Deborah Carré and James Ducker have been making handsewn (rather than handmade) bespoke shoes together since 2004. That distinction in terminology is particularly important as, Ducker says, the idea of something being ‘handmade’ has become almost meaningless.
“People apply it to almost any factory-made product,” he complains. “Just because someone touched it in the factory, it’s ‘handmade’. It misleads people and so they have come to mistrust the term. We prefer ‘handsewn’ or ‘handstitched’ as they better describe what we do.”
At their studio in London’s Cockpit Arts centre Carréducker make shoes for customers all over the world. “The shoes we make are very typically English,” Ducker says. “They have a robust look which is not like continental shoes which are more narrow and sleek-looking. British shoes are made to withstand the weather. People like that because they fit – most people’s feet aren’t narrow and thin, so wearing an English shoe is much more comfortable.” And British handsewn shoes are renowned throughout the world. “Handsewn shoes have been made in Britain since the 1500s,” Carré adds. “Everything we design is very much based on classic styles with small, quirky adjustments.”
Neither originally trained as shoemakers but discovered a passion for the craft later in life. Ducker discovered shoemaking when a TEFL teacher in Barcelona, while Carré had worked with shoe brand Tricker’s while a marketing and fashion student but set aside her interest in the craft to pursue a marketing career. They met during apprenticeships with the shoemaker John Lobb, Carré doing hers courtesy of a Qwest scholarship. Via regular introductory 12-day shoemaking workshops held at their studio, Carréducker hope to provide a new generation with a path into, or at least a taste of a craft that is their passion.
“I love making shoes,” Ducker says. “I love the physical process, touching the leather, having the tools in my hand. I feel I’m making something that has real meaning for people.”
For Carré, shoemaking is problem-solving. “I like to think our customers feel they are getting a solution, whether that’s a style solution or a comfort solution,” she says. “Helping a customer to walk away in a pair of shoes that is comfortable makes us feel good as well as them.”