Monday, 20 April 2015

Going For Brogue

The Little Shoemaker's Kevin Rowley is a cobbler on a mission - namely, to create exquisite, affordable artisan footwear for children. Ahead of the brand's debut at Bubble S/S16, he took time away from his workshop to tell us more about traditional techniques, inspiration, and all things handmade...

Kevin, could you tell us a bit about yourself, and your professional background?

I'm based down in Brighton on the south coast. My experience in footwear spans over twenty years, and runs parallel to my work as a fine artist and college lecturer. With a passion for all things 'hand made' and especially made here in the UK, I take great pleasure in knowing I'm contributing to prolonging the British craft industry.

When and why did you decide to found The Little Shoemaker?

In 2010 when my first daughter Momoko was born, I wanted to buy a pair of shoes for her. After a long search, I bought a pair of sandals from a very high-end boutique. It was at this point I felt that there must be room for someone to make children's shoes by hand here in the UK. And that's where we began! It took a couple of years of experimenting with what worked & what didn't. And in 2012 we were ready to start in a professional capacity.

Each pair of Little Shoemaker shoes is handmade. Could you tell us a bit about this process, and what it entails? 

I wanted to return to making shoes in a more traditional & historic way, to try and step away from mass produced & synthetic materials. Therefore from start to finish, every aspect of the process is done by hand in the same way shoes were made for centuries. I start  by drawing the design on the last (form). I then create a template & cut the leather by hand, stitching all the components together to create the upper. This is followed by fitting the upper to the last to create what now starts to resemble a pair of shoes. The final part of the process is to fit the bottoms (soles) onto the uppers to create what we recognize as a pair of shoes.

In terms of the look and feel of the shoes, what inspires you?

I wanted to create a footwear range that harked back to a time when we appreciated all things 'handmade'. The styles are based on a traditional sense of design, but usually have a modern twist to them. Each pair of shoes has a story behind them and the whole process of making the shoes myself by hand is part of that journey. Making shoes by hand has a real intimacy about it - and, like a good work of art, what you're buying into is the memory of the maker's creative process. Using names such as 'Billy The Kiddy Boot' also gives a real personal feel to the shoes. I don't want people to buy them and think nothing of them again - I'd like to believe that my customers get as much fun and love out of wearing them as I get out of making them.

Why have you decided to launch The Little Shoemaker at Bubble London in July?

I'm being asked by quite a lot of potential customers about where they might be able to view my range of shoes. It makes perfect sense to make my 'launch' at Bubble.

We're looking forward to seeing you there!

You can catch up with Kevin at Bubble, too. Apply for your ticket here!