“Much has been made of the announcement by Daniel Day-Lewis, last summer, that “Phantom Thread,” Paul Thomas Anderson’s psychological/sartorial drama, set in nineteen-fifties London, marks his retirement from acting. Less has been made—indeed, it would be fair to say that almost nothing has been made—of the fact that “Phantom Thread” also marks the cinematic début of George Glasgow, a bespoke shoemaker and nascent character actor.
Viewers of the film who have managed to tear their eyes away from Day-Lewis—he has won three Academy Awards for Best Actor, and is nominated again, for his performance as Reynolds Woodcock, a fastidious couturier—may have noticed Glasgow, who appears in two scenes in his role as Nigel Cheddar-Goode. In the first, he is seated in a brasserie, bow-tied and mustachioed, dining with Day-Lewis and his co-stars (Vicky Krieps, who plays Woodcock’s muse, Alma, and Lesley Manville, who plays his sister, Cyril) and muttering about horse racing in a distinctive London accent. The second time, he appears as the best man at the wedding of Woodcock and Alma, standing silently in the background as they take their fateful vows.
Illustration by Tom Bachtell
In his day job, Glasgow, who is sixty-six, is the co-owner of George Cleverley & Company, which crafts handmade shoes for bankers, hedge-funders, royals, sportsmen, and actors, including Day-Lewis. (Day-Lewis’s last—the beechwood form that is carved in the shape of his foot, upon which his shoes are made—dangles in a storeroom above the shop, in London, alongside the lasts of Charlie Watts, David Beckham, Jony Ive, and Kenneth Branagh.) A couple of years ago, when Glasgow was in New York to meet with clients, Day-Lewis invited him to lunch at Harry Cipriani, on Fifth Avenue. The men discussed the shoes that Day-Lewis was having made to wear as Woodcock—gorgeous, gleaming things, worn over socks of ecclesiastical purple—and Day-Lewis asked Glasgow about his life. The actor was delighted to hear that Glasgow was born in Pimlico: his own grandfather, Michael Balcon, was the head of the Ealing Studios, which made “Passport to Pimlico,” among many other celebrated film comedies…” Read full story here
My first surprise was they’re really daring with the color. The [global] men’s market moved within the last 10 years, of course—everybody noted this. Men are a bit more fashionable—little by little—but in China, the movement is very, very fast. In my collection, I’m very focused on the color and the detail of the piping. They really understand very quickly, and really they dare, which is not so obvious in France or other markets like the United States.
You also have two stores in Hong Kong. Have you noticed any differences in taste between the mainland and Hong Kong customers?
Hong Kong is a bit different. It’s much more cosmopolitan than Beijing. In Hong Kong, you have some mainlanders who come, but you have all the nationalities.
Here, it’s really like a new market. The people are very open-minded, in fact. You feel that they are more open-minded than the others. It’s a funny thing but I think it’s really true.
How important is personalized service in the China market compared to other markets?
The same as everywhere. We make bespoke here, which is full bespoke—starting from scratch—and we have ready-to-wear, but in ready-to-wear, you have the possibility to make a very special thing called an “MTO” or “made-to-order”: you can change the color, you can change the finishing, the piping, the lining, the sole. Half of our business is done with the MTO in ready-to-wear, which is huge.
What kind of demand have you seen for bespoke products in general in China?
In China’s market, I think the bespoke is a statement.
The first time I came to China seven years ago, I visited the Forbidden City and the Great Wall, and I realized the level of the craft they had for a very long time. Of course, they had a very big period—the Cultural Revolution, which was terrible for their culture and for a lot of people, but they have this [craftsmanship] in their DNA. They know the quality; they know the nice craft. It’s a very sophisticated culture. They understand the difference, and they really enjoy it.
You just introduced some soft shoes to the China market. Can you talk about how these compare to the other models?
For 25 years I’ve made a kind of formal shoe—leather sole, good construction, classical but with a twist. But in a certain way, it’s not very open. I decided six months ago, especially for the China market (but not only the China market—Dubai and also the Hong Kong market—countries where it’s hot or wet) we definitely need this product—something easier to wear, softer—they can wear it barefoot. Just to open the field a little bit more for the customer. It’s a first step because we’re probably going to move next for fall/winter to the sneaker, and then next spring/summer we’re probably going to make another loafer like this one but lighter and softer. Shoes that you’d like to wear on the beach in St. Tropez or on your yacht…” Read full interview here