I had heard about Simon Schäppi, the Zürich based bespoke shoemaker from a number of people and was excited to meet him. It took a few phone calls and texts to get his number and make an appointment.
I arrived, soaking wet- my umbrella bent inside out, on a grey Zürich day. Simon invited me in for a cup of earl grey and a biscuit, BBC radio playing in the background- I felt at home straight away.
Instead of a classic brogue or oxford, he showed me some motorbike boots he had made. Simon owns a 1930s British motorbike- style from toes to tyres!
In a cabinet in his studio I spotted a petite pair of ladies shoes- “I made those for my wife, she likes to dance and finds it hard to find shoes in her size, so, I made her some.
Simon`s own shoes catch my eye, a deep burgundy brogue, with wonderful detailing, styled with very cool socks- of course, his own design.
Having studied industrial design and spent many years in front of a computer Simon decided it was time to get back to “hands on” design. Having taken part in a shoemaking course in Switzerland he knew this was his passion. It is not easy to find a placement in this field, so as to learn from the masters. Simon was offered a 4 years training placement with John Lobb of London. Simon still works for Lobb from his base in Zürich.
“Lobb sent me to Scotland to learn from one of the oldest standing members of the Lobb team. I am grateful for all the experience and training that I received at Lobb. I have very fond memories of my time in the UK.”
What would you advise a first time client?
„It is good when they have an idea of what they want before the appointment.
I aim to make the perfect design for their feet and their lifestyle.“
John Lobb holds two royal warrants from his royal highness the Duke of Edinburgh and his royal highness the Prince of Wales. On the wall of Simons` studio hangs a framed certificate stating his qualification and that “he works to the highest standard he can attain with diligence and enthusiasm”. I can see exactly what they mean!
Heading back to the office, skipping past the puddles I think of all the shoes I have owned, loved, had blisters from and eventually had to throw away with a heavy heart.
Handmade shoes, on the other hand, do not need to be “worn in”- with the right shoemaker they fit like a glove and last a lifetime!
A pair of made to measure shoes from Simon Schäppi takes up to 6 months. Prices vary depending on materials used and design, prices usually start at 3500 Swiss Francs.