The men’s footwear designer compares his craft to a man in his garden shed.
You’ve been in the industry more than 20 years. What have been your career highlights?
One is being in the British Design Museum. I’m one of three shoe brands or designers to be there - Nike, Christian Louboutin and Stride by Justin Deakin.
How has the industry changed in the 23 years you’ve been part of it?
It’s got harder to be an independent as the tier system has gone - the process in which independents grow into larger retailers by first starting small, then wholesaling into other independents, then selling to department stores and growing. Because of the demise of many independent retailers there is no longer the scope of selling there used to be. The high street has become the same across a lot of the UK - it contains the same stores all selling the same products. So many good independents have had to shut, and it’s much harder to break new products.
How do you wish it had changed for the better?
More UK factories, more support for new designers and - without it sounding a cliché - a lot more government support such as VAT breaks and domestic support to build brands outside of the high street.
Who have you met over the years that has influenced you the most?
I’m lucky as I’ve travelled well and both worked with, and met, a lot of people. But working with [U2 singer] Bono and [his wife] Ali on the start-up of the Edun line in 2004 was very interesting. I would say Bono has influenced me because he is a global communicator. We had some great conversations.
Why were you drawn to footwear over anything else in the fashion business?
Everybody needs shoes and I love the tweaking required [to create the final product] and the craft. It’s like my garden shed.
If you weren’t working in fashion, what would you be doing?
If I only cared about money, I would have been a stock market trader - but if I was really clever I would have loved to get into architecture. Interior design is also interesting.
What’s the biggest misconception about the fashion industry?
The need to get training with a big brand first before going your own way.
Your Justin Deakin store is on Hanbury Street in Spitalfields, east London. Why did you open it there?
I like the contrast of people and retailers. It’s very real.
How’s the shop going?
I am lucky and we have some great clients.
Is it true rapper Kanye West bought some of your shoes?
Yes, 11 pairs including chukka boots, double monks and the triple buckle boot (pictured below right).
Do you think celebrity endorsements are important to raise awareness of brands?
Yes, but only if they pay for them. For me, that shows they really like the product and it all feels real.
All of your shoes are Made in England. Why is this important to you?
The obvious reasons: jobs, training for young people and domestic manufacturing all make sense. It reminds people to be proud of our British history in manufacturing.
Do you believe you can judge a man by his shoes?
No. I just know how they make me feel. When somebody puts on a good shoe they love in my shop, they strut around like a peacock. It’s a nice thing to see. Shoes start and finish a look or outfit.
What shoes are you wearing today?
Whole cut loafers as it’s a hot day and I’m off to a beach wedding shortly, so they finish and start my look.
What’s your favourite pair of shoes?
I haven’t designed them yet.
If you could wear only one pair of shoes for the rest of your life, what would they be?
A three-eyelet, Gibson-style shoe.
What’s the most money you’ve ever spent on a pair of shoes?
I bought a £1,100 pair of brown, high-shine, three-eyelet Gibson-style shoes with silver lining in Japan.
What one style of shoe do you wish would disappear?
Crocs, but kids love them. And I wouldn’t mind being a few pairs behind them in terms of sales.