In a large, high-ceilinged room of Mayfair men’s tailoring house Byrne & Burge, revered bespoke shoemaker Dominic Casey shows me round his new atelier before handing me a time-aged 1980s flyer for the Harold Brighouse play Hobson’s Choice. The image of Henry Hobson’s fictional Salford shoemaker’s shop, says Casey, depicts his varied offerings, from chukka boots, to Oxfords, Gibsons and Albert slippers – the “perfect gentleman’s wardrobe”, he adds
“Typically, I concentrate on classic English styling, with traditional last shapes and proportions, but I have also made crepe-soled desert boots for a client in the Middle East, walking boots for the mountains, even a pair of ghillies for Scottish dancing,” he says. “One client asked me to make him a pair of deck shoes. I did some research and told him that he could go to a shop and buy a very good pair for about £200. He looked at me in disgust and said, ‘But Dominic, you are my shoemaker.’ So I made them for him.”
Casey has over 35 years’ experience in bespoke shoemaking: he started out at James Taylor & Son, creating orthopaedic footwear; has taught at Cordwainers College and helped establish the MA in Footwear Design at the Royal College of Art; produced bespoke women’s shoes for Georgina Goodman; and spent the past 10 years working for London shoemaker George Cleverley. “While there are four well-established bespoke shoemaking firms in London, individual makers are even rarer; there's just myself and Sebastian Tarek in London.” And this is what sets his new atelier apart. Casey takes the measurements himself before personally handcrafting each bespoke pair of shoes (from £3,500); he makes the paper patterns, carves the wooden last, “cuts” and “closes” the shoe, and then delivers the finished article.
The process takes four months, with three client meetings. The initial measuring up and consultation on style, last, shape and materials, as well as subsequent fittings, take place in his Mayfair space, but the real magic happens in his Sussex workshop at the bottom of his cottage garden on the Glyndebourne Estate. Sussex is also home to his collaboration with fellow shoemaker Steven Lowe, who worked for John Lobb for 28 years and with whom he has established Lastmaker House, a former Eastbourne brewery now offering courses in traditional wooden last making (from £775).