If the shoe fits: Where bespoke footwear blends tradition with 3D-tech

Story highlights

  • Finnish shoemaker is combining tech and tradition to create bespoke footwear for clients
  • Customers can choose all aspects of their shoe's design including model, leather, color
  • Luxury goods expert Allegra Perry says high-end designers are embracing technology more

In the age of personalization, a Finnish company is bringing 3D technology to the world of bespoke men's footwear.

Inside the London store of the Left Shoe Company -- just one of seven locations around the world -- a space-age platform sits among scaling shelves decked with beautifully made, traditional men's shoes.

Next, customers are invited to sport a pair of bright yellow and green socks and stand on the Sci-Fi-like scanner as it produces a virtual 3D picture capturing the volume of their feet.

After selecting the model and style from the store's catalogue, the shoes are made by traditional craftsmen in Portugal and delivered to the customer anywhere in the world in up to 6 weeks.

Manolo Blahnik: I don't follow trends
Manolo Blahnik: I don't follow trends


    Manolo Blahnik: I don't follow trends


Manolo Blahnik: I don't follow trends 03:31
Pricey designer shoes from camel leather
Pricey designer shoes from camel leather


    Pricey designer shoes from camel leather


Pricey designer shoes from camel leather 02:12
Sole survivor: Christian Louboutin
Sole survivor: Christian Louboutin


    Sole survivor: Christian Louboutin


Sole survivor: Christian Louboutin 03:52

Bespoke 3D innovation

What's more -- shoppers looking to purchase another pair of shoes can easily order them online thanks to their 3D foot-scan stored in the company's digital archives.

"It enables me to stay in contact with customers all over the world," says Christian Haugaard, director of the London store. "They may have visited the store once in their entire lives, but they can shop with us forever."

The simplicity for the customer is also an added bonus, explains Hauggard: "It allows you to shop online and know exactly what you're going to get, whereas if you go to other e-commerce sites you may have to buy two or three sizes and return two of them. It doesn't make a lot of economic sense."

The digital scan gives shoppers a custom fit made in seconds at virtually no cost allowing them to skip the made-to-wear tradition of having a wooden model made of their feet -- an expensive and time consuming process.

In turn, the savings is passed on to the customer. The Left Shoe Company's footwear costs around $640, about half of what a traditional shoemaker might charge.

Luxury embraces digital

By combining a tech-savvy business model with old-school artistan tradition, the Finnish company is making bespoke craftsmanship accessible to a customer that craves authenticity in the digital era.

"It's a sector that doesn't really embrace change and that includes technology and e-commerce," says Allegra Perry, a senior analyst at Cantor Fitzgerald. But, she says, across the board, technology is becoming an increasingly big feature in the luxury goods sector.

CEO Erkan Fere says that using technology to streamline a traditional business model has as many advantages for the business as it does for the customer.

The benefit of made-to-measure footwear, he says, is that it involves minimum waste. "We make the shoes one by one when an individual customer orders them. If we don't sell many of a certain style, it doesn't matter."

He's convinced that tradition with a tech twist will catch on: "We have adopted this technology early, but I have no doubt that other companies will catch up quickly."

And the demand for bespoke is growing, says Paul Alger, head of the UK Fashion and Textile Council: "For many years consumers have been rather passive about what they'll buy, but now there's a whole generation of new consumers that say 'I will buy less, but I will buy better.'"

There is still an important place for bespoke in this world of ready-to-wear, says Haugaard. "We had a gentleman in the other day and he ordered one shoe in a size 9 and one in a size 7. Where else would you go? The only alternative is to buy two pairs of shoes."

A majority of the population, he points out, have different sized feet and, by bringing together high-technology and traditional craftsmanship, the Left Shoe Company is making high-end, made-to-measure shoes a more attainable dream.

      Going Global

    • (FILE PHOTO) The price of Bitcoins has continued to fall today after it dropped to 8.6 per cent following a raid on Silk Road, the online marketplace that allegedly allows illegal drugs and illicit services to be bought using the virtual currency. SALT LAKE CITY, UT - APRIL 26: A pile of Bitcoins are shown here after Software engineer Mike Caldwell minted them in his shop on April 26, 2013 in Sandy, Utah. Bitcoin is an experimental digital currency used over the Internet that is gaining in popularity worldwide. (Photo by George Frey/Getty Images)

      Will Bitcoin replace PayPal?

      At a time when many have lost faith in the global financial system, Bitcoin is being hailed as the future of e-commerce.
    • wine glasses

      Are wine lovers going thirsty?

      Global wine production is booming with vineyards springing up everywhere from China to the United States, Chile and New Zealand.
    • "Now that I've conquered bodywear, perhaps it's time to make my move into hotels."

      David Beckham, hotel magnate?

      When David Beckham was spotted in the Macau crowd at Manny Pacquio vs. Brandon Rio fight many assumed he was there just as a boxing fan.
    • The mobile landscape is vastly different from just a few years ago. Tablet sales are predicted to surpass PCs and laptops by 2015 according to research firm Gartner.

      Embrace 'mobile first' or fail

      The world is undergoing a mobility transformation. Since Apple launched the first iPhone in 2007, more than 100 billion apps have been downloaded from app stores by consumers worldwide.
    • Retailers embrace 3D-tech

      In the age of personalization, a Finnish company is bringing 3D technology to the world of bespoke men's footwear.
    • Louis Vuitton unveiled their "Townhouse" at London's historic department store, Selfridges Thursday night.

      How luxury brands woo shoppers

      With online-shopping on the rise, enticing customers in-store is increasingly difficult, spurring retailers to dream up new ways to woo shoppers.
    • Tourist guidebooks are displayed at the stand of China, this year's guest of honour, at the 61st edition of the International Book Fair in Frankfurt / Main, on October 12, 2009.The fair openrs on October 14, 2009 with the sector hit hard by the global recession and a bust up with guest of honour China overshadowing preparations. Some 6,900 exhibitors from around 100 countries are to gather in Frankfurt until October 18, around 400 fewer than last year, and each publisher has trimmed the size of its participation. AFP PHOTO DDP / MARTIN OESER GERMANY OUT (Photo credit should read MARTIN OESER/AFP/Getty Images)

      Finding an edge in a crowded market

      The decline of print and rise in peer-reviewed websites are giving publishers a big headache. So how do you find an edge in the crowded marketplace?
    • NEW YORK, NY - JUNE 10: A tray of croissant-doughnut hybrids, known "cronuts", are seen at Dominique Ansel Bakery on June 10, 2013 in New York City. The bakery makes 200-250 of the cronuts daily, which have been in hot demand since they were introduced in May. (Photo by Andrew Burton/Getty Images)

      Cronut mania spreads to London

      When the love child of the doughnut and the croissant was created in New York, fans queued for hours to sample the tasty hybrid snack.
    • 10 best places to start a business

      The World Bank's most recent report that ranks economies for ease of startups. Find out which country is the easiest to launch your business empire.
    • The project "Unreasonable at Sea" aims to see what happens when hundreds of students circumnavigate the globe with top entrepreneurs and academics.

      Entrepreneurs take to the sea

      What happens when you take a few startups and add academics, business execs, a Nobel Peace Laureate and put them on a ship?
    • CNN Going Global

      More from Going Global

      See the full coverage of CNN's Going Global, a show highlighting entrepreneurs taking their businesses around the world.