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New shop at Pike Place Market features old craft of bespoke shoemaking

Leolo specializes in handmade shoes, made to order. #k5evening

SEATTLE — A new shop at Pike Place Market offers a centuries-old service: bespoke shoes.

Leanne Corcoran owns and operates Leolo, a small studio where she creates customized shoes.

"It is a lost art,” she said. "I'm a ‘cordwainer.’ But I just say 'shoemaker.’"

The centuries-old skill still exists in some European countries and is common in Japan, but the trade is fairly rare in the United States.

Leolo shoes are Oxfords, Wingtips, and Derbys and are designed to last a lifetime.

"A shoe tells so much about a person, I think," Corcoran said.

Credit: Kim Holcomb
Customers can choose how much "brogue" their shoes have — the small holes punched into the leather uppers.

It’s a painstaking process, requiring more than 220 steps and 40 hours of labor for each pair.

Feet are measured exactly, down to the millimeter. Customers choose the style, pattern, and color and Corcoran makes the pair to order — a process that can be easily upended.

"If I misplace a hole, if we mis-sew something, it's back to the drawing board," she said. "It's back to cutting out another upper and starting from square one again."

But the challenge — and the results — are the fulfillment of a dream.

Corcoran earned an art degree and worked for years as an interior designer. But deep inside, she felt a different calling.

"Although I loved that work, it just wasn't filling my heart,” she said. "I just thought, ‘Okay, I'm almost 50 and if I want to make shoes I need to go make shoes.’"

She spent two intensive weeks learning the trade and made her first pair at age 47. She said the process brings together all of her passions: working with her hands, designing, creating and solving visual problems, and working with people.

"It was empowering because I felt like I was finally honoring myself and what I really wanted to do and what I really wanted to be,” she said.

Leolo bespoke shoes range in price from $800-$1200, depending on the customer’s desires.

The storefront is located at 1516 Western Ave., on the west side of Pike Place Market.

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