As I promised, I will be providing interviews once a month (consider this the one for February) from people in the shoe industry, both known and unknown, who make a considerable impact on what comes out as well as shape the trends, ideas, and styles we see today. For this month, as you may have noticed from the title, I have George Glasgow Jr., who is the son of the owner (and heir to throne) of historical shoe firm, George Cleverley. Enjoy!
1. What is your role with Cleverley?
I am the Creative Director at George Cleverley but I have several roles. When I am in London I spend time with our last maker and am leaning the last-making process. I also measure clients. I have been traveling with my father on U.S.A. visits since I was 13 years old, so most of the clients have become friends. I also design new styles, which I speak with clients about and get their feedback on.
Unfortunately, most of my time is spent traveling, so it is a slow process. I design our new styles and cover the U.S.A. & Asia markets by holding trunk shows. I'm off to Asia in 3 weeks for about 3 weeks to visit Tokyo, Singapore, Seoul & Beijing to hold Cleverley trunk shows. Additionally, I visit customers who are unable to meet with us on our regular trunk shows.
2. What's the most exciting thing about being at the top of a niche, bespoke/RTW shoe company?
I'm very lucky to meet some wonderful gentlemen and some very interesting characters in this business. You just never know who is going to walk into our London shop or worldwide trunk shows. We could start the day off with a university professor followed by a movie star, but both have the same appreciation of fine footwear.
3. Being that you are the son of Mr. Glasgow Sr., you were relatively pre-destined to be in the shoe trade but did you ever want to do/to be something else?
I grew up around the Cleverley workrooms and used to make regular family trips to our workshop which we have in Cornwall, so I guess I was in the business by default. However, I went to the University of London where I studied Economics & Politics. After graduating I moved to Los Angeles to work in finance as an investment analyst, which I did for 3 years. I would use my holidays to work with my father on his U.S.A. trunk shows, which I thoroughly enjoyed. Eventually I moved into the business full-time. During the trunk shows I could see that most of the clients that would come by had developed good friendships with my father, many of which he has known for many years. It was delightful to see how much my father & our whole team enjoyed the business and working with such great people seemed fun, so I had to pursue my father to hire me.
4. Can you describe the most unique shoe that a client has ever ordered for bespoke?
It's very tough to say the most unique shoe that a bespoke customer has ordered, because even now I see many one-of-a-kinds going through our workshop. I would say the most unique for me would be an old Edwardian button boot, which we made for David Beckham. When he visited our London shop, he chose a boot that was on display which was over 60 years old and had all working buttons (sewn on by hand) which you needed a special tool to open. We designed the boot to have a zip on the other side which was covered in leather, so he could get in & out of them without opening the buttons and spending 15 minutes putting them on & off. This was pretty unique as the style of boot was Edwardian but we added a modern feature to it.
Me (The Shoe Snob): that sounds amazing, I am so jealous!!!! I have yet to learn how to make a boot, let alone design one from the Edwardian era.
5. What's you favorite model out of all of the shoes that Cleverley makes?
My personal favorite is the "Churchill" (pictured above). It is a classic shoe with covered elastic sided features and imitation lacing. This was really a George Cleverley invention and he made it for Sir Winston Churchill. His farther & him used to make this style 60+ years ago at Tuczuc on Clifford Street. I loved this shoe so much that I designed a boot version which has imitation lacing as well, which has been well received. It's great because with the boot version it's a nice travel option as you can wear it with jeans or a nice suit. Our friends at Leather Soul (Tom & Bryan) both have some very cool bespoke boots in the works. I think the changes they made to my boot will look very cool.
6. Can you describe the creative process for RTW (Ready-To-Wear)?
Firstly, all of our RTW styles are derived from our bespoke shoes. By this I mean if we feel a particular bespoke styles has become popular or very admired, we will make it in our RTW range. I guess you could say our clients help us design our new RTW styles. John & Teemu are very involved in cutting / designing new styles for the RTW range. We also pride ourself on being very selective on the calf hides we buy for our RTW shoes. It is important for us that a RTW customer still gets an excellent quality shoe while incorporating some of our bespoke features like the Cleverley toe or the covered elastic sided feature. We try to make approx 10/15 new bespoke styles a year, which we take from our achieves and make a slight alteration. The ones that we feel turn out the best then get patterns made up and we do a small run in our RTW range. We also have a small workshop in Kent, which we finish shoes in that Dominic works in a few days a week.
7. Assuming that you are heir to the throne, where would you like to see the company in 15-20 years?
In a similar place to now. My father has always run the company like a "club". He generally loves what he does, as did the original George Cleverley. We are not interested in having our shoes in every store around the world because it takes away what is special about Cleverley. Take Japan for example, my father started working with BEAMS (which stock our RTW & Semi-Bespoke shoes) when they only had a few stores 25+ years ago. Today they have over 100 stores and we are still as close to them as before but it has just grown organically. We get approached often from stores wanting to carry our shoes but we only like to work with other retailers that have a love and passion for shoes, as this is very important.
8. Other shoemakers/companies that you admire?
Unfortunately, I don't get to see many other shoes but the last few JLP (John Lobb Paris) that I saw were nice so it is tough to say. I like John Lobb Paris, Dimitris Gomez and Fosters & Son. Although they are not around anymore I admire Anthony & George Cleverley a great deal. We still have some of their original shoes in our London shop which are beautiful and extremely well made and keeps us on our toes in terms of quality.
9. Being apart of the trade since you were 13, how many pairs of shoes have you made/acquired for yourself?
I have worked with Teemu learning some last making over the years but given that I am always on the road it has been difficult to devote enough time to master it. I have approx 10 pairs of bespoke shoes, 5 AC's (Anthony Cleverley) and over 25 RTW in my collection. I can never make up my mind on my next pair because with bespoke the options are endless.
10. What's the scariest shoe trend that you see today?
The scariest trend is how pointy / narrow some shoes are becoming. It just does not look like a comfortable fit and people are buying shoes that are too long for them to accommodate this. The other is I am seeing the words "Hand Made" on alot of products that are not but the general public think they are buying a hand made product.
Me (The Shoe Snob): I also hate seeing "Hand Made" written on the insole or sole of a shoe that was obviously made by machine. It is unfortunate how this word has been slandered over recent years.
11. What advice can you offer to aspiring shoemakers/shoe designers?
I would say focus on one part of the shoe and become an expert at that. It takes on average 3-5 years to learn one part of the shoemaking process with Cleverley. For example, Adam joined Cleverley from Rolls Royce and it has taken him 4 years to become a last maker. He has also been working with John Carnera learning clicking, which he is becoming very good at. Have a house style that separates you from others. Make sure your heart is in the business more than your pocket.
---Thank you George for that wonderful interview. To all my readers: I hope that you thoroughly enjoyed the interview and learned something during it.
All the best,
Justin, "The Shoe Snob"