Tuesday, April 12, 2011


There are still a few remaining custom shoemakers in Hong Kong who can make up a pair of shoes and a handbag within a few days.  They cater to men, women and even children.   Surprisingly, their prices are quite reasonable considering the work involved.


Three of the shoemakers below design a pair of shoes from scratch. They ask clients to either bring in a photo, an old but comfortable pair of shoes or  an outfit that they would like to match the shoes with.

The other two have their own unique designs, all made up and displayed in their shops. If you wish, they will make up one of these designs but adapt them to your feet and design preferences.


For some people, it’s just a matter of having a combination of a design and a leather or color of their choice. 

But for most customers, it’s to achieve a comfort level which they can’t easily find buying shoes off the shelf. There are loads of reasons for this: Their feet are too narrow or too wide, their instep is too high or too low, the lining is too hard on the skin of their feet, one of their feet is a different size from the other or, one of their heels needs to be higher than the other. Any of these reasons and more, makes it difficult for them to look as stylish as they wish and to feel comfortable at the same time.

Hence the custom shoemaker. 

Bring your most comfortable and favorite pair of shoes, regardless of what your having made. It’s a good starting point to help the shoemaker determine the best last for your foot. Then bring along some photos of the kind of shoes you would like to have made.  And finally if you’re trying to match the shoes to an outfit, then definitely bring along the outfit.

It can cost you as little as HK$329 (US$42) and as much as HK$3000 (US$385). It can go much higher if you select exotic skins such as crocodile or snake.

Here they are.



The Admiralty Centre, Tower 2, 1/F, Shop 75
Admiralty MTR Station, Exit A,
Hong Kong Island
Tel: (852) 2136 9739

 Mon to Sat: 11am-7pm
Sunday: 1-4pm
Shoe designers: Alan and Billy Chan

The Chan brothers are passionate about shoe design. They have their own Hong Kong workshop in Central and love the process of designing a shoe for someone, of selecting the appropriate leather and color and of supervising every stage in the production.

They import their leather from Italy and Spain and boast of a thousand colors to choose from.

It can take as little as 24 hours or as long as one month to finish a pair of shoes, depending on the complexity of the design and on the uniqueness of a leather type and color, which, if you’re looking for something special, might need to be shipped from Europe.
Of all the custom shoe makers on my list, the Chans are the only ones that are original designers. Not only do they love to design an upper, they also like to add designs to the heels and to the sole of the shoe (see photo above).  And they are quick to tell you that they won’t copy someone else’s design

The walls of their shops (they have three) are lined with past designs. One shop is dedicated to women’s shoes (and children’s), one to men’s shoes and one to their handbag and accessories designs.

Most shoes cost between HK$2000-$3000 (Approx. US$250-$385)


The Sheraton Hotel Arcade, Basement Shop S23
Corner of Salisbury and Nathan Roads, Tsim Sha Tsui
Tel (852) 2367 2539
Email: shoeman.lau.co@hotmail.com.hk

Open daily from 9am to 7pm
Craftsman for men and women’s shoes: Philip Shu

Philip Shu has been providing custom-made shoes for as long as he can remember. His list of clients date back at least 25 years. Some don’t even come to town anymore- they simply email their order. He has their last, their size and their address. This is the nature of their clientele – one that stretches over time and distance. He keeps notes on them all: which ones have narrow or wide feet or the left size bigger than the right. Some of his clients have more of a medical problem and need shoes to be adjusted in small but significant ways. Some have no problem at all – they just want a pair of shoes that are attractive and fit well – shoes made especially for them.

Models of his shoes line the walls of his shop, some for men and some for women. They are elegant and look comfortable.

It takes a few days to make up a pair of shoes. If time is short, they’ll make up the shoes in  canvas in a day or two to get the right fit. Then the shoes can be made up with leather or some other material and sent overseas, if the client is travelling through.

An average pair costs around HK$1400-$1500 (Approx. US$180 - $190)


Shoeman Lau offers a wide range of attractive bags as well. It’s now springtime in Hong Kong and his window displays an attractive lineup of brightly colored shoes and bags.  His handbag business is a big part of his shop. His items are heavily influenced by famous bag designers.

Prices vary depending on the bag size and on the quality of the leather. His bag prices start at about HK$1600 or about $200US.


Sheraton Hotel Building
Street Level, Salisbury Road (facing Sogo)
Near corner of Nathan Road
Tsim Sha Tsui

Tel: (852) 2367 7673
Email: riccoitaly@yahoo.com
Monday to Saturday 9:30 to 7:30pm
Sunday: 10am to 7pm

With 35 years of experience to back him up, Francis Chan who runss the shop says he can make any style the client wants. Bringing in an old and much loved pair of shoes or a fashion photo is all he needs to get the process going. He works with craftsmen in Hong Kong and can closely supervise the quality of the product.

Most clients are looking for a good fit. Some clients just want shoes and a handbag to go with their newly tailored clothes. Two things they always want: fashion and fit. And that’s what he delivers.

This shoemaker travels to a city near you
His equally experienced boss, Tommy Fung, travels to the US and Europe, to measure old or new clients who wish to order specially-made shoes. If you want to get measured and see his leather samples when he comes to your city, email the shop. The same process is followed. A copy of the shoes is first made in canvas and sent to the client for a fitting. If they fit, the shoes are made up in leather and shipped out.
Depending on the client’s wishes, shoes are made with calf, cowhide or lambskin.

The average pair costs around HK$2000 (US$250).


The shop is lined with a variety of handbags models which he can make as well. Often clients like their bag to match their shoes. The same rule applies: Bringing in a photo or a favorite old bag works just as well. The price of their handbags starts at about HK$2300 or about US$300.



2 shops in Central
3 Queen Victoria Street, Central
6 Li Yuen Street East (The Lanes), Central
Tel: 2525 6402

Monday to Saturday 10:30 to 8pm
Sunday and Public Holidays: 11 to 7:30pm

Vickie’s is one of those shops that locally designs and makes their own shoes and exports them internationally,  as they have done for 25 years. Twice a year, they come out with a new line of elegant but inexpensive shoes. They’re not one of those international brands that charge clients as much for their marketing as for their leather. Their prices are reasonable, even when custom fitted.

While it is known for carrying ready-made shoes in large sizes, up to size 44 for women, it might not be widely known that the shop custom-makes shoes to fit their clients as well. Customers can choose any of the shoes on display in their shops and can ask to have them custom made to meet their specific needs, be it a fitting issue, a different heel, a different leather, fabric, lining or color. Clients can even bring in their own fabric.

The shop also carries a line of satin wedding and special occasion shoes.

Generally, the price varies little for the custom-made version, at the most HK$100 more (US$12),  from that of the ready-made shoe, especially if the same leather is used.

Vickie’s shoes are priced between HK$320-$700 (US$41-$90).


171 Wong Ngai Chung Road
Causeway Bay
A short walk from the Times Square exit of the Causeway Bay MTR station
Email: gigi_shoes@yahoo.com.hk

Open daily between 10-8pm
Closed during Chinese New Year

GiGi is one of only two shoe shops left of the many that lined Wong Nai Chung just a few years ago. Desmond Ng from the shop, claims they have had their shop  for 40 years and have no plans to move.

The shop has a wide range of shoes on display and like Vickie’s, above, custom-makes shoes in their own factory.

Gigi will remake any pair of shoes in their shop to better fit the customer. Just like the other shoemakers, this may involve a narrower or wider shoe, a different heel, a pair with one shoe a size larger than the other and so on.
Often, customers simply want a change in color or fabric.

The shop also has a line of satin dress shoes for weddings, parties or balls  and can custom-make a pair with a different fabric, if needed.

Shoe prices start at HK$500 ($65US). Depending on the changes involved, the custom-making price can vary. GiGi also custom makes handbags. Prices start at HK$1000 and can go as high as HK$9800 for a crocodile skin bag (see below).


Now that you've figured out that you don't have to settle for what you see in shoe shops, start thinking about what shoe designs you'd love to wear. Next, think of the comfort factor: width, instep, size of heel, softness of lining, different sizes of left and right feet, and so on.

Believe it or not, you can have both fashion and comfort, just like everyone else!

The rest is easy. Look over this list. There are five shoemakers to choose from. Four are in Tsim Sha Tsui, Central or Admiralty. The other is a quick taxi ride from Admiralty or  a short walk from the MTR. And wear a comfortable old pair of shoes!

Whoever you choose, it'll be a pleasure to finally find a shoe shop that pushes comfort as their first priority.

Have a great time shopping!

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