This is how Valentin Frunză from Kishinev, a shoe artisan just like his father, defines his profession using the poetic Moldavian language, ”We, the real craftsmen, tear each individual apart and afterwards restore his personality, by setting him aside from all the rest of the world so blinded by advertisements, who go to the store and pay lots of money as if it were gold they purchase and not mere plastic”.
He knows that when the client tries his bespoke shoes magic happens: the client is more confident and he starts walking steadfastly” . Besides, making shoes is similar to telling a story in which the client is always the main character. It starts with the feet measurement; then the client has to make a lot of choices – various lasts, a lot of leather types and eventually catalogues with plenty of models. If necessary, a prototype sample is made (a test fitted shoe) which the client puts on. If they fit and the client is happy with their shape and cut line, production can start.
Shoes are made in a traditional way, which means sewing the upper part to the sole by a welt – this is how the best shoes in world are crafted, providing a flawless classic look. Thus shoes can be worn several years without changing their shape or deteriorating.
Manual operations are important – the result depends solely on the craftsmanship of the ”artisan”; in this case he has no paint brush, but a needle and other specific tools. Valentin started to use some new ones, but at the same time he has revived the old tools forgotten in his father’s shop. Afterwards he completely gave up plastic, cardboard and synthetics which he replaced with bend – a vegetable processed leather used for soles, which is tanned by using tannin absorbed from oak bark. The entire shoe making process lasts for at least a month, and the cordwainer is helped by two journeymen.
”Those who examine bespoke shoes for the first time notice they are heavier and more rigid than the ones one can find in the stores. These are not disadvantages, as some may think; they are important elements helping to achieve the result described above– they make the client walk and behave in a confident manner” explains the shoe artisan.
Natural leather processed in various ways is the only material used for classic shoes. Soft leather, usually calfskin, is preferred for the upper part; „box calf” is the best leather. However, Valentin advises his clients to choose crocodile skin for shoes that look the same 20 years later, considering that it is not only beautiful, but also long lasting.
His destiny as a shoe artisan started when other youngsters his age would play football or hang around. When he was 12, Valentin was an apprentice in his father’s shop, who used to make dancing shoes at that time. When he was 16 he made a pair of suede derby shoes without any help from his father; he still keeps these shoes in his shop. A lot has changed ever since: shoe making is a longer process, quality and appearance have improved; meanwhile he started his own business using exclusively high standard materials from Vienna; hundreds of shoes have left his shop towards more confident clients, who have given up shopping for shoes in the stores.
(The shoes made by Valentin Frunză are available in Romania exclusively at Zenonni Su Misura.)