Inside Bespoke Swiss Shoemaker Le Majordome’s New Manhattan Shop
Custom shoes and boots are the name of the game at a new boutique on 52nd and Madison
Founded in 2012, Le Majordome has been adorning the feet of Switzerland’s most fashionable for the better part of a decade. Known for a robust custom-made program, the owners decided it was finally time to open their first store outside of Switzerland, choosing a small shop on Madison Avenue and 52nd street. The shop is unassuming, designed to look like a simple workshop, filled with lasts and outsoles and of course many, many shoes.
Co-Founder and President Daniel Bucheli was there to show me around recently and teach me about the brand. It’s not surprising that he’s on-site considering Bucheli, and his co-founder Gian-Luca Cavigelli, are still the only two full time “office” employees. It is a small operation, but a small operation by design.
The Madison Avenue location, despite its small footprint, houses an impressive number of shoes on display. Dozens of models, everything from loafers to brogues to sturdy chukkas in various colors, adorn every open surface in the store. Most of them you can buy right there. While Le Majordome is best known for their bespoke shoe service, in 2017 they launched their ready to wear line with 20-30 different models depending on the season.
I was eager to try out what they are best known for though, and that is getting my own pair of Le Majordome shoes custom made. I was expecting the typical custom shoe process where you get a handful of silhouettes to choose from, a handful of colors to choose from and maybe a few different accent options. I was, however, mistaken. Bucheli, as he walked me through the process, encouraged me to start with a model of a ready to wear I was interested in but then further encouraged me to Frankenstein the hell out of it into whatever specifications I wanted.
For example I liked the look of a specific high top boot, but thought the toe was too pointy. No problem, they could make the toe more rounded. I wanted the comfiest sole that would perform the best in gross New York winters (Vibram) and specific eyelets from a different shoe. Leather was a whole other wormhole of options. He demonstrated on various models what they could do easily, but also mentioned they could literally get whatever I wanted.
“We did an off white alligator boot, we did a pair where the shoes were different colors, a dark blue shark leather, we did a loafer in pale rose” Bucheli tells me. I opted for a smooth, not pebbled, oxblood leather with black accents. We debated on the finer points of gold vs silver eyelets and I opted for the former. Throughout all of this Bucheli was patient and excited about the process. He brought a warmth and familiarity to it you wouldn’t necessarily expect from a Swissman in the high end shoe business. After about an hour I was finally settled on what exactly I wanted my shoe to look like. Then I had to get the fit right and got my feet sized via a futuristic scanner. It’s all a hands-on process which has the benefit of making you feel more comfortable considering you’re about to spend a good amount of money.
It’s possible to order custom shoes online via an intuitive web builder tool but Bucheli tells me, “When people order custom shoes online, I always call them and ask if they have some time to come into the store quickly to see the options in person. It makes such a difference. For the style but also for the fit.”
The name, Le Majordome, comes from French, which is spoken in the founders’ native Fribourg, and translates to “the butler” which helps to explain their attentive approach. And while they are looking to continue growing, they are in no rush to expand beyond their measures. Bucheli estimates they sell a few thousand pairs of shoes per year at the moment. “Sure we could expand faster and sell more shoes, but the quality would suffer” he says. To ensure the highest quality they make their shoes in Almansa, Spain a town shrouded in shoemaking history dating back to the 18th century.
This desire to create the best possible product, at the cost of growth, probably stems from the fact that neither of the two founders come from the business school to modern day direct to consumer pipeline that has traditionally prioritized expansion over all. Bucheli has a PhD in theoretical physics and Cavigelli was formerly a professional snowboarder, an odd combo for a pair that now sells high end dress shoes and boots.
The shoes don’t come cheap. Ready to wear will cost you in the range of $400-$600 depending on the model. Custom gets more expensive from there with Bucheli telling me that “95% of our custom shoes range between $600 and $900.” But to be fair that is on par if not cheaper than most other similar high end custom (and sometimes not even custom) shoes. It takes about ten weeks to get the shoes, but that wait is due to the fact they are made by hand in a responsible manner in Spain. As you’re waiting, you can take solace in the fact that literally no one else in the world has the same shoes as you.
I went to pick up my shoes in the store, but Bucheli says they have plenty of clients who are in town and come to the store and order the shoes and then have them shipped to wherever they live. And once they have your measurements they can easily do anything you want from wherever you want. He tells me they have some customers who have come to them for 20-plus pairs of shoes.
I have to say I was impressed with my new shoes. They fit me perfectly and they are unlike any shoe I’ve ever seen. They of course need a bit of breaking in but they’re already the most comfortable boot I own. (Bonus: my girlfriend described them as “gorgeous.”)
Whether you’re in the market to create a unique, personalized shoe, or grab one of the great ready-to wear-options, Le Majordome is more than worth a trip to midtown Manhattan.
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