that gave the boot a 70’s glam look, inspired by rock stars like David Bowie and Mick Jagger. I also made the heel slightly higher than usual, to add some flair and attitude.

Next, I designed the pattern, which is the paper template that determines how the leather pieces are cut and stitched together. I opted for a simple and sleek design that emphasized the balmoral line, which is the seam that runs along the ankle and separates the upper from the lower part of the boot. I also added some subtle details like broguing and medallion on the toe cap, to give some texture and contrast.

Then, I handed over the last and the pattern to my staff in our factory of seven, who made the rest of the boot. They cut the leather pieces from high-quality black calf leather, skived them to reduce thickness, punched holes for stitching and lacing, assembled them with waxed linen thread, lasted them over the last with nails and glue, welted them with leather strips, attached them to a triple welt sole with wooden pegs, trimmed and sanded them to shape, stained them with black dye, polished them with wax and brushes, and finished them with metal toe taps and heel plates.

It took over two months to make the boot, and we made three prototypes before we were satisfied with the final product. We had to overcome many challenges along the way, such as finding the right balance between fit and style, adjusting the tension and alignment of the seams, ensuring durability and comfort of the sole, and achieving a smooth and shiny finish.

We submitted our boot online by sending photos and videos of it from different angles, along with a description of our design choices and techniques. We also shipped our boot to London for physical inspection by the judges. The judges were [names of judges], who are all renowned experts in shoemaking. They evaluated our boot based on four criteria: construction (40%), design (30%), finish (20%), and overall impression (10%).

We received our results by email a few weeks later. We were thrilled to learn that we came 21st out of 30 entries. We scored [your scores] out of 100 points for each criterion. The judges gave us positive feedback on our originality, craftsmanship, and attention to detail. They also gave us constructive criticism on how we could improve our balance, proportion, symmetry, and consistency.

We were very proud of our achievement and grateful for the opportunity to participate in this prestigious competition. We learned a lot from this experience and we gained more confidence in our abilities. We also enjoyed seeing the amazing work of other shoemakers from around the world. We congratulate [name of winner] for winning the competition with his/her stunning boot.

We want to thank everyone who supported us along this journey: our staff, our customers, our suppliers, our friends, our family, and our fans. We couldn’t have done it without you. We also want to thank the organizers, the partners, the judges, and the sponsors of the competition for making this possible. We hope to see you again at the next World Championships of Shoemaking.

Thank you for reading our blog post. If you have any questions or comments, please feel free to leave them below. If you are interested in ordering a pair of our boots or shoes, please visit our website or contact us by email or phone. We would love to hear from you and make your footwear dreams come true.

                                                                           Inside view
                                                                               Top view

side profile ( Its quite a toebox isn't it)

                                                              The All-important sole

                                                                 On The Train tracks

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