As many of you already know, Chay Cooper, together with the gentlemen from Cad and the Dandy, have resurrected the Wildsmith name. With the shoes really just beginning to hit the market, now seems like a good time to take a closer look at the Wildsmith brand.
Chay was kind enough to send me a pair of the Covent model in mahogany to review. As I'm a fan of the modified wingtip, or u-tip, I was looking forward to seeing the Covent in person.
On the one hand, the modified wingtip is fairly rare - not too many companies include the style in their offerings - so I think its a nice addition to Wildsmith's catalog of available models. Edward Green's discontinued Windsor (see here) is probably the most famous model, although that company recently added the u-tip Weymouth to its catalog (I'm not sure if EG currently offers a u-tip derby as well). Other than that, Vass has offered a u-tip model, but there really aren't that many examples out there.
Of course, on the other hand, the modified wingtip is a tricky design to master - to my eye, the proportions, particularly at the throat between the toe box and the lacing, need to be just right because the u-tip attracts so much attention because of its unique design. Chay and Wildsmith have proven themselves up to the challenge with the Covent, and have succeeded in crafting a classic, substantial-looking English derby.
Right out of the shipping box, I was impressed by the package that I received. Included with each pair of shoes is a tin of English beeswax for polishing.
Stamped with the Wildsmith logo, the wax was made at an English honey farm.
In addition to the tin of wax, a small shoe horn embossed with the Wildsmith name is also included with your shoes. For an additional fee, lasted shoe trees can be included with your shoes. The trees that I received were double-barreled with dark wood, almost black, with brass metalware and a curved white plaque affixed with the company's name. Needless to say, I thought the packaging was well-done - I think customers will be suitably impressed.
Then, of course, there are the shoes. I really don't think its much of a stretch to say that Wildsmith customers are going to be very pleased with the finishing on these shoes. At approximately the GBP 400 price point, one would be hard-pressed to name a comparable shoe that shows off the same level of craftsmanship and attention to detail.
The work on the soles is impressive. The slightly bevelled waist looks closer in appearance to Edward Green RTW shoes than Crockett & Jones' handgrade line (which are closer in price to Wildsmith's models). To be clear, these shoes are not meant to "compete" with the bespoke market, or even that top tier currently occupied by Lobb, Edward Green, or Gaziano & Girling. But they'll certainly give companies like Crockett & Jones, Carmina, and Alden a run for their money.
Finally, the uppers are also well-done. the mahogany leather color has a lovely hue to it, and the subtle burnishing works well with the exquisite broguing patterns. The overall symmetry of the shoe is subtle but distinct. The square-toed 283 last works well with the modified wingtip, and I would describe the silhouette of the Covent as sleek yet elegant. The narrowed waist of the sole is offset by the width at the ball of the foot - the effect, combined with the open lace design of the derby, is a very comfortable shoe that looks narrow but is actually quite generous width-wise. At the same time, that narrowness at the waist seems to give the shoe a more snug fit (which I like) towards the heel of the foot.
All in all, an excellent example of a modified wingtip derby. If you don't already own one, the Wildsmith Covent would make an excellent addition to your shoe collection.
For more information on Wildsmith's offerings, you can visit the company's website here.