In his wanderings around London, Daniel Szelényi stumbles upon a shoemaker with a colorful streak. Click in for his second in a series of cool urban discoveries.
Walking through Notting Hill last weekend—and I don’t mean the tourist hell hole that is Portobello Road—I came upon a shop combining classic British design with a colorful twist: T&F Slack Shoemakers.
The product of husband-and-wife team Tim and Fiona Slack, this shoe manufacturer started modernizing classics back in the 1970s. In fact, they were the first to use unusual combinations like yellow and blue to successfully revive great British classics like the Derby. Back then the brand was running under a different name, but the shoes they made then are just as relevant now, providing T&F Slack with a unique and extensive shoe archive.
Of course you can go with famous English bespoke shoemakers such as Church’s, John Lobb and Barker, but ask any of them for yellow soles, turquoise leather brogues or green stitching and you’ll get a blank look. Not there. T&F Slack Shoemakers is the only shoe brand offering those options, and they produce around 150 pairs a month. Their work space houses an eclectic mix of machinery. Including what can be considered a manufacturing museum, with pieces salvaged from shoe factories but also simple, modern machinery customized to meet today’s needs. However, as Bridie, the aspiring shoemaker working in the shop tells me, “[T&F is] customization rather than bespoke manufacturing”.
What shut me up was the sheer choice of colors, leathers and variations. Their look books feature countless colors and leathers along with more than 40 upper and welt combinations. Combine that with 12 colors of micro sole material and the the possibilities are practically endless.
All this decision-making was exhausting and so I settled at Soho House’s nearby Pizza East. After 18 months in Shoreditch, Pizza East Portobello opened last year around the corner from T&F Slack. Located in a restored Georgian pub, the stripped back interior is a light and airy space with wooden floors and huge windows, filled with fabulous vintage café furniture. While their San Daniele, tomato, ricotta and pesto pizza is simply divine, my recommendation is to try Pizza East for their breakfast.
Once you have your new shoes, they’re the perfect accessory at any Soho House property. If you’re not a member, the group also operates three hotels in London which are accessible to anyone. However, my recommendation is to take your new T&F Slack Derby shoes to the countryside. Derbys were originally—back in the 1850s that is—country boots and only became appropriate to be worn in town at the the turn of the 20th century. Say, a fabulous pair for a fabulous place like Soho’s Babington House in the heart of Somerset.
Sport them in the bar or take them for a walk around the idyllic lake, just keep off them croquet lawn. On second thought, don’t wear them outside, but take a pair of Babington House’s own wellies instead. They come in some colorful variations too.