It was an idea that myself and Tommaso Melani at Stefano Bemer had – a way to bring together some of the best bespoke shoemakers around Europe, who rarely meet each other, let alone have a chance to see all the buyers at Pitti face to face.
How would you summarize the conclusion of the roundtable discussion? I noticed John Carnera was also invited…
Extraordinarily positive. Not only did everyone enjoy meeting each other for the first time (Pierre Corthay meeting John Carnera of Cleverley was a particular highlight) but the discussion was optimistic and collaborative. Everyone was talking of meeting up again soon.
John is a gentleman of shoes. Gentility in all its wonderful senses. He is both an artisan and a lovely human being. I think everyone enjoyed chatting to him – he was the star, whether he realized it or not.
There are any plans for a second edition of beShoes? New guests perhaps?
Yes, we are already talking about something in June. The guests may be different, but we still want to keep this collaborative feeling among the shoemakers who met last time, so in any case there will be something separate for them.
What memories do you have of your first pair of shoes?
I have no early memories I’m afraid – everyone seems to have a great story about how they got into clothing or shoes early in life. It happened late for me, but with no less intensity.
How many pairs of bespoke shoes do you have?
Cleverley – brown oxfords, black wing tips, reindeer double-monks.
Gaziano & Girling – brown oxfords, hatchgrain slip-ons.
Stefano Bemer– tan oxfords.
Santoni – brown derbys.
Tim Little – tan chelsea boots.
Foster & Son – in the works.
Norman Vilalta – in the works.
Antonio Pio Mele – in the works.
For the Stefano Bemer bespoke shoes you were initialy measured by Stefano himself. What memories do you have on that meeting?
Lovely and also very sad, as Stefano was ill and clearly suffering.
Best fitting pair of shoes?
Tough, but I’d say the Gaziano&Girling oxfords.
Worst fitting pair of shoes?
Bespoke? Hard to say really. The little imperfections are all in different places so they don’t compare very easily.
What English RTW shoemakers do you favor?
Edward Green primarily; also a fan of Crocketts. I’ve generally always been of the view that a man should buy Northampton shoes, and buy the best he can afford, whatever that is.
Are your feet happy with a specific last?
I’ve found the Edward Green 888 in a 9D works well. But no, nothing is perfect.
In bespoke shoemaking/tailoring is customer always right?
No, not at all. In matters of both taste and fit, the customer can often be wrong.
Who was the first person that influenced you most?
These days Italians want to be English, the English want to be Italian. Is this fashion melange a threat to Classic English style?
Not at all, it has brought us great things – the modern Italian style we love; the world of Ralph Lauren.
What do you feel about English shoemaking industry today? Spanish or Asian producers have very competitive prices. What are in your opinion the strong points and the weak points of English shoemaking industry?
Quality, essentially. Reliability of make, often through experience and the machinery, much of which cannot be made any more.
What do you describe your personal style?
Subtle, conservative, with a keen focus on fit and bridging the gap between classing suiting and a contemporary lifestyle.
What was the most extravagant item you have ever worn?
Probably my Cifonelli cashmere overcoat.
What are your favorite places to spend your evenings?
At home, with my family.
What turns you on (creatively, spiritually or emotionally)?
Craft and originality.
What turns you off?
Conceit and dishonesty.