In England you’ll find many more interesting bespoke shoemakers than just the usual suspects. In this article I highlight three of them: Efe Laborde, Sebastian Tarek and Tony Slinger. Also briefly about an article in the world’s largest financial newspaper, Nikkei, about the Japanese success in last year’s shoemaking world championships.
When people think of British bespoke shoemakers, it’s usually mainly the big London firms – John Lobb, George Cleverley, Foster & Son – or other more well-known names like Gaziano & Girling, Catella or Nicholas Templeman. However, in a big shoemaking country like England, there’s obviously a bunch of more makers around. Here’s a few of them.
Efe Laborde Shoemaker
William Efe Laborde has a French father and British mother, grew up in France but moved to England for university studies and now has lived there for many years. In a way he’s a good representative for the range of shoemakers that exist in England. He started his shoemaking journey doing a course with Carréducker, and through the years he has spent time with and learned from among others Parham Alizadeh at Lobb, Jason Amesbury, Sebastian Tarek, Jim McCormack and Dominic Casey. William Efe Labordes now combines making shoes under his own brand as well as doing outwork for some of the West End firms.
With his own brand, Efe Laborde, his obsession with old classic shoes from London and Paris the decades around the 1900’s is evident, and as years gone by his skill has clearly improved and is very high today, as the photos here indicate. His shoes have a vintage feel over them, and it’s a mix of very dressy styles and more casual make-ups in some cases with Norwegian construction. Prices starts at £4,000 including lasted shoe trees.
Sebastian Tarek is based in East London and has been making shoes since 2003. He’s from Australia with a long line of shoemakers in his family. He apprenticed under Lobb alumni Andrew McDonald in Sydney, before moving to London to study at the Cordwainer’s College. In London he was then in-house shoemaker at Jason Taylor & Sons, but the past decade he has combined doing freelance work for mainly two of the big London firms with running his own brand, and he also teaches both in England and Australia.
Sebastian Tarek’s style is different from the traditional London firms, designs are often rather minimalistic where the leathers and last shapes takes more place, he makes very cool chelseas, side zip boots, plain toe derbies and similar styles. Unlike many other in the UK, he does everything himself on his own shoes, which also means he’s great to collaborate with for special wishes since he got good control and customers can work closely to get things the way one wish. Also, price tag is good, from about £2,500. He travels to Japan for trunk shows regularly.
Tony Slinger Footwear
Tony Slinger has worked for many decades in the shoe industry (he started making shoes at the age of 14), as bespoke and orthopaedic shoemaker in various places and in various ways, and been part of the independent shoemaker’s society both domestically and internationally. He’s now based far north in England, in the village Brompton outside of Northallerton, but meet customers in various places. Among some of the cooler things he’s been part of, was developing exact replicas of Napoleonic guardsman boots of highest standards, which he then made for the Queen’s Household Cavalry starting in the late 80’s.
Tony Slinger’s style is reminiscent of how many of the independent British shoemakers around the country, who were more common back in the days, but still exist. They have a classic British base, but due to the varied types of customer’s they get, lots of different styles are made. Sure, a classic brown full brogue comes back more often than others in the order sheets, but if you browse his Instagram every shoe type imaginable comes up, including very complicated orthopaedic work. Given the lower costs of premises and living costs where he is located, he can also keep prices down, the most basic welted bespoke shoes starts below £2,000.
A few weeks ago Nikkei in Japan, the largest financial newspaper in the world, published a large feature on the Japanese success in the World Championships of Shoemaking last year, and the development of the bespoke shoe industry in the country. Now they’ve published a short version of this article in English on their international online edition, and it’s free to read.