Ever since Mantorii stopped taking orders at the end of June, I have been on the lookout for other companies doing custom shoes online. I stumbled across iShoe by iTailor (the names, I know...) on their Facebook website. iTailor is part of a bigger company, doing mainly uniforms for the hospitality industry and iTailor is their online MTM spin-off.
I have to be honest, I never tried iTailor before, because their style doesn't appeal to me. Yes, it's incredibly affordable with shirts from $20 and you can customise it all to your wishes, but it's not for me.
It's for some reason not easy to find on their main website, but iTailor does shoes as well - for an unbelievable €99 ($129 I think) a pair plus shipping. They have a fully functional configurator that lets you choose first from different options such as derby, oxfords, monks, loafers and more. In the next steps you can select your upper and sole leather (or other sole options), different style such as broguing and stitching - you can even mix and match the upper leather and create a unique shoe for yourself. I could swear I had an option to select the toe style, but I can't find it anymore.
Your give them your size by measuring the length and width of your feet and by supplying them with your standard shoe size. I assume they will then determine the best size for your fit, I am sure for the price they won't create or adapt a last for you. Photos can be checked on iTailor's Facebook stream.
As you can see, their are some very strange designs. iTailor doesn't give their users many guidelines on style, but they give you a ton of customisation options to play with. The results are very ugly in 90% of the cases in my personal opinion because people tend to think a shoe made of 5 different leather colours makes them unique and stand out of the crowd - I'm sure it does, but I'm not sure if in a positive way. To each their own and I don't want to be overly judgemental now.
What makes a good shoe?
In my opinion it's fit, price, construction, design (last used, product design) and leather quality - not necessarily in that order, but those are the main factors for me. Let's see how how iTailor's $129 shoes perform.
The fit is great on my pair. Not too tight, not to loose - really nothing to complain here, these shoes fit like a glove. The price is if course great too, it's hard to argue with €99/$129. There is basically no online or offline competition for a customisable shoe at this price. There are also no scratches on the leather, no chemical stains - all done very nicely and neatly. Shape is classic with a rounded toe.
The shoes just don't feel all that great. I know, I shouldn't be too critical for a $129 shoe, but I just feel better spending $200-$300 on a proper shoe. The design is a bit akward, for example I didn't manage to find the option to place a medallion on my toe. You can select several heel designs, but you can't really see what it is you are changing on the website. Many of the basic designs you can select from look a bit outdated, similar to what I see many people wearing here in Asia. In a nutshell - and I am aware this may sound harsh - the product lacks a bit in style and class.
The shoes are also clearly glued - not a surprise, considering the price point, but just as with fused suits, glued shoes are just not a sign of good quality.
My main problem with the shoes is the leather quality. It is bad, it feels absolutely like plastic. I'm sure it's leather as they claim, but there is nothing "premium" about it. It's a heavily corrected and polished leather. I tried applying some polish to give it a darker shade, but there is no polish that would stick to these shoes - it just rubs off the leather as if you'd apply it on plastic. This of course also means that the shoes won't break in nicely and will have a lifeless and artificial look.
For just $129 (plus shipping) iTailor offers you to fully customise your shoe - possibilities are almost unlimited. At this price, the concept it without competition. Furthermore, the shoes just fit very well. On the negative side, significant improvements are needed regarding leather quality (feels like plastic) and construction (shoes are glued). The overall product lacks style. A good choice if you are looking for a very special shoe and you are aware of the constraints. I recommend to choose another brand if you are looking for a classic and durable pair suitable for business.