When did your fascination with shoes begin?
I first considered becoming a shoemaker when I saw “hans Christian Anderson”, the Danny Kay film. I decided that roaming the country side telling tales, making shoes seemed like a nice life. It was later revealed to me that I was from a long line of shoemakers, skipped a few generations. My parents worked in fashion when I was a kid, so there had always been a fascination with style. Shoemaking, making shoes, was ultimately an encapsulation of a life long fascination, wrapped up into an idyllic life.
Main concept behind your design?
It’s difficult to answer a question about design when I’ve never considered myself a designer. I’m a maker of shoes, and have always considered myself ostensibly part of the generation that existed in a time before there were such things as “designers”. there were tailors, and shoemakers, milliners, etc. each had their own style and so when you received your shoes or suit it was in a specific style, and was a house, or labels interpretation of it.
My style, my interpretation is essentially classic. I work in a very, very old fashioned way, and still work for one of the old west end bespoke firms in london. I am however a contemporary craftsman, with a simple, and minimal aesthetic. I have worked with a paired back pallet but am learning to interact with colour. again coming from a very classical means of production while introducing a more current, less obvious colour way. Styles are classic, created for a contemporary wardrobe.
Advice for people wanting to make shoes for a living?
Tough gig, straight up. I wish I could say otherwise but it is a difficult industry to get into, with a decreasing skills base to draw on to learn from. There is a long period to learn your trade, and there really aren’t a lot of jobs around to support oneself while learning. if you can get a foot in the door then a really good work ethic is essential, and a fair dash of humility wont go astray. It is hard work, but there is something really rewarding about making a functional, beautiful object every day. And you can see the fruits of your labour almost straight away.
You’ve said you want a business that can sustain itself, have you reached that place?
Getting there. I was given an amazing piece of advise early on by one of the people who ran Georgina goodman when I was working for her. I was asked if I wanted to run a business or be a shoemaker. I said I wanted to do both and I was told the two were not mutually inclusive. I argued to the contrary but have found out just how difficult it is. While I am still doing everything myself it is always going to be tough, but by keeping everything in house I am directly in control of everything that comes out of my studio. I can keep my costs to what I can afford to spend and I can watch my business grow at it’s own pace and in realistic way. Every year that passes it is getting closer to a self supporting business doing exactly what I want to do. making work that I am proud to bare my name.
Have you ever produced vegan shoes?
I have not worked on vegan shoes, and would be unlikely to in the future to be honest. While I am a big fan of working with canvas, my desire to work in opposition to disposable culture is largely at odds with the range of materials available for vegan footwear. I am also a massive fan of working with leather! and I don’t think I could ever give it up I’m afraid.
What can’t you work without?
A pair of feet is really the short answer. I am a bespoke shoemaker, and I need a client in order to have an order to fill. I have always enjoyed working within parameters and love that aspect of fulfilling the brief that each clients order is. There is also something very personal about the relationship that a craftsman builds up with the tools at his disposal. And there are definitely some tools that I see as being an extension of myself when I work.
Visit Sebastian Tarek to see his shoes