Bespoke slippers with fresh flair

Custom slippers are stepping beyond monogramming or heraldry to embrace imaginative designs – often at the click of a mouse. Marc Abbott reports

Model wears Arthur Sleep velvet Glowing Gods slippers, from £650
Model wears Arthur Sleep velvet Glowing Gods slippers, from £650

“I pulled my hair out over it. I spent seven days on it, morning until night. But the result is a very special design I will never recreate.” When artist Morgan Seaford reveals the efforts poured into the creation of a pair of bespoke handpainted suede slippers (£400 for similar design) finished in 24ct gold leaf that reworked both Guido Reni’s and Giuseppe Cesari’s respective paintings of Archangel Saint Michael, she does so with a mix of ordeal, pleasure and pride. Today’s custom-slipper designs now extend beyond the simple monogram or classic heraldic motif and embrace a burgeoning variety of colours, fabrics and techniques – and intricate handpainting represents the zenith of artisanal endeavour. “My favourite kind of customer is the one who comes to me requesting something totally unique, then gives me the green light to research and create something from scratch,” Seaford adds. “I am a lover of maximalism; I love to go all out on a detailed illustration [from £200 on a supplied shoe] that takes days to create. The bespoke service I provide is being able to wear your commissioned artwork.”  

From left: Duke + Dexter handpainted suede Crown loafer, £750. Penelope Chilvers velvet Dandy Palm Tree slippers, £348. Donhall & Bell bespoke velvet slippers, from £750. Stubbs & Wootton velvet King Tut slippers, $550
From left: Duke + Dexter handpainted suede Crown loafer, £750. Penelope Chilvers velvet Dandy Palm Tree slippers, £348. Donhall & Bell bespoke velvet slippers, from £750. Stubbs & Wootton velvet King Tut slippers, $550

Seaford began her design work for slippers while artist-in-residence at Duke + Dexter, whose current in-house artist is Jessica Pickard. Pickard’s bespoke, handpainted designs start at £300 for a monogrammed shoe, rising to £750 for a shoe with a detailed illustration, such as a gilded snake slithering across the length of the shoe or a bejewelled crown. For these commissions, the client is taken on a journey from initial consultation to mood boards to rough sketch and final work, which takes a week to complete. The London shoemaker also offers custom, hand-embroidered designs (£200) on nubuck slippers (£150), which takes the firm’s Sheffield factory 14 days to make, while a simple choice of trim colour (£60) and monogram (£150) is also available with just a few clicks online.

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Indeed, sophisticated online customisation services offer a rich seam of options. Donhall & Bell’s online offering allows customers to choose materials (calfskin, pebble grain, crocodile, suede, linen, tweed, tartan… the list is near exhaustive) and different colours for the upper, trim and lining, and to either select from a database of designs – such as a crown or top hat – or upload their own artwork. The cost is from £300 and takes 3-4 weeks. Truly one-off shoes cost from £750. “Once we have the uploaded design, we respond within 48 hours with a quote and timescale,” says Donhall & Bell co-founder Peter Mulhall. Customers can take inspiration from heavyweight boxer Evander Holyfield, whose slippers feature a bespoke coat of arms with boxing gloves and a banner with the words “Real Deal”. “I think these were the best we’ve created,” says Mulhall proudly. “Holyfield’s daughter Evette gave us very specific instructions on the design, but allowed us creative freedom with the embroidery and beading.”

Duke + Dexter embroidered nubuck loafers, £350
Duke + Dexter embroidered nubuck loafers, £350

Also combining the ease of online check-box customisation with customer creativity is Palm Beach-based Stubbs & Wootton. The company will digitise any uploaded image for a $500 fee and embroider it onto a shoe ($550) in a choice of velvet, linen or flannel in a wide choice of colours – or your own supplied material. Machine embroidery is undertaken in Spain, where the slippers are produced, while hand-embroidered designs in gold or silver wire are applied by skilled artisans at London’s Hand & Lock. All orders ship within 12 weeks. For those happy to choose from the 350 motifs on offer, different options are available for each shoe, giving rise to the potential to create some interesting word play or messages (the company intimates this with a pair featuring “RS” on one slipper and “VP” on the other, $1,200). Motifs range from dollar signs to Egyptian mummies; fonts include varsity sweater lettering ($550); and there’s also the option of conveying a message using maritime signal flags.

From left: Stubbs & Wootton velvet slippers with varsity letters, $550. Penelope Chilvers velvet Dandy Horse slippers, £348. Penelope Chilvers velvet Dandy Lobster slippers, £348
From left: Stubbs & Wootton velvet slippers with varsity letters, $550. Penelope Chilvers velvet Dandy Horse slippers, £348. Penelope Chilvers velvet Dandy Lobster slippers, £348

Arthur Sleep’s online custom offerings include the charming House Bear and Hanging Monkey designs (both £550) on either a velvet or suede upper (with a choice of quilted or leather lining), which can be personalised with subtle monogramming. The in-house illustration team is also well-versed in realising one-off customer commissions on shoes (from £650) in a wealth of fabrics and materials – including a glow-in-the-dark thread used for the company’s ready-to-wear Glowing Gods design. Delivery normally takes around four weeks. Clients include Formula One world champion Lewis Hamilton, musician ASAP Rocky and Prince Harry, who commissioned a pair of slippers bearing the insignia of the Blues and Royals. 

Donhall & Bell velvet Portuguese Dandy slippers, from £750
Donhall & Bell velvet Portuguese Dandy slippers, from £750

Penelope Chilvers is another go-to for slippers and the firm’s Dandy style (£348) – named in honour of Oscar Wilde – has motifs ranging from a palm tree or a prancing pony to a lobster, with a choice of velvet, suede or linen upper, and grosgrain or calfskin lining, each in a selection of colours. The process takes six to eight weeks from order to delivery.

From left: Stubbs & Wootton velvet slippers with silver-wire lettering, $1,200. Arthur Sleep velvet Glowing Gods slippers, from £650
From left: Stubbs & Wootton velvet slippers with silver-wire lettering, $1,200. Arthur Sleep velvet Glowing Gods slippers, from £650

Heritage shoemakers in step with this trend include Norwich’s Bowhill & Elliott, which has been fashioning made-to-order monogrammed and coat-of-arms-embroidered velvet slippers (from £420) for almost 40 years (delivery takes six weeks). It now offers designs such as the cabaret skeleton and a leaping salmon, and has embraced more unusual bespoke designs with gusto. Once the colours for velvet and lining have been selected, imagination is the only limit for motif design. Berk Cashmere of Lancashire, established in 1961 and based in the Forest of Bowland, also now offers a custom service (from £350) to supplement existing designs, including Scottie dogs and elephants, translating artwork and even photos into gold bullion wire (£350) or silk thread on velvet or cashmere slippers in four to six weeks. “Robert De Niro wanted the same slippers Bernie Madoff [whom De Niro portrayed in his 2017 biopic The Wizard of Lies] owned,” says Berk’s head of design Anthony Stennett. They featured his initials in swirling gold script. “We requested an outline of his feet and measurements and made him the exact same pair. He loved them.”

Boxing champion Evander Holyfield’s hand-embroidered crest by Donhall & Bell; slippers from £750
Boxing champion Evander Holyfield’s hand-embroidered crest by Donhall & Bell; slippers from £750

From Hollywood royalty to Ponzi fraudsters, HRHs and boxing champs – the beauty of these bespoke slippers is there’s a pitch-perfect design for every personality.

Berk Cashmere velvet and gold wire Leaping Leopard slippers, £350
Berk Cashmere velvet and gold wire Leaping Leopard slippers, £350

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