It was nearly six years ago that Gabor Halmos and Andrew Harris introduced hand-made Vass shoes onto the internet forums, opening an important new market in North America for a small Budapest-based shoemaker.
Rather surprisingly, it's a new market that likes English-inspired shoes. In Hungary, 90% of Vass sales are from its 'traditional' collection of distinctive bluchers, comprised of the Budapest, Alt Wein and Theresianer models. In the United States, that percentage is reversed, with 90% of sales coming from models that originated with the company's relatively recent collaboration with Roberto Ugolini for the F and U lasts. The photos are of two new designs introduced for 2008 on those lasts.
These are really outstanding shoes. Perhaps the finish may not be up to the highest world class standards, but it's not far off. Vass construction is comparable to many bespoke shoes, the waist is better than any machine-made Northampton product and the price represents great value for the money.
Speaking of value, I don't understand a lot of the forum discussion about how to purchase Vass shoes in Europe at a savings because I don't understand where the savings are for U.S. residents. Gabor and Harris offer the line at roughly the European price (about $850) after taking duty and shipping into account. Better yet, they'll send a trial pair of oxfords to prospective customers to establish fit before the customer places an order. The average wait time is twelve weeks, the same as it is anywhere. And if there's a problem the buyer doesn't need to speak Hungarian.
There can be a few days email delay in getting a response from Gabor, who is living in Greece for a year, but I'm told that Harris is usually able to respond faster. Contact information for both of them is on the web site.
Personally, I'm thinking about a pair of Old English II semi-brogues in oxblood, on the F last.