The concept of casual shoe customization might seem trivial these days – even sneaker behemoths like Nike and Adidas allow near-complete customization of their most iconic styles. But what if you want to create a pair of dress shoes or boots from scratch? A talented cobbler could make minor cosmetic changes, like modifications to the outsoles, to those near-perfect shoes you already own. But if you’re picky about toe shape or insole, or want a specific combination of materials, you might be out of luck (or shelling out thousands of dollars). So far: Meet Le Majordome, a Swiss luxury shoemaker that has been producing high-quality custom shoes in Europe since 2012.
Founded by former architect Gian-Luca Cavigelli as a temporary store in Zurich, Le Majordome quickly grew into a thriving business with three boutiques in Switzerland and an online store. In November 2021, Le Majordome opened a flagship store in New York as well as a US website, so men across the Atlantic now have access to the selection of hand-made shoes and ready-to-wear of the brand.
But what makes Le Majordome’s approach to custom shoes so unique? Shortly after the brand opened the doors to its new boutique, I traveled to Midtown Manhattan to experience it for myself.
Not your average shoe store
Even before stepping into The Butler, it was clear that this shopping experience would be very different from the sea of high-end menswear brands found along Madison Avenue. Set at the corner of the catkins of the towering spiers of St. Patrick’s Cathedral, the nondescript storefront looked more like a craftsman’s workshop or photo studio than a shoe store. Inside, the compact space was lit by spotlights and studio lamps and its whitewashed walls were left bare except for a handful of shelves and a row of wooden shoes. hanging behind the rear counter.
The minimalist style was effective – my eyes immediately fell on the diverse range of shoes on display atop shoeboxes: plain-toe derbies, cap-toe oxfords, chelseas, loafers. Even the trim on each shoe, from the type of leather to the material and colors of the stitching, was distinct. Despite the variety, there was a clear common thread: each shoe was sleek and expertly crafted, combining classic silhouettes with modern, playful accents.
These shoes were just ready-to-wear options, and while you could buy them as is, they’re also meant to inspire customers to mix and match the features of their own pair to order. When I walked in, I was immediately paralyzed with indecision on where to start. Luckily, Butler co-owner and president (and Cavigelli’s childhood friend) Daniel Bucheli was there to help.
Personalized shoes, simplified
Like the founder of Butler, Bucheli also made a career shift when he joined the brand in 2016. After earning a doctorate in theoretical physics, Bucheli decided he preferred work that focused on tangible products, as well as working which offered more human interaction. Guiding fellow people through the process of making their own shoes turned out to be the way to go. At the Butler, there is no catalog to browse. Rather, every experience begins with an open dialogue: what design is the customer drawn to? Are there any specific fit or function requirements that need to be considered?
According to Bucheli, the majority of bespoke shoemakers tend to focus solely on reinterpretations of heritage styles. And while most fashion brands produce shoes that may be more edgy, they often end up being low quality.
“What sets us apart as a brand is that we stand at the intersection of the two,” he said. men’s diary. “Our goal is to create future classics – shoes that are well-made and inspired by traditional craftsmanship, while having a modern and updated look. Each year we offer about six new styles and always try to refine our identity aesthetic.
The Butler also stands out for the way the brand has streamlined the production process. The company partners with a famous century-old shoe factory in south-eastern Spain for all of its orders. Working with a single factory saves the customer months of turnaround time and thousands of dollars compared to other shoemakers who offer bespoke fittings, such as Aubercy in Paris and George Cleverley in London.
“Our concept is streamlined to reduce time and expense so as to make it appealing to a wider audience,” Bucheli said.
Creation of personalized shoes
I arrived at the Butler with a mission: Fill the empty space in my wardrobe reserved for a pair of killer boots. I spent a good 30 minutes perusing the dozen or more ready-to-wear options on display, Bucheli providing the handrails I needed to mentally sketch my own pair. The Butler’s hands-on approach encourages feeling different materials and seeing potential additions in person.
But first, I had to define my favorite style. Did I want a derby boot, a jodhpur or an urban hiking boot? I realized I was craving 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. And the upper: leather or suede? And what color?”
My eyes were drawn to a dark brown leather chukka across the room.
“I love this material, but can we add the brass eyelets on this pair? I ask, pointing to an alpine-inspired galosh boot.
“Yes we can.”
And just like that, my custom boots came to life.
Next, Bucheli had to make sure the fit would also be unique. I took 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 pre-made shapes of various lengths and widths to determine the perfect fit. My personal profile would be archived in the Butler’s database, available whenever I want to build another pair in the future.
When it comes to shoe possibilities, the Butler’s library includes around 60 models, three toe shapes, and 15 sole constructions, as well as nearly 100 different materials to choose from: suede, distressed leathers, heathered wool, and more. Bucheli estimates it takes about 10 weeks from design to delivery, which he says is about half the time quoted by other bespoke shoe stores.
Despite these innovations, Bucheli doesn’t think bespoke footwear will overtake off-the-shelf options anytime soon.
“From both a customer and production perspective, ready-to-wear just got easier,” he explained. “The Butler sees bespoke shoes as a great alternative for those who want something more unique, or who have already imagined the shoe they want.”
Bespoke shoes are ideal for people who want to deviate from the usual range of classics or give them a unique twist, by adding bright colors or interesting textures, for example.
“Since custom shoes are a way to express themselves visually, we want to make sure we can give each customer the best vocabulary possible.”
Want to have your own pair? Visit the Butler’s website to browse ready-to-wear styles or book an in-store appointment.
For access to exclusive gear videos, celebrity interviews and more, subscribe on YouTube!