Bespoke Shoes Unlaced – a shoemaker's blog

Friday, 4 February 2011

Spotlight on the Goldfish Bowl

It has been a busy week at Gieves and unusually for us we have been somewhat in the spotlight!

We are always thrilled for our shoes and the craft to get attention and praise - from press and customers alike...but James and I have both been shy about too much personal attention. We knew that things might change when we moved into the 'goldfish bowl' - (until then, we had only ever made shoes in our workshop here at Cockpit Arts or at trunk shows - remember James in the window at Leffot in New York?) - so making shoes here is helping us to overcome our shyness.

It's to be expected and is certainly welcome. I've always believed that choosing someone involved in creating your style - whether it is your tailor, hairdresser or shoemaker - is as much about a meeting of minds as about the product. So we are quite unusual I guess, in that we are both the business partners and the actual shoe makers - yes, James and I actually do the making. So for customers, the 'goldfish bowl' really is a special opportunity to not only meet the people who actually make your shoes, but to to see them at work and to talk to them about what you are looking for.

Anyway, back to all this you know from James' distracted blogging last week his photo now graces the entrance on Vigo street... but this week, as well as enjoying showing our craft to the owners of Gieves & Hawkes... (and evading the 'paps' hanging around looking for Wills-related shots) we both had our portraits taken (yes you may actually get to see what The Other One looks like), we have our fabulous Snob Loafers in GQ and we celebrated the launch of Crafted YR2 generously hosted by Gieves & Hawkes.

Credit: GQ magazine

The shoes on show in GQ (see above) are one of the series that we are producing especially with Gieves & Hawkes and is the ultimate luxury - a tasseled loafer in sumptuous matte crocodile with a Tyrian (royal) purple lining. It sits proudly in the G&H window on Savile Row alongside our Campaign Boot (in soft English grain and Gieves' military twill). The Snobs truly have arrived on the Row!

Wednesday evening's Crafted Yr 2 launch was a special night for us. We were thrilled to be chosen by Crafted as part of the programme's first year and have really benefited from the mentoring help that we received. Wednesday was a night to say thank yous to so many people - to Gieves & Hawkes, Peter Ting, Cockpit Arts, Crafted, Arts & Business, Walpole, the American Express Foundation, our advisers and of course, our mentor Mark Henderson.

Gieves & Hawkes provided a luxurious showcase for the wonderful work from this year's intake of carefully selected craft entrepreneurs and it was lovely to meet so many of them. With a shared fundamental belief in craftsmanship and an appreciation for objects beautifully made, there was much to talk about.

A great night and a great week, but I'm looking forward to a few days of just shoemaking next week!

Side Linings 2

February already! What happened to January?

I left you all in the middle of something last week. It just goes to show that planning is key, both in bespoke shoes and in life. Last week I planned to write about a Norwegian welt that I am making. I had all the pics sorted and had planned what to say. But then I got the inspiration about how to tell a bespoke shoe from a factory shoe and my life as a model clouded my judgement and I ended up talking about side linings, a short and seemingly impossible subject to mess up. But I did not finish the story, so I will this week.

But first some news.

Last night The Other One and I went to the degree show of this years graduates from London College of Fashion, which was very interesting. We particularly wanted to see the shoes made by our friend Michelle Quick who we have been helping through the year. She has used hand welting and general handsewn making techniques and has also used cow horn pieces on the uppers. The results were great so a congratulations to her.
The stand out collection for me was a series of photos by Nicol Vizioli in Fashion Photography (

The Other One and I have booked ourselves onto the 13th Independent Shoemakers Conference which takes place on the weekend of 25th, 26th and 27th of February at the Kings Court Hotel, Kings Coughton, Alcester, Warwickshire.
This is a meeting of shoemakers from around the country and it is open to everyone, so if any of you out there fancy going, you should sign up. It is very friendly, relaxed, informative and fun. Yes, shoemakers can have fun. And it is a great way to meet other makers and share resources.

More information at, Or on Facebook, Shoemakers Conference or Bespoke Shoemakers.

Let us know if you are going and we will look out for you.

Anyway, back to shoemaking, side linings specifically. Last week I left you with the side linings lasted between the upper and the lining. What I forget to tell you about is what to do with the fore part when you come to put in your toe puff.

Put in your toe puff as normal; let it dry; and shape it as normal. At this stage you need to attach the side linings. Some people do this before they put the toe puff in and that is perfectly legitimate, but I prefer to put them on top because I feel it gives you more control over their finish.

Put contact adhesive/neoprene/bostik on both the toe puff and the side linings and let them dry.

Then stick them down. Make sure you pull them tight lengthways so that they sit tight to the lining along their length. They do not need to be perfectly alike although it is best to make them at least similar lengths. But you will see that they are bulbous and stick out. You will need to address this.

I start with my knife and very carefully skive away the excess. When it is looking close to smooth, I use my rasps to finish the job. A rough one, then a gentler one. So that it looks something like this.

The last trick is to put a piece of newspaper over the joins. It must be torn not cut and glue it with paste. This completely prevents any lines showing through the upper. This is a good trick if your toe puffs show through in general. It helps a lot.

And that, dear readers, is that. So, until next week, happy shoemaking.