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David Preston Shoes - Handmade chelsea boots

 



 

 

 

 

 

 

David Preston Shoes - Handmade Chelsea boots

 

 

 

 

Musician David Preston was inspired to make custom-made Chelsea Boots when he couldn't find anybody making his favourite footwear in the UK. Now with an impressive celebrity customer-base and clients worldwide, David tailors these shoes to your specific requirements and specifications.

 


 

Digger: Hello David.

David: Hello mate how are you doing?

Digger: Good thank you. Can you please tell us a bit about your background?

David: I was born in Scotland and grew up in Melbourne because my family emigrated out there. I came back to England about twelve years ago. I trained as a nurse and thatís what my profession is rather than having gone to a shoe college or from a fashion background. I was a musician as well. In terms of the business, growing up in Melbourne there was a shop there called Rocco which was a kind of hand-made shoe store which did amazing rock and roll boots and shoes of all genres like creepers and Chelsea boots. I went back there a couple of years ago and Iíd always bought shoes from there. But when I came back to London I thought ďI canít find shoes like this anymore.Ē

Digger: There was a gap.

David: Yes, there really was. There were guys wearing Chelsea boots, but I couldnít see the love which that sort of style deserves being put into them really. And having always been into those kinds of shoes I thought ďIf you canít buy them, have a go at them being made yourself.Ē That was the inspiration.

Digger: Thatís the classic imperative really for businesses starting up isnít it? Nobody is doing it, or doing it well, so they plug that gap as it were.

David: Exactly. Very much so. I saw that niche, and particularly for hand-made boots and beautiful leather materials. For somebody like me who was really into that sort of thing Ė a cool pair of boots thatís not going to cost you several hundred pounds.

Digger: Rowena Howie at Revival Retro near Carnaby Street, strangely enough, was in Australia and thatís what inspired her too. She heard some music coming from a pub. She went in and they were all doing vintage dancing and she fell in love with it, came back to the UK and couldnít find the dancing shoes or clothes so did what you did and sourced, manufactured and imported them herself. Now she has the niche there. Amazing.

David: Yes. It is amazing, I guess you can draw inspiration from crazy things Ė you might not be working in that field but might decide to go on a tangent for something you feel passionate about.

Digger: So there were all these other people who suddenly materialised who wanted that sort of footwear?

David: Going into something like this I could easily have made it and it been met with relative indifference. But Iím just fortunate that what Iíve made has really caught on and people like what Iím doing.

Digger: Is it individuals or cults and groups that pick up on it?

David: Predominantly at the moment, because the company is still growing, I attract Rock and Roll people or people into being a dandy or sixties retro-type genres. Itís appealing to them more, although I donít think the boots are necessarily limited to them. I think at the moment Iím doing well building my business with those types of people really.

Digger: The Mods as well?

David: Yes, the Mods as well. Everyone like that Ė guys in bands or artists or whoever.

Digger: Where are they coming from? Are they from all over the world now?

David: Absolutely. Iíve sold to China and Australia.

Digger: Good for you selling to China!

David: Yes, and all over Europe and the States and I guess thatís the thing about The Internet. People can come from anywhere. Iíve got a lot of people in London as well that buy Ė a couple of shops buy from me.

Digger: Any from Melbourne?

David: Iíve sold a few to Melbourne and one guy in Sydney bought four pairs.

Digger: Very good. Thatís the beauty of The Net. A shop in London or wherever would pick up passing trade and people aiming specifically for the shop. But The Net opens you up to the 1% or whatever it is of the worldís 'connected' population that might be interested. Which is a big figure.

David: Exactly, and I think that this footwear might be considered niche to a certain degree Ė there is that niche in every town and city in the world potentially and there are always going to be people who like that type of footwear. Itís just a matter of finding them out there. If youíre just in a shop then you canít reach them.

Digger: I go to Mod rallies or related concerts and you see so many people wearing the look and the Chelsea boots and shoes. I wondered where they were getting them from! So tell us about your bespoke service.

 

 

 

 

David: The bespoke service came about because I wanted to provide something different in the sense that I donít think that many people are offering that to customers. It gives people the chance to have something that feels special to them or unique. You canít really go into the high street and have something in leopard print finish or whatever it is. But if people come to me and say they really like my style but can they have it in a different finish then I can go to the factory and make it happen usually.

Digger: The answerís usually 'yes' is it?

David: Yeah. I havenít had any problems thus far. Itís just a matter of the factory acquiring a sample that looks like what people want and okaying it with them Ė itís a bit of a to-and-fro process but certainly achievable.

Digger: Where are they made?

David: In northern Portugal.

Digger: Thereís quite a lot of shoemaking over there.

David: I wanted them made there because Iíve always admired their leatherwork and the craft that they do. I hunted around for a long time. I found a really nice family-run factory that has been around for fifty-odd years. Itís not easy to find these sources, and not coming from a shoe background I think that was half the battle initially Ė "Where do you get things made?"

Digger: You did well.

David: Then, from the design point of view, you have to get a 'last' made to makes the shoes. I got a lathe made in Northampton.

Digger: Oh! Thatís where I am.

David: The old shoe capital.

Digger: Well, it used to be. The football teamís called The Cobblers but thereís only a handful of shoe firms left here now. It used to cater for the empire.

David: Churches and Lobb and Loakes and all those classic shoemakers.

Digger: Yes, with all those shops around St Jamesís with hatters and gentlemanís outfitters and requisites for smokiní and fishiní and  huntiní and shootiní.

David: Yes, and oneís for shaving requisites only.

Digger: Thatís right. What an age that was.

David: Itís so enjoyable to walk down St. James's Ė great fun.

Digger: Why is retro so popular these days with everyone? It was niche and cliquey at one time wasn't it?

David: Thatís a tough one to answer but maybe thereís a certain dissatisfaction with the very fast consumer society we have these days. Bands, for example - you get signed up and then get one shot, whereas back in the day they would invest in someone and they would go on.

Digger: Yes, they would give bands two or three albums before the band made it or they gave up on them, didnít they?

David: Yeah, and even some of the great bands like The Beach Boys or The Kinks Ė some of their great records didnít sell hardly anything and theyíre now considered classic albums. They werenít dropped or anything like that. Also with vintage, in terms of fashion, people like reinventing things and thereís a uniqueness about going and buying a vintage piece. You know youíre not going to go to a party and see somebody wearing exactly the same thing as you. I think fashion is always cyclical anyway.

Digger: Music and clothing really.

David: Yes.

Digger: What are your Retro passions David?

David: It started with music where, as a teenager, my sister got the Beatles box collection that came out in the late 70s, which she actually got in the mid- 80s. They were LPs back then and so I worked my way through that. And then I was down the local stores picking up all The Birds, Velvet Underground, Badfinger and getting more and more into it. Then, when I had fallen I love with the music the whole culture got to me. Film and pop culture really. So the sixties predominantly but also the seventies. Iíve always been into things like Roman history and military history anyway.

Digger: I love the WWII history.

David: Me too.

Digger: My girlfriend complains that when she leaves the room and returns the telly has gone wrong again, because it has reverted to black and white. (Both laugh)

David: Itís amazing how enjoyable it is Ė the characters involved in WWII, you couldnít have cast it better with people like Stalin and Churchill. Phenomenal.

Digger: It was amazing and then the fact that a lot of what happened in the war was down to luck and the mistakes of the other side. The bombing of London instead of the airfields during the crucial Battle of Britain, the Germans turning on Russia, the allied capture of the Enigma technology and codes. I was also always amazed by how close the Australians, New Zealanders and Canadians were to Britain and how much they supported us in the war and what a sacrifice they made. It wouldnít happen in this day and age.

David: No, Australia was very involved, particularly in Africa and it was only when the Japanese came in that they pulled their troops back because of the Papua New Guinea thing. And America became Australiaís friend I think more so that Britain in the sense that Australia could be considered now a sort of mini-America. It was around that era that things started to change.

Digger: Australia is a hybrid of both cultures now.

David: Yes, it is.

Digger: Possibly a lot of the best of both.

David: (Laughs) Well, Iím going there in a couple of weeks and am looking forward to it.

Digger: The Internetís obviously key to what youíre doing?

David: It is. I sell online, so itís crucial. Itís amazing, having gone into it not being a businessperson and having to learn quickly how key it is and learn things like Google searches and tag words and getting onto Facebook and Twitter and all these things. You have to really keep on top of all that if you want to keep your product growing in peopleís consciousness. Iíve been lucky and had a few celebrates get involved with my boots. James Williamson from The Stooges and Bobby Gillespie from Primal Scream, Graham Coxon and Ringo Starrís kids. Kasabian as well.

Digger: Whatís the turnaround time if somebody asks for something specific? I suppose now youíre established the Portuguese turn these round for you quite quickly?

David: Yes, they do, but as Iím not trading in huge volumes and its still a relatively new business. After a year theyíre starting to notice that this guyís doing more and more orders.

Digger: Youíve obviously visited them a few times?

David: Yes, Iíve been out there a few times as well. The turnaround time does vary, but Iíd say it would be no more than a month. Because of the bespoke thing itís more of a to-and-fro because I have to go to the factory and get the swatch just right. Get them to make it, so it can take  a little longer for that. But as a rule we can fulfil an order in three weeks or something like that. People actually come round to where I live and I keep some stock here and itís fun having people walk through my door for fittings and so on.

 

 

 

 

 

Digger: You must seem like some kind of male Imelda Marcos?

David: I must do.

Digger: What sort of comments and feedback are you getting David?

David: Really good, fortunately. Itís been amazing. It could have been different but I get emails from people going out of their way to say how much they find the boots comfortable and stylish. Iíve had some people even say Iíve designed the ultimate Rock and Roll boot, which is quite an accolade. Iím not sure I agree, but itís certainly lovely praise.

Digger: There are Beatle boots around arenít there?

David: Yes, but when I went into this I decided not to do copies of Beatle boots because there would be no fun in that for me. I think itís also all about making something thatís a bit more relevant to today. I do make a few styles and one of them is like a sixties boot so people who are really into the sixties can order that style if they want. But the other styles are a little bit more contemporary.

Digger: What do you most enjoy about what you're doing?

David: The feedback from people. And also like anyone that goes into business and you do something for yourself then thatís enjoyable.

Digger: Being your own boss.

David: Yes, absolutely and thatís certainly a pleasure for me and something new.

Digger: Youíve done very well Ė youíve picked up on something you knew nothing about and got all the business skills and created the infrastructure for the business.

David: Yes, I guess itís just dogged determination. Iíve only been trading for a year but there was a period of about eighteen months learning how to go about doing it. A little bit of hard work but I kept at it as I thought you only do this once so keep trying and go for it. I got the website done only a few months ago and Iím really glad to have got that done because people can buy online now. Before that it was a thousand questions back and forth Ė ďWhat sizes?Ē ďWhat colours?Ē and so on.

Digger: People expect you to respond to emails within a day and are very demanding on the web. But you have to grab them while theyíre interested in buying.

David: Yes. You have to allow people to send stuff back as well because you have to take into consideration that theyíre buying stuff that they canít try on which is a tricky one.

Digger: Yes, they don't have the feel and the smell of the leather.

David: When I got my first order and the smell of leather Ė Iíd never experienced that and thought ďIíll get used to this at some point." but itís quite an assault on the senses.

Digger: I pass a shoe repair shop on my walks and I think ďYou have to work in that every day.Ē Itís quite overpowering.

David: Even when I go to sell somebody a pair of shoes and open the box to check theyíre good to go the smell is something that I do enjoy.

Digger: So what about the future? Do you want to build a shoe empire or reach a certain level?

David: I think I want to run with it as much as I can. Iím working on more styles at the moment because I donít just want to be a Chelsea boot person. I will always do them and other variations of them, but I noticed last year that in the summer months boots arenít going to move so much. I want to try and do some other things that will keep the business going around the year and also Iíve got interests in other types of footwear as well.

Digger: Retro-related?

David: Well they will be because I think thatís what excites me. I can be looking through a book and just home in on a pair of shoes I find appealing and it all goes into the memory bank ďOoh, that could potentially be an inspiration to something that I might want to do.Ē

Digger: What were The Kinks and The Beach Boys wearing in summer? I donít even know.

David: I was looking at The Beatles in Rishikesh and Mike Love was with them and wearing these loafers.

Digger: So you're taking in any influences and ideas that hit you.

David: Yes, Iím doing these styles and building it up as much as I can where it becomes as big as I can make it.

Digger: Youíve done really well within the space of a year and it's a great business. Thanks for letting us know about it David.

David: Thank you.

 


 

 

 

Handmade Cuban heeled Chelsea boots, crafted in three styles and made using the finest analine leathers and suedes available.

David Preston Shoes are Cuban heeled boots inspired by the timeless and classic Chelsea boot. Handmade in a family run factory using the finest leather and suede available, you wonít find anything but the real deal here. What you are getting are boots that will last as long as the love you put into them.

David Preston, the creative director of David Preston Shoes, brings his passion for rock and roll into his designs. A musician and artist himself, he knows how hard it is to find quality boots. These are boots for everyday use, on stage and on the street. He wears them himself.

Tel: 07963 707 226
Int'l: 44 7963 707 226
www: davidprestonshoes.com

 

 

 

 

 

 


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