What kind of shoes do you imagine when you hear the name John Lobb? British tradition and craftsmanship? High-quality and luxurious shoes? None of those are wrong, but the best part of John Lobb is their longlasting durability. There’s the famous story about Prince Charles wearing the same pair of John Lobb and having them repaired over and over. John Lobb will endlessly repair your shoes throughout the lifetime of the pair if they are torn, and the area is retouched to feel as if you’ve worn them all your life. The repaired area is representative of the miraculous journey of life, says creative director Paula Gerberse.
The current Silver theme of travel has a deep connection with John Lobb. In May, John Lobb held an event entitled “Spring Walk” in Cornwall, England. Mr. Lobb used to travel 400km from his birthplace of Cornwall to London in his own shoes. Needless to say, his journey was a huge influence on his creativity. The current creative director Paula, who has inherited the will of Mr. Lobb, talks to us about the importance of traveling.
“For me, Spring Walk is an even about showcasing ideas for new products and collections, but the most important thing is to turn off and enjoy the moment with the people around you. Additionally, whether you’ve known a person for 3 days or a year, it is important to take a bonding trip with those people. If you walk on your own will, it may create an opportunity for you to see things in a new light and reflect upon yourself. If you walk with someone else, it is possible for you to be more open as well. It allows you to share ideas, be more frank with others and have an honest conversation. I think it is important for people to go through the physical motion of going far away with someone else. That is why the idea of travel becomes so important to me.
Today, most people are too often facing their phone in a place different that the one they physically occupy. You can travel to Japan, Morocco, Latin America or Alaska, but most of the time, you’re just waiting for an alert on your phone. In contrary to that experience, Cornwall is a marvelous place where there is no cell service. It is not impossible to receive a text, but you’re bound to let go of your phone and just enjoy the journey. It is fun to go explore and experience something new, present the collection, and just walk around. Without a doubt, the bonds formed during the 3 days of Spring Walk are bound to last well beyond those 3 days. People always keep in touch and never forget that time they spent together.
I was the same way prior to our current days surrounded by technology. I was always looking for something to do, imagining the sunset, thinking about what I would wear to my destination. That was a part of the journey for me. Unfortunately, now with technology, everything is part of a schedule. There are constant questions about accommodations, which museums to visit, and reserving restaurants for that night. In modern society, there is little room left to wonder. We desire minute control over everything. I too desire that same kind of control. However, its fantastic to occasionally relinquish that control and let things happen naturally. Before you know it, you’ve walked down a beautiful path on a journey out of your control.
Before conceiving the idea of Spring Walk, she had to first follow the path of Mr. John Lobb. By looking back on the history of the founder himself, she was able to gain inspiration and begin to create. “For the first six months that I worked at JOHN LOBB, I devoted myself solely to research. I sought to learn about the roots of JOHN LOBB. At the time, my image of JOHN LOBB was classical and I respected the integrity and artism of the shoes, and simultaneously acknowledged that they were the most beautiful shoes in the world. However, what I wanted to know the most was not the technical side of the shoes, but the human character of the brand itself.
Of course I first started with the archive. We found lots of 1940s items such as sportswear, walking shoes, hiking shoes, and black leather ski boots finished with red laces and custom stitched backs. We also found shoes from the 1920s and even traditional sneakers from 1910. I myself love sports, but I couldn’t understand why Mr. John Lobb made sneakers because I had thought the brand made city shoes for the office. I decided to dig even deeper and discover the underlying history. Ultimately, I was able to understand the product and craft of the brand, but was still unable to understand who he was as a person.
After months of research, I discovered that he was born in Cornwall. I had always assumed that he was a city guy, but it turns out that he was actually from the country side. At the time, I had never been to Cornwall myself. In order to truly understand him, I decided that I had to go there and experience the city, so I hopped on a train and visited. I was shocked by the widespread, wild nature and was impressed by the beauty of the local minerals. I felt a special energy from the nature there. I spent hours just walking around the town and was able to feel the history. They even had a beautiful stone circle. No one knows why it’s even there. However, they are certain that it was built by humans. Humanity and its origins were there and it was reflected in its nature.
I also found that he was the son of a farmer in Cornwall, far from the crowds of the city. However, because he had three knee injuries, he wasn’t able to make much of a business for himself as a farmer. His father then gave him the opportunity to be a shoemaker in a nearby town called Plymouth. When he was 21 years old, he was repairing shoes with his own hands and ultimately moved to London. Of course at the time, there was no internet so we can imagine that he had little information to go off of. Regardless, at 21 years old, he moved to London on his own. A movement can be remembered by its beauty. He was at first shocked by how every part of the city was a different world from the one he knew. Examples include tobacco, whisky, and city guys. I had to tell this story. However, how was I to tell this story? How could I tell this single story to people in place like Tokyo, London, or New York. This is how Spring Walk in Cornwall was born.
Starting her career as a Saville Row tailor, she started her own brand “1205” in 2010. She was appointed creative director of John Lobb in 2014. She is recognized for her modern attitude the leading the brand while understanding traditional craftsmanship.