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“The musky smell of leather perfumes the cosy studio of Josh Leong Shoes at Joo Chiat Terrace. Things get headier as you meet its namesake, a charming shoe atelier whose chat can keep you rapt through a crash course in his complex process, which involves more than 100 different steps and techniques.

It’s an intimate afternoon inside his world, as he opens up. “I am happiest when I am at my workstation,” he confesses. “When my mind is in that state of intense focus, I am in my own little bubble where it is just me and the shoes. Stress and worries disappear, and my mind is at peace.”

An archetype of a growing maker culture in Singapore, Mr Leong has become synonymous with a bespoke heritage once associated only with the Italian leather industry. He is focused on fine workmanship, attention to detail, and a sensibility that combines the nation’s famed pragmatist streak with a broad world view.

Mr Leong left his path in advertising sales, events management and …”  Read full story here.

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GENTLEMENCLOVER_O&S_001Tell me more about yourself and your project.

 Gentlemenclover is first and foremost a man of almost 36 years and father of family, passionate of the beautiful things from his young age. More than a year ago, I started on the networks and I hang on with this wonderful subject of inspiration. I wished since the beginning of this year to devote myself 100% to my new project and I gave myself a little less than 2 years to succeed. The goal is of always sharing, advising, sourcing. The subjects will be numerous, from shoes, to costume, to tie, to watch making.

Who was the first person that influenced you in building your style? 

I did not really have people who influenced me. I am rather an autodidact for the subject.  I would say that the main source comes from my Italian origins, then I especially appreciate some bloggers, such as Blueloafers, The Nordic Fit, Andreas Weinas, Fabio Attanasio…

My top 10 would be complicated to perform so there are inspiring people in the style.IMG_0181

 What inspires your own dressing?

I particularly like the Asian style mixed with the Italian know-how. I take inspiration from tailors mainly. They are my source because they have a vision and a way of doing things for everyone. It helps me diversify my choices. It is also valid for shoes and others.

 How do you describe your personal style?

It’s complicated to describe one’s own style in a few lines rather than in an image. The style that I am trying to build is that of a chic, Franco-Italian dandy with a strong Asian touch. To me all this combined makes my own style. With inspiration from the ‘50s-‘60s.

 What was the most extravagant item you have ever worn?

I’ve never really worn something extravagant. I would say that it was perhaps one of my made to order by Antonio Meccariello that took back the crocodile skin with a typical patina. I have more classic choices now.IMGP9425

Walking in Paris I noticed that most of the French Men are not very dapper. That’s a pity because the craft is still alive in Paris. Why this approach?

Yes, it is a pity, there are still very nice  brands accessible in Paris. The man, whether French or not, pays much more attention to his appearance and style. In France, there is unfortunately not this same culture. Here, a well-dressed man is assimilated differently.GENTLEMENCLOVER_O&S_003

What are from your point of view the most emblematic French houses (tailors/shoemakers)?

This answer may also be broad. Without making a ranking, I would say Arnys, Cifonelli, Luca Camps, Stark and Sons, Pen House, Sirven House…for these two rising brands on Paris. It is also necessary to think of a young brand or rather a young man – Romain Biette, founder of Ardentes Clipei, a new Parisian tailoring. I would add at this point the shirts – to this short answer about the best tailors of Paris, speaking of Charvet and also of Swann and Oscar. “The suit” is not their specialty, but the first is a reference in the world, the second is my address and offers accessible and very qualitative made to measure products. Swann and Oscar even make an offer on the MTM jackets and develop their accessories…to which I contribute. For the shoes, also without a ranking, Aubercy, Weston, Corthay, Stephane Jimenez …

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Let’s talk about hidden secrets. If someone would want to go shopping in Paris what is your advice?

It is not really a secret, but I invite you, if you want to discover some brands, to go to Paris in the neighborhood near the Madeleine, by the Opera. Then Saint Germain des Pres is also rich on the subject.
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I like your selection of shoes as Vass is also one of my favorite MTO shoemaker.  What RTW / MTO shoemakers do you favor beside Vass?

I’m actually an incontestable fan of Vass but I become very attached to the brand Skolyx, which are supplied on Spanish models Yanko. I also have a wonderful MTO from Mr. Ramon Cuberta. And I recently separated from the different models I had from Maestro Antonio Meccariello. My tastes have evolved since my beginnings, I became more classic in my choices, I especially appreciate suede calf. And the loafers model. I would like to think of a loafer from Baudoin & Lange soon, I am in the middle of an email exchange on the subject. Then I would like to complete this collection one day with a pair of Saint Crispin’s. The absolute dream would be to be able to associate Gentlemenclover with a special line as some blogger have already done.IMG_0322

Tell me more about your small shoe collection. What is the story of each pair?

It’s true that each has its own history. I work a lot to the imagination and always try to find a different color. At the beginning I was only working on my shoes, now I work with my different suits and my outfit. I like to break codes a bit, to say that suede does more sportwear is not for me. It is also privileged for the summer, not for me either.

I have long been attracted by Italy for shoes and I now like to see other. As I have already said, I would really like to participate in the design and choice of a line of shoes.

After I work a lot to feelings and exchange that I can have with different artisans. Vass or Skolyx are listening to me and this is the basis of my inspiration, as I imagine with them if my shoes are possible.

My last MTO with skolyx, I imagined it based on the fabric chosen from Bntailor, command made with Robin Pettersson.

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Best fitting pair of shoes?

My last F for Vass. Last 955 pour skolyx Only available for loafers.

I rather like the round shapes, which correspond more to the shape of my foot and my kick.

Worst fitting pair of shoes?
The worst pair of shoes? I can not remember.IMGP0483

What shoe style do you prefer the most?

I believe I have already answered but without hesitation, the loafer is for me the shoes I love most to wear. For the choice of suede skin, with a semi-rubber sole. It’s different features gives me a more comfortable and aesthetic shoes. Especially since suede does not mark the foldsGENTLEMENCLOVER_O&S_037 (1)

What are your favorite places to spend your evenings?

My home is the best place to spend nice evenings with family. Then I particularly like the country of my origins (Italy) to enjoy good times.IMG_9480

 And what about future plans?

My future projects are numerous. I would like to imagine various partnerships. For shoes, I would like to imagine new collaborations. For bespoke suits, continue to develop my collection and also have new collaborations with Italian tailors or others. Continue to make discoveries brands and I think all this will be easier when my website will be in place. Then, I already collaborate with a French brand on the accessory part, I have the will to persist with Swann and Oscar in time. Why not do the same with other brands who like my style?FLCO1705241279-ALOCNEWFR1H-EVER-002

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I was passing the other day through the center of the city and I noticed in a showcase the ad for a suit maker. If I were to go by what it said, everything was hand-made, personalized for the body of every buyer. Of course it was only a marketing trick, but this sort of false publicity tends to become annoying. Fifty years ago it was difficult for a tailor to have a studio in a central area if he wasn’t truly good. No everything is seen more or less from the point of view of the turnover. But this brand oriented type of thinking transforms even decent people from the industry. People who, until yesterday felt comfortable in the posture of suit sellers, now appear with scissors in their hands or even sewing buttonholes. Of course they aren’t taken seriously by the connoisseurs, but even mocked by them, however, for a less competent person, that guy is a tailor.1U0A1590
The story is beginning to be more important than the product. But the recipe is used even by bigger houses when they go from one generation to another. When the father cannot work in the studio anymore, the son takes over the business, but quite often, protected by the work and the good name of the father, the son hasn’t gone to the studio. Suddenly though, he discovers that he must continue the story. So, previously advised by a PR, he proceeds to a makeover of his own image. You see the young man, who only yesterday only came to the studio to greet his father, now making lasts. Where on earth he learnt to make lasts I couldn’t say. However, when the photos are taken unprofessionally, you can see his hands with an impeccable manicure.
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The case of a Viennese shoemaker, supplier for the Imperial Court, whose heir with roman name appears in photos while looking at lasts with a Tom Cruise sort of gaze, is entirely charming. Nevertheless, the story goes on, even if in the present it belongs to the fantasy genre. In reality, the story sells, so we should pay more attention even when the story is beautiful. In shoemaking, those who make their entrance on the market beautify the story more by omission than by modifying the reality. The leather is presented as being French, without indicating the exact origin or without specifying exactly the place where it I produced.  Some French tanneries are good  others are bad…1U0A1604
Despite all this, the idiosyncrasies regarding the fact that the shoes are made outside Europe should disappear. In the end, it doesn’t matter where they are made as long as you are satisfied with the quality. The Asian brands will be a significant competition in the future. The online presentation is very good, if we consider the fact that certain companies with tradition have only now created decent website.1U0A1601
Aside that, the attention for details is at maximum level. Take for example Barre et Brunel. Their shoes are made in Spain. They have a dozen available models, but those are carefully chosen. I was a bit circumspect regarding the quality, considering the fact that I had an unpleasant experience once with a pair of shoes made in Spain for a by now famous brand. When I saw that there were also patina models, I raised my brow. The common patinas are usually executed in a sloppy manner. Italians are masters in making horrible patinas for cheap shoes.1U0A1587
Nevertheless, when I saw the shoes in person, I was pleasantly surprised. I am not an expert in patinas, but at least I can say that B&B patinas are very neat. You have below the photos so that you can judge that for yourselves. I liked them. I appreciate Etienne Brunel at least for two things: the fact that he manages to obtain a good quality from a Spanish factory (which is not easy; the Spanish have the tendency to work badly if you don’t keep your eyes on them) and because he has classic models that look very fresh. Enjoy the photos and remember that, sometime, pleasant surprises can be just around the (Asian) corner.
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