I was born overlooking the sea.
Literally.
In one of the bedrooms at the front of my parent’s house,
facing the north east coast.
The house is about 400 yards from the beach.
Towards the edge of a big village.
My parents still live there. 
And so, when I visit, it’s truly home. 

I didn’t always appreciate the sea.
Right there in front of me.
And yet now, I love walking along the beach,
whatever the weather.

The expansive view of the sea is captivating;
And the natural ebb and flow of the waves
lapping on the shore.

It’s movement, both beautiful and calming.

Life, like the sea, has a natural ebb and flow.
The movements forward, the setbacks, forward again.

Rarely have I stopped to wonder why, or how,
I got into shoes.

Like the sea, it feels like I went with the flow.

Gratitude

With Mum at home, Dad working locally in the bank
(when banks were part of the community),
and three older brothers that I’ve always got on well with,
I was very lucky.

Over the years, my Mum has reminded me several times
that my favourite book as a child
was ‘The Elves and the Shoemaker’.

It’s the story is of a struggling shoemaker
who found himself
with only enough leather
for one more pair of shoes. 

He cut out the leather one evening,
and left it unfinished for the morning.

In the morning he found
a beautifully finished pair of shoes;

made from the leather he’d cut.

They were so beautiful, he sold them easily.

The next evening he did the same thing,
and the same thing happened.

And so on, with more pairs, more styles;
selling more and more shoes…

People flocked from afar.

He and his wife waited up one night,
to find that elves were coming in the middle of the night
to craft the shoes.

The shoemaker and his wife rewarded the elves
by making little jackets, trousers, hats and shoes … 
which they left, with some food, for the Elves to find. 
They were so happy, they wore the clothes,
danced, ate the food and left…

never to return.
They had left the shoemaker with a thriving business.

Having not thought about it until recently,
it’s only with the beauty of hindsight,
that I realise; it’s a book about gratitude.

Unique

When I was about thirteen, I noticed a particular girl across the school playground.
There was something about the way she dressed, and the way she had her hair;
a light streak and a rattail.
Slightly oversized clothes,
that turned out to be her older sisters.
A distinctive nonchalance.
It was like she was wearing early Yohji Yamamoto,
or Comme, in those mid-eighties.
Looking totally unique.

She inspired me toward fashion,
and set my interest in Vogue.

Culture

My cousin took me to my first live music experience;
Big Country at Newcastle Town Hall.
I remember crystal clear, at one point, the lead singer Stuart Adamson
sat at the front of the stage, acoustic guitar in hand.
Singing solo – the audience absorbed.

An indelible moment for sure,
yet it was other music
 that truly resonated for the long term.
It was New Order and Prince that held fast.
My best mate Nic introduced me to
the music of New Order;
probably with the release of True Faith
in the summer of 1987.
With their completely different set of references,
style and essence,
it was  a totally unique culture that was new to me.

The Art of Music

The artwork on the covers was as much an inspiration
as the music;
that added artistic value that Peter Saville brought
to the artwork of New Order’s covers was equally unique.

Over time the artwork and the music have become
almost synonymous with each other;
both becoming modern classics and proving their own longevity.

Meanwhile the film Purple Rain had been playing
in the common room
for most of my final year at school
(it was basically that and Grease).
‘Lovesexy’ was released toward the end of that year,
and I remember being totally absorbed in reading
the lyrics from the sleeve,
his play with words, while listening to his vocal pirouetting.

Unique.

Dali and Lautrec

I’d dropped Art at high school due to
the classes not being very inspiring,
and then had to return to the Art teacher for advice on how
to get on the ‘A’ level course at sixth form.
He laughed at me.
I laughed back. And then said, “No, seriously.”

Even though I’d dropped art at school,
it still interested me outside of school;
Fascinated by Dali, and intrigued by Lautrec.

Art and design, in various forms continued to inspire me.
Art Foundation focused my attention on fashion.
I created a jacket, and needing someone to model it.
I worked evenings behind a bar,
and I asked someone who was a friend of a friend.

The beach was the backdrop.
I took photo’s on the promenade,
and created a poster in the guise of a Vogue cover.

50’s : Buicks and Chryslers

Moving south for a Fashion Diploma in Maidenhead,
a part of the course included footwear design.
And it seemed like I had a natural feel for it.
Again, I followed my flow,
enjoying purely the act of designing, and creating.
Of delving in to research
and finding inspirations and stories.

I designed a collection of shoes inspired by
1950’s American classic cars;
the Buicks and Chryslers;
– winning an industry placement with Red or Dead
for a couple of weeks over the summer.
Experience with K’s Shoes followed the same way a year later, via a ‘comfort’ project.

Throughout my time at that College, I had a natural admiration for Karl Lagerfeld.
For his prolificness, and his ability to shape different brands at the same time. 
While also, from the perspective of a conductor rather than a performer,
being somewhat of a showman himself.

After finishing college, my Footwear tutor asked me to work together,
to create our own collection.

We got on really well, so I figured why not.
I balanced doing that,
with working in a pub in Covent Garden.
In the quiet moments behind the bar
I’d pull blank roll from the till
and sketch my shoe designs on it.

After the first collection of women’s,
we switched to Men’s – goodyear welted,
working with factories from South Africa to Dundalk.

Things weren’t progressing as we hoped they would,
so I took a sideways step to a ‘steady’ job.
What seemed like the safer route; led by the head,
rather than the heart, was good…
until it wasn’t.

Redundancy can set you free

A successful eight years with a supplier
resulted in the customer asking me
to work for them directly… I made the leap.
Eighteen months later I received the setback.

A shock at first; it can set you free.
That’s what redundancy number one was for me.

I’d previously played a role in developing
the first product for a completely new brand;
one that became hugely successful.
And was fortunate enough to be asked to join the phenomenon
once it was up and running…
again, I made the leap.
I loved helping to shape the brand, in however small a way,
translating inspirations and stories in to product,
and in to a feeling of brand consistency…

Until…

I was set free again.

I figured the world was trying to tell me something.

With more than twenty years experience at the time,
of designing footwear for various companies;
from the high street of M&S, to the comfort of Fitflop,
with varied freelance projects in between.
Working in different cultures, with different philosophies,
with numerous factories in various countries;
there were some values I felt more aligned with
than others.

It was time to create my own collection,
in line with those values that aligned with me and mine.

True to my own philosophies

With an admiration for individuality and uniqueness.
For craftsmanship, and a desire for qualities
aligned with integrity and longevity.

Inspired by an appreciation for the worlds of Art and Music,
connecting moments of resonance in my life,
to produce a unique product experience infused
with elegance and respect.

Love and Respect

And since this leap of a different kind…

I aspire to inspire,
that awareness for love and respect.
Reverence for people and craft,
and time to reflect.

Respect for the makers,
the customers too.
Through the passion and creation
of beautiful shoes.

An experience full of thought,
in all that we do.
To be mindful of that
when time comes to choose.

Working with an Italian family run factory;
one with a pride in provenance,
of craftsmanship,
and the feeling of locality.

To inspire an awareness,
so you know what you buy,
To know where it came from,
who made it, and why.
The passion, the craft,
the love and intent.
The story to tell,
at the next social event.

Of patience, of mindfulness;
ingredients, with which to align.
The only true luxury
is that of our time.


Anthony Stoker