In the world of luxury retail, it’s not easy running a family-owned business. London-based bespoke shoemaker George Cleverley deserves full credit for remaining true to the aesthetics of its founder.
Have there been any changes to the brand’s traditions and heritage?
We still do everything by hand so what you get from us today [is the same as] what you got back in the old days. The process hasn’t changed. Whereas a lot of the other brands have made things work quicker [or] have tried to get cheaper labour [or] cut corners or outsource, we still do everything the same as we did 20 to 30 years ago. Everything is handmade.
We pay so much attention to detail, [including] having the same individual work on [a pair of] shoes. The guy measuring you is also the guy making your shoes –which is different [from other brands]. It’s not a case where someone [meets you at a trunk show], takes an order and sends the order to be made somewhere else. I think this is the unique part of our business.
What about social media and marketing? How does the brand balance traditions and heritage while keeping up with the times?
We let things come to us naturally. We don’t really do [aggressive] PR. There’s a story behind all our collaborations. For example, we’re in the “Kingsman” movie because director Matthew Vaughn wore our shoes at his wedding.
Our profile has been raised quite a bit recently because a lot of our customers are famous. They’re well-known and stylish. Social media does help, because our clients are pictured wearing our shoes.
Speaking of “Kingsman”, we absolutely loved the movie and the pair of beautiful shoes with the hidden blades.
They’re really something, aren’t they? All credits go to the props department. The shoes were part of our collection, but the blades were added by the props department.
What was the highlight of working on a major motion picture like “Kingsman”?
Lots! We made around 50 pairs [of shoes] for the movie. The process started when the writers started writing [the script]. There were a lot of shoes in the scenes, and everything had to be right. We had back-up pairs, just in case something happened at the shoot. They couldn’t delay the production by two weeks just because they didn’t have shoes. So we had extra pairs on stand-by, in case [the actors] scratched them or lost them.
You could tell that Colin Firth worked very hard because he brought a pair of shoes back after a few weeks of filming. And we were thinking “What has he done to [the shoes]?” He had been fighting in those shoes so the soles were worn out and there were scratches. Some of the shoes had to be polished before they were ready for use again.
That’s amazing. We know that some of the other British brands who collaborated on the movie had cameos in the film.
Yes! I’m not sure if it’s exactly my type of thing, but it would have been fun. When we were told about the filming, I was in LA so it couldn’t happen. But maybe in “Kingsman II”.
What is your best style tip for our readers?
People often ask me: “What is the great first pair to buy?” I always tell people to buy something classic, like a pair of Oxford black Colfax because it’s timeless. You can wear them for a long time. So I tell people to start with basics, lace-ups and classics because they will grow old with you. Once you have several pairs, then you can move on to more adventurous styles.
Tell us about your most adventurous pair of shoes.
My first pair was pretty adventurous. They were a pair of snake-skin shoes. I got them when I was about 16. While I still have them, I don’t wear them a lot. If I am going to wear [something] this exotic now, I will wear alligator.
What are your all-time favourite shoes?
My next pair is always my favourite pair. Whenever I get a new pair of shoes, I wear them all the time. This pair I am wearing now is called “The Caine”, named after Michael Caine because we designed them for him.