When I was growing up, a good family friend was, still is in fact, a maker – an outworker for various West End firms – so in a way I was exposed to the craft quite early on. I was a kid then, of course; careers and adulthood was the last thing on my mind so I never really thought too much of it back then, it was just what our friend Cooky did for a living.
Lobb is a well know bespoke shoemaker perhaps the most famous one. You worked as a Laster& Fitter for Lobb. What memories do you have from that period?
Good memories, I had a lot of fun working there, and a made lot of friends that I’m still close with. I learned a lot while I was there, I wouldn’t be in the position I am now without that experience.
How did it all started for you?
It all started properly for me around the time I was at university, I’d always liked shoes and attempting to dress well. I was always going to some sort of work like this I think, something a bit creative, it just sort of clicked at some point that it would be shoes.
As an apprentice were you a little bit intimidated by John Lobb name or it was more like an motivation if I may say so?
Did you have a Menthor at Lobb? Who had the greatest influence on choosing your career?
Ostensibly, the person with the final say during my apprenticeship was Jonathan Lobb, but with the number of craftsman in the workshop you would be foolish not to pick up information from everyone when you have the opportunity. The greatest single influence on me, that informed the style I prefer to work in, was the sheer number of old lasts residing in the building. Each one has a story to tell, if you ask them the right questions.
Now let’s start with the begining. Please be so kind to share with my readers every stage of this marvelous journey. Did you also turned your back to machines?
I’ve never been entirely sure what that really means to be honest – machines have been used in bespoke shoemaking for over 100 years. Uppers are closed on sewing machines by every single shoemaking firm out there – I’ve got one myself – and leather is often thinned by a skiving machine. I don’t have one of those, sadly. High end shoemaking isn’t really about avoiding machines for the sake of it, it’s about using the finest techniques to create the very best finished product. So, the best method for closing an upper is by machine, and the best way to attach the sole is to sew by hand – as a result, that is the way I do things.
If there was anything that you could have done differently, what would that be ?
I don’t think I would do anything differently, I’m not really the kind of person to regret things. I’m lucky to have made many friends as a result of working in this industry, there’s plenty of characters. It’s almost a requirement if you want to work in this industry. Most people like their privacy though, so I will maintain their anonymity and not list any names.
What are the biggest challenges in today bespoke shoemaking from your point of view ?
I suppose the biggest challenge is keeping your standards high, there are so many wonderful craftsmen and women out there creating incredible work. It’s certainly inspiring to see what’s being done out there.
What’s you favorite model and why?
The key elements of a good shoe would be…
The best quality materials available, assembled with utmost care and attention.
What’s the scariest shoe trend that you see today?
I might be the worst person to ask this, I don’t really follow trends particularly. I’m not really into what’s currently popular – I’ve always thought it’s best to avoid it and come up with your own ideas.
What golden advice you both have for a apprentice dreaming of becoming a bespoke shoemaker?
Just to keep trying, keep asking questions and keep learning from your mistakes because there will be lots of them. Don’t let it get you down when you do, if you learn then it was valuable time spent.
To be continued …