“Time slows down here,” says Markus Scheer, owner of bespoke shoemakers Scheer in Vienna’s first district. “People arrive fast and hurried, but once they’re inside the shop, the atmosphere calms and relaxes them.”
Founded in 1816, the store moved to its current location – a three-minute walk from the Hofburg Palace – in 1866, and just a decade later became the exclusive shoemaker to the rulers of the Habsburg empire. The entrance has remained largely unchanged for the past 148 years, but today the atelier is located on the first floor where, in the early part of the 20th century, the Scheer family also lived. The beautiful, airy space now houses a series of interconnected rooms, with 18th-century German furniture sitting among art-deco chandeliers.
Commissions, which start at €5,000, range from classic Derby- and Parisian-style brogues to the more flamboyant, such as a green slip-on design adorned with historical Japanese armour patterns and a Mizuhiki knot for an Asian customer, or a black patent-leather shoe, designed around an 1870s buckle that a client had brought in.
Dotted around the atelier are samples of Scheer’s creations: an Oxford shoe from the 1920s that was originally black but has now aged to a rich dark-brown patina, and a light oxblood pair from the 1980s, with a middle-stitching design, created by Markus’s grandfather.
A pair of Scheer shoes takes six months to make and requires three visits to the atelier. Markus does not travel to meet customers (“a family rule that is never broken“), as he likes clients to see the workshop, where around 12 artisans work on-site, using tools that date back to the shop’s beginnings. “It gives people the confidence of tradition,” says Markus, who is a seventh-generation Scheer. He is also a trained podiatrist, and suggesting orthopaedic adjustments for each shoe is his forte – it makes the shop’s footwear utterly distinctive.
“There are over 200 parts that come together in making a shoe, every one with the possibility for input,” he says. The result is highly individualised designs, of which he makes no more than 300 a year, leading to a waiting list for new customers. Further customisation includes a choice of around 10,000 skins, some dating back 200 years, with calf’s and goat’s leathers available alongside the more exotic elephant, shark and water bison.
Three years ago, Scheer took over the space next door and expanded its leather-goods offerings. On display is an exquisite glazed elephant-skin belt (€780); sumptuous calfskin shoe-care boxes (€2,500) and matching polish cases (€450); and a leather-clad portable coffee-making set (€9,800) that can also carry champagne. Alongside these sit elegant women’s bags, available as bespoke versions in any of the store’s skins (from €980).
Back near the main entrance is “the room of a thousand secrets”, where more than 5,000 lasts are stored. Markus pulls out a feminine form. “This was a man’s 100 years ago. Just think what feet will look like in another 100 years.”