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15 & 16 July 2018, Business Design Centre, London


07 June 2017

Our Bubble: The Little Shoemaker

For The Little Shoemaker’s Kevin Rowley, footwear is a family business – in more ways than one.

Kevin founded his artisan label in 2010, after trying – and failing – to find a pair of high-quality, British-made sandals for eldest daughter Momoko. Undeterred, the former artist set about creating his own – and soon realised that he had stumbled across his true calling.

Today, The Little Shoemaker’s exquisite, hand-crafted footwear is stocked in a host of boutiques and department stores, while Kevin and his young family have become regular fixtures at Bubble. Ahead of our July edition, he’s been telling us more about preparing for the show, the ‘hand-made revolution’, and his latest collection, co-created by Momoko and her little sister, Cocono...

Welcome back to Bubble, Kevin! Could you introduce yourself and your brand, The Little Shoemaker?

My name is Kevin Rowley & I run The Little Shoemaker, where we specialise in handmade shoes for children, babies & toddlers. In 2010 my first daughter Momoko was born – and, like any proud parent, I  wanted to buy something special to celebrate. Being in the footwear industry, I decided it would be fitting to buy her very first pair of shoes. After walking around Marylebone for several hours, it became apparent that there weren't many British-made brands on show at all. I eventually settled on a pair of sandals from a high-end boutique, and was happy to finally get home to try them on my daughter.  However, whilst fitting them I noticed a little label telling me they'd been made at the other side of the world. I didn't really mind where they'd been made, but the mark-up was a bit of a shock. It was at this point I decided to try to make a few pairs myself – and my journey as 'The Little Shoemaker' began.

I made a selection of shoes for my own children, and then some friends. It was only when I was approached by a boutique, however, that I realised I'd accidentally found my vocation!

The emphasis from the very beginning was on making everything by hand, from start to finish, in a time honoured way - how shoes were crafted before mass production. There's a certain tactile quality to handmade things, & I want my customers to feel that they're buying a little piece of  history; they should be able to sense the effort that’s gone into creating their shoes. The Little Shoemaker has grown steadily - from initially creating cute sandals for family & friends, to being a brand that's sold in boutiques & department stores in the UK, and around the world. (Pinching 
myself right now!)

What brings you back to Bubble each season?

I return to Bubble  to seek new stockists & greet returning customers. It's also very useful to see other exhibitors, and get an idea of what’s happening in the industry. There's always a great buzz in the BDC, and I love the excitement on visitor’s faces when  they realise I'm actually making my shoes completely by hand!

How do you prepare for the show? Do you have a particular plan of action each season?

I try to prepare each year with a fresh collection of products, balanced with the return of some classic styles that my customers always want to see.

With new stockists, I'm always looking for like-minded people who are also interested in the concept behind The Little Shoemaker. I feel there's a little revolution going on around all things hand-made, and especially made here in the UK!

Could you tell us a bit more about your S/S18 collection? What's new this season?

I'll be introducing some new sandal designs this season; they have been co-created by my daughters Momoko (age 7) & Cocono (age 5). It's all very exiting in my house! This will run alongside the usual suspects - our classic designs, and those tried-and-tested favourites that we created to bring something a little more unique to the market.

You're a familiar face at Bubble; what advice would you give to designers planning to show for the first time?

The best advice I can offer to anyone coming to Bubble for the first time is to avoid judging people based on first impressions, and to never give up towards the end of the day. The two best customers I've had at Bubble have surprised me. The first was a buyer I thought was just browsing the competition, but who ended up spending several thousand pounds with me. The second came rushing in five minutes before the end of the show, scanned my shoes for three  
minutes, spoke to me for one minute & left with a line sheet. I thought that was it really - until an order came in for fifty pairs of shoes. You should never give up, even when you think people are leaving!

This season's theme is music. What's  your favourite record? 

Favourite song? Well, Petula Clark singing 'The Little Shoemaker' Obviously!

Of course! Thank you Kevin; we'll see you at Bubble in July!

Fancy joining Kevin at the show? There's still time to apply for a stand! Or, click here to apply for your free visitor ticket...

Images by Sarah Winborn Photography.

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