For menswear obsessives the adage that ‘form follows function’ is all but scripture. In fact, so religious is our fervor for construction that we often forget that more overt element of style. NOTA, the new footwear brand from Nabil Mustafiz – Sydney based corporate lawyer and internet maven – handily provides the latter pizzazz in spades.
Established in 2015, NOTA ticks many of the boxes that the internet savvy male all but demands. The realization borne from what that achievement requires is impressive. Affordability, perennial design, and a touch of modernity are the bread’n’butter of NOTA. But more than that, it is an exercise in social responsibility, attempting to balance consumer self-interest with a better deal for the brand’s numerous outworkers. “The factory is in Bangkok. They have been making shoes for over 30 years” says Nabil. “Our manufacturing staff are all locals to the area, and we ensure their wages and working conditions are fair.” Located roughly 15 kilometres from Bangkok’s bustling CBD, the NOTA workspace is equal parts management and craft. According to Nabil, shift hours are intentionally kept below the local average, as are production lead times, resulting in a safe and comfortable work environment. “Our operations office is actually on the same floor as our workshop. We’re always in touch with our shoemakers”.
In the delicate balancing act that is ethical manufacturing it is equally important not to lose sight of the end-product. Here, Nabil and his partners Yen & Ambrose leverage their considerable taste to provide a versatile starter kit for shoe lovers everywhere. Five styles are currently available on the brand’s e-store: a wholecut; penny loafer; oxford; tassel loafer; and court shoe-esque sneaker. The dress shoes are hand lasted, possessing an aesthetic sensibility just shy of the more conservative European styles. Think angular vamps and higher in-steps. Although the NOTA team have attempted to incorporate as much handwork as possible, certain processes – in pursuit of accessible pricing – require machine assistance. “The soles are machine stitched” observes Nabil. “But that is the extent of the machine work involved”. The brand also manufacture a dedicated casual shoe in the guise of their off-white sneaker. The trimmings on the NOTA sneakers are particularly good, evidencing thoughtful sourcing practices and attention to detail. Nabil and his team (Yen & Ambrose) exerted no small effort to obtain the best raw materials. “The outsoles we use for our sneakers are actually identical to those used by brands such as Common Projects and Filling Pieces”.
The accessible quality of NOTA products serves to reassure buyers; the customisation options serve to entice them. Both formal and casual footwear may be embellished with personal details. In a move reminiscent of makers like Corthay, all dress shoes may be personalized with a hand painted out-sole. Toledo leather dyes in navy, racing green, and wine are all available at no extra cost. The dye is applied in two layers which are finished with a thin seal of wax. “The whole process takes close to an hour. At the non-contact areas the colour is fully retained. Over time, this creates a very unique patina” says Nabil. Meanwhile, the all-important sneaker may be optionally embossed with the wearer’s initials just above the laces. “These options provide the platform for individualism, a hint of flair, all without being showy,” says Nabil. “I particularly like the painted soles, through which you can exhibit a trace of quiet confidence”.
NOTA has all the markers of a promising footwear brand. Helmed by a team with multi-disciplinary expertise, its customer service adds to an already impressive offering. Shipping and returns are currently free, in addition to a handsomely packaged gift card option for the more indecisive purchaser. While TVG cannot speak about the precise future offerings of the brand, NOTA’s factory manager is currently abroad in Milan. A hopeful indication that we’re likely to see a lot more of them in 2016.
AT A GLANCE – Reasonably priced footwear designed by blogger savvy menswear geeks. Powered by a refreshing business ethos that respects Asian manufacturing. Randy likes the simple leather sneakers with flat waxed laces.
Shop here notashoes.com/