Even though he’s a roaringly successful private banker and occupies one of the top rungs of Hong Kong’s social ladder, Eddie Cheng has always strived to out-do, out-dress, and out-bling everyone else in his exclusive crowd. Long a fixture of Asia’s best-dressed lists, Eddie has always believed that clothes make the man, and that for every well-dressed gentleman, it all begins with what’s on your feet. It’s the first thing people notice, or rather, it’s the first thing Eddie notices when he tries to suss out whether the person standing in front of him is worth talking to. Shoes have long been a consuming passion of Eddie’s, so much so that he berates his six-year-old son for wearing the wrong style of Gucci loafers (see Crazy Rich Asians).
It goes without saying that Eddie would be partial to Maison Corthay of Paris, which since its relatively recent founding in 1990 by Pierre Corthay—who trained at both John Lobb and Berluti—has quickly risen to become one of the world’s finest bespoke shoemakers. (It didn’t hurt that the Sultan of Brunei ordered 150 pairs shortly after they first opened.) These made-to-order Arca monkstrap alligator shoes exemplify Corthay’s ability to imbue every pair of handmade shoes with a perfect balance of elegance, artistry, and flamboyance. Steven Taffel of Manhattan’s Leffot—which Vogue named “the ultimate luxury men’s shoe boutique”—notes, “The simplicity of the model totally allows the natural beauty of the skin to present itself perfectly centered without interruption.”
To achieve this level of perfection, two skins (sourced from Singapore or the Mississippi, adhering to strict anti-illegal-hunting laws) must be painstakingly matched to make a pair of shoes. As Xavier de Royere, Corthay’s CEO, told The Rake magazine, “We have to find the skins of two animals that happen to have almost identical-sized and dimensioned scales or the shoes will not match.” After the skins are crafted into shoes, the distinctive patinas Corthay has become so admired for are delicately applied by hand using stains and small brushes, much like Vermeer would have done to one of his canvases. Every pair of Corthays takes three months to make, but the end results are objects gorgeous enough to display in any museum. For Eddie Cheng, it’s worth the wait, because there’s nothing like making an entrance at an ultra-exclusive event and having the entire crowd gape at the works of art on his feet.
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