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The Cobbler Comeback
Written by Jessica McIlroy - Monday, 18 March 2013


Josh & Jules of Jules Loves Leather

In my mind, nothing exemplifies slow fashion like handmade shoes. Maybe it’s the level of craftsmanship, the often timeless styles, or the fact that with proper care and maintenance, well made shoes can last for decades. But like most areas of garment care, people have forgotten how to look for quality shoes and do what’s required to make them last.

Luckily, it seems cobblers are making a comeback! There are a few shoe companies in Vancouver that have been around for years, and new designers are stepping into the shoe making world. Many know of John Fluevog and his seriously funky styles, or Dayton with their over 60 years of biker, work and urban boot making experience. There are also lesser known companies like Viberg in Victoria, BC, with generations of boot making history, and new designers bringing back the art and quality of handmade shoes. Two of my favorites in my own backyard are Westerly Shoes in Vancouver and Jules Loves Leather in Whistler.


Renee Macdonald of Westerly Shoes

In 2008, Renee Macdonald was going through a time of change and left an office administration job starting on the path to make shoes. She took a short course on shoemaking, started working in a shoe store then began working with a cobbler; learning all the aspects of shoemaking, repair and the connection to customers.

“I learned a lot about the customer and how people are with their feet.  A lot about expectations and the sense of identity people get from their footwear. That was hugely valuable. My own style has evolved from how I wanted boots to perform. I ride my bike everywhere, and they have to withstand not only cycling but the Vancouver weather.”

In late 2012, Renee made the step to spend more time making custom shoes and boots, and established herself as Westerly Handmade Shoes.



Josh and Jules of Jules Loves Leather had been making small leather goods, and out of pure boredom one day, ripped apart and rebuilt a pair of shoes, by chance launching a successful handmade shoe brand.  “We took a couple of pictures, posted them online, and pretty much instantly, it felt like the air in the room had changed. People had appreciated our handcrafted belts, bags, and accessories, but when we made that first pair of shoes from this garage-based studio, we felt a higher intensity of love.”


Like many craftsman and eco fashion designers, Josh and Jules are seeing the shift in the level of interest for handmade, quality goods. “I feel like there is a collective uprising of consumers fed up with cheaply, mass-produced disposable swag. Not everyone ‘gets it’, and the majority of folks probably never will. However, more and more people seem to be taking a step back, re-evaluating their consumption habits, and figuring if they spend a little more, to acquire less, built-to-last, locally produced goods, everyone wins.”



I encourage you to do some research and find a cobbler in your area. Find someone making shoes that fit your style and those who can help repair and maintain them. Make the investment. I’m currently waiting for my Westerly slip-on, deep red leather boots to be made, and can’t wait watch them stand up to the test of time.




Jessica McIlroy is a sustainability consultant with extensive experience in the renewable energy industry, climate change policy, gender equality and community development. She has worked for a number of non-profit associations and is the founder of the BC Women in Energy Network. Jessica is also working to increase the sustainability of the garment and textile industry, working as the Chief Awareness Officer for Eco Fashion Week, and contributing eco fashion pieces to online publications. Jessica holds an MSc in Environmental Sustainability, an MBA in Executive Management, a certification in Climate Change Decision Making, and has completed The Accountability Project Sustainability Practitioner Course.  


Comments (1)Add Comment
Yes for Quality Shoes!
written by Elizabeth Burris, March 27, 2013
I think the quality of craftsmanship makes shoes really beautiful. People should choose good quality shoes and support them. Westerly Shoes are good at this and they are one of the best in the world when it comes to custom and handmade shoes.

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