Jermyn Street shoemaker Tricker’s has its first female bespoke master shoemaker after 190 years. Here Adele Williamson, 28, tells us what it’s like to break the mould.
“When I found out there’s never been a female bespoke shoemaker, I was a bit like, ‘Really?’” Adele said from her work station in Northampton, once the shoemaking capital of Europe.
“The thing is, it is a male-heavy environment, so they said that no woman has even shown interest in wanting to learn the job,” she added.
Adele is in her third and final year of her apprenticeship scheme and will then be a qualified shoemaker at Tricker’s, which was established in 1829 and has its flagship store on Jermyn Street.
“When I started, someone was like: ‘Is she going to be able to do it?’ and I was like: ‘Why can’t I? We’ve all got two arms, two legs and a brain’.
“I haven’t got a clue why women haven’t been drawn toward it. I think, in Northampton, shoemaking is a trade that’s always been here so I think they look at it as being like a bricklayer or carpenter – they think it’s just a man’s job or it might be the mentality of Midlands people – I’m not sure.”
Making a shoe requires a certain degree of brawn.
“It is quite a physical job – I was very surprised how tiring it was. Even though you're sat on a stool with a shoe on your lap, you can break a sweat. But if I can do it anyone can because I'm not exactly built like a man,” she adds.
Adele spent every day for five months simply lasting shoes – the process of stretching leather and pinning it to the wooden form so it moulds into a shape. A bespoke pair of shoes from point of measuring the foot to final product takes six to nine months.
Looking to the future, Adele tells us she will be working on the women's collections – an area with a lot of scope for development, considering 90 per cent of bespoke is currently men's. “There is so much potential, especially now with the rise of androgynous fashion,” she says. “And handcraft is something Tricker's wants to keep alive; bespoke has a big future here.”