Fed up with the overload of neon outsoles, camo print and sneakerized brogues in men’s shoe departments, Steffan Safhill decided to put his frustration to good use and in 2012 launched Northern Cobbler. “I wanted to do top-end casual products that at the time were really missing from the market. It was very important to me to do something that has a real handmade feel to it,” says Safhill, whose background includes stints at Clarks, Society Footwear and Ted Baker (tedbaker-london.com).
Two years in, the London-based label has grown to include women’s styles, working with shoemakers in Portugal and England for all of its handmade footwear. Traditional silhouettes are reinvented with unexpected details like a fringed vamp or a contrast pull tab or topline, and welted leather soles feature the brand’s cheeky logo: an embossed sea bass clad in a top hat and monocle. To further the cobbler concept, shoesboxes come with a canvas apron instead of a dust bag.
Cut from suedes and Scotch grain leathers, the Fall ’14 collection spans boots and brogues to monk straps and creepers in a plethora of tan, tobacco and oxblood. The women’s line has evolved from its man-tailored roots to include heels. Also in the cards for fall is a hush-hush collaboration with Commune de Paris, as well as a line of branded shoe care.
Safhill hopes to gradually expand into small leather goods such as belts for men and bags for women over the next few years. “We always try do something different that sets us apart. If we put a shark tooth sole on a shoe it will be a really chunky one,” he offers. “Or we’ll have a brogue but we’ll do it our way with a ghillie loop fastening and leather fringed lace ends.” Expect the belts and bags to follow a similar design philosophy. “We just do what we think is right; we don’t allow trends to dictate us,” Safhill says.