As many of you may already know, I am located at Gieves & Hawkes, just a spitting distance away from the new home of bespoke shoemakers James Ducker and Deborah Carre, whom make up the duo known as Carreducker. Them being such an easy target and good friends of mine, I figured that with the launch of the new store layout (which includes the Carreducker's, myself and many other interesting things) at Gieves and Hawkes on Savile Row, it would be a good time to give them the interview spotlight in order to tell us how their transition has been going!
As they have been readers of my blog, for quite some time now, it was an honor to have finally met them (when I came to England) and to have found out that I would be working so close to them. As an aspiring shoemaker myself, you can imagine how opportunistic it is for me to be near them. All of the answers to my questions are just 20 feet away (6 meters). That being, here is their interview, which I had presented to them to be answered individually. Enjoy!
1. How long have you been involved in shoemaking/shoe design?
Deborah Carre: I've always had a passion for design and studied design at university - I have a BA Hons in fashion design and marketing and worked with RE Trickers to produce my final collection; whilst working I did part-time pattern cutting, fashion illustration and handsewn shoemaking courses; before then taking up a four year apprenticeship in handsewn shoemaking.
James Ducker: I STARTED IN 1992 IN BARCELONA DOING EVENING CLASSES AND CONTINUED MAKING IN MY SPARE TIME. I RETURNED TO LONDON IN 1998 TO START AN APPRENTICESHIP WITH JOHN LOBB LTD.
2. What was it that made you decide that you wanted to get into shoemaking/shoe design?
DC: Accessories interest me because of the constraints of scale and proportion...plus I have always loved men's shoes. When I was deciding what to do for my final collection at college I identified a gap in the market for a combination of craft and design. I approached RE Trickers to sponsor my collection of unisex box calf, handsewn boots. I was fortunate enough to work closely with their head of production and bespoke maker. I was attracted to the combination of working with my head and hands - problem solving - and enjoyed the experience so much that when I left college, I continued to study part time and then won a QEST scholarship to do an apprenticeship.
JD: SERENDIPITY REALLY. I HAPPENED UPON THE CLASSES AND FELL IN LOVE WITH IT
3. Most English shoemakers are very conservative in their look (shoe design) yet you tend to be a bit more creative and unique in your styling. Why break the traditional English mold?
DC: I can't help it - I have Sark and American blood in me! No seriously that is why James and I are such a good design team, he tempers my extravagances and I push him outside his comfort zone. English people are renown for their eccentricity - and James and I don't go crazy, we just like good style and design.
JD: A NUMBER OF REASONS REALLY. IT IS OUR NATURAL AESTHETIC TO DESIGN THE WAY WE DO. YOU HAVE TO BE TRUE TO YOUR SELF AS A DESIGNER AND THEN HOPE THAT CUSTOMERS LIKE YOUR STYLE AND BUY INTO IT. IT SETS US APART FROM OUR COMPETITORS. BEING JUST LIKE THEM WOULD NOT HELP US. IT BRINGS THE CRAFT INTO THE 21ST CENTURY BY MARRYING ANCIENT CRAFT SKILLS WITH A MODERN DESIGN ETHOS
4. What is your favorite color? Favorite color on a shoe?
DC: My favourite colour is french navy...and my favourite colour in a shoe...well I am going through a blue phase at the moment so it would have to be pale blue nubuck for a summer derby.
JD: I LOVE COLOUR IN GENERAL, BUT I LIKE IT USED SPARINGLY IN ALONGSIDE MORE NEUTRAL TONES. IT'S COMBINATIONS OF COLOURS THAT I REALLY LIKE. THIS IS TRUE FOR SHOES AS WELL. NAVY BLUE IS MY CURRENT FAVOURITE BUT THAT COULD CHANGE!
5. What is your favorite model out of Carreducker's collection?
DC: I love the boots we did for Guy Hills in his own The Dashing Dashing Tweeds and claret lizard skin. It was one of the first fabric/leather combinations we did. I LOVE boots and the mix of fabric and leather is playful but stylish.
JD: MEN'S SHOE IS PROBABLY THE SADDLE BOOT AND LADIES IS THE DIETRICH
6. You recently moved into Gieves & Hawkes, how has the transition help/affected Carreducker's business?
DC: On a positive note we are very privileged to be one of Gieves & Hawkes partners and turning the corner at 1 Savile Row never fails to put a smile on my face. And it all came about through a sequence of serendipitous meetings...one of those moments of everything coming together in a positive way. It has offered us unprecedented access to bespoke enthusiasts; an unbeatable address; and exposure to customers who would not know of us otherwise. The only negative is that we are incredibly distracted and the speed of our making at Gieves suffers; and we have to be much better organised about our workload/tools etc. (which is actually a very good thing)
JD: ITS BEEN FANTASTIC. ORDERS HAVE INCREASED AND WE ARE SEEING THE RIGHT CLIENTS AND THEY ARE SEEING OUR SHOES. ITS THE PERFECT MARRIAGE REALLY, BESPOKE SUITS AND SHOES UNDER ONE ROOF!
7. What is the hardest thing about being a bespoke shoemaker? Subsequently, what is the most rewarding?
DC: You have to be fit and to stay physically fit - I hurt both elbows pulling a student's lasts in January and still have very painful tendinitis; when it goes wrong there is no make do and mend. If the seam rips when you are taking the lasts out of a pair of customer shoes you have to start all over again - so we never tell a customer their shoes are ready until we have pulled the lasts. The rewards are simple - the satisfaction of finishing a pair of shoes well and seeing a customer (particularly one with discomfort) walk away happy in a pair of shoes we have made.
JD: THE HARDEST THING IS MAKING NO MONEY FOR YEARS AND YEARS. MY ADVICE TO THOSE WHO ASK IS DO IT FOR THE PASSION OF SHOEMAKING, BECAUSE YOU LOVE IT. THE MOST REWARDING THING IS THE CRAFT ITSELF, MAKING SOMETHING BEAUTIFUL AND EMINENTLY PRACTICAL.
8.You offer a course where you teach people how to make a pair of shoes, how many people (that you know of) have gone on the continue the trade?
JD: WE HAVE AT LEAST 5 WHO ARE MAKING A SERIOUS GO OF IT AND 1 OTHER WHO HAS SET UP A WORKSHOP FOR HIS OWN PLEASURE.
9. What do you hope to see unfold in the shoe industry within the next 10 years?
DC: A greater understanding of handsewn and the difference between handsewn and hand made; a greater appreciation for true craft; a move away from manufacturing in China and a return to English-made shoes.
JD: THE GROWTH OF BESPOKE SHOES, AS PEOPLE SEE THE BENEFIT OF MEETING THE PERSON WHO IS GOING TO MAKE THEIR SHOES; OF KNOWING THE PROVENANCE OF THE LEATHERS ETC; OF BEING INVOLVED IN THE DESIGN; AND OF WEARING WONDERFUL SHOES THAT FIT THEM PROPERLY. IN GENERAL A MOVE TO QUALITY OVER QUANTITY IN MANUFACTURED SHOES. 1 DECENT PAIR INSTEAD OF 3 RUBBISH ONES.
10. And advice for aspiring shoemakers/shoe designers?
DC: Only do it if you love it
JD: BE PASSIONATE AND TENACIOUS. IT CAN BE DONE - JUST LOOK AT DEBORAH AND I
Well, thank you to the two of you, it's a pleasure as always. I hope that all of you enjoyed the interview. Posted below are a few pics of some of their new styles that they have done in collaboration with Gieves & Hawkes.
Until next time,
-Justin, "The Shoe Snob"