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Interviews Uncategorized

Bernard Roetzel : “Germany is full of hidden places and secret makers “

October 18, 2019

Were you to give a piece of advice to a young man regarding the first three pairs of shoes that he should have, what would those be?

That depends on the live he leads. Generally speaking I’d recommend a pair of black captoes, a pair of dark brown tassel loafers and a pair of rust suede captoes. One pair with a rubber sole would also be useful to add, maybe some Chukka boots.

I would like us to return now to a tradition connected to shoemaking, namely skin tanning. What tanneries from Germany do you recommend? The most famous one is J. Rendenbach, but I suppose that there are others who work traditionally as well.

Rendenbach are in fact the best for soles, Perlinger is famous too. There are more than twenty good tanneries working in Germany producing leather for several purposes including shoes, bags, car upholstery. This is really a subject in itself.

Ed.Meier


Could you share with us a hidden place in Germany where we could find exceptional quality in products for gentlemen but whose name is less known outside the borders?

Germany is full of hidden places and secret makers but there is no real center. Germany is a federal state and even after the German Reich was founded in 1871 we had more than 20 Kings and Princes reigning very independently in their regions. Although Germany is know internationally for machines and high-tech products we still have a number of makers producing top quality in a traditional way on a smaller scale.

This includes leathers goods, bed linens, silver cutlery, porcelain, furniture, watches, fountain pens, ties, frames for spectacles and many other very special products. Two companies that I really like are Kreis, they make belts and briefcases of excellent quality, I own about half a dozen of their belts including some made of crocodile with real silver buckles. And the tie maker Ascot in Krefeld, they make all kinds of handmade ties and silk scarves but they are most famous for their knitted ties, I where their dark blue silk knit very, very frequently.

If we associate the shoe with a person, what person comes to your mind when you think about shoes?

Prince Charles and the pair of bespoke shoes made by John Lobb in London for this 18th birthday. These shoes are badly worn but they look beautiful because the valet gives them a perfect shoeshine.

Could you please make a short list about your favourite blogs/ online magazines where you find interesting information and new points of view?


I find new points of views in many blogs but I cannot name the ones I like best because sometimes I like the facts they deliver but not the quality of the writing, sometimes I like the writing and not the facts. I try to rely on my own research as much as possible although no one could work without the internet nowadays. Visually I like Japanese magazines the most but unfortunately I cannot read them.


I find new points of views in many blogs but I cannot name the ones I like best because sometimes I like the facts they deliver but not the quality of the writing, sometimes I like the writing and not the facts. I try to rely on my own research as much as possible although no one could work without the internet nowadays. Visually I like Japanese magazines the most but unfortunately I cannot read them.


Is there a future project you are working on now?


I’d like to find a way to support German bespoke makers, both tailors and shoemakers. I think they need professional support and I am presently working on a concept together with Martin Smolka. I also plan to to do a new edition of my book on bespoke tailoring.




Interviews

Bernhard Roetzel – “I have owned probably something like 100 pairs of welted shoes”

October 15, 2019

I would like us to go a little into the personal area now. How many pairs of shoes do you own? Who is the shoemaker with whom you get along the most?

In the past 30 years I have owned probably something like 100 pairs of welted shoes. I started buying them as a student at reduced prices and later most of my budget was spent on clothes. From my early twenties on I mostly wore Church’s shoes, my favorite last was the old 73. I owned more than 20 pairs of Church’s shoes plus some from Crockett & Jones and Tricker’s.

Around 2000 I was introduced to the Peduform last designed by Peter Eduard Meier for EdMeier München and on that day I knew how a ready-to-wear-shoe should fit my feet. Since then I wear shoes made on these lasts 8 times out of 10, I own about 20 different pairs from their different ranges.

They offer both hand welted and Goodyear welted shoes but they are all made on their lasts. Peter Eduard Meier is in my eyes the best designer for lasts for RTW shoes, he was among the first to promote asymmetric shapes, in fact many English companies followed his example in the nineties after they initially ridiculed his ideas.

My first bespoke shoes were made by Larson & Jehan in London in 1999. They were very good and they even made trial shoes which is usually not the case in London. Unfortunately they retired shortly after they finished my second pair otherwise I would probably stayed with them longer. I still wear these shoes by the way.

I didn’t order new bespoke shoes for a long time after I started wearing EdMeier München but started trying a couple of makers about ten years ago, both out of personal interest and for research reasons. I never mention the companies that didn’t satisfy me because I didn’t order the shoes for a review.

In Germany I tried Vickermann & Stoya recently and they made a very nice pair of brown Oxfords, in fact I you can see them in the forword of my new book. I have also tried some companies in from middle Europe but I cannot speak about the results yet. I will order another pair from Kay Gundlack in the next weeks, we are exchanging some interesting ideas in the moment. He never does any trunk-shows although he does visit customers frequently. I simply love the comfort of the shoes he made for me.


MTM jacket from Massimo Pasinato and MTM trousers from Cove & Co, shoes from Ed.Meier München.

Is there and outfit to which you are emotionally tied? Suit and shoes…

Unfortunately the first pair of welted shoes from Church’s is long gone but I still remember them. I bought them in Hannover and Michael Jondral, who then worked for the best outfitter in town, would probably remember them. My favourite pair were the dark brown suede Ryder from Church’s with a crepe sole, I wore it to pieces when I was a student (although it never fell apart). And then the first suits that I ordered in Savile Row from Tobias Tailors, I still own and wear all of them.


What is your dream pair of shoes?

I don’t dream about shoes, all the shoes that I wear frequently are excellent. I think that my next pair from Kay Gundlack will be very interesting!

From your personal point of view, to what shoemaking tradition do you feel more attracted: British, Austro-Hungarian, Southern?

30 years ago I preferred English shoes and I wore English shoes most of the time until 2000 when I was converted to EdMeier München. In the last couple of years I found Viennese shoes most attractive because they combine excellent fit and elegant shapes. Nevertheless I presently order in Germany because I believe in regional production. It takes me 30 minutes by car to see Kay Gundlack, it makes so much more sense to use a local craftsman.


Georg Gaugusch, owner of my favourite cloth store Jungmann & Neffe in Vienna.

To be continued…

Interviews Uncategorized

Bernhard Roetzel : “I do believe in the future of bespoke shoemaking”

October 7, 2019

Wearing a jacket from Ed.Meier München at Ed.Meier München.

Your latest book is expected to appear in October, at the Frankfurt fair. This time, the focus is on the shoes. Can you tell me why you chose this theme and how the book is structured?

I have written more than a dozen books since “Gentleman” was first released in German in February 1999, followed by versions in English, Swedish and Spanish in the same year. From my experience I know that shoes are the part of the wardrobe that interests men the most as a single subject. I’d never do a book about shirts for example even though one could write a whole book about shirts, fabrics, shirtcare. Most of my books cover the whole wardrobe but if a book covers a single subject shoes are always most successful. I have published the book “A Guy’s Guide To Shoes” which sold very well in several languages but it covers all types of shoes.

I had wanted to write about bespoke shoes for many years and when I offered the subject again last year the publisher finally commissioned me to write it because they were looking for a successor of the highly successful book about handmade shoes which has been on the market for almost as long as my book “Gentleman”.


Bespoke suit from Massimo Pasinato worn in Bucharest.

Have you collaborated with a particular shoemaker for writing this book?

I knew that I would work with the photographers Martin Smolka and Tommi Aittala, because they are experts for this subject and excellent photographers. We looked at a couple of places and spoke to a number of craftsmen in Europe. I had heard a lot about Korbinian Ludwig Heß in Berlin recently so I visited his workroom and suggested that we take the photos there.

Berlin was perfect because I wanted to be present at the shootings. Korbinian works very traditionally in the Viennese tradition, he is perfect to show how shoes are made in the traditional way. He is also very good at lastmaking. He was very patient and gave us completely free insight which was a great help. His uppers maker Shigeki Montezuka from Japan was also fantastic.

When exactly is the book supposed to be launched?

The book will be launched in German in the middle of October. We will present it at the bookfair in Frankfurt and then at Korbinian Ludwig Heß’ workroom in Berlin. Afterwards in Hamburg and Düsseldorf. I am sure that we will do more presentations afterwards including one in Vienna hopefully. I am pretty sure that the book will be translated into English very soon.

The German market is a particular market from the point of view of the customers’ preferred design. What do they mostly prefer? Are there differences between regions?

There are basically two types of clients in Germany. One type is very conservative, they only order very classical shapes, colors and leathers. This customer usually wears his shoes as a part of his business outfit. They usually go for bespoke because they want perfect fit and a very long lasting shoe. The second type orders a bespoke shoe because he wants something unusual that he cannot find anywhere else. Fit is of extreme importance for every German customer because the perfectly fitted and comfortable shoe is the big advantage of the bespoke shoe, more important that the looks by the way. I don’t think that the region is very important with regard to the choice of styles, these customers are usually men who travel a lot.


Wearing RTW jacket and shoes from Ed.Meier – München.

Were we to make a visit mainly to see shoemakers, what names should we put on our list as a must see?

The oldest businesses in Germany usually don’t go back longer than the 1960s or 70s, there are none of the big pre-war names left. In Austria it’s a different story, a couple of shoemakers were founded in the 19th century or in the early 20th century, for example Scheer or Materna. In the 1970s-80s Harai in Neumünster, which is north of Hamburg, was the most exclusive bespoke shoemaker, he was Hungarian. He made bespoke shoes for a number of important industrialists. His son has taken over the business but he is not as famous now as his father used to be.

Another name to mention in Neumünster is Vauk, although I am not sure if he is still in business. In Leipzig Sascha Halm and Manuel Bär are interesting too. Probably the most renowned name in Germany today is Benjamin Klemann in Hamburg. He has a great reputation both among customers and his colleagues.


Wearing handmade MTM from Cove & Co. and bespoke shoes from Vickermann & Stoya in Baden-Baden.

In the south Vickermann & Stoya in Baden-Baden have a very good name and of course the world champion of shoemaking Patrick Frei in Freiburg. In Berlin you should look at Hennemann & Braun, Posh Schuhe, Anna Rakemann and of course Korbinian Ludwig Heß and outside Berlin Kay Gundlack.


Bespoke shoes made by Kay Gundlack in Parchim from Bukina Calf.

Kay Gundlack is well known for very excentric shoes because many of his customers are musicians, for instance he makes the shoes for the violinist David Garrett. Also for actors, TV presenters and comedians. Most of his customers are nevertheless businessmen and they usually order conservative styles. The owner of KPM (Königliche Porzellan Manufaktur), Jörg Woltmann, wears his shoes for example.


Bespoke blazer from Possanner in Vienna and bespoke shoes from Kay Gundlack in Parchim near Berlin.

Kay has made a pair of shoes for me a couple of months ago and they are just so good. He is an excellent lastmaker and also a very good shoemaker. He was trained together with Martin Stoya of Vickermann & Stoya in east Germany just around the time of the reunification. East Germany used to have very good shoemakers. It’s interesting that Kay is one of the shoemakers who don’t make a trial shoe and I really wondered if this could work out but the result is perfect.


Kay Gundlack shoes

What are the most used technical procedures? Do they still use the wooden pegs technique nowadays?

Most shoemakers make handwelted shoes, some use Blake stitch. Norvegese, which is called zwiegenäht in German, is also frequently being used while I don’t know of any German shoemaker who used wooden pegs. In Austria this technique is fairly common but not in Germany, customers almost always expect a hand welted shoe.


Bespoke shoes from Vickermann & Stoya in Baden-Baden

Is there a future in Germany for this job? Do young people head towards studios in order to become assistants?

The future looks better now than it did 20 years ago but many apprentices come from foreign countries to Germany. I do believe in the future of bespoke shoemaking.

To be continued…

Interviews

Crockett&Jones Pembroke: An Englishman in Berlin.

April 27, 2019

Last weekend I traveled to Berlin on an occasion that I’ll reveal at the end of my story. The journey allowed me to test a shoe which is almost legendary for those who prefer the tweed or the flannel or who live in areas where the temperatures aren’t too generous. I am talking about the Crockett&Jones Pembroke.

Pembroke was a shoe with which I have been almost obsessed along the years, but for various reasons I didn’t buy it. The truth is that it is a goodyear shoe, and lately I have been more focused on handwelted shoes. Nevertheless, Pembroke continues to remain a mystery. Why do I like it more than other pairs which, at least at the first sight are superior to it?

The truth is that it’s been a long time now since I started buying shoes with my soul instead of my mind. Pembroke is one of the shoes which, even if I could take from a bespoke shoemaker, I wouldn’t because Crockett&Jones makes them very well and somehow I would feel that I stole something from their spirit. Even if they came out better from a construction point of view, or if I had access to better leather, it still wouldn’t be enough. Because Pembroke is supposed to be made by Crockett&Jones, just like I wouldn’t copy Edward Green’s Dover.

In my mind, Pembroke is the English shoe by excellence. It is robust, gentry aristocratic, comfortable and highly resistant. It is the shoe for tweed. I confess that I ventured a little to wear it for the first time in a day when I was walking in Berlin. Usually I have problems with factory shoes when I first wear them, but I am quite perseverant, so we fit in with each other quite fast. With Pembroke the experience was very pleasant. Due to the 325 E last, there was absolutely no discomfort in walking.

The leather, at the first sight, is a bit stiff, but it softens relatively quickly. In two days of intensive wearing it becamse soft, and a bit of Gel Antique from Farmaco gave it a very beautiful nuance. I will not lengthen my impressions about Pembroke. I consider it a special shoe, one of those models to which you get after a certain age, after going through various exotic choices, and which you simply know is your model.

In the end, I still have a query regarding Dainite. Although it may be useful for country regions, it is very annoying in the city. If I was responsible for the collections from Crockett&Jones, I would add a less annoying City Rubber sole. And I would patinate it similarly to Connaugh Anniversary Edition.

Anyway, in the near future I will re-sole it with a city rubber and I will give it a patina. It will be interesting.

Going back to the days spent in Berlin, the reason was partly pleasure an partly business. In my future plans has instilled an idea which, like all great ideas, begot its own life. The idea materialized in Petru&Claymoor, a soul project in which I am now deeply involved. Details about this, however, in the next episode.

Interviews

Igor Suhenko – “My favorite word is Meravigliosa.”

April 20, 2019

How would you describe a typical day?

We start the day with some common actions that precede our kids going to school. When we escort them to school, we are having our morning coffee and breakfast “in peace”. We also discuss our plans for the day. Our major is custom made shoes but we’re also repairing old shoes therefore we are organizing days for shoes repair and shoes making since it’s impossible to make and repair shoes simultaneously. The way we make shoes requires complete devotion and attention. 

What would like to make in the future that you have not made yet?

It’s been a long time now since I’m preparing myself for making Chelsea boots. As I’ve mentioned before, it’s my favorite model but I’ve never made it, so far. Probably I’m waiting for the right moment of inspiration. I’ll make it when the right time arrives, or when one of my clients place an order.  

 What does ‘quality’ mean to you and how a person can recognize quality?

Quality is, in my opinion, the bond of quality material and exquisite craft production. This should be accompanied by good taste and esthetics, as well as comfort, shoes wise mostly. We should not neglect the ergonomy that plays very important role in production of any kind of high quality product. I cannot place any rule in high quality recognition nor give instruction on how to recognize high quality product. Simply put, that feeling when you hold or touch high quality product, either you have it or not.     

Which other craftsmen do you admire? Do you have friends in the shoemaking world?

Lately, Japanese masters are in big expansion. Hard work, precise craft and classical way in production of any product runs through Japanese tradition. Even though European models are not the part of their tradition, working and learning in European handmade shoes production houses accompanied with their work devotion place them on very high position on the list of my favorite Masters. I also think that they’re lucky to live in a country with high quality life standard; therefore they can be completely devoted to shoe making which, at the end results in adequate payment. There are several European handmade brands that I highly respect, since Europe set standards in our craft and still is leading in creation of shoe models and fashion its self.

Japanese Masters: Yohei Fukuda, Tsuyoshi Ohno, Masaru Okuyama, Eiji Murata.

European Masters: Xavier Aubercy, Stephane Jimenez, Riccardo Freccia Bestetti, John Lobb, Edward Green, George Cleverley.

I’ve had an honor to meet Mr. Xavier Aubercy in person, and with lot of my colleagues I’m in contact through the social networks.

What are your favorite  places to spend your evenings?

Since we spend most of the day at work, we use evenings to associate with kids. We have family dinners and we watch some family movies from time to time. Sometimes we visit our friends, or they come to our place or we go out for a drink. Sometimes we go out with our kids to restaurants, or to the movies or some concert.

What is your favorite word?

My favorite word is Meravigliosa. It means wonderful in Italian.

What is your least favorite word?

Perhaps it’s OBLIGATION, or the phrase: YOU HAVE TO

What turns you on (creatively, spiritually or emotionally)?

The ART itself. The observation of beautiful art works and music. Emotionally, laughter and happiness of my kids and my wife.

What turns you off?

Situation that mostly turns me off is when I can’t find the strength in myself to solve some problem. That makes me very sad, but luckily, that instant lack of power passes quickly.

 What is your favorite curse word?

Personally I don’t like curse words, but when I use them, I usually say: U pičku materinu.

What sound or a noise do you love?

I just love the sound of Louis Armstrong’s trumpet.

What sound or noise do you hate?

I can not stand the sound of car tires creak and the sound of sirens of urgent services.

What profession would you not like to do?

I wouldn’t like to be politician. 

If Heaven exists, what would you like to hear God say when you arrive at the Pearly Gates

I would like if God would tells me: “When I was giving mankind the love, I was having on my mind that they would love life with all that it takes, as much as you loved and lived your life”

Interviews

Igor Suhenko. “I think that our planet is endangered by industrialization.”

April 15, 2019

 When did you started your workshop?

I have started my craft work in 1988. I was apprentice at the work shop of one old Belgrade shoe master. He was teaching me to make shoes in old and traditional way. I was always in love with handmade shoes dreaming to start making one day these kinds of shoes on my own. My path wasn’t easy. It was mostly very hard filled with hard labor but my love for shoes and shoe making conquered. Nowadays I have many customers in Serbia and abroad.

How many people work in the workshop?

 Our shop and business are family run by my wife and me, for the time being. My wife’s name is Maja Suhenko. She is an academic sculptor and besides me, her role in creating and making shoes and other works of art is very important and significant. All things that leave our shop are made of our mutual work and decisions, and this is a great happiness that results in complete harmony that reflects our products. My wife’s specialty is creating and making ornaments and buckles for our shoes and belts.  We also have a woman that sews the upper parts of our shoes. She’s my wife’s colleague from the University. Also finished applied arts -costume department. She’s doing hand embroidery on our velvet shoes.

Who was the first person that influenced you the most in shoemaking?

Since I was a kid, I’ve been watching and drawing shoes. Afterwards I was buying books on shoes’ history. Looking at shop windows of workshops of old Belgrade shoemakers, firstly and later at shop windows of great European producers such as John Lobb, Edward Green as well as of some industrial quality made shoes: Madras’s, Brooks, Bally…  All of these made great impact on my recognition of great love in shoes.

 What memories do you have of your first order?

My first order I’ve finished with the Master I was working for. I was very excited without a clue how will it look like when I finished it. Luckily, I had the master on my side that did most of the job. By helping him I learned the whole procedure of custom shoe making: taking measures, drawing the shape of foot, negotiations about the model, construction of shoes and client’s foot, leather choice, leather cut by patterns, sewing of the upper part, placing the upper part on the mold, made of test shoes and all the other things till final takeover of produced shoes. My first model was Oxford type. We had that type in various sizes, so we could adjust patterns to client’s foot. Those days I’ve learned a lot as if a whole new magical universe revealed in front of my eyes. My first client was very satisfied and I was very proud of myself.    

What is your favorite model?

My favorite model is Chelsea boots made of velour’s leather.

Which are your best sellers?

My clients mostly order Loafers followed by Derby model.

Where do you source the leather?

 I mostly purchase leather in Belgrade, in a shop where I can find mostly everything that interests me. This shop is supplied by high quality leather from mostly Italian tanneries, also French and English.

Can you please tell us more about the quality of leather nowadays?

I think that our planet is endangered by industrialization. This reflects all segments of our lives, including the quality of the leather. The food we’re feeding animals with is worsen day by day, therefore animal leather is not of the same quality as it was in the past, when animals were fed and kept healthier, running freely on green valleys. Even our mankind has changed a lot. We don’t associate with nature that much anymore resulting in worse quality of the life. The regress in quality in all spheres of our life is exclusively our fault.  

To be continued…

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