When it comes to picking out clothes, men are often guilty of prizing looks over fit, not realizing that the latter significantly impacts the former. Hence the vogue of custom-fit everything in the world of menswear, right down to … sneakers?
You can thank Mark Gainor and the expert shoemakers at No.One, where custom footwear beyond the dress shoe is finally getting its due.
The inspiration for bespoke sneakers came during one of Gainor’s dozen annual trips to China. “When you work in the factory, you get inside the sample room, give them your design and within an hour they’ll come back to you with something. And the first time I saw that, I thought, ‘This is where I want to be,’” he says.
The journey for these one-of-one releases starts in Venice, with a pencil. Customers visit No.One’s studio, where you can choose from four classic silhouettes: a chukka boot, German army/soccer trainer (think Stan Smith), Chuck Taylor-esque low top or ‘80s-esque workout trainer (think Reebok Workout). But remember, you’re in the world of bespoke; those silhouettes are more of a guideline than a rule, and Gainor and co. are happy to head off into uncharted water if you desire.
Once you’ve got the shape out of the way, the real work — and Gainor’s favorite part of the process — begins: ironing out the details that will make these kicks yours and yours alone.
no 1 (4 images)
No.One will talk you through color, palette, feel and material, dashing off sketches in real time. They have a vast textile library filled with leathers from luxury house tanneries like Chanel, though they’re certainly not picky: “Right now we have a pair on the floor that are made from 100-year-old Persian carpet,” says Gainor. “We’ve sourced vintage Mud Cloth from Africa and Sashiko fabrics from Japan. We’re always looking for news ways to ask, ‘What can we make a shoe out of?’” Former NBA No. 1 draft pick Markelle Fultz chose the same full-grain pebble leather used for NBA basketballs for his shoes.
The pattern is then cut out and put on a last (a form for the foot), which has been paired via 20 measurements to your foot. If they don’t have a last that’s a Cinderella-level perfect match, they’ll build one. “There’s something really magical that happens when you take a two-dimensional flat pattern, cut it, and put it onto the last [a form for the foot]. And it goes from being this flat thing to animated,” adds Gainor.
From there, the actual production process requires a four- to six-week wait, as No.One’s shoemakers do what they do best. Prices start at $1,000, and can increase depending on exotic materials, embellishment, embossing or hand-painting. The end result is a shoe that’s expertly made, and only for you.
And though you might not know it, Mark does — once he’s gotten you in a pair of his sneakers, you’ll be smitten with bespoke. “It’s quite addictive for the clientele. Once you make a bespoke shoe, you don’t really go back.”
All images via No.One
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