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There’s a certain kind of magic in working with your hands. To see all the elements come together within your fingers out of just mere ideas in your mind. To create something beautiful and unique – it’s an enchanting feeling. It runs in our family I guess – both the skill of handcraft and the appreciation of style. My grandfather, a blacksmith, used to say: you can always tell a gentleman by his shoes. I took that lesson to my heart.
I didn’t grow up with the calling though, it came more like an epiphany. After having surfed through various career waves, I was left with a sort of emptiness – an ache for imagination. I needed to create something by my own hands, and shoes were the obvious option. To satisfy my curious mind, I wanted to get to the very core of the craft. I found an esteemed bespoke-shoemaker shop located in the heart of Helsinki – one of the few places that still designed and crafted every component of a shoe by hand. I walked in, offered to work, was given a set of knives and scissors with some leather – and a fair warning of not getting myself killed. That day I became the cobbler’s apprentice.
In the shoemaker shop I had two mentors. One was a quiet, stuffy man, who kept to himself. Hunched in the corner, he’d stay absorbed in his intricate handiwork. He shared his knowledge seldom and in whispers, but the bits I gathered were pure gold. The other, however, was the city’s most flamboyant dandy, who’d dazzle out customers with endless conversations and know-how. I like to think that I grew into this profession as a mix of the two, with experience from both ends of the spectrum.
The thing that turned a young sneaker-freak’s interest towards classical British shoe aesthetics, once and for all, was my experiences in the mecca of gentlemen shoe styles – Northamptonshire, UK. The time I spent studying there was a ground-breaking time for me. I left with extensive knowledge in the Goodyear welting technique that makes my shoes special today, and a burning passion to evolve and perfect my designer self.
I came back to Finland in 2005 with a head full of hopes and a notebook full of ideas. I realized that even though I had worked with the finest materials and the best of mentors, the work was done with little risks, often settling for the same black models with no playfulness. I wanted to do something different, something surprising. Simply put: I wanted to make better shoes. So I decided to use my knowledge of the age-old cobbler’s craft to create factory-made shoes with bespoke quality, with an added twist of fun in details. This is how Saint Vacant was born.