August 22, 2013 by Ville Raivio
‘I was born 1964 and I am a Bespoke Shoemaker. I have a 2-year high school education as a tailor, 3 years as a repair shoemaker’s apprentice and 3 years as a bespoke shoemaker’s apprentice. I have two daughters, born 1991 and 1993 and I have lived together with my husband since 1984. They all support my choice of profession and help out in the workshop if necessary. My parents supported me 100% but my Grandma did not understand why I chose shoemaking when I could make beautiful dresses. There isn’t so much time for hobbies but I love dancing Salsa and I have a passion for dark chocolate.
Emelie Bergman, Anna Lindqvist
I have always loved shoes, like all girls/women do and when there was an opportunity for me to start working in a shoemaker’s shop after High school, I took the job. I was supposed to sit by the sewing machine, repairing shoes, bags and leather goods but I found the job in the workshop by the big machines more interesting, so I started as an apprentice. I worked with shoe repairs for 10 years and then I started a new apprenticeship for a Bespoke Master to learn to make handmade shoes. I have never been interested in just designing things. I love the production, to be there throughout the whole process. I have learned from old masters and from books and other shoemaking friends all over the world. A lot of my vacations has been spent in fantastic workshops around the world. There are so many skillful craftsmen/women to learn from. And when you have the basic skills, trial and error is one of the best teachers. Work, work, work and try new things all the time.
I only wear my own handmade shoes and since I love to experiment, I make a lot of different designs for myself. Flats, pumps, high heels, summer sandals, winter boots and orthopedic sandals for working. I have not bought any new shoes for myself or my husband during the last 18 years, so I don’t have any personal favorite brands, but from what I see in my repair workshop, the best men’s shoes are still produced in England. Gaziano&Girling, Crockett&Jones and Edward Green make wonderful shoes. The American brands try so hard to make “easy to sell” shoes, so the quality is not the same anymore. A good quality shoe needs to be broken in during a long time to be able to last a long time. Soft, comfortable, lightweight shoes work fine from day one, but don’t last for much longer.
I started as a apprentice at Skomakeri Framåt in 1994 and worked together with the old owner until he retired 10 years ago. I have not had any problems being accepted in the shop, even if there still are customers that ask for the Master shoemaker. They accept me and the other 3 female shoemakers when they see all our diplomas on the walls and realize that we have been doing this for a long time. We try to make the shoes that the costumer dreams of. I cannot say that we have a specific [house] style since we produce men’s and women’s, all models. We try to make orthopedic shoes look a little bit less orthopedic and even if I like to show off handmade shoes, a lot of our customers ask for our help because they don’t want anyone to see that they have handmade shoes because of their foot problems.
There are just a few Bespoke shoemakers still working in Sweden and we try to keep in touch with the others so that we can help the customer to chose a maker that matches their needs. We are so few so we are all good friends and we do not compete. I want the customer to choose me and my workshop because they trust us to be able to help them, and solve their shoe and foot problems. We have a long experience of working with orthopedic problems and we try to make all shoes fit both foot and mind.
I get inspired from meeting other shoemakers, reading about old makers, looking at old shoes and working with high quality materials. A beautiful skin could inspire me to make something I had not planned in advance. Right now my mind is set on a set of matching bag, flat and high heels just because I have a new quality of beautiful calfskin that I would love to work with. Hopefully I will manage to put it all together during my vacation.
The word style is like the word quality, something we use as if it tells us something. But it does not. Style is something everyone has, good or bad. You could love your style but someone else will hate it. If a shoe lasts for 15 years it might go out of fashion but still work with your personal style. Your personal style is made of the stuff you use over and over again and that almost makes you cry when worn out. I often see the words style and quality used in ads but it does not say anything. A quality shoe could be really bad since the word quality does not say good or bad quality. It is the same thing with style. Most people like to blend in and not be out of style so they buy the “style concept” and hope that they look stylish.
When you by RTW, try to find a brand that has a last style that matches your feet and choose a shoe design that works with your type of foot.
For example: no Oxfords for the high arch, since the lacing doesn’t look good and there could be a problem with a too tight instep. No soft Loafers for the instable foot that needs an arch support, since that style is often produced without backstiffeners. They break in the back and make the foot even more instable. Uncomfortable and ill-fitting shoes can be adjusted for a better fit. Ask a shoemaker for help.
Choose the style of shoe according to the activity you are doing. Do not wear leather-soled goat suede danceshoes in a muddy field and do not wear heavy winter boots indoors.
If you would like to have a long time relationship with your shoes, you need to start to treat them as your best friends. Clean, brush and polish shoes with the right products more often than you think is necessary. When you polish your shoes, you will see when it is time to go to the shoemaker to repair the worn parts in time. It is so easy to put a well-cared shoe back in full glory instead of having to try and make a wreak functional again. Ask a professional repair shoemaker (try to find one with a diploma) for advice. There are so many styles of shoes and materials so don’t hesitate to ask for help. We like to help out and we want all shoes to have a long lasting life. Even shoes of less quality would last longer if you cared for them.
This is my favorite Latin quote:
Ne sutor supra crepidam Nemo nascitur artifex (Shoemaker stick to your last, no one is born a master/artist).
That means that it takes a long time to master the trade and that you need to be patient, stubborn and passionate to manage to produce shoes that you are proud of.’
Pictures: © Skomakeri Framåt