Astute readers might recall a feature penned several months ago, on Singaporean necktie and accessory maker Vanda Fine Clothing. While artisinal menswear is very much still a fledgling industry in that region, a supportive community and driving sense of fraternity revealed to us another name Ed Et Al.
Established in 2010 by the titular Mr Edwin Neo, Ed Et Al is comfortably unlike any traditional footwear establishment currently operating out of Singapore. In recent years, increasing numbers of Asian shoemakers have honed their craft in Europe, before returning home to service native (and rapidly expanding) markets. While a good number of the aforementioned camp, including Hiro Yanagimachi and Koji Suzuki, have gone on to achieve prominence, the majority are invariably located in Japan. The fact that a bespoke shoemaker has managed to sustain permanent interest in Singapore – a city still infamous for its obsession with luxury fashion – is an altogether different and intriguing tale.
At its inception, Neo conceived Ed Et Al as an entirely bespoke operation. Five years down the line, and the company have expanded that flagship offering with a ‘By Request’ service and full Ready To Wear (RTW) collection. The team completed their first Australian trunk-show earlier this July, piggybacking off the endorsement of some reassuring and familiar faces. Future visits to Australia are not yet confirmed but reception has been positive. To acknowledge the elephant in the room, custom shoemaking can be an extremely expensive proposition. For men who have inured themselves to the tribulation of ready made lasts, trading up to the next level can often seem inconvenient and expensive. And when the jump between a solidly made benchgrade shoe and its bespoke equivalent entails hundreds of dollars, one could be excused for quickening disinterest.
Ed Et Al’s RTW offering begins at $244 SGD. While this tier of Goodyear welted shoes is well made and reasonably priced, the intrigue of the Ed Et Al story emerges when buyers consider their custom offerings. At upward of $349 SGD, customers can access a wealth of options available to them courtesy of the ‘By Request’ service. A more or less direct parallel may be found in made-to-measure suiting, whereby base designs (often derived from the brand’s humorously named RTW shoes) are personalized with various exotic leathers and detailing. To this not altogether unfamiliar format customers add colour preference. And whether that be by patination or in existing swatches, numerous options are available at the ‘By Request’ level. “We have a range of permanent colour swatches which we are consistently adding to” says Shaun Tan, manager of Ed Et Al’s retail operations.
The brand’s varied range of offerings culminate with their bespoke program. As with numerous other brands that offer it – Gaziano & Saint Crispins come to mind – Ed Et Al take a number of measurements from customers in order to craft a paper last (overseen by Northampton firm Springline). In correspondence with Shaun, it was intimated to me that this process can sometimes go on indefinitely. “We invite clients in until we get the fit exactly right. Only then do we proceed to build the shoe”. The results are splendid and often daring – butterfly loafers in Weinheimer box calf for instance – and go beyond the pail of very restrained projects one often sees at the top end of European shoemaking.
Nevertheless, in aesthetic Ed Et Al remains blissfully moderate. Perhaps in homage to Neo’s Hungarian influence under Marcell Mrsan, the brand’s flagship designs remain as rounded as possible while accommodating the archetypal Asian customer’s foot. A slightly narrowed waist and soft chisel toe accompany most designs, which are then injected with ample brio courtesy of modern colour palettes. Indeed, many of the ‘exotics’ available to custom projects are distinctive to South East Asia, making for shoes that are memorable in all the right ways.
Whether for fanboys or connoisseurs of footwear, these are exceptional times we live in. It always brings me great joy to discover Asian craftspeople who translate traditional European techniques for local audiences. In doing so, they honour and pay homage to them. But to translate those skills into a thriving business? As customers worrying about our hard earned dollars, that should lend us hope.
Ed Et Al Shoemakers is located at 9 Raffles Boulevard, 1-67 Millenia Walk.