As someone who follows the luxury sector, my curiosity was piqued a couple of months back when I read that Tod’s was launching a bespoke service for men. Here, I thought, was yet another venerable company venturing into the lucrative world of customisation. Sadly, it seemed that the service would be available by invitation only.
Now, I’ve been buying Gommini driving shoes by Tod’s since 1998. Back then, it was considered a connoisseur’s brand but during these past 15 years of loyalty something has happened. First, everyone and their mother is now buying them – I’m not too fussed about this as I’m not a brand snob – and secondly, the company decided to change the way they design the shoe, which genuinely grates.
You see, my first ever pair of Tod’s (which I still own by the way) featured a short vamp and a rounded toe. Nowadays, if you pass by one of their stores you’ll still find the design but it’s only available in the women’s section. Apparently, men are now expected to want only a high vamp moccasin with a squarish toe. I beg to differ.
So imagine my delight when just a few weeks ago, I received an invitation to visit Tod’s Via Spiga boutique for a pair of my very own ‘Sartorial Touch’ shoes. This, I thought to myself, was my chance.
For the moment, the Milan flagship boutique is the only place where you can design your own Tod’s – or should I say J.P.Tod’s, for the custom shoes made here feature the original logo – but in the coming year, Los Angeles, New York, Tokyo, Shanghai and Paris will join the party. Sadly there’s no word yet on our neck of the woods but you’d imagine it’s only a matter of time.
Back to Milan. Arriving at the boutique, you’re met by a personal assistant who escorts you to a dedicated lift, inserts a key and presses the button for the secret floor above the boutique, a luxurious space lined in leather, walnut wood and steel. “It’s a sort of a gentleman’s club,” explains my new friend, Fabio Salvini, “the idea is to provide a comfortable and private space where our customers will not just shop, they will also come to enjoy a drink, relax or get away.”
But my interest did not lie in what was stocked behind the bar or who I could hide from up here. Rather, I was already scanning the shelves to see what the collection comprised. “Currently there are five models to customise, the loafers, monk straps, brogues, ankle boots and lace-ups,” Salvini continued, leaving me to understand Gomminis weren’t on the menu.
Trying not to show my disappointment, I kept things simple and selected the loafers, after which I was presented two folders of leathers to choose from – one comrpising regular skins, the other exotics. I went with the former. And to be honest, as beautiful ly worked as they may be, wide-ranging they are not. There were two browns, a black and a green. I chose one of the browns and then made the request to have the hue lightened by a further 20 per cent. Finally, I had my initials placed on the inside sole and signed off on the order. Within three months these rather handsome handmade creations will be delivered to my home. The cost of doing business today? A thousand Euros – had I opted for the more expensive folder, I could have paid up to 6,000.
In all, the Tod’s Sartorial experience is a valiant effort but for the moment the service is far more memorable than the options available for customisation. I sincerely hope that Tod’s brings the Sartorial Touch to the Middle East but that when it does, it offers more models, leathers and options. Until then, that perfect pair of Gomminis will just have to wait.