Think Singapore’s array of men’s dress shoes is pathetic? Well you probably haven’t encountered the work of Edwin Neo, a rare artisan who makes every single shoe, from lasts to finish, by hand. Named one of the 100 most creative people in business by Fast Company, Neo’s label Ed Et Al is all about quality and design. From blue suede driving loafers to ostrich double monks, hand-painted chukkas and balmorals, even camouflage corduroy slippers, his shoe room is the one you’ll want to raid.
Initially a shoe repairer, Neo’s on the job experience turned into an urge to create his own designs and in spite of a few naysayers (who almost cast a gloom over his idea), eventually took the plunge and embarked on an apprenticeship in Budapest, Hungary.
“It was really an eye-opener studying under a qualified Master Shoemaker, who drilled into me a respect for the craft, craftspeople and the tools we work with. Before that, everything I knew was from books and Internet tutorials,” he says. “My first try at making a pair of shoes under his supervision resulted in this comment: ‘Okay, this looks like a shoe, in a dark room, from far away.’ Further along the apprenticeship I would get a ‘not bad’, which meant the world to me, even now.”