In between visits to Italy and Greece, I was able to find time to duck over to London for 48 hours, to catch up with some friends around Savile Row and Spitalfields, but principally to go and see Teemu at Cleverley’s workshop and showroom at the Royal Arcade in London, for the fitting of my bespoke double monk’s commissioned at Double Monk in Melbourne, earlier this year and it made sense to organise to catch up while I was nearby.
Cleverley’s have a cozy shopfront, with the expansive ready-to-wear range lining two of the four walls. Space is made for a couple of small chairs, with the staircase taking up the front right corner. This is the original version of vertical integration and you can take it literally, with a small rectangle of space on each level and the spiral staircase dropping in to the basement, or up to the workshop, office and last room, spread over a few more floors.
After chatting for a while, Teemu brought my shoes out to try on and, given it’s the first pair of shoes I’ve commissioned from Cleverley’s, he’s done a good job.
The main point of having any clothing made bespoke, is fit. The creativity and flexibility of bespoke is a major part of its attraction, but most of us usually err towards classic styles, with room for subtle individual areas of personalisation (on this pair, I’ve had a fish punched in to the heel, as well as a couple of other small details). The most important and greatest point of value for bespoke is simply the fit. Well made and fitted bespoke clothing fits like nothing else, molded to you, and with a tendency to change the way you look at anything else you wear from then on.
The most noticeable takeaway from this fitting was the support of my instep. I have fairly flat feet, so instep support has never been a huge concern for me, but once that support is there, you question how you got by without it before. Anyone with higher arches is likely to feel this doubly. Overall, there really wasn’t a huge amount for Teemu and I to run through as the fit was very good. The only thing he’ll change is to give me a little more room in the closure of the right shoe, as it was a bit tight. To do this, he has to open up the welt stitches on the sole of the shoe and let the upper out a tad more. This is the reason Teemu and many other bespoke makers choose to have a first fitting without the soles attached, otherwise it would mean completely disassembling and rebuilding the sole. It’s probably best compared to a first/basted fitting for a suit, with loose stitches in place, allowing for adjustments to be made before final stitches are completed.
You can see some slight puckering where the buckle (running horizontally) meets the leather of the upper. That’s normal, given that the soles haven’t yet been attached. Once they’re on, they’ll pull the leather taught, removing the extra allowance which is there at the moment.
The overall shape of the shoes is classic Cleverley, slightly elongated with a subtly squared off toe. The colour of the leather (antique whisky) has come up very well and they’ll be as versatile as I’d hoped, able to be worn with a range of suits and, hopefully, jeans and chino’s.
Teemu had arranged to have the rest of the team sign the insole of the shoe (another request I’d made), which will be hidden under the foot-bed of the completed shoe. The fish had been punched in to the heel, which looks great, but isn’t obvious.
Once we’d covered off everything we needed to for the double monks, we went upstairs to see the workshop. The first thing to hit me was the authenticity of the space. It feels like high school wood work. Bundles of leather laying on tables, tools at rest waiting to be picked up again and bits of old cork collecting in corners. This theme of authenticity is consistent, with many of the leading craftspeople in menswear tucked away in small, unpretentious workshops, producing amazing products (such as Ambrosi in Naples or Marfin shaving brushes).
Before I headed off we made a quick detour into the “last” room, on the top floor. It’s now so heavy with the weight of hand carved lasts that the floor has had to be structurally reinforced. The lasts typically stay in this room for around 5 years, at which point, if a customer hasn’t had a need to order another pair, they go in to storage (the lasts, not the customer).
Teemu and George are about to arrive back in Melbourne and they’re bringing the finished shoes, so I’ll write about the finished pair once I’ve had some time to wear them in, in the next few weeks.