Finally, I came to realize that all my working shoes have reached the end of their productive life. The heels are worn out, leather overly scratched, my feet start to hurt, and all signs I needed new pairs. While I was looking through arrays of RTW shoes in a fancy mall, I heard a guy bragging to his friend about a pair of shoe he bought from a friend that was made of an old airplane tire. They caught my attention, so I snooped a little more to their conversation pretending I was busy eying on a popular overly-priced-brand shoe. I’m neither a spy nor has a supersonic hearing, so I only got some verbal cues like “Marikina”, “custom-made shoes”, “quality (matibay daw)”, and “locally made”. I like all I heard. And lucky me I was able to locate them instantly in Facebook and Instagram. Out of excitement, I immediately set an appointment on the next weekend.
I’ve known Marikina to be an institution in the shoe making industry, appropriately dubbed as shoemaking capital of the country. I lived in Marikina for quite some time while I was working in a government agency supporting the cottage industry (CITC) in Marikina. Marikenos are known for their ingenuity, their skills in shoemaking unparalleled. Believe me, they really know what they are doing. Quality was once the industry priority, but to survive the effect of globalization, these craftsmen tend to go the route of a more profitable business and went on mass production or import raw materials (or the finish product) which most often sacrifices quality. But against all odds, a guy started to stand for what is supposed to be right- to promote local custom-made quality shoes.
Buddy and his wife started Black Wing Shoes just a year ago. According to him, shoemaking was just experimental and not his main business -which is shoemaking supplies. He is responsible for all aspects of the shoe’s design and pattern, while the rest are done by his handful staff. His wife takes care of marketing and inquiries. I’ve asked him couple of questions as to why he ventured into this kind of business; his answers enthralled me so much so that I wasn’t able to put them in black and white.
The things that impressed me the most were his attention to details, his desire to explain what he can do, what he can’t, and what he thinks is best for you. In his modest office, he painstakingly took my measurements of my toe, sole, instep and the heel. I am not a shoe or leather expert, so I was thankful that he proactively walked me through the different shoe designs they have and the materials they use. He also suggests the best material to use in the design you wanted. He also mentioned that they usually use old airplane tires for the shoe soles, which I was fascinated about. They must be durable.
You may bring the design you want, but don’t expect too much. Apparently, they don’t have a shoe pattern for my 2nd boots design – a flat tip one. Buddy was frank enough as to what shoe pattern they can only do at this point, they specialized in Italian shoes, he explained. Don’t fret if you don’t have a design in mind, they have portfolio and sample of past projects you can choose from. I’m more into casual and comfortable shoes so I decided to order a driving penny loafer. So I skipped the boots with another driving loafer without the side lace. It normally takes about 4 weeks to complete the project as they have a queue of orders to make. They have full trust with their clientele, so they don’t collect deposits for your orders, at least for now. Prices range from Php3000 to Php4500, pretty affordable for bespoke quality shoes.
These are what I ordered:
The custom-made shoe industry paved by the likes of Buddy should be worth patronizing. I’m not sure if Buddy and I have the same opinion but here are the reasons why we can’t go wrong with bespoke. Compared to factory made shoes, its benefit list is endless -you can customize your style, no issues with sizes, you can even embed your own logo or initials, local industry means jobs, and undeniably made by the hands of a craftsman and not a machine.
I feel that this post is inadequate in capturing and sharing all the good stuff about Buddy’s craft and business. I really love their business philosophy – something noble, 100% Filipino-made, definitely something to be proud of. Once I received my orders, I promise I’ll make a full review including excerpts from the Owner.
They have Chukka Boots, Loafers, Oxfords, Brogues, Classic Boat shoes and what have you. These are some of what they offer. All photos courtesy of Black Wing Shoes Instagram/facebook.
Classic Boat Shoes
If you have questions, you may contact Buddy on their Facebook account.