March 30, 2016 by Ville Raivio
VR: Your age and occupation?
EM: I was born in 1976, I am a senior shoemaker at Foster & Son.
VR: Your educational background?
EM: I went to Cordwainers’ College to study footwear design & I also did a hand-sewn shoemaking course in ’97.
VR:Have you any children or spouse (and how do they relate to your shoe enthusiasm)?
EM: I have two boys (aged 7 and 2). My husband is also in this trade, we both have a passion for bespoke shoes. My kids love watching us work, especially the oldest, it is a special treat for him to come up to the workshop and explore. I was making lasts up until 2 weeks before giving birth to both boys, so it is natural for them to hear banging noises and the scratching of wood, always being surrounded by shoes and tools!
VR: …and your parent’s and siblings’ reactions back when you decided to become a shoemaker?
EM: My parents have always been supportive, my great grandmother had a Geta (Japanese clog) business, though it came as a little surprise to them when I decided to go into the shoe trade, they were happy about it too.
VR: What other hobbies or passions do you have besides footwear?
EM: I enjoy cooking, painting and drawing but, above all, I have to say ” shoemaking”. It sounds insane but that’s what I do when I have free time. I love making shoes for myself, to be more precise! I enjoy thinking of what I want to make next and without realising it, my hands are already working. Having said that, I rarely find my own time nowadays, being a mother is hard work!
VR: How did you first become interested in shoes, and when did you turn your eyes towards artisanal shoemaking?
EM: I have relatively large feet for a Japanese girl and always had problems finding shoes that I can wear in Japan, even when finding something I liked they often didn’t have my size. Then I thought about designing and making shoes by myself. So I decided to take a footwear course at Cordwainers’ and moved to London.
They had hand-sewn shoemaking classes that fascinated me so much, seeing the traditional way of making shoes changed my perception completely. That’s when I learnt about bespoke shoemakers for the first time and visited Terry Moore, at Foster’s, with my friend. He was making a pattern by using normal brown wrapping paper and making a last using a shabby bench.
Using beautiful old tools, it was absolutely amazing, I thought this is it. This craft and the hand skill is what I want to gain. From that point I was determined to become a Bespoke Shoemaker.
VR: Why classics instead of fashion?
EM: With fashion, you need to keep creating new designs constantly. That, to me, is very tiring. Even with classics they do have trends but the movement is very slow. That’s what I feel comfortable with. My master always says, in terms of shoe designs, that all were completed around the 1930’s & after that it has been going around in this same circle.
VR: How have you gathered your knowledge of the crafts — from books, in-house training, workshops or somewhere else?
EM: I was apprenticed to Terry Moore at Foster’s, there learning most of my skills from pattern cutting, last making to shoemaking. I had a chance to see lots of good samples and also the shoemakers used to deliver shoes to Terry. I would ask questions about how they did things, little tips here & there constantly & I would take this information home with me, experimenting by trial and error. In terms of fit, being my own guinea pig was the best learning curve. You feel the comfort as well as pains.
VR: How would you describe the House Style of the shoes you make?
EM: With each customer, I simply try to produce the style that would suit him (and his feet), in the most elegant way possible within the accepted look. Never going for extreme. Understatement is the key.
VR: Do you have a favourite shoe model (eg. monk, derby, oxford, balmoral boot) and leather type?
EM: It is hard to choose! I enjoy making any types and wearing them as well. When I started learning, old Freudenburg stocks were the main leather available. I was so lucky that I got to practice with those beautiful leathers. They were like silk. Such soft and fine surfaces yet strong.
VR: There are several bespoke companies in the UK — why should my readers choose Foster&Son?
EM: We are traditional shoemakers, clients come to order their shoes for their life style needs. With the best materials and craftmanship provided, we produce anything from simple business shoes to evening dress shoes, country shoes, golf, riding boots & so on, depending on his life situation and the client’s needs, for different occasions. So, building long-term relationships with our clients is very important, to get to know them, to become trusted shoemakers. Having said that, we are happy to make you just a very special pair of shoes, of course!
VR: Who or what inspires you?
EM: My master, his attitude towards the way he deals with things, and discipline. Also my husband, his devotion to his work is purely exceptional. His knowledge and inspiration always help me get going.
VR: Finally, how can my readers find out if a shoe gives great support for the foot?
EM: Simple. You feel it.