In some ways, George Cleverley is the archetypal English shoemaker. Its store in London’s Royal Arcade, a brogue’s throw from Savile Row, is understood for the form of elegant, chisel-toed kinds which are the footwear equal of an Anderson & Sheppard swimsuit. The model presents ready-to-wear however its bread-and-butter has traditionally been bespoke, with a consumer roster starting from Winston Churchill to Bryan Ferry. One would suppose that the previous 12 months would have been a devastating blow to a purveyor of decorous cap-toe oxfords and whole-cut costume footwear, however Cleverley is having fun with one thing of a increase.
“Regardless of a number of the negativity, 2020 was a file yr for us—and we had been closed for 5 months,” says George Glasgow Jr., Cleverley’s CEO and inventive director, who runs the enterprise along with his father, George Glasgow Sr. Whereas the remainder of us had been Zooming and binge-watching, the Glasgows started working. There’s been a string of high-wattage superstar commissions, a strong new ready-to-wear assortment and, most just lately, the acquisition of an extra workshop that can considerably enhance the model’s manufacturing energy.
In keeping with market analysis agency NPD, costume shoe gross sales plummeted 50 p.c final yr—sneakers and slippers had been the one relative vivid spots in an total dismal market. So, Cleverley actually didn’t see any dip in demand? “Truly, fairly the alternative,” George Jr. tells us, noting that the model had a record-breaking variety of new bespoke shoppers. “We’ve got 66 shoemakers in-house and none of them was laid off.”
That in itself can be spectacular, however Cleverley really managed to develop its workforce. The brand new workshop—a conventional shoemaking facility outdoors of London that had gone into liquidation as a sufferer of the pandemic’s closures—is the model’s largest ever. It comes geared up with over 90 classic shoemaking machines, some relationship again to the Nineteen Twenties, providing a novel capability to extend manufacturing whereas sustaining the craftsmanship for which Cleverley is understood.
“Whereas they’re machines, they’re operated by hand. Nothing’s automated,” says George Jr. “We’re more than happy that these English-made machines are in a position to keep in England. Only a few individuals know easy methods to function them aside from these guys who’ve been doing it for 30, 40 years.”
One of many workshop’s first duties is crafting Cleverley’s new vary of informal footwear, centered round gentle, unstructured supplies like kudu suede and deerskin—a notable departure from the British formality that’s the model’s signature. The gathering was born out of conversations with Mr Porter: Cleverley has produced footwear for the e-tailer’s Kingsman model and observed that, maybe unsurprisingly, it was the relaxed fashions that offered greatest. In early March of final yr, even earlier than the pandemic upended costume codes, Mr Porter inspired Cleverley to broaden its informal providing.
“It began out being three or 4 [designs] however, in the course of the pandemic, I mentioned ‘Pay attention guys, we have to go larger,’” George Jr. recollects. The gathering swelled to 17 new kinds, which have already began to trickle onto Mr Porter and can proceed to be rolled out by way of April and Could.
Lots of the laidback loafers and Chukka boots had been drawn from designs commissioned by Cleverley’s cache of Hollywood heavyweights. The model has shod the likes of Daniel Day-Lewis and Chris Pine, each on-screen and off. “I at all times say that Batman and Superman are each sporting George Cleverley,” George Jr. notes fairly actually: Henry Cavill and Robert Pattinson each tapped Cleverley for his or her superhero turns.
Across the similar time that George Jr. was in talks with Mr Porter, his buddy Jason Statham approached him about designing bespoke footwear for an upcoming function in Man Ritchie’s 5 Eyes. The transient? Versatile kinds that may be worn as simply with fits as with chinos.
“Me and him labored collectively, personally, with out the costume designer,” George Jr. says of his collaboration with Statham. “He takes a hands-on method—he was within the workshops, sitting with the makers and saying ‘Let me see that conceal. How does it look with that swimsuit? Let’s attempt a shade lighter.’ He was within the store each few days for weeks.”
Statham’s designs turned out to be best for WFH wardrobes and the prevailing informal costume code, so that they made their manner into the gathering arriving on Mr Porter this spring. One other standout of the brand new assortment, a novel grained suede developed completely for Cleverley, made its debut in a pair of loafers created for Dwayne Johnson to put on for the 2019 premiere of Hobbs & Shaw.
Cleverley’s love affair with Hollywood goes again a long time, starting with silver display stars like Gary Cooper and Humphrey Bogart. Lately, the connection has been strengthened by the truth that George Jr. divides his time between London and Beverly Hills. Due to his American spouse, the youthful Glasgow enjoys twin citizenship—a very priceless asset in the course of the pandemic’s journey restrictions.
“We had been the one shoemaker from Europe that was in a position to journey to the US, do our trunk reveals and serve our shoppers,” he says. Regardless of a lower in events to decorate up, George Jr. says that curiosity in Cleverley’s bespoke footwear, which begin round $5,000, has piqued over the previous yr. He attributes this to the model’s distinctive capability to entry American shoppers and, on the whole, Cleverley’s long-term funding worth.
“We’re not within the enterprise of getting a seasonal product,” he says. “We prefer to make issues which are timeless.”
However that isn’t to say Cleverley has been serving up staid classics. George Jr. has noticed that males are being extra adventurous of their selections now that they aren’t beholden to workplace propriety 5 days every week. “Ninety-five p.c of the orders taken in 2020 weren’t black,” he says, calling out a pair of violet suede Chukka boots as an particularly profitable experiment. “Whereas which may sound somewhat bit on the market, it’s completely distinctive and never your run-of-the-mill shoe. It’s one thing individuals will know was made for you.”
This insouciant temper runs all through Cleverley’s new ready-to-wear vary however, must you need to flex your personal artistic muscle, George Jr. is starting his coast-to-coast US trunk present tour on April 7. Who is aware of? Your large thought may wind up residing subsequent to Statham’s in George Cleverley’s league of footwear legends.