I’ve been completely spoiled by my custom fitted boots from Poppy Barley. It won’t be possible for me to buy another pair of tall boots off the rack again because nothing is going to fit as well. Poppy Barley is an Edmonton based shoe brand that I first heard about in the summer. They offer custom, handcrafted footwear that is Canadian designed and ethically made in Mexico. Sisters, Kendall and Justine Barber are the brains behind the brand. The idea of Poppy Barley came to Justine when she was on vacation in Bali. She came upon a local shoemaker and was disappointed when a pair of boots she wanted didn’t come in her size. The shoemaker said no problem, measured her feet, processed her address and payment. A few weeks later, her custom made shoes showed up at her door in Edmonton. While this is an affordable option for many shoe buyers in other parts of the world, it isn’t common in Canada. Justine had the idea that she wanted to bring custom made footwear to the Canadian market.
Justine recruited her sister, Kendall to join her on this business venture. They did extensive research before partnering up with Laura who is the Operations Manager and Lupita who owns the Studio where Poppy Barley’s shoes are handcrafted. Laura and Lupita are based in LeÃ³n, Mexico which has been called the Footwear capital of the world. The Poppy Barley site has extensive material on their manufacturing practices available giving the consumer a level of transparency not seen in the Canadian shoe industry.
The Poppy Barley team visited Toronto in the fall last year and hosted a series of appointments for customers to get sized, check out the collection in person and order a new pair of shoes. I was invited to a breakfast to meet the team and get a look at the collection in person. When I first discovered Poppy Barley, I thought it was a great idea. There were existing companies doing some custom footwear that are American based and I always love seeing Canadians make a go of it.
Buying boots is a horrible experience for me and for many others. It takes so much time to find a pair of boots that fit acceptably in a style I enjoy. Too many compromises are made that leave me mostly unsatisfied with my purchases. I bought my last pair of tall flat black boots over 6 years ago and they reached end of life. I was dreading the search to replace them that I pretty much avoided it. Custom footwear was a perfect option but I’m pretty old school in my purchasing. I needed to see the product in person first. A good Photographer can make any piece of shit look great and that leads to disappointment when it finally arrives at your door.
In terms of quality and style, Poppy Barley did not disappoint. They had samples of almost every style and colourway of shoe they produce on hand. There is beautiful Poppy Barley branding on the soles and ankles of the shoes and I love the long rectangular zipper pulls on the tall boots. The shoes got major props from me because they are leather lined. The leather was supple and the construction was sturdy. Poppy Barley produces classic boot and shoes styles that will never look dated. They’ve just recently introduced a men’s line and will eventually recreate those styles in a woman’s last/. I’m excited about the men’s brogue fitted to a woman’s foot possibilities. To mix things up, Poppy Barley augments the main collection with Limited Edition versions made with different leathers.
Kendall and Justine made the Poppy Barley visit even better by letting me in on the Poppy Barley experience. They generously let me select a pair of shoes and took me through the whole fitting process. The fitting process sounds like it’s complicated but anyone can do it from the comfort of their own home. (http://poppybarley.com/how/) For those of you that want an expert’s touch, Poppy Barley hosts fitting appointments Toronto at another great Canadian shoe brand, Brodawka & Friends and Edmonton. Check the website to setup an appointment or find out when the next Poppy Barley Pop Up is scheduled.
This was the perfect opportunity to replace my tall flat black boots. They are a wardrobe must and I there was a massive hole in my wardrobe options. It wasn’t an easy choice and I spent a good chunk of time figuring out which ones to go for. I also flipped between flat and heeled boots because the Poppy Barley heel boots are pretty amazing too. After much bemoaning, I settled on The Foxhunt Boot in all black. It’s a classic riding boot with gold hardware. In addition to the standard foot measurements like size and width, I was able to customize the calf size and height of the boot. I have long legs so having the option to customize the height of the boot was a godsend. Ditto for the calf size as it’s always been a bitch getting boots to fit my calves. I’m an ex-athlete and always felt that the standard calf sizes were made for women with toothpick legs. So here was Poppy Barley that allowed me to order the boot I wanted without compromise. That’s massive!
So the hardest part of this whole process was anticipation. Each Poppy Barley shoe is made to order in Mexico and takes about 4 to 8 weeks depending on the shoe type. I ordered on November 15, 2014 and the boots shipped out on January 21, 2015. I was on vacation in Whistler when they arrived. It was one of the only reasons, I was happy to return to flatland. For those of you that don’t want to wait 8 weeks for shoes, Poppy Barley had a ready to wear line also in standard sizes that you can order from. I’d suggest you go for the custom though.
Unboxing was delightful. The boots were exactly like the samples I saw. I had no surprises in terms of quality. Of course, the fit was like nothing I’ve experienced before. The length and width was perfect when wearing tights or socks while the calf size was spot on. The only part of the boot that required some breaking in was the zipper side of the ankle and that only took a couple wears. I was pleasantly surprised that I didn’t need to add grips to the bottom of my boots. I took the Foxhunt boots into the tundra like conditions Toronto seems to be serving up these days and I didn’t slip and slide all over the place. I can truly say they are the best pair of boots I’ve ever owned.
Also included in my boot purchase was an Organic Collonil Leather Care Kit which came with Organic Bamboo Lotion, Organic Protect and Care, Combi Brush and a polishing cloth. I had no idea there was organic leather care products out there. I immediately put the Organic Protect and Care on my boots. It was nice to be able to use the product indoors and it didn’t have the harsh chemical smell that other products have. I haven’t used the Organic Bamboo Lotion yet but have successfully used Boot Rescue wipes to get rid of salt stains.
So, I hope I’ve convinced you to give Poppy Barley a chance. This company is a godsend if you have a hard to fit feet or you just want the experience of custom footwear without going the whole bespoke route. I’m a convert and plan to get myself a pair of Promenade or Highline boots in the near future. I even have a great customer service story to pass on to you guys. I mentioned how much I love the zipper pulls. Well, I broke one and I was fucking devastated. I was put in touch with Customer Service and I sent a few photos of the broken zipper. Thankfully, it was only the pull that was broken and Poppy Barley put a couple zipper pulls in the mail and even told me that they would reimburse me for the cost of getting my Cobbler to put them on. That there is some damn good service!
Poppy Barley’s winter sale is on till this Saturday, February 28, 2015. You can receive $50 off any boot style. This is a very rare deal on custom footwear so hop on it.