Historically, trunk shows were the main way that bespoke shoemakers or tailors could sell their wares. These skilled artisans would travel from town to town with their trunk of shoes and invite customers from the area to come in for fittings and to order new footwear. Over the centuries, as transportation improved and new markets opened up, trunk shows went global.
Just back from our second trunk show to the United States with Gieves & Hawkes, it is fair to say that very little has changed in more recent times. Our ‘trunk’ may now be shipped out ahead of us; our hostelry may be a beautiful hotel; and – thanks to planes, trains and automobiles – we may be able to cover more ground in a shorter space of time, but those are the only differences. Oh yes, that and the fact that our clients are now international so we had a client fly in all the way from San Francisco for a fitting!
Gieves & Hawkes have been travelling on trunk shows to the US for many years and we were pleased to be able to add bespoke shoes to the bespoke tailoring, made to measure shirts, suits and accessories that they are now offering on their trips out. It has been a delight to meet some of their customers out here and to help them to finish off their look with bespoke shoes.
As one of the new generation of English bespoke shoemakers, we know that we have a long way to go to build up a client base that will see our order books full on every trip, but we do think that this is a great way to start.
The luxurious, but relaxed hotel suites where we showed on this trip – at the Waldorf in Chicago and The Pierre in New York – created such a convivial atmosphere for conversations about leathers, linings and toe shapes. There is the added enjoyment of watching Lee Webb, senior cutter at Gieves & Hawkes, working his magic with the tailor’s chalk on each customer – transforming unruly cloth into a well-fitting, second, much more forgiving skin… and as we watch the chalk fly, contemplating what style of shoe and leather would work best with their chosen cloth.
But for now, it’s back to the ‘goldfish bowl’ and the shoemaker’s bench, busily making the necessary adjustments to client’s lasts and making their shoes so that we can deliver their completed orders on our next trunk show in June.