Converting his disappointment into an opportunity, Victor Lee's bespoke shoe brand, Diamond Walker, intrigued us quite a bit
By: Soumya Jain
Posted on: April 14, 2014.
Converting his disappointment into an opportunity, Victor Lee’s bespoke shoe brand, Diamond Walker, intrigued us quite a bit.
It’s not just women who are obsessive and detail-oriented about their shoes. Men today are becoming as focused and aware about their shoe preferences, and increasingly experimenting with brands to understand what will finally work for them.
One such gentleman, tired of experimenting, started his own brand. Victor Lee is passionate about his creations, which are sold under the banner Diamond Walker, and is confident will make waves among the sartorial men of this world.
A young brand in the bespoke luxury industry, Diamond Walker has a long way to go. But it was the philosophy of this brand that attracted us to it. This Korean brand has a unique and modern way of shoe-making, quite apart from the traditionalist methods of centuries old brands. “I’m talking about being able to construct a bespoke shoe without the old traditional ways of making a wooden last first which adds more time and costs which today’s modern customer, who wants fair value and time-saving, might not want to incur. Also we bring an expertise unique to Korean shoemakers - the ability to elevate the customer’s height discretely without changing the streamlined look of the shoe and in the near future, customized insoles inbuilt into our shoes will also provide comfort for people with flat feet and high arches with our 3D scanning service,” explained Mr Lee.
Put your feet in
The process of shoemaking here starts with measuring the customer’s feet, taking note of five measurements – foot length, ball width, instep height, heel, ankle height and taking into account every nuance of the foot, including unusual toe joints, bunions, corns or bone spurs. The customer’s preference for his fit is determined with their try-on or fitting shoes, in different lengths and widths, to help decide the fit that he likes best, as some people may prefer a snug versus a loose fit.
The shoes are constructed by hand once the customer has also chosen his preferred leather. Customers can, in fact, choose to custom design different sections of their shoe to mix and match different colours and types of leathers including suede, calfskin, embossed calfskin and python. “We only use the finest full-grain calfskin from Italy and exotic skins like crocodile and snakeskin from the best tanneries in Asia. We also use Vibram soles for our casual shoes,” says Mr Lee.
The customer also chooses the shoe type from oxford, derby, single-monkstraps, double-monkstraps, loafers or boots, while also choosing their shoe last style from 10 different options. Further customisations include brogueing and toe-cap design, insole height, heel height, outsole type, tassel colour, colours of sock liner and inner lining, stitching, lacing, buckle, sides of soles, etc. The shoe-construction method can also be determined by the buyer!
Adding further personalization is the fact that customers can opt for the shoe to be hand-painted with a patina to give a unique antiqued look. The shoes can also be laser-engraved with their initials and there is an option to embed diamonds into the shoes as well. The outsole can also be laser-engraved to have a unique design made just for the customer! It takes approximately seven weeks for the shoes to be handmade and delivered.
Behind the curtain
Mr Lee has previously worked in pharmaceutical, consumer electronics and supply chain management. Starting a luxury shoe company, then, seems very out of the blue to us! As a shoe-lover, I was frustrated by the lack of range and customisation options offered in the market or being charged a high premium if they do offer them, mostly because of brand heritage. Because many of them are European brands, they tend to cater to Caucasian feet which tend to be narrow and long, and don’t fit well on Asian feet which tend to be broader and shorter. They may look beautiful but lack comfort and cost a lot. Some popular shoe brands which are comfortable have designs which are not as aesthetic as I would like them to be, and are usually made of poor quality materials as they are more for mass production. I felt that there was a gap in the market for handmade shoes that could offer the best of both worlds. So I created Diamond Walker bespoke shoes,” he says proudly.
Korea is not really known for shoemaking heritage. But then that’s what Mr Lee aims at promoting. With quite a few ambitions for this brand, Mr Lee says, “The Korean shoemaking craftsmanship has remained a relatively unknown aspect of Korean expertise and industry, compared to K-Pop, fashion, entertainment and technology which understandably are much bigger and visible, and have taken the whole world literally by storm. Diamond Walker is proud to represent master shoemakers of Korea and we intend to be as well-known in our field as Samsung, Hyundai, LG are in their respective industries.”
The response to Diamond Walker has been quite enthusiastic we gather! The shoes have been on the catwalks of fashion festivals in New York, Milan, Seoul and Singapore, and last April, by invitation of Harvard University, they collaborated with fashion brands like Ted Baker, The Kooples and many more. They also did a show with French haute couture menswear label, Marc-Antoine Barrois at the French Couture Week in Singapore in November 2012; presented at the prestigious Capsule Show at New York City; and at the Tranoi Trade Fair in Paris in September 2013. In Singapore, they are the bespoke footwear of choice for Panerai Singapore staff. Korean celebrities have been flaunting Diamond Walker too.
Mr Lee was in India recently, courtesy shoe brand Heel & Buckle, to give Indian men a taste of his brand and services. With his shoes starting at INR 75,000 in India, Mr Lee is quite confident that his creations will find a place among Indians. “We think they [Indians] face the same issues as our other customers all over Asia who love European brands but have difficulty in finding the right fit and are unable to choose the colours or designs in the size they want. I am sure the response would be very positive,” he says.
Inspired by shoemaking traditions of Berluti, Altan Bottier and John Lobb, the shoe entrepreneur wants to have a Diamond Walker store in each major city around the world. Being an Asian brand, they naturally want to expand in the continent before moving on to the western world. They are also constantly on the lookout for the best leathers and materials to upgrade new shoe designs every quarter.
“To steal a quote from Coco Chanel: ‘luxury must be comfortable, otherwise it is not luxury’. We strongly believe that comfort and luxury do go hand in hand, and the ultimate in luxury is to have something built specifically for you, to give you both style and comfort like nothing else.” – Mr Lee couldn’t have summarized his ethos and vision in better words…