If the Shoe Fits, Wear It. If Not, Design One.

Robert Klemm, who has 60 pairs of shoes in his own collection, went to the Steve Madden Web site to design the gingham pumps that his girlfriend, Kate Feehan, is wearing.

By Elizabeth Olson
Published: December 2, 2007

Even for the most dedicated shopper, finding just the right pair of shoes can be elusive. A store-to-store search ─ whether on the Web or at the mail ─ can take hours. Shoppers may think they've found the perfect pair, only to be stymied by a problem with fit, style or color.

It's not that retailers don't try, as the huge shoe sections in department stores and Web sites like Zappos and Shoes.com, attest. But for those with very individual or exacting tastes ─ and with money to spare ─ some Internet retailers offer design-it-yourself options in footwear. Customization is more common with athletic shoes, but fashion footwear is beginning to catch up.

Cale Valdez, a college student in Huntington, California, went to vans.com to find a memorale look for his wedding last month. He designed some red and black canvas slip-ons, which cost $40 a pair, for the wedding party, including matching lace-ups for his father-in-law.

Nikeid.com, which attracts almost as many women as men, has customers who order undreds of pairs. The hip-hop disc jockey known as Clark Kent, of Brooklyn, has designed 350 pairs of shoes on the site, including his favorite, a pair of purple, black and teal Air Force 1's, which cost him about $275.

"The biggest attraction is the ability to shock,"he said. "You want a pair that people notice so they ask you:'Where did you get those?'"

While customized sneakers are available on many athletic shoe Web sites, fashion shoes are harder, although not impossible, to find.

For women who are willing to spend a large sum, there is Tupli, started three years ago.

"This is ideal for the woman who can imagine the perfect shoe but can't find it," said Kathy Myczowski, 34. She went into the individual shoe design business with Tamara Chubinidze, 26, who is from the Republic of Georgia, where such shoemaking is more prevalent and where Tupli's shoes are made.

Clients can browse tupli.com for ideas and then send in their measurements, or be measured personally in New York. Tupli's clients ─ who include the actress Susan Sarandon ─ have choice of leather and suede, as well as embellishments like rhinestones and personal logos.

Prices for Tupli footwear (a name derived from the Russian word for shoe) start at a hefty $750 for shoes and $1,450 for boots, and customers must wait six to eight weeks for them.

Those who want a less expensive made-to-order shoe that won't take as long to arrive can turn to Stevemadden.com.

If you don’t like the shoes you find in the stores, you can go to a Web site like Stevemadden.com and choose your own color, pattern, style and size.

Steven Madden, founder of the company, says more than 100,000 pairsof design-your-own shoes have been sold through the site, where the prices range from $90 to $170.

To Mary . Johnson, 22, online design is about owning something unique.On Stevemadden.com,she designed some bailet flats in a purple shade and trimmed them in red.

"This is something you make yourself," she said, "instead of settling for what's out there."
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