There is a certain amount of pride when you get to say, “This was made just for me.”
Xavier Mah recognised this desire in us for exclusivity when he launched his business, XALF Design. XALF Design specialises in bespoke leather shoes, designed and crafted in Malaysia.
The process, for the customer, is simple. They have to go into XALF’s studio to get measured, decide on the designs, and then wait for their very special pair of shoes to arrive.
On XALF’s end, they have to go through multiple steps, from creating the custom shoe moulds for the customer’s feet, making the individual parts manually, adding on each layer of the shoe, fitting and gluing it all together, and of course, getting the perfect finish on the leather.
It’s no wonder that this process takes up to four weeks to complete.
We’ve heard of other bespoke shoe designers and websites in Malaysia for women, but XALF Design strays away from the “online customisation” model.
Typically, you choose from basic shoe designs and then you’re able to make your customisation through their online tools. You can add-on accessories, mix and match colours, adjust heel heights, and the likes.
XALF Design takes it back to the days of yore. You have to physically be present in their show room to make the measurements and adjustments. You can even bring in your own dream shoe picture to show them, though XALF will not just recreate another label’s design for you.
“Our principle is that we don’t copy designs,” said Xavier. Instead, they will work with you to come up with a unique and original design of your very own. And since these were made just for you, they’d be the perfect fit.
XALF is an amalgam of the co-founders’ names—Xavier and Alfred Hor.
Alfred majored in Fashion Design in Melbourne, and he now leads the design arm of XALF Design. Xavier, on the other hand, has experience in the PR industry.
“I worked as a programme producer at Media Prima before becoming the PR & Marketing Manager at A Cut Above. I founded Xavier Mah Consultancy in 2011 and love this trade because I can help my clients access their target demographics in dynamic, non-static and exciting ways,” said Xavier.
His PR background continues to serve him well in this venture.
Besides collaborations with luxury brands, XALF Design shoes have also been seen on the feet of local and international personalities such as Ai Tominaga, Marina Mahathir and Charmaine Sheh.
Xavier shared that there were a lot of doubters when XALF Design first launched.
They also had to find the right people to work with.
“For customised shoes, it is essential to work with experts in the business, people who have been making shoes by hand for years, because they ultimately create your product.”
“Since our shoes are made in small batches and are individually designed to our customers’ feet, we cannot work with big factories but needed to find people with the right expertise who know what they do,” said Xavier.
He counts himself fortunate, having found production partners who understand his brand and needs and display the right attention to detail.
Xavier also recognises that the very nature of his product keeps his market smaller.
“When you offer an exclusive product like we do, your clientele is extremely limited. The fight for market share is tough because many companies try to sell their product to only very few people,” he explained.
“For the inspiration of the brand, I will blame the Sex and the City girls.”
Xavier waxed lyrical about the classic show and said, “The cosmopolitan vibe, the energy, the empowered women (even as they hit their 40s) and of course those Manolo Blahniks! It’s feminism that does not require the stereotypical idea of bra burning, but rather, enjoying and celebrating womanhood. That’s the essence of XALF.”
He clarified, “When we say classic we do not mean old, and when we say modern we do not mean futuristic, instead we are constantly looking for the perfect fusion of both worlds.”
They also get their inspiration from browsing fashion portals, from current events, from travel experiences and also feedback from clients.
Alfred self-describes his style as avant-garde and Xavier works with him to ensure that comfort and practicality remain. However, it’s clear that both place a lot of importance on style without sacrificing functionality.
XALF Design also releases collections, usually with a themed design or tied to special events.
A pair of their customised shoes start from around RM1,150, but the price is dependent on the type of shoes and amount of customisation needed.
“Moving forward, we are focusing on launching XALF’s inaugural men’s collection.”
XALF Design has already seen their shoes showcased overseas in Paris, Dubai and Beijing.
They also want to have more forays overseas and told us, “Of course, it is always a risk to penetrate new markets because not only is it more difficult to oversee the international market but you also face more competitors than before.”
Besides breaking out their men’s line, they working on getting their name out there more.
You can see some of their designs and catch a glimpse of their showroom here.