20 Minutes with Peter & Porter
Founded in London in 2013, Peter & Porter’s handmade shoes were created to fix the founders’ shared frustration: the lack of high quality, dependable shoes that wouldn't break the bank. The brand gave us an exclusive insight into their production processes, tips on how to recognize a good quality shoe as well as their interpretation of the classic English style.
Eva-Marie Saarva: You´re based in London, which is very present in all of your shoe designs & with handmade products there's often a story behind them. Any you'd like to share with us from your search for the perfect design inspiration?
Karsten Marik: Style and elegance is very difficult to measure and it means something different to everyone. For me it is about finding the perfect balance between classic styles and contemporary ones. Using modern materials where possible to enhance comfort, without doing away with the classic look. For me personally, being well dressed is not about being too flashy or exuberant (neither too old-fashioned or boring of course) but about being measured. Especially when it comes to business attire. Sometimes you see someone and you think: damn, this person looks great. That’s never because of a flashy suit or shoes, but usually because it is all measured. The clothing fits well, it is of good quality and the combination of the individual items make it into something more than just individual pieces. That’s a lot harder than just adding a crazy tie or a flashy pair of shoes. For me that is English style.
ES: Peter & Porter shoes can take you from a casual Friday to a stylish weekend dinner. Who is the man that you design for?
KM: Well actually mostly the urban professional. Starting at 25 maybe and going up to 60. In the first place mostly the bankers, lawyers, consultants and other professionals that need to dress up for work or work related events. And on the weekend they might go out for a smart casual dinner.
ES: You put great focus on the quality of the shoes. Can you walk us through the main steps of the production that goes on in your workshop?
KM: First of all the quality of the components is key. So premium quality calf leather that is cut out of one piece and is tested before the manual cutting takes place. The quality of the leather sole is very important to me personally as well. It has happened too often to me that the sole on an expensive pair of shoes had to be replaced within a year. That’s just costly and annoying. Then there is the irreplaceable experience of the craftsman off course. Very often we get a message from customers being surprised how long a certain shoe lasts and how great it ages. Next to quality and durability there is comfort. Our shoes are all goodyear welted. This means there is a layer of cork between the outer and inner sole of the shoe and this cork adjusts itself to the specifics of an individual foot. This is the traditional method used by the quality shoe brands above €500,- a pair. You would be surprised how many quality brands sell shoes that are not goodyear welted (Hugo Boss for example).
ES: You decided to break away from the traditional supply chain. Cutting out all the middlemen – distributors, agents and retailers. What was the main influence behind your decision?
KM: The one and only influence behind this decision was my frustration with the price of these types of shoes. I used to work in banking and you need more than one pair of shoes to accommodate your wardrobe. Why should a black pair of leather shoes cost me €500,- if you want any quality? It just seemed insane for a product that has been around for centuries. But when I started looking into it, it started to make sense. There are so many people involved that need to make a living out of these shoes before it reaches the consumer that it is no wonder the costs are this high. We can only make it less expensive because of modern technology that is quite affordable and thanks to the customers who are shopping online. Ten years ago there was hardly any man shopping for shoes online.
ES: Do you think this could be the future for businesses?
KM: This is already the future. Online is easier, quicker, and very often with better service (funny enough). In that sense, the concept of cutting out the middleman is not new, using it in this branch is.
ES: Consumers around the world are more and more careful about what they buy. How important is sustainability for you?
KM: This is very important for me personally. We consider ourselves to be ‘slow fashion’. That means fashion that is produced in a durable way and can last for years before buying something new. Producing leather is not the most durable thing in the world, you might say, unless you use the leather shoe for many years before buying something new.
ES: Do you believe that brands have the power to promote a positive change to an eco-conscious purchasing behavior?
KM: Yes definitely. Brands have the power to demand a different way of production from the manufacturer. In that sense the brand is the spokesperson for the customer.
ES: You’re designing shoes that are made to last. What are your top tips on how to take care of P&P shoes to make them last a lifetime?
KM: Luckily the quality does most of the work for you. Personally I hate shining shoes. It seems there is never a good time for it. Although you have to do it every once in a while. Mostly for the looks but also to extend the lifespan. Especially if you're not doing it very often, make sure to buy a quality product. The only thing you absolutely have to do is using cedar wood shoe trees. And never use the same shoe all week. The leather and the cork are natural products and they need time to restore (breath). The shoe trees help to retain the shape and the cedar wood absorbs some of the moisture. Never use plastic shoe trees.. that’s a big No No.
ES: What's next for the brand?
KM: Next steps are towards a more casual line as well. Covid has changed a lot when you look at formal business attire. We need to accommodate our customers in this new reality. Making sure that if they dress down, they still look sophisticated
ES: Personal leeway (Freiraum) What does it mean for you and where can you find it?
KM: For me personally that’s about pursuing my passion and creating my own Leeway and not being dependent on others too much or on the traditional way of doing things. In this case as in with the traditional supply chain.