In that wonderfully straightforward way that many Cambodian shops are named, Beautiful Shoes does exactly what it says on the sign. Tucked around the corner from Toul Sleng Museum on an average Phnom Penh street, this unassuming shop has become something of a magnet for footwear fetishists. If you’re tired of flip-flops or get your kicks out of custom-made kicks, here’s our guide so you don’t put a foot wrong.
Beautiful Shoes makes, well, shoes. And boots. And belts and handbags and wallets. But mainly shoes. Made to measure, hand cobbled and designed by the customer. Apparently, clients have been known to become a bit giddy on a first visit, overfaced with cabinets stuffed full with a rainbow of shoes.
It can be a good idea to know roughly what you want before you go, to avoid being distracted by mandals, colourful two-tone brogues and heels that require scaffolding. If you have firm ideas, take along a picture or old pair to copy. The shop can help with albums of previous creations, and those samples in the cabinets. Play Cinderella — if the shoe fits, these ready-made styles are available to take home.
Once you have an idea of the basic style, you need to choose leather and heels. A large ring of leather samples, including faux crocodile, patent, sparkly and suede, can take some time to work through. For women, there are several drawers full of heel samples — kitten, wedge, stiletto and flats are all possible. Staff are able to offer advice in excellent English and are used to dealing with dithering Imelda Marcos wannabes. As a final step, feet will be drawn around and measured, with notes on your chosen options.
Most designs will take a week to 10 days, so if you’re only in Phnom Penh briefly, it’s worth planning a visit early. We know people who travel directly from the airport to get their order in, and often collect on their way to catch the flight out. Dedication to foot fabulousness requires forward planning!
There is, of course, the matter of footing the bill. Women’s sandals start at around $20 and shoes from $25. Men’s lace-ups are around $35, but leather soles and fancy designs cost more. While you can find cheaper at the markets, having your own cobbler suits those who prefer the real deal to pleather, and those blessed with a large footprint.
If waiting times are long or the shop is busy, try the shoe shops either side of Beautiful Shoes, which offer a similar selection and service.
By Abigail Gilbert
Last updated on 6th June, 2014.