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If the shoe fits...Small designed it

■ Verdel Bishop

verdel.bishop@trinidadexpress.com

HAVING a pair of shoes custom made for you may seem a luxury, but for some people it's a necessity. Kenwin Small is the founder of Cru Nonpareil, which bridges the gap by offering custom-made Italian leather dress shoes, which appeal to men who can't get the right fit due to their feet being either broad, flat, larger than usual or having a high instep. Small officially launched his business 16 months ago to cater to large-footed customers wanting not just comfort, but the perfect fit. Small said while he is striving to be a success, he has also placed emphasis on being of value.

The 30-year-old entrepreneur from Carenage is a Trinity College Moka, Maraval, alumnus and holds a Bachelor's degree in criminology and public safety from the University of Trinidad and Tobago. He was never satisfied with what was available in shoe stores-he would like the material, but not the style, or he would like the style but the comfort was missing. Small believes men want one thing-respect. He said a quality pair of custom-made dress shoes could give them that.

Expanding his knowledge beyond just the consumer's perspective has only emboldened Small's love and appreciation for quality footwear.

Since creating Cru Nonpareil, Small has designed sneakers and shoes for various high-profile clients.

Nonpareil is an old English word that means unmatched and unrivalled, which essentially is a component of what Small provides to his customers. His designs are done in partnership with his clients using a 3D model of the shoe. Every aspect of a shoe can be customised-the fore of the shoe, to the colour of the sole of the shoe, to the colour of the liningusing computers. His customers' data is sent to Spain, where his partners create the perfect pair of shoes for his clients, in a process that takes about six weeks. Small designs shoes in sizes ranging from six to 17.

'I cater to men who love wellmade dress shoes. What got me to this place was simply a genuine love for good shoes. I had the best of everything up until this point, so shoes seemed like a natural evolution. But getting them to love me back was a different story. I had specific problems with the shape of my feet that made shopping for shoes I love difficult. And I wasn't the only one. Some of my friends had the same problem; their instep was either too high, their feet were either too broad or too long, and that motivated me to find a solution.

'We all know our feet are slightly different from each other. For years we've been told to wear shoes one size larger than the other to work around this problem. But that simply leaves you with a less than perfect fit on one side of your feet. I realised very early on that the old way of doing things like casually walking into a shop and purchasing a pair of shoes you like or even measuring your feet, no longer applied to men in my situation, and so a different approach to achieving comfort was necessary. Spain is the mecca for variety in dress shoes for men, but I wasn't merely interested in variety.

'I wanted the shoes to be comfortable first before focusing on the design because comfort is the main hindrance of variety for men in my situation. Finding a factory that was in alignment with not just my values but the values of so many men in Trinidad and Tobago wasn't easy, but once I crossed that hurdle the next step was creating a brand and designing a website.

'Cru Nonpareil doesn't actually manufacture the shoes I design. I measure my client and send their data to my partners in Spain, where their shoes are customised, which takes between four to six weeks. I only design them and ensure that they fit the customer's feet comfortably. Cru Nonpareil isn't a product brand. Cru Nonpareil provides a service. We measure the client's feet and design the shoes. The meaning behind the methodology and approach as well as unique designs, that's our intellectual property. I wanted to be a lawyer. The concept of finding helpful solutions for people fascinated me. Perhaps in some way that first love parlayed me into what I'm doing now with Cru Nonpareil. I love to wear beautiful shoes.

I have 15 pairs of dress shoes all custom-made with matching socks. I get frustrated when men are unable

SHOE DESIGNER: Kenwin Small

FOR THAT PERFECT FIT: A pair of shoes designed by Small.

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