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Inside the First Shoe Workshop on London’s Savile Row

Arthur Sleep offers its customers a real-time view of its custom shoe-making process.

Savile Row’s reputation was made by tailors who toiled away on bespoke garments at their place of employment. Now, a new Row resident is continuing that tradition of on-site craftsmanship but, in a first for the storied street, is focusing its craft below the ankle.

Arthur Sleep, which was founded in 2013, comprises one-half of The Workshop Savile Row, located at 7-8 Savile Row. Within the space—which Arthur Sleep shares with bespoke tailor Cad & The Dandy—clients will find a small selection of the footwear maker’s readymade slippers and loafers, as well as a custom-designed green onyx bar where they might enjoy an aperitivo.

Arthur Sleep's Savile Row Store

Arthur Sleep and bespoke tailor Cad & the Dandy share 7-8 Savile Row.  Arthur Sleep

However, the real action happens downstairs, where a small team of dedicated cordwainers will be hard at work crafting the brand’s signature slippers from start to finish. It’s a process that can be completed in as little as an hour—allowing clients to place an order upstairs and pick it up on the same day. Furthermore, clients are welcome to watch the process themselves, to take part in what Arthur Sleep co-founders Christopher Boadle and Jahangir Azam dub an “immersive retail” experience.

Shoes, as a product, are a very emotional purchase,” Boadle says. “You become very attached to your shoes. They take you to all sorts of incredible places and experiences, and that’s why we give people the opportunity to see them being made.”

But first, clients will navigate the experience of placing a custom slipper order upstairs—and considering the options, that might take as long as the production process itself. Clients may choose from fabrics including calfskin, suede, cashmere and linen in 188 possible color shades, 36 lining options and 10 sole units covering leather, rubber and combination soles.

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“I don’t think there’s a company in the world that offers the level of customization that we do,” Boadle says.

An even further level of personalization is offered via Arthur Sleep’s embroidery program, which invites clients to consult with an in-house illustrator to develop their own design. Whether that takes the form of, as Azam explains, “Your initials, a beagle or a family crest,” the illustrator will draft a series of options for the client to choose from. Once the desired motif has been found, it can be embroidered on the client’s footwear by machine or hand, and in precious materials including gold bullion wire (machine embroidery is done in-house, while hand-embroidery is a mix of in-house and off-premise work).

7-8 Savile Row represents just a segment of Arthur Sleep’s total production capacity, as the label also maintains a factory in London. But by giving clients a chance to watch their wares be created from start to finish, Boadle believes he is providing a service that’s become rare in today’s age: true luxury.

Arthur Sleep Savile Row

Inside Arthur Sleep’s workroom.  Arthur Sleep

“The essence of luxury has eluded us for a long time,” he says, pointing to the modern-day ubiquity of luxury brands in malls and airports. “It’s not an exclusive experience or product they offer—they do extremely well with the marketing. But what we wanted to try and do is really give that idea of luxury back into the hands of the people.”

As part of a website re-launch expected later this season, Arthur Sleep will be adding an online version of its customization program. And while the convenience of this digital route will surely be appreciated by remote customers, it can’t compare to the sensory experience of seeing your shoes made in real-time.

“You touch the skin, you touch the materials,” Azam says. “You can see and smell the shoe being made.”

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