As you well know, I am a shoe obsessive, but I have been trying to keep shoes out of this because it’s all about Shanghai, not shoes. But if the two happen to intersect……
I was actually of a mind to keep this place completely secret, because it’s too incredible, but I can’t help telling you about it. On Fuxing Xi Lu is a small, wonderful hand-made shoes shop. If you’re thinking it will be cheap, it’s not, but it’s about one sixth the cost of having made-to-measure shoes done anywhere else in the world. And I know about these things.
You go in, choose a style, choose the leather for the outside and the inside (Italian or local leathers, according to your taste and your budget). Then you have an outline of your foot made, and a multitude of measurements taken.
Now for the hard part. You wait four weeks. Four weeks to make anything in Shanghai is completely unheard of, in a city where new buildings pop up practically overnight and a custom tuxedo can be whipped up in three days. If you’re not too fussy, you can get a cashmere coat made overnight, but the sleeves will probably be held on with sticky tape. So it’s quite reassuring to know that your shoes will take time to make, and will be made properly.
The results you can see for yourself. A perfect pair of oxford brogues, with a bit of whimsy on the toe in the punched detail and the stitching.
On my morning walk along Fuxing Lu at 6am it’s very dark and quiet. The winter sun rises late. The steamed bun (baozi) shops are just getting their first customers of the day, who pick up their breakfast on their way to work.
Most of the customers come from a nearby construction site where an old building is being preserved in the midst of what will eventually be a skyscraper.
This little shop makes the day’s first batch of fried bread sticks and savoury pancakes, other popular breakfast staples.
By 6.45 am the streets are still quiet but daylight is beginning to creep in. I love this early morning hour of quietness, but soon the streetlights will be turned off and by 7.30am the streets will be filled again with people.