In Milan, Andrea and Francesco Carpineti, and their colleague Michele Luconi, are trying to blend the new with the old. Their startup, Design Italian Shoes (DIS), provides shoe shops with a device they call the Totem Touch Screen. Customers place their feet in the bottom of this device to have them scanned. They then use a touchscreen to select a style of shoe and to customise it, from colours to materials, types of sole and even the eyelets and laces. Some 50m combinations are available. Personal monograms and inscriptions can be added.

Instead of sending the design to a 3D-printer, DIS passes it to a group of artisan shoemakers in the “shoes valley” of Le Marche, a region in eastern Italy that is famous for its cobblers. Which craftsman a pair of shoes is assigned to depends on the style to be made, for each has his specific areas of expertise. He will then make the shoes by hand, using a pair of existing lasts that are the closest match available to the data from the Totem. The Carpineti brothers claim the firm can, in this way, rustle up a pair of handmade Oxfords in as little as ten days, for about €360—less than a tenth of Lobb’s price. The company hopes to offer bespoke sizes eventually, using feet scans to create digital lasts, which would generate patterns for leather and other components of a shoe. The company decided to adopt this marriage of high-tech and low-tech, says Andrea Carpineti, to help preserve shoemaking jobs in Le Marche. So far, 15 shoe shops in Europe have Totems installed, and he expects the devices to be in several hundred stores in China soon. One way or another, then, shoemakers are striding towards a bespoke future. Read more at: