It had been a while since I didn’t have a breakthrough momentum in London. Not that the place is not energetic anymore, but things tend to sometimes look a bit the same…
And there came Steven D.R Skippen, Founder and Shoe Artisan at Shoeshine UK that I met at Monsieur London. I had never experienced such a sensation on my feet, through my shoes; I had only used automatic machines in some hotels here and there. Then I understood what bespoke and talent mean. With his own hands, Steven knows how to transform your shoes into YOUR shoes.
We can make a bet: if I were a brand collection director, I would directly hire Steven to create a capsule collection.
Hi Steven: when did you star shining shoes?
I started shining shoes over 14 years ago I literally fell into it as a stop gap but to this day am still shining shoes. For 13 years my big red chair has been installed in the lobby of The London Hilton on Park Lane, my hands have had the opportunity to dwell on the shoes of the Sultan of Brunei, The Dalai Lama, Mike Tyson, the King of Jordan, Jean Claude Van Damme and the great football star, George Best.
I started Shoeshine UK in October 2000“originally at The London Hilton Metropole but quickly transferred to The London Hilton on Park Lane. I brought a style of shoe care that the UK had never seen before and have cared for many icon’s shoes”.
Using just our bare hands and the best products available regardless of cost we are revolutionising the industry and need people to understand the difference in what we do to others.
It requires very strong skills as you have a pretty unique approach: you use your own hands. How did you learn?
I only received one weeks training as to do what I now can achieve takes years of trial and error. I have perfected The Art of Shine and patina (colouring of leather with dyes) in effect never accepting that I can never improve and always striving for perfection.
I do all my work with my bare hands a skill not seen in Europe and achieve far superior results because of this.
Shoeshining is an amazing bespoke service: can we “book” you for special events?
Yes I do many private events my past CV includes Tommy Hilfiger, Esquire magazine, Browns fashion and Monsieur London. As you can imagine we are a very sought after service due to how unique we are.
What are your favourite products for shoeshining?
I only use the finest ingredients Saphir and Angelus products renowned as unbeatable in our profession. It begins by feeding the leather with three different creams a combination of Beeswax, mink oil from Saphir, Lord Sheraton leather balsam and Ultra Creme, then a leather massage, followed by applying a multitude of colours at each location of the shoe; this can darken and lighten at will to emphasize the slenderness of the foot.
Brushes to me have no effect. If you applied cream to your face would you use a brush? I like to penetrate the leather with my bare hands giving care and a deep shine at the same time”. Believe what you see not what you read, redefining a dying artform.
I know you have dozens of projects: when will we see your own range of products?
You are right my projects are endless. Establishing my patina service is paramount and trying to make people understand that not all shoeshiners are the same.
Regarding a product range this is just around the corner and has taken a long time due to getting it perfect.
What can we wish you?
Why use a service that gives you a result that you could get yourself at home when you could use a service that would change your perception of shoeshine forever? The public are not aware of the differences and this is why shoeshine is sadly at the lowest point it has ever been. Its time people saw what shoeshine really could be like”.
Steven D.R. Skippen in brief:
Years in profession -14 years
Favourite shoe company – Berluti, Santoni, Gaziano Girling, Giacopelli, Pierre Corthay, Stefanobi, Septieme Largeur, Edward Green, JM Weston, Cleverley, Marc Guyot, Carlos Santos, Aubercy, Emling and Loding
First job in profession – London City Airport in 2000
Favourite products-Saphir, Angelus, La Cordonnerie Anglaise and Lord Sheraton
Greatest inspirations – Dandy Shoecare, Landry Lacour and JM Le Gazel for patina and Stephen Reynolds for shoeshine.
Experience – London City Airport, Bloomberg, Lehman Brothers, KPMG, Harbour Exchange Tower, London Hilton Metropole, The London Hilton on Park Lane, Dunhill, Marks club, George club, The Office group, Whites Club and Goodwood festival.
Do you think Pharrell should not have worn a Native American head-dress on cover of Elle UK? We don’t.
Although this sparked understandable and respectable outrage from communities and commentators alike, resulting in a sincere apology by the cultural icon, we believe this new controversy shows society has figured fashion out all wrong.
As a matter of fact, the base of controversy seems far-fetched to us, or at least most of commentators express it with little concision: most of the tweets bear judgments such as “it’s not ok”, ‘what’s wrong with you” and “this is scandalous”, only a few mention the reasons of anger:
Cultural appropriation seems to be the problem, as highlighted Refinery29. But the real question is where is the line to draw for offensiveness?
We believe blackfaceing a model is a mistake, but criticizing a graphic and photographic fashion job made with respect (at least benefit of that doubt can be given to the team in charge, right?) seems way over-crying. Why did fashion teams like this one chose this item? Because it bears positive symbols, it also has impeccable visual style and it may remind us that some cultures should not be lost in contemporary moments.
This cover is beautiful. It has character. It does not depict a community in any negative way. Let’s stop underestimating the fashion industry’s capacity to curate cultures. Fashion is not a superficial discipline, whatever twitter might say.
1 year ago, we started to work with Flavie Trichet Lespagnol and Marion May on a crazy project with the agency. We were having a chit-chat and Chris looked at his feet. And he said: this is our topic.
Everybody has a story with feet; and feet tell a lot of stories about people. Very surprisingly, when it comes to shoes and brands, not so many products are really dedicated to feet. Is it because marketers think they have ugly feet?
We discovered many crazy insights: when you are pregnant, your feet grow. Women walk more than men every day in the world. We are a vast majority to buy shoes that are not at the right size for us.
Flavie and Marion went to Spain, France, travelled the UK; and interviewed a lot of interesting people. Asking questions about our feet was actually a way to talk about deeper topics: love, anxiety, self-esteem. Style as a bone of contention of our humanity; skins as the features of our journeys.
It’s always tricky to wear a nice pair of shoes which fit all our needs; when we’re at the office, we sometimes need to feel comfy but not too idle. When we go out, we need to suit up but not too much as we’ll have to wear our shoes during the day.
The beauty of the new Lacoste Essential Design collection for Autumn Winter 2014 is to flirt between classic designs and a twist of audacity. Elastic gussets, russet orange, cable stitch are nice details to explore…
As Lacoste states:
LED is designed to give the discerning gentleman quality designs that can be worn day to night
Sàn in vietnamese means ground. Sàn Art Gallery is a unique space in Ho Chi Minh City that has provided a platform for art and creation for 6 years. Yesterday was the opening for a group exhibition called Mind, Flesh, Matter.
We have been impressed by the rich atmosphere offered by the space – formerly a reading space / library, but also with the diversity of works and the precision of curation by director of gallery Zoe Butt.
Mind, Flesh, Matter is the work of 3 vietnamese artists: Lai Dieu Ha, Le Phi Long and Nguyen Van Du and was part of a process called Sàn Art Laboratory. The residency program allowed the artists to exchange and find talking partners to further their research, resulting in quite an achieving set up.
Materials and ideas seemed to collide in a very subtle way. Installations were meant to provide depth to paintings and drawings, echoing how Mind, Flesh and Matter coincide. In a reserved way, we could think performance art would have in some way contributed to deepen the experience.
In our very specific way, we have ended up stumbling into hints of pop culture here and there, most probably unintentional or better totally unrelated.
Organic side cuts reminded us of recent imagery from Hannibal (TV version with Mads Mikkelsen), when the man in the wood somehow reproduced the post-apocalyptic post-human postulate of Danny Boyle heroes Di Caprio in The Beach or Cillian Murphy in 28 Days Later. There was also this distant memory of Six Feet Under’s legendary tree…
Art and design are making their way into the hectic life of the fast-growing metropolis. We Boulevardiers could not love it more.
Vietnam is scoring higher and higher points in coolness these days while things heat up at its borders. While China and Vietnam go head to head on territorial claims in the South China Sea, the country took the scene in 2 world-leading media to show its fascinating new lifestyles.
First on May 7 – Louis Vuitton released its refined Travel Book – Vietnam, subtly edited and drawn by Lorenzo Mattotti. The introduction video makes the exploit of showing all the famous traits of Vietnam without an ounce of cliché-ness. Residing in the country for a little less than a year now, I can certainly appreciate even more that a fresh eye such as Mr Mattotti’s has brushed up the overloaded motorbikes, the tacky alleys, the incredible sights of Ha Long Bay in a poetic way. As he says, all these symbols can be looked at in a quite abstract way. Shapes are key to his vision.
See the video:
Then on May 8 – the New York Times took its famous 36 Hours In… series to Ho Chi Minh City. The well-documented article does walk through the hottest places of modern Saigon. I’d certainly +1 on designer Linda Mai Phung’s works (see our french column last summer in L’Express Styles), vouch for the artistic new wave led by Gallery Quynh, San Art and L’Observatory, and yum in on Cuc Gach Quan’s foodie delight.
But I could not help bring up the happy few spots and people overlooked by the article. So here’s an additional 48h you can add to your stay in Ho Chi Minh City with its extra recommendable experiences. Welcome to the exciting contemporary Saigon: authentic and futuristic, mostly at the same time.
The Street Treat – Unconspicuous Pho joints where you get to taste the unavoidable national dish include Pho Thai Son on Le Lai street, a short park-walk away from the backpacker area. Next comes Tan Dinh Market, a place to find an immense choice of weird to cool fabrics – the street food court there is highly cool too. By night time, join in a street quan nhau (literally binge eat-drinking joint) on Ham Nghi street to enjoy watered-down beers and grilled seafood.
The Liquor Tour – Saigon offers a still confidential taste of quality drinks. The best Negroni can be found at the Purple Jade, while great wines are curated by a team of passionates at Wine Embassy. Last but not least, drinks are usually more enjoyable with a cool musical scene. Venues such as Cargo Bar (Q4) – a huge warehouse turned into concert spot hosting international gigs of rock and electronic music (Onra, Poni Hoax among others in 2013) – or the hip and kinky Broma, and the experimental street-culture spot called Saigon Outcast (where contributors organized a Flaming Lips experience gig last winter) are all worth the visit.
The Shopping Spree – As we all love to explore local options, the fascinating thing about Saigon is how it opened to the most avantgarde cultural scenes lately and allowed subsequent shopping options. The most curious of them all would be Runway Concept Store, located in an otherwise uncharming Vincom mall. International contemporary designers like Helmut Lang, Phillip Lim, Alexander Wang or Acne Studios have found their place there for a cultured generation of vietnamese and expats, among luxury brands including Saint Laurent Paris, Givenchy or Maison Martin Margiela. VIPs looking for a more glamorous outfit could also turn to a more fancy cocktail dress at Luala, another local concept store offering Victoria Beckham, Azzedine Alaia and Elie Saab.
He has turned a two-storey house at Sunset Boulevard, Los Angeles into a hotel, as an artistic experiment. Although it was not a commercial undertaking, Ruppersberg treated the seven guest rooms seriously. He named the rooms individually- the Jesus Room, the Al Room, The Bridal Suite, the Breakfast Room, and Day Room, the Ultra Violet Room and the B Room; each one themed and built with vernacular materials. What’s more, Ruppersberg has made it possible for visitors to stay for a night with $30 forthe Suite, and $15 for other rooms.
COS also commissioned a film by director Simon Elephant; the analogy of the phoenix is very well executed as you’ll see. A subtle bridge between fashion and contemporary arts.
A good move from COS as the brand is attacking the US market starting from June…
At the very beginning of & Other Stories, I was septic: again a copycat of a mass retailer trying to sell fake arty fashion pieces.
The thing that I was very wrong. & Other Stories multiplies interesting collaborations with rising designers, highlighting fashion with meaning.
Richard Braqo, born in Ghana, is famous for his daring shoes. He explores strange forces by “collating ideas in unexpected ways“. The collaboration with & Other Stories is loaded with this tension. Whims challenge abstraction, sexyness dares rebellion.
We like beaches, surfing and rock’n roll. And when it comes to style x surf, we become very hungry…
O’Neill has decided to start an original road-trip starting in the UK:
“Sit back, relax and fasten those seat belts, the O’Neill Today is Perfect Road Trip is about to commence. No longer a rumour and far more a reality, the Californian lifestyle brand has finally revealed its unique tour bus that’s geared up and ready to take to the streets early next week. Making those surfing dreams a reality, the original wetsuit brand has packed its map and pencilled in one hell of a road trip.
Decked out from boot to bonnet, the new look surf wagon has been ‘madeover’ using recycled and upcycled materials giving it a cool new look with an old school vibe. Boasting reclaimed wood flooring, hand crafted tables, eco showers and wetsuit inspired seats, the O’Neill Tour Bus is every wave lover’s dream.
Starting its busy British schedule in mid-May the bus will make its first scheduled stop in the sunny, surf town of Newquay. Meandering its way along Britain’s picturesque southwest coast & hitting up a selection of the best surf spots, the diary is stacked with pro coaching sessions, product testing, onboard DJ’s and plenty of time in the water. Set to cause a stir at some legendary UK festivals this summer, the bus will also be pulling up the handbrake at O’Neill Electric Beach Festival, Leopallooza and Boardmasters. Set to cause a stir at some legendary UK festivals this summer, the bus will also be pulling up the handbrake at O’Neill Electric Beach Festival, Leopallooza and Boardmasters.
Like every great surf trip, where there’s decent swell you have to put the brakes on, so rest assured the O’Neill Tour Bus will be stopping wherever the waves are good. Of course a trip like this wouldn’t be complete without boards and action cams so O’Neill have kindly invited Firewire Surfboards and iON Camera’s along for the ride!”