What exactly is a last?
It’s a piece of wood (or recycled plastic) representing the volume of the desired shoe. It corresponds to the volume of the stylised foot with the main constraint being ‘the right fit.’
The last can have different appearances — pointed, round or square — sometimes with towering heels.
Let’s go back in time for a moment…
Not so long ago, the same right/left last was used to make a pair of shoes. But since each individual, and their two feet, are unique, differentiated right and left lasts finally appeared in the 19th century. Let’s just hope the standardisation of our profession and the search for industrial optimisation don’t bring us back to square one. ☺
What exactly is a last maker
A true artist halfway between a sculptor and a podiatrist, the last maker is endowed with good manual skills and has a perfect mastery of the anatomy of the foot, as well as all the different manufacturing techniques. Not only do they know how to reconcile the technical constraints of their profession with style requirements, but they also have good taste, a keen eye, precise gestures, and a great ability to listen and interpret.
A great deal of knowledge and know-how are required to ensure that from a simple piece of raw material, the stylist’s vision and the infinitely more down-to-earth needs of the foot successfully materialise through a last with perfectly balanced lines.
The last maker’s workshop is a den, a place that’s a little bit different where the time spent thinking, chiselling, modelling and sanding is practically part of the fabric. When you get into the heart of the workshop (for it’s here that everything takes ‘last’), you can smell a mixture of wood and glue, and get a curious view of this whitish layer of sawdust covering every surface. But there’s also this mix of old and new among the simple, rudimentary tools: the file, the sandpaper, the famous jack in place of the vice and allowing you to work with your hands free, and the digital lathes used to mass-reproduce the lasts.
A disappearing trade
Many years ago, each factory had its own in-house last maker. Then the profession was outsourced. In the early 2000s, France had about four last making companies, with each employing several last makers. Today they’ve all disappeared. Only Italy and Spain are left, which have managed to continue this craft at a high level. Phew, we’re safe! You need at least 10 years of practice to begin mastering the basics of this art — just some advice for amateurs.
So, now you know why we at Oodoo attach particular importance to lasts. Firstly, to guarantee the quality of the fit and well-being. But also to ensure that this profession lasts and, we have admit, to pay tribute to Alain Lagré, Billy’s father, who was a last maker in his time and who succeeded in passing on his passion for this profession.