From Ukraine With Love (And Passion)
Back in the London Super Trunk Show, I had the pleasure of meeting Nataliia Sergeeva. She is a Bespoke Shoemaker and the owner of Vicelli Shoes in Ukraine. She is a talented, beautiful and intelligent woman with a real passion for shoemaking. I could tell this by watching her. Shy and friendly, Nataliia is a bit like a Disney princess that tries to blend-in in public, but a quick glance at her and you know there is something worth discovering.
We had only a very brief conversation, but it was enough for me to want to know more about her work. How often do you meet a female shoemaker after all? Therefore, I asked her if she would be interested in having an interview. She was as excited to do it as me and after reading her answers, I am so glad I took this opportunity.
Without further ado, I present to you Bespoke Shoemaker Nataliia Sergeeva of Vicelli Shoes!
1. Hi Nataliia! I am so excited to have you here! Please tell us a bit about yourself.
Hello everyone! My name is Nataliia Sergeeva and I am the owner of Vicelli Shoes and a Bespoke Shoemaker. I think that being the owner of a custom shoe atelier in Ukraine is quite unusual. Even more unusual is not just being the owner, but living this process, understanding technological peculiarities, leather, equipment, being inspired by the result of the work of our team every time. It helps to reveal our inner capabilities, personality traits and just discover ourselves. This year, I will celebrate my 30th birthday.
2. Shoemaking is generally a profession dominated by men. How does a woman decide to begin making Bespoke Shoes?
I believe that the opportunities that life gives us should be used with gratitude, overcoming fear and insecurity. The process of shoemaking always fascinated me. It is amazing to witness creation of a thing that will bring aesthetic pleasure and physiological comfort.
Initially, we worked exclusively with a male audience. And this was for a reason. Our clients are confident successful people, who value comfort and individuality and notice the beauty that consists of details. I note that working with such customers is a pleasure. They charge me with energy and inspire me to receive what I want from life.
Now, female audience is also becoming interested in our craft. After all, many women face the bunion problem. We create a balance between physiological features, comfort and refinement of exclusive materials.
PS: For those unaware, a bunion is a bony deformity of the joint at the base of the big toe.
3. You are such an inspiration to me. Women are connected to emotion so much more. That is why when they focus on something, it is great. Vicelli Shoes. Tell us a bit about your company!
Our company (Vicelli) is quite a young player at the market – we are 5 years old. However, famous and successful people already trust us. The heritage of shoemaking is sufficiently developed in Ukraine, because as early as the 17th -18th centuries, Ukraine was famous for its tailoring workshops for leather goods. Our team consists of the best cutters, fashion designers and shoemakers in the country, however we always try to improve our skills. We also communicate with colleagues at international exhibitions and share experiences.
Vicelli is the most classic workshop and shoes are absolutely handmade in Ukraine. We use premium materials produced by the best global manufacturers. Shoes are made from scratch, only to your measures. Up to 10 skilled craftsmen work on one pair for at least 70 hours using assembly technologies that were laid at the end of the 18th and early 19th centuries, when individuality was valued. This allows you to get a pair of shoes of the highest quality in the country.
We offer classic custom shoemaking. Using this technology, we create classic shoes to match a suit, sports shoes, and sneakers – to meet your wishes, anatomy, and imagination.
4. Fascinating. I hope one day to visit your atelier and see this with my own eyes. Why don’t you guide us through the Bespoke process at Vicelli?
As mentioned, this is classic custom shoemaking. It is a service for the manufacture of shoes by hand according to your individual measurements and using both popular and rare types of texture and leather. All components are supplied only from the best factories in Italy and other countries. The process itself begins with taking measurements of the foot – height, bridge, girth, etc. This gives you complete comfort in movement right from the first day – you do not have to wear our shoes to shape or suffer inconveniences. Then comes the development of an individual last, which can be used in subsequent orders.
You can choose the material and accessories. We always have rare types of crocodile, python, ostrich, and even stingray leather in stock. This allows you to get the pair of the exact appearance and color, which will be suitable for your style and wardrobe, and not vice versa.
Additionally, if you have bunion, bridge or size problems – we can help you.
5. Starting in Ukraine though, it sounds difficult with the economy. Does it impact your clientele locally?
When people see quality and our approach to the clients’ wishes, our relationship develops into a friendship. We are recommended, and this is the best thanks. Our clients take care of their health, because it is very important for the general condition of the body to choose the right shoes. Moreover, you get an aesthetically beautiful product with the highest quality. This allows us to enter new markets. We have clients in many countries across Europe, Asia and the USA.
6. I like what you say so much. I try to teach people to invest in quality. It can impact their health and confidence so much. Can you reveal a bit more information about your clients?
As I said earlier, our customers know the price of comfort, beauty and individuality. These are businessmen, people who travel a lot, who look at the world more widely. They are free from brand dependence, show their individuality and enjoy it. One of our priorities is customer privacy.
Even the most expensive shoes purchased in the boutique give no guarantee that you will not meet another person with the same model. However, with us you get an absolutely exclusive pair, on which you can even engrave your initials, for example, as you can do it on Louis Vuitton leather products.
7. Engraving is a very small but lovely detail. I am quite curious which part of your work you find the most enjoyable!
The synergy of communication with our customers – strong and successful people – brings me the greatest joy, as well as their sincere admiration for the shoes that are born in our workshop.
8. Let us actually talk shoes now! Is there a specific type of shoe that you love making?
I love to tear down stereotypes and create elegant crocodile shoes. I also admire shoes patination – an art skillfully mastered by our craftsmen.
9. Exotic leathers are very interesting and unique. How about more demanding customers? How do you approach them?
We haven’t had such clients. We all are different, so I never gauge people by their requirements. I always personally pay maximum attention to the client, because the more details you learn about his or her wishes and expectations of the pair of shoes, the easier it is to bring it to life. Little things play a key role in our business.
10. I like this way of thinking! I start to see the pattern. Now, shoemaking has been traditionally a male profession. It is sad in 2019, but many people could consider you less skillful because you are a woman. Did you ever have such a problem?
I think the opposite! ?
Being a woman is beautiful! While I agree with the fact that you rarely meet women at the custom shoemaking market, but I rather take it as an advantage. I am not tired of repeating that a fantastic team of professionals, who have been engaged in shoemaking for decades, and many of whom are in shoemaking for generations, works with me. I respect and value every employee.
11. I hope women around the world get inspired by you. In fact, a few years ago Tricker’s accepted the first ever female apprentice. A great leap forward! I would love to know what you like to do in your free time – if you have any!
My work takes up to 12 hours of everyday involvement in certain processes. Therefore, I have less free time than I would like to. However, when I have some, I spend it at the gym. I also love to cook and read books. Not electronic ones! This is an important criterion for me. I love the classics and the old pages that turned yellow with age.
On a larger scale, traveling — in my opinion — is the best investment in yourself. I am inspired to learn new cultures, architecture, cuisine, nature. This gives the opportunity to expand consciousness, blurs the physical and mental boundaries. In India, the United Arab Emirates, the United States, Europe, cultural elements and standards of beauty often set fashion trends, and we discuss this with our fashion designer.
12. Nothing beats the smell of an old book. By the way, your English is terrific! What’s the story behind that?
I received the education of a foreign economic activity manager. I had an internship in the USA. We are friends with British colleagues, who sew customized suits and shoes, and exchange views with them. They appreciate our products. This is a great incentive for us.
13. Any words of advice for all the women out there?
Honestly, I do not like to give advice. We are all different and perceive the same situations differently. From my own experience, I can say that no matter how difficult the world of business is a woman should maintain her femininity.
14. I really admire you for staying true to your beliefs. I am sure our readers would like to know what is the general cost of a Bespoke Shoe from Vicelli.
Custom shoemaking is interesting due to the fact that combining different materials, painting techniques can affect the final cost. Our colleagues from other countries of the world comment that our products are 2 times and sometimes 3 times cheaper. However, in general, the cost of a last is $ 200, a pair of Blake – from $ 800, handwelted – from $ 1,400, crocodile – from $ 2,000.
15. It is a very competitive price for sure. Nataliia, do you have any final words to close this interview?
My family is my support! My parents faced hard times of collapse of the USSR, unemployment, crisis. However, they showed us an example of mental strength, hard work. My sister and I (we are working together now! She is my right hand, a person whom I trust unlimitedly) grew in love and the right family and human values. This allowed us to become who we are. Now, I want to do everything to show this big world to my parents and give people joy.
I come from a similar background so I fully understand the value of family. It is important to stick together and make them proud. Nataliia, it has been an absolute pleasure to have you here. I appreciate you taking the time and I hope to meet you in the future!
It would be my honor to make you a pair of shoes in the future!
An Interview, Or A Story About Inspiration And Perseverance?
Nataliia’s answers invoke so many emotions. From picking up my dusty 20 year old “The Hobbit” book and smelling the yellow pages, to struggling daily in obscurity and doubt. But the hardships make us who we are. You have a choice. The choice is to become something worse than the situation you were raised in, or rise up and become better. A beacon of hope for everyone.
It doesn’t matter where you come from. Just do what you do with passion and you will be rewarded. This time, I hope Nataliia is the Rapunzel for all the talented women out there waiting to shine. This interview is maybe her way of using her beautiful long hair to let others climb.
I am eternally thankful to her for spending so much time to write this interview. I generally don’t ask for people to share my articles, but this time it is worth it. Spread the word out there and you will receive the best possible treatment and an incredible pair of shoes. You can visit the Vicelli website here.
This brings us to the end of this interview about Bespoke Shoemaking! If you enjoy the content, please subscribe. We have some exciting articles coming up.
Thank you for reading,