All began in the rural town of Rhegin in Transylvania, where my grandfather had a workshop with twenty-five employees, which was specialized in making the famous Bilgeri boots. The fact that my family has German roots forced them to leave their home country of centuries in 1944. Their journey ended in the area of Schwanenstadt, Upper Austria, where they found a new neighborhood and my grandfather had a small workshop in our families house.
Actually, my favorite place when I grew up after my birth in 1969. Unfortunately my grandfather passed away, when I was six and I was literally not able to walk in his boots. Nevertheless, I’ll never forget the smell of leather, glue and wood pegs made of beech wood. This might also explain, that I prefer a wood pegged shoe to a welted one – no comparison possible.
While I always had a sweet spot for good shoes, I wasn’t particularly in the market for bespoke shoes until I realized that its almost impossible to find a good fit in RTW-shoes. It was in 1994, when I discovered the small workshop of Guyla Kiss, who made my first two pairs of “good shoes”. Kiss Bacsi was truly a master of the craft and I hold the shoes, he made for me in high esteem. I also ensured the privilege to curate his legacy.
Shoes with character …
Almost two years ago, I opened a small shop, where I offer shoe maintenance and everything around shoes. A little anecdote in this regard – when I was a kid my mother told me, that I have to take care of my shoes. It was the point of departure, so to say. With almost forty years of shoe care experience on the clock, I’m now on the peak of my abilities. My favorite job is to restore shoes and to maintain their character. I want them to fit into the big picture with the wearers appearance.
The album shows some classic Alden shell cordovan, a MTM Handmacher plain toe derby in burgundy and probably my favorite two pairs I was ever allowed to work on. They are from the workshop of Otto Bartkiewicz, Vienna, Austria. Masterpieces of its own kind, while not wood-pegged.
*All the shoes photographed belong to Gerd Wermescher and are regularly worn; Photo credits: © copyright Bettina Greslehner.