Bespoke Shoes Unlaced – a shoemaker's blog

Friday, 13 June 2014

Our First Full Time Apprentice

Welcome back to the wonderful world of bespoke shoes. Another varied week has seen the first few days of our new full time shoemaking apprentice. It's a very exciting development for us and fulfils our desire to promote the craft and create the next generation of shoemakers.

His name is Alistair and he has got funding from the Queen Elizabeth Scholarship Trust to study full time with us for a year. 
A proud Alistair at the QEST reception last week

This should provide him with a great grounding in "West End" bespoke shoemaking. By the end of the year, we are expecting him to be at a standard where he can make shoes for customers but still under our (or another shoemaker's) guidance.

Suited and booted with fellow QEST scholars and alumni
Obviously a year is not enough time to finish an apprenticeship, but it will give him the skills he needs which he can further develop over time. There are two main aspects to an apprenticeship - one to learn the skills to a high standard, and two, to learn how to make shoes fast enough to earn a living. We will teach him the first part this year and the second part he can learn in the following years.

Alistair trimming the welt
He is understandably very excited, as are we. It is really important to us to help create the next generation of shoemakers - which is one of the reasons we do this blog and share all of our knowledge for free with the whole world.

Shoemakers have traditionally been very conservative with their knowledge, probably because in the past, handsewn shoemaking was much more common and more competitive and it paid to keep your cards close to your chest. But times have changed and this is not our philosophy at all. We want this fantastic trade to be discovered and tried by as many people as possible. Hence the apprenticeship and the classes.

His aim is to make 15 pairs of shoes with us over the year and to make other pairs at home in his spare time - so plenty of hard work but a brand new career awaits. Very exciting!

So there you go, proof that it is possible to become a handsewn shoemaker!

The end of May saw me in Istanbul at the GREAT Festival of Creativity organised by the UKTI (a government trade and industry body) and Walpole which promotes British luxury brands. It was a conference to promote British creative industries and I was speaking at a presentation called Walking on Luxury, A Luxury Shoe Masterclass. My fellow speakers were Mark Hare of Mr Hare and Liam Fahy of Liam Fahy Shoes

Marc Hare of Mr Hare

We spoke about our craft, our business development, our inspirations and our ambitions for our businesses. It was moderated by Edward Mason with additional comments by Dylan Jones, editor of GQ.
It was a fantastic event, well attended by both Turkish and British business owners and much networking was done.

Inside the Seed

One of the terraces

The venue, The Seed, was a series of terraces set on the Bosphorus with an endless supply of delicious food and drinks. We were very spoilt.

On the last evening we were treated to a reception given by Her Britannic Majesty's ambassador Mr Richard Moore with a recital by Katherine Jenkins - lovely!

Katherine Jenkins

I had such a great time and really loved the whole event, even the public speaking which I was a little nervous about. The next ones are in Hong Kong and Shanghai - fingers crossed for an invitation!

And then I had a holiday in Spain which you probably don't want to know about. It was lovely BTW.

That's about it for this week. Until the next time, happy shoemaking!