talks to Sarah who, with partner Andy, runs Retroshu. Founded
on the basis that there is a worldwide demand for cult and
classic retro shoes & boots, Retroshu is supplying a wide
variety of styles and designs to the discerning
only do Sarah and Andy sell shoes from their online shop to
customers in the Far East, Australia and the USA as well as
Europe and the UK, they have a strong presence on eBay and are
about to sell on Amazon. They are also looking for physical
premises for a shop.
Andy and Sarah's shoemaking skills, ideas, drive and
enthusiasm, Retroshu looks a cert to have a strong and
Digger: Hello Sarah, it's Digger.
Sarah: Oh, hi David!
Digger: Please tell us about your background and Andy's.
Sarah: I was brought up in East London in the seventies.
Digger: Born into a time of platform shoes, flairs and kipper ties?
Sarah: (Laughs) Yes, I used to think my mum dressed really
Digger: if she was dressing in the seventies, and anything like
me, then it would have been weird. So what about Andy?
Sarah: Andy was born in the sixties in Highbury. So he's a
Digger: I thought he might be - don't mention that I used to
support West Ham and Chelsea when I lived in Essex in the
Sarah: I won't - that's disgraceful. I used to watch West Ham,
coming as I did from Upton Park.
Digger: Where did Retroshu come from?
Sarah: Andy started making shoes because his dad was a shoemaker
and he learned that trade off of his dad.
Originally, Andy wanted to be a pilot. He tried and got
through to the last stages and then failed that.
Digger: Does he still fly?
Sarah: No. And he started getting into the shoemaking like his
dad and by the age of 21 he had his own Porsche.
Sarah: So he was a money-making machine then.
has a very diverse range of shoes and boots
covering a lot of styles, pop cultures and retro tastes. What
tend to be the most popular lines?
Sarah: Do you know what? It differs from month to month. It's
often the brogues which are the most popular but then the
Dawns and the Gothic boots sell more on the website. Then
on eBay the Winklepickers and Thigh High Boots are big and I
have a lot of orders from America for those. So it is a different
range of people all the time.
No rhyme or reason so you can't plan for it
Sarah: No, I could never predict which one's going to be more popular - only the brogues are consistently popular.
now the Creepers have crept in! So we do those and the Chukka
Digger: Generally have you noticed an increase in the interest
Sarah: Yes, it's really weird. When we started Retroshu last
year we got the website going and Andy was working at the
factory where he makes the shoes with his boss.
Digger: Because he makes shoes for other people doesn't he?
Sarah: Yes, he still does. He still works for BAM who own the
factory. And we thought that Andy's talent had never been shown
even though it's him that does the shoes. So last year we
decided to set up our own website.
Digger: And people are finding you on the web?
Sarah: Yes, it's just really mad. At the moment I have plans
to open my own Retroshu shop around here and I have been looking
Digger: Some people are happy just sticking to the web but others want to open up various physical shops too.
Sarah: I've just got this thing in my mind, and I'm sure that
a lot of people say this, but Retroshu will be a big thing. I
know with hard work and perseverance and with everything that we're
There are one or
two people who do seventies platform boots and there's a guy
up in Liverpool who does the Beatles Boots, but that's about
it - there's nobody else.
Sarah: No and there's no-one who makes hand-made shoes in
the UK. Ikon get theirs made abroad.
Digger: Yes, even Doc Martens went abroad for their
Sarah: Yes, Underground get theirs made abroad too.
Digger: What gives you most pleasure about what you're doing?
Sarah: Andy loves making shoes - that's his one passion. Every
pair of shoes - he take pride in it. You know when people get
bored with a job after a while? Not Andy, he just so enjoys making shoes
and loves when customers say what good quality they are - he
gets a big buzz out of it.
Digger: Isn't that great? And so rare as well that you can do something
that you enjoy and also makes you a good living as
Sarah: And the thing is he's a really quiet, placid man and
not over the top or anything. He keeps himself to himself and
is totally the opposite to me!
Digger: Are you going to get an apprentice there so it gets
Digger: Will it be you?
Sarah: No! (Both laugh) I don't want to get my nails ruined.
Digger: You are chalk and cheese but complement each other
Sarah: We are, but we work together and level each other out.
Digger: They do, but it helps if you've got something in
Sarah: I think the thing we have in common is we've both got
goals and we both work together, not one without the other. We
work it out and come up with a plan and we do communicate a
Digger: What are the USPs and strengths of Retroshu compared
to other shoe companies?
Sarah: One of the things is that Andy probably gets it done
quicker than some of the others can. He doesn't have to work
to other people's schedules, because Andy's self-employed and
does our work and also fits in work for BAM as and when.
Digger: Why do you think retro and nostalgia are so enduringly
popular and why are there so many strong cults and pop
cultures like Punk and Mod that never disappear?
Sarah: I think it's to do with fashion and that revolves. When
I was young it was Naff and Benetton and over the years things
go around. I don't think retro has ever gone out and that's
why we wanted to say this was a retro shoe company. And hence
Digger: Retro is a moving target. One year the eighties will
be back in and then the forties and so on.
Sarah: But with the shoes that we do they all fall into the
same sorts of categories, I think.
Digger: Do you do anything really way back from the 1920s and
Sarah: I don't know if you've seen the series Broadwalk Empire?
There's a man in that who has some brogues that are totally different to what anyone
else wears. George Cox have a
version of that shoe and its about £300. A customer came
to us and asked us if we could do something like that but
cheaper and Andy designed and made it and it cost him £80.
The good thing about the shoes we do is that we can change any
colour panels and we can make them based on material from the customer. If they want to change the heel or anything on the
shoe we can do that.
Digger: Do you keep the 'footprint' of customers for the future?
Sarah: Only if they're made-to-measure. If someone has
something like a Thigh Boot then they pay for the
made-to-measure and we charge £30 for that. That pattern will
stay for as long as they want and is labelled with their details.
Digger: That's good value. What does The Internet mean to your
Sarah: In a couple of weeks I'm going to start doing Amazon.
Digger: You want to be one of their top sellers?
Sarah; Yes, I'm not competitive but I'm really driven. eBay's
a big market for me.
Digger: So you're everywhere on The Net?
Sarah: Yes, I sell all over the world. China, Hong Kong,
America and Australia are really big for me.
Digger: You just wouldn't be able to do this if it wasn't Internet-based.
Sarah: No, the only way to do it would be to have a shop and
do a lot of advertising.
Digger: The old-fashioned way with mail order and ads in the
papers. Remember that?
Sarah: (Laughs) Yes.
Digger: So you come in each day and have loads of orders on your computer.
Sarah: I go to sleep dreaming of shoes and I wake up dreaming
of shoes! I've got my phone which does my orders as well so I
never get to miss a customer's question or anything.
Digger: I always find it ironic that so many of my retro
customers are dealing with retro and vintage items and are using
the very latest technologies to run their businesses.
Sarah: Yes. We do rely on the Blackberry for emails and the
majority of the time the odds are if you reply to somebody
straight away then they will buy something.
Digger: That's a good point. If people are making buying
signals then that's the best time to talk to them. So where do you hope to see Retroshu developing in the
future? What are your plans?
Sarah: To retire some day!
Digger: In your late forties or early fifties?
Sarah: Andy's already in his late forties. I'm still in my
thirties. I'm going to make sure he's got another few years!
Digger: Get yourself an apprentice in there quick.
Sarah: Between us we've got six children so that's a good plus.
They're really all very supportive, which is why if we were to
get a shop they'd all help run it. I want it as a family
business but when we get a shop I do want an apprentice - a
young person to learn the trade a little bit and to give that
youngster the opportunity and make it really go far.
Digger: Some of my clients who repair jukeboxes and arcade
machines have young apprentices in and that's heartwarming
when you know that the trade's going to be passed on.
Sarah: That's it. And a lot of people like the fact that the
shoes are hand-made in the UK.
Digger: I think that's probably your best selling point
Sarah: That's what all my stickers say on the parcels I send
out as well.
Digger: Thanks for answering my questions Sarah. That was
great. And regards to Andy.
Sarah: Thank you David.
Retroshu for Alternative Footwear Gothic, Punk and Retro
shoes and boots - Made In The UK
is a family business run by Andy and Sarah providing a
wide range of alternative footwear with our unique past
and present styling.
Andy began making shoes with his father from the age of
12, and to this day still enjoys making quality footwear
for his customers.
Sarah brings 14 years of high level customer service to
the company, which is why together we believe this is
what makes Retroshu a thriving and successful business.
At Retroshu we manufacture a wide choice of gothic,
punk, retro and related alternative footwear right here
in the UK.
Whether you are looking for winklepickers, punk boots,
bowling shoes, pointed toe boots, brogues, platform
boots, saloon boots, 70s glam boots or - pretty much
anything alternative, this is the website for you.