Allan Baudoin is a London-based bespoke shoemaker. He is also one half of the team behind Baudoin and Lange, the ready-to-wear offshoot of his bespoke atelier which focuses on production of the “Sagan” loafer. Baudoin and Lange is led by Allan Baudoin and Bo van Langeveld. In this article, Allan answered our questions about what led him to shoemaking as a young man, what he loves about it, and about his work at large – both as a bespoke shoemaker and with the Baudoin and Lange brand.
This article has been edited for length and clarity.
Styleforum: On the Baudoin and Lange website, you go out of your way to mention that both of you come from backgrounds not related to shoemaking or even to menswear. How have these diverse perspectives influenced the growth of Allan Baudoin Bespoke and Baudoin & Lange?
SF: Are there aspects of bespoke shoemaking that you were intent on keeping in your RTW line, or that lended themselves particularly well to your project? Similarly, were there aspects of the bespoke process that you knew would not translate – or even be detrimental – to an RTW line?
SF: I’ve heard that before starting your shoemaking line you briefly worked at Apple, and referred to your time as “disillusioning.” Even so, are there aspects of working with a large company that you miss, or lessons you learned during your time there that you think are applicable to your current life as a shoemaker?
SF: What was it about shoemaking in particular that appealed to you? Were there other crafts you found equally enjoyable?
SF: Why did you want this to be your first RTW shoe, and why build an entire brand behind it? How do you see it being worn?
SF:Baudoin and Lange is a very accessible brand. Many shoemakers go the other direction – why choose accessibility over exclusivity?
SF: Can you describe a bit of the “flow” of the creation and production process? I’m aware that you have several partners in the pattern-making and construction processes – can you walk us through the creation and production of a new shoe for the Allan Baudoin line? Does this differ for the Baudoin and Lange line?
AB: I have a pattern maker, a clicker, a closer, two lasters, and a finisher and we all work really well together. I’d say an AB and a BL shoe start exactly the same way and go through the exact same initial process, but the AB goes to only one customer and uses only one skin of leather, whereas the BLs have to made for a lot more people, which requires many more steps.
It all starts with the last. I usually make lasts myself from “unturned toe” wooden lasts, meaning the toe is left wide and rough, while the heel to the joint area are made to the specific measures I give my last “factory” in France.
A first last is made to do the pattern making. This last and pattern will most certainly be modified a few times to accommodate changes I want to make, which happen constantly – I think the Sagan pattern was remade at least 50 times to accommodate changes in leathers, lasts, insoles, and other tweaks.
Parallel to that is the work in sourcing and tanning the leathers we use for soles, insoles, uppers, fitting, bindings, and other pieces – they are all made to our specification and color ways that I have chosen over time. I never use ready-made colors or articles (leathers have countless specs) – you just can’t ask a tannery to have the best taste in color or substance and texture.
I will usually spend a lot of time with my pattern maker and closer when making Sagans (a lot of the work is in the stitching of the upper and the fine design details of each variation), and with my lasters for MTM/Bespoke, as these are always made with different sole types and construction methods. I always quality check every shoe, bespoke and Sagan alike, that comes out of the atelier, to make sure they are made as well as possible. This also allows me to spot problems and constantly perfect the shoes.
Every batch we make is always better than the last one, as I tend to always spot new “imperfections” we can improve upon. I think the Sagan range is now very close to perfection, but we always come up with new things, so it is a never ending process. Perfection does not exist, only the perception of perfection – for a trained eye nothing is perfect. I’m pretty sure you could ask any bespoke shoemaker if they are happy with their last work, and they will say “No” regardless of how perfect it looks to the outside world. We know exactly how good the shoes are, and that’s just never good enough. This is, I believe, the drive (and the curse) of the shoemaker.
SF: You’re still very young – do you feel, now, that you’ve found your niche in shoemaking? Or do you still have a bit of the restlessness in you that took you away from your first career path?
I am always restless. I have found a passion and obsession in shoemaking, and I have built a lot around it both personally and professionally. I intend to keep evolving and see where that takes me. I am always interested in all kinds of crafts and topics related to our industry, so you never what will come out of this!