Custom-made shoes are a great solution if you are finding it a challenge getting shoes that are comfortable and suitable for your personality. However, it is not popular among Vietnamese, most of whom are easily satisfied with a pair of ready-to-wear shoes.
But a 31-year-old Viet kieu who has made a homecoming with a concept of personalized footwear does not find it very difficult to change that.
Thanh Le, who has an MBA from Canada, said his career path took a twist after he met Thai Nguyen, a cobbler, in Calgary.
The two men shared an interest in shoe crafting and it was not long before the idea of creating custom-fit shoes that feel great and last long flashed through their minds.
The duo spent days tracking down full-grain leather in France and Italy and good rubber in Southeast Asia, and, especially, the 3D technology used in making orthopedic shoes.
In July 2013 Thanh and Nguyen opened their first store, named Veritas, in Calgary, and in July 2015 the second in Ho Chi Minh City. It is a small store on Le Thanh Ton, District 1. In coming time, Hanoi will be the next destination.
Thanh Le (L) measures a customer's feet using a 3D scanner.
“Using a 3D scanner, a shoemaker can create a virtual model of your foot, printing out a wax copy to make the footwear. We call it ‘healthy shoes’ since it will prevent bunion and callus,” Thanh said.
“Every customer has his own last with personal sizes and shapes. Plus, we also offer a wide selection of materials, styles, soles and colors.”
The fashionable styles like oxfords, buckles, boots and loafers as well as trendy colors come with engraved patterns like dragon, carp or tiger.
“We also store each customer’s [data] in case of repairs or new orders,” Le said.
While many local shoemakers use cementing or blake stitching techniques, Thanh usually uses goodyear welting in both his made-to-order and ready-to-wear lines. “Despite taking longer, being more expensive and involving multiple steps, goodyear with a two-level stitching fulfils our promise of at least five years to our customers.”
In Canada, custom shoes can run into the $1,200 range, but in Vietnam, not many can afford that price. And Thanh knows it, though many of HCMC-based Veritas’s patrons are celebrities with high incomes.
“So in the HCMC shop, we have tried to keep prices at around $300, sometimes less.” Thanh said.