Herring Shoes' Director talks Theo Paphitis, leaving school and alternating your shoes.
By Samantha Tse, 30 August 2011
How did you get into the family business?
I actually walked out of school - didn't enjoy it and was very bored. I had no interest in the shoe trade then he [his father, Richard Herring] asked me to get in the shop and give him a hand and I got involved in the buying for the next season then designing and that's where my passion is.
What's the DNA of Herring shoes?
We're basically taking a traditional English shoe and we're giving it a nice little twist- making it slightly younger, slightly more interesting. We're proud to be British and we make a fantastic product here. The main thing is that look of a hand-made, bespoke shoe. These shoes [Herring shoes] are £120, have two pairs and alternate them and then in 18 months, you can repair them, and have them for another 18 months, then another 18 months. The best thing is that English welted shoes can be repaired. It's all about the materials.
Isn't £120 a bit steep for a pair of shoes?
I can understand that not everyone can afford £120 pair of shoes but often I remind people that every time you stop by a petrol pump, you rarely put less than £80 into a car and don't think twice about it but they often think about spending more than £80 on a pair of shoes which will last them considerably longer.
When buying hand-made shoes, what are you paying for?
You're talking about an item that goes over 200 operations by hand. Everything from the patterns being graded up every half size to the punching to the lacing to the welting to the insole - all those things are done by hand. You cannot rush a hand-made shoe; it needs to be made around an 8-10 week period and half the beauty of an English shoe is spending 6 weeks spent drying and that's how you get the beautiful fit and shape to a beautiful hand-made English shoe.
What's the difference between the English and our European counterparts?
European countries like a bit more colour and a bit more fashion than the English gentleman.
And the Japanese?
The Japanese just love anything that's English and good quality.
Theo Paphitis is a big fan of your shoes. What's it like to hang out with Theo? Is he as scary in person as he is on Dragon's Den?
Theo's a great, a great customer, and has become a really good friend and he's always asking us for interesting shoes. In fact, recently, he's asked us to make a silver shoe. He's got an eye for bright shoes.
What other famous names wear your shoes?
Ian Wright, the footballer, chose one of our mock crock shoes for his wedding in July and we fitted him and his best men up.
Charlie Boorman, who worked with Ewan McGregor in A Long Way Down, he wears our Triggers boot and we're now actually going to make a range of motorcycle boots that he wants made because he wants an English, hand-made boot for his motorcycle, but once you've ridden across London you can still go to a pub with jeans and not look out of place in.
What are your top tips for caring for shoes and making them last longer?
My top two tips: you should never have one pair of shoes. What people tend to do is buy a shoe and wear it day after day and they think there's a problem with odor and actually, the shoe is actually rotting. The key to making a shoe last is to alternate them and give it at least 24 hours to dry out in-between. And your shoe will actually last two or three times longer.
And the second tip - I don't know many people who have a suit and throw it on the floor but I know a lot of people who take their shoes off and don't put in on a suitable hanger. What you need to do is insert a wooden shoe tree when you finish wearing them because they dry out and that moisture we talked about leaves the shoe and that's what causes the shoe and the sole to crease up so ideally, when you're finished wearing a pair of shoes, pop in a shoe tree. The best is cedar. You keep a wonderful fit around the heel and the top of the shoe. And of course, to polish the shoe.
You spend half your life in bed, and the other in shoes, which do you invest more in?
Both. Have a good bed and a good pair of shoes because you spend your life in one or the other.
Herring Shoes are available online