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Norman Vilalta Calder Derby Review

Norman Vilalta Review | Calder Wingtip Derby Shoes In Dark Brown Calf

Norman Vilalta Calder Derby ReviewArgentinian Delight

Welcome everyone to my very special Review of my new pair of Norman Vilalta Shoes.

A pair that I was looking forward to with great anticipation and I can finally bring you more high end content!

Specifically, I will be doing an in-depth review of the Norman Vilalta Calder Wingtip Derby in Marron Mediterraneo Brown.

So relax, grab some ice latte and let us begin with the show!

Who Is Norman Vilalta?

Just in case you’ve been living under a rock, I will give you some background information about Norman Vilalta.

Even though I don’t mention it often, Norman Vilalta was one of the main inspirations behind my shoemaking journey and The Noble Shoe.

Jesper Ingevaldsson of Shoegazing inspired me to learn more about quality footwear and continue with this blog.

Justin FitzPatrick planted the seed in my brain about learning shoemaking and pursuing my interests.

Norman-Vilalta_portrait

Norman Vilalta in his iconic red beanie

And Norman Vilalta was the one that showed me that even if I am 30 years old, I can follow my dreams rather than continue an unfulfilling boring corporate life.

You see, Norman is an Argentinian from the foot of the earth in Patagonia.

He always had a connection with fine arts, nature and wanted to make a difference.

Which is exactly why he became a lawyer and had thoughts to be a politician and help people or fight injustice.

After realizing that this type of fight might be impossible to win, he took a gigantic leap and moved to Italy.

In Italy, he was the apprentice to the late Stefano Bemer and developed his own unique style of shoemaking.

Nowadays, he lives in Barcelona with a small workshop, producing high quality Bespoke Shoes but also a small curated selection of Ready To Wear and Made To Order.

A very romantic story with an actual happy ending in an era where fast fashion reigns supreme.

Come back to the blog in a few weeks for an exclusive interview with Norman which I promise will be a fantastic read.

Meeting Norman In 2019

The first and only time I met Norman Vilalta was in the Shoegazing London Super Trunk Show 2019.

His designs were unique and he was extremely friendly and passionate about his work.

I remember I even asked him about shoemaking and he said he was looking for 2 apprentices.

Norman Vilalta at the London Super Trunk Show 2019

Works of art from Norman Vilalta at the London Trunk Show 2019

A fascinating and often overlooked detail is that his signature is in the shape of a shoe!

These past 2 years I managed to keep light contact with him and his team until I was ready and in a position to finally bring you this Review.

Such a small paragraph about my relationship with Norman Vilalta is very much relevant.

The reason is that if you mail them, or visit the Barcelona workshop you will have a tremendous personal experience.

In other words, the service and human element of your shoe experience takes it to the next level.

Norman Vilalta Ranges

Outside the Bespoke experience, my understanding is that Norman Vilalta makes the RTW Shoes in Spain and finishes them in Barcelona.

There are currently two main lines:

  • Brava Collection
  • Condal Collection

The Brava Collection is a small curated selection of lightweight, casual blake stitched unlined shoes.

A good option for those looking for something low profile, light and easy to use.

The Condal Collection on the other hand is the Goodyear Welted Collection with some core items and other seasonal additions.

Here you can find boots, derbies, Chelseas and classic oxfords or loafers.

All of these shoes are available for customization as MTO where you can change leather, color, sole and more.

Lastly, Norman frequently hosts Group Made To Orders (GMTO) where you have the opportunity to get a unique make up without the surcharge or for a better price.

Find each one of them on the very easy to navigate mega menu on their website.

Norman Vilalta Review | Specifications

One of the hardest decisions was always going to be the model and style that I would choose.

Two or three months ago I contacted Scott who functions more like a Brand Manager on Instagram about the possibility of a Review.

However, as I did with my other Reviews I offered to pay for my pair as I am a strong believer of rewarding hard work.

Norman Vilalta Review

I looked back at my personal collection and one thing was clear: I have way too many oxfords.

Suede and derbies were the ones I lack though so I narrowed it down to this wonderful derby called the Calder.

The official launch of the Calder Wingtip Derby will be August 2021 in Marron Mediterraneo and Chocolate Brown.

Since it would have to be Made To Order (MTO) I changed the color to a darker brown and awaited patiently!

Here is the result:

  • Brand: Norman Vilalta
  • ModelCalder
  • Type: Wingtip Derby
  • Range: Condal
  • Leather: Full Grain Calfskin
  • Color: Marron Mediterraneo (Dark Brown)
  • Construction: Goodyear Welted, Handbuilt Waist
  • Eyelets: 4 Blind
  • Lining: Leather
  • Sole: Handpainted Leather Closed Channel
  • Size: UK 8 (US 9D/EU 42)
  • Shoe Trees: Lasted
  • Details: Metal Toe Tips (Flush)
  • Origin: Barcelona, Spain
  • Price Estimate: $1650

The price seems rather high at first glance, but also includes the lasted shoe trees, metal toe tips and of course the €300 Euro MTO Surcharge (approximately $350).

Non MTO options will start at around $1150 instead. Additionally, they wave the MTO fee if you can get 3 people to buy the same shoe.

Nonetheless as you are about to witness, it’s an astonishing piece of footwear and worth the price.

Delivery & Unboxing

Generally MTOs take three months or more and in this case 4-5 months or 16-20 weeks.

I think I discussed this pair with Scott around April and after some last minute additions I received the shoes on the 9th of July 2021.

So a quicker turnaround, but what I want to say with this is have some patience!

Delivery took only one day with DHL Express to Sweden from Spain with a nice clean package.

A very interesting first observation was the box itself.

Norman Vilalta Shoe Box and Bags

My first quick iPhone pic out of the box

It has super sharp vertical edges and is rather large, which I assume gives them the option to fit boots or shoes inside. If you ever had an iPhone 4 or 5 you will understand what I mean.

The box is super strong and has a lovely, blue color with a gold rectangular shape and the logo in the middle.

Surely some form of reminder to the sea, beauty and nature of a city like Barcelona? Who knows.

Continuing my totally unnecessary breakdown of the box, you have to look around for more clues.

Flip the box upside down to read what seems to be the model code and sizing by hand.

Interestingly, at the other corner there is a very discrete round sticker that reads “Valldeperas Packaging”.

They are a Spanish company making custom packaging material and they did a great job here.

Moving onwards, inside you will find your shoes inside their shoe bags with some tissue paper and a little bit of bubble wrap.

Afterwards I also uncovered an extra pair of shoelaces which is a nice touch and a personal note from my correspondence with Scott.

By the way, the shoe bags are absolutely fantastic. Also blue with a cotton exterior and a velvet blue heavy interior.

It’s a total joy to touch and handle. I might as well mention that they come properly laced.

First Impressions

Before I speak about the shoes themselves, I would like to briefly mention Norman Vilalta’s photography.

On most of the website, you will see the classic product imagery but most importantly also lifestyle everyday photography.

I think that is incredibly important these days, as it allows you to see the true color of the shoes and have an idea of how to match them.

Norman Vilalta Calder Wingtip Derby Review

Norman Vilalta Calder Wingtip Derby Review

This is how I decided to get a slightly darker color for my Calder Derbies.

And the final result did not disappoint. The Marron Mediterraneo (Mediterranean Brown) is a rich dark brown color with some slight red tints.

Another thing that surprised me pleasantly was that the shoes arrived with a fantastic mirror polish on the toe and back.

There was a slight issue worth mentioning, which was that the shine on the left back heel cracked during transport. It is actually quite common and you should not worry.

Mirror Shine

Mirror Shine cracked at the left heel, no biggie!

To their credit, Scott immediately asked me if I wanted to send them back and refresh the shine. Of course I politely declined.

Finally, talking about the shoes themselves I must say they are a beautiful piece of footwear.

Aesthetically, this is a Derby which you can identify from the open lacing system but look closely and there are a lot of details you might miss.

Norman Vilalta Heel

However look at how great and polished the heel is…

For example, the typical derby has 5 eyelets and in some occasions 3 or 2. The Calder however has 4 which sounds rather strange proportionally.

However, it works beautifully and it’s all down to the last and space between the laces. The laces by the way are flat and also superb.

Then the rest of the shoe has a mix of a wingtip and balmoral design. There is no medallion, however there is the W you get in a classic wingtip.

The balmoral line is also unique with no straight line, but a tiny v at the middle reminiscent of the Edward Green Galway designs. It goes all the way to the inside side of the shoe and wraps up in a neat asymmetrical seam.

A very elegant, low profile modern derby and certainly a looker.

Leather Quality

Norman Vilalta uses box calf from renown Tannerie Du Puy and when you first check it out it looks very high quality.

As always, the true quality of the leather will show up with use and age. But it really impressed me so far.

Derby Lacing

Close up of the leather and lacing system

Run your finger down the vamp and it is extremely smooth, but you do get a hint of the grain and pores.

On the other hand, due to the mirror polish, the toe is like butter or glass. It’s actually fascinating to go from the shined layer to the leather surface. I really need to learn how to shine properly my shoes.

My early prediction is that this is going to be one of my favorite shoes to wear this year.

Construction Quality

To talk about the elephant in the room, Norman Vilalta shoes are not handmade in the traditional sense.

Goodyear Welted with a machine, machine lasted and with a machine sewn sole. However an optional extra such as in this model is the handbuilt waist.

Brown Wingtip Derbies

I really like the rich depth of the Marron Mediterraneo color

In other words, they carve the waist by hand. A total of 3-4 hours of actual handiwork goes into each pair.

In the past I was quite critical about spending so much money for a machine made shoe, however this is starting to change.

Especially when you consider that the regular non-MTO shoes cost around the same or less than their British equivalents.

Calder Derby

Norman Vilalta Review | I took a ton of pictures!

In the end of the day, this is a very well constructed shoe and you can feel it when you hold it.

A tight welt, great finishing, solid feel and the sensation on your foot makes for a cracking shoe.

It feels as good and as high quality to hold as my Antonio Meccariello shoes which is high praise for me.

Welt & Stitching

Coming in with high expectations and the shoes delivered once again.

Stitching is good, consistent and overall top notch. The Calder has a bit of a more pronounced broguing details which work surprisingly fine with this shoe.

The jagged edges are also rather discreet and there is mostly single line stitching all over the uppers.

welt stitching

Norman Vilalta Review | Very tight welt stitching for a sleek profile

A very interesting detail for me is the facing which is a more fluid, curvy variation of the traditional hockey stick.

Keen eyed viewers and shoe aficionados will notice that right at the end of the facing there are 5 dots/holes creating a bit of a star shape.

Now that could be simply for the aesthetics. However turn the shoe around and look at the heel block and you will notice nails with the exact same formation.

Broguing on Norman Vilalta shoes

The details are great all over the shoes

I might be overthinking this, but I think that was intentional and I love such touches.

When it comes to the welt, it’s really tight and close to the uppers, preserving that low profile look. It certainly appears more tight than the Stefano Bemer pair I have which is handmade.

If you want me to nitpick, the broguing in certain areas is not exactly even or evenly aligned. For example the middle perforation at the middle part of the heel is not level in both shoes.

Sole Quality

Discussing the sole can be a controversial topic because there are different kinds of people.

Those that expect the narrowest waists with the tightest of fiddlebacks and those that will simply appreciate a well-made sole.

Norman Vilalta uses machine to stitch the outsoles and does a wonderful job hiding the channel and finishing it.

Norman Vilalta RTW Sole

A look at the Norman Vilalta RTW Sole

The sole has an asymmetrical purple striped finish and it’s beautiful and unique. Their installation of the flush metal toe tips was also very good.

I already mentioned the nails, so that leaves yet another interesting marking on the middle of the waist.

At the waist it says NV (short for Norman Vilalta) and in adjacent positions something that looks like A and P.

Shoe sole details

Small details you might miss

I have absolutely no idea if this has any special meaning but I do like to speculate in my mind.

To continue from my brief discussion of the waist shapes, these shoes don’t have a flamboyant narrow one and the fiddleback is barely noticeable, if any.

It really doesn’t matter but you know, these days people are demanding. And believe me I was one of them.

Interior & Lining

The interior part of the shoe is usually nothing to rave about nor exciting.

Norman Vilalta however incorporates a very interesting design choice: a half quilted cushion insole.

It’s very interesting to see for the first time with a sort of pin-dot stitching in-between.

Quilted padded insole

A Quilted padded insole is a unique feature in Norman’s shoes

Time will tell how much this affects the comfort of the shoes but is certainly an eye-catching unique detail.

The rest of the lining is also superb and clean with what appears to be black.

One thing that I should mention is that when I smelled the interior (because all shoe nerds do that) it had a very chemical smell.

I think it might be from the shining and waxing they did, but it was rather strong.

Lastly, the trimming on the top is absolutely excellent.

Shoe Trees

Not so long ago I wrote a Guide for Shoe Trees and stressed out the importance of using them.

In higher price tiers, lasted shoe trees are also a must in my opinion.

Norman Vilalta offers lasted shoe trees for about $140 USD and they are really nice.

At first glance the material looks like beechwood which has that lovely aroma and off-white presentation.

You can verify this by going into the accessories section, while the maker is Springline from the UK.

Springline lasted shoe trees

Springline lasted shoe trees for Norman Vilalta with a hinge mechanism

The low profile silhouette of the shoe trees gives you a better visual representation of the last itself.

It has super sharp edges, especially under the toe, a handle grip for ease of use and a superb hinge mechanism.

The mechanism has some gold plating like brass and 3 neat screws keeping it in place on each side.

Under the handle you see the laser engraved Norman Vilalta logo and the fonts used describe the tonality of the brand well.

Sharp corners for a more modern approach.

The trees are smooth to the touch but not like lacquered versions that feel plasticky.

hollowed shoe trees

Hollowed shoe trees to save weight

Lastly, the middle has a hollow point all the way down to save some valuable weight.

Great shoe trees well worth the cost and super easy to put in and pull out of the shoes.

Remark: The picture on the website shows a dual spring mechanism so I am unsure if this is a recent change.

Norman Vilalta Calder Last

This is one of the rare occasions where I cannot (yet) tell you the name of the Last.

I did quite a bit of digging and couldn’t come up with a specific name, however I did email Norman Vilalta and will update accordingly.

After some substantial digging around and due diligence, the pattern becomes more clear with mainly two types of lasts.

Overview of the Calder Derby

Overview of the Calder Derby’s Last

One which has a more chiseled, soft square shape like today’s Calder Derby and a rounder version.

Personally I think the soft square last has such a good balance and proportions, which is evident by checking out the rest of the models.

It goes well whether you are choosing a classic oxford, or a blunt, aggressive derby with a commando sole and country elements.

If you remember most of my high end Italian reviews, the shapes don’t slope gradually but sharply.

This is especially true at the instep and the toe box.

calder derby last close up

And a close up of the toe box

When you inspect the Vilalta shoe however you see that it already has a very low profile. Think about a car with a lower ride height and sports suspension.

So while I see the Italian influence in Norman’s shoes, at the same time I spot his unique elements coming in.

Of course, for those of you that want a rounder more contemporary shape, it is possible as MTO or via other models.

Norman Vilalta Review | Sizing Advice

My communication with Scott was a pleasure and he was the one that helped me figure out my size.

I began by sending him a list of what I usually wear which for new readers of Misiu Academy is UK 8 (US 9D).

For wider lasts I size down half while for narrower ones the opposite. Here’s an example of my shoes:

  • Paolo Scafora DOOR/VOLA: UK 7.5
  • Paolo Scafora Q: UK 8
  • Carlos Santos 401/234/397/316/445/362: UK 7.5
  • Carlos Santos 389/387/437/462: UK 8
  • Saint Crispin’s Classic: UK 8
  • Petru & Claymoor VD2: UK 8
  • Carmina Rain: UK 8
  • Meermin Hiro: UK 8
  • Crockett & Jones 325/337/373: UK 8
  • TLB Mallorca Artista: UK 8
  • Antonio Meccariello Chisel 2/Soft Square: UK 8.5
  • Passus 2000: UK 8.5

The recommendation from Scott was my standard UK 8 which as you shall see turned out to be spot on.

It had a rather standard fit so my recommendation would be to take your regular UK size or size down 1 full size from your US.

But as always, make sure to send Norman Vilalta a message or mail to ensure the best possible fit.

Norman Vilalta Review | Fit & Comfort

Fit is always a subjective thing and as I mentioned you should always consult with each brand directly.

However as is customary I will tell you my personal thoughts about the fit of the Calder. This time I made sure I try them on later in the day when your foot expands and swells.

The short version is that the fit is excellent if you like a snug fit.

I am not sure if it plays any role structurally, but the 4 eyelets allow for a nice adjustment of the shoe over your instep. It really sits on my foot very well.

Norman Vilalta Shoes on chair

Norman Vilalta Review | A connoisseur’s choice

Then there is the heel cup, which hugs my foot properly without any slippage.

I did have initial concerns about the quilted padded insole and how it would feel as I am sensitive to small changes.

However everything felt normal and comfortable and I am curious to see how it will feel after a long day.

At the front, there is enough toe space and a rather snug feeling at my smallest toe. I can see that being a problem for those with wide feet, but it is adjustable.

In other words, if you have a medium or slightly wide foot with a normal instep, you will find these shoes rather true to size.

If you were inside a Rolls Royce, you would say that it’s a nice place to be in. Likewise, when you wear the Norman Vilalta shoes it feels like a nice place to have your foot in.

More car comparisons soon!

Who Are Norman Vilalta Shoes For?

That’s always a good question isn’t it?

If you are either entering the high end shoe segment or already tried certain brands and look for excitement and uniqueness, you will have a blast trying Norman Vilalta.

And on the other hand, if you really like contemporary, classic round styling or don’t have the budget, it’s probably not for you.

In my mind, the customer that comes to Norman for shoes is one that wants something very specific, or not at all.

Norman Vilalta Calder Review

Norman Vilalta Calder Review | A low profile, sleek and sharp derby

A person that wants to buy an expensive supercar, but not a Ferrari, Lamborghini or Porsche. He is the type of connoisseur that would instead buy a Pagani Zonda/Huayra or a Koenigsegg.

In other words, something with similar performance to the established names, but with it’s own unique flair and appeal.

I genuinely believe that if you find a style that you like the shoes will impress you.

Excellent shoes brimming with personality, presentation, immaculate finishing and a hands on approach by Norman and his team.

Where To Buy Norman Vilalta Shoes?

Without spending too much unnecessary time, there is only one main channel to buy Norman Vilalta shoes.

And you guessed it, it’s through their Official Website. Simply pick up your favorite in stock shoe or mail them for a special order and voila!

They are very helpful and will assist you into choosing the right style and size.

Brown Wingtip Derbies

Norman Vilalta Review | The Calder is an absolute stunner

Specifically, the Calder Wingtip Derby is going to be in stock in small quantities in August 2021 in Marron Mediterraneo and Chocolate Brown.

There are however a few different stores that stock some shoes such as The Hand in the Netherlands and Leffot in New York City.

How To Style The Calder?

Luckily, the Calder is such a versatile shoe with such a versatile color.

Matching it becomes more of a joy rather than a challenge. It’s a good blend of casual with formal due to the larger broguing and aerodynamic shape.

Which means you can wear it with any conceivable type of trousers other than shorts. Jeans, chinos, suits or suit separates are all fair game.

The color will only restrict you if you try to pair them with dark grey but anything else goes really.

It will look absolutely dashing with a navy suit, light grey trousers or dressier with a pair of darker denim.

Just don’t forget to get some awesome socks to complete the pairing (Article Here!).

Video Review

Somehow I manage to keep up the tradition of following up with a Video Review! Here it is!

Conclusions

Ending the Review of this pair of Norman Vilalta shoes with a bang and it is quite clear that I like them very much.

The compliments rained in even on my timid and quiet Instagram. And it’s not a surprise given how good the Calder looks on camera.

I am pretty sure that if you buy a pair of Norman Vilalta shoes you will also be thrilled.

Let me know what you think about them in the comments and don’t forget to share and Subscribe!

Thank you for reading,

Kostas Mandilaris,
Misiu Academy

Hello, my name is Kostas and I am the owner of Misiu Academy and The Noble Shoe! I am glad to have you along on the journey to developing classic style and love for good shoemaking!

Comments

  • July 13, 2021
    Tilton Little

    Quite simply, these are the best derbies I’ve seen this year (maybe ever) — all of the details! The unique design aspects! Whew!

    reply

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