Name : Bismark Blak Walter
Job Role : Assistant Manager
Retail Shop / Country : Canary Wharf, London.
What did you do before you started with Crockett & Jones?
I studied footwear design at the London College of Fashion and worked as a menswear specialist for a high quality British suit maker.
Why did you decide that retail was a career you wanted to pursue, and what brought you to Crockett & Jones?
I have a sales and hospitality background and I have always enjoyed talking to people from all walks of life.
The world of shoes and fashion has always been a part of me from an early age. I designed and made my first pair of shoes for school at the age of 12.
I think to build a successful career is very hard, and working for the right company is essential. C&J stood out for me when I was researching heritage British shoe makers. It was what I was looking for; a family-owned business with long-standing traditions - still manufacturing shoes in the UK and also very high quality shoes, at that.
Can you remember the first pair of shoes you ever sold?
Yes! It was a pair of Malton's in Chestnut calf, which I later bought for myself. One of my favourite shoes in the C&J main collection. The stylish "bone structure" of the shoe makes it ideal for anyone who is looking for a pointed, yet classical shape.
How long have you been working for Crockett & Jones? In that time, are there any standout / interesting moments?
I started working at the 69 Jermyn Street outlet and was there for a year, before moving on to Assistant Manager at our most recent store in Canary Wharf. I have worked for the company for 2 years. I think one of the key standout moments for me was when I served one of C & J's royal clients, the "Ooni" of IFE, which is a country in Nigeria. It was both exciting and emotional; as it happened, my grandmother had been a traditional dancer for the royal family. He told me not to bow down as he said my grandmother's family name was just as important as his! I was speechless and also incredibly touched by his warmth and kindness. That for me will always be a treasured memory, amongst the many - working at C & J gives you the opportunity to meet some truly interesting customers!
From the current collection, what is your favourite Crockett & Jones style?
Personally I love a pair of shoes that has bold and strong characteristics. The Lingfield is my favourite Chelsea boot; the bone structure is what made me fall in love with it. It shows the shape of the last used to make it, which you can see in the shoulder line of the shoe. In my view, Lingfield is an exceptional Chelsea boot, suitable for both formal and casual. If you're someone who likes Chelsea boots, Lingfield would be the one to go for.
Working in London, you must know some hidden gems. Tell us something interesting about the City that you would happily recommend your customers do or see.
I am a Wine and Whisky lover! My favourite place in London is the The Connaught Whisky Bar in Carlos Place, Mayfair... or if your palate is more in favour of wines, check out 28-50 wine and kitchen, known for its wild range of classic wines both old and new world.
In your opinion, what really makes a pair of Crockett & Jones shoes special? Is it the Design, the Construction, the Heritage, the people?
The fact we produce the widest range of shoes wherever you go to shop. The beautiful craftsmanship of the shoes which makes them so desirable, and at the same time means that they can potentially last a long time, making them a worthwhile investment. The fact that it's a family business and the owner is just as involved as we are. It's not all about the figures, it's about the effort, the love, care and understanding that all comes together to create a wonderful pair of shoes. To know you can pick up the phone and speak to our owner directly is also very special. Ever since I joined C&J, I've been lucky enough to have worked with people who are very patient in what they do. I find the support from our senior managers and the head of our retail is really there for you. It's very important to have role models in a company.
What shoes did you wear to work today?
I was never traditionally a fan of loafers, which you see me wearing today. To be honest, I regarded them as a bit old fashioned. However I'm wearing a pair of Vincent Black C & J loafers which I have personalised with a particular high shine.
Who inspires you professionally and personally?
I've been inspired in my life by both the positive and the negative. I believe that it is what you take from an experience, and how you apply it, that is important. From a professional viewpoint I have received tremendous encouragement and inspiration from people like Steve Murdoch, Michael Quinn and Ron Cress. On the personal side, my biggest supports have been my ex-wife, Chantal, my friends Reinhold and Ilse, and the man who really inspired me in the art of shoe-making, a great teacher and friend, Mr Fritz Karner - a true "Shoe Master"!
There has been a wave of excitement towards English manufacturing and English brands over the past 5 years, where do you see the men’s footwear industry going over the next 5 years?
I think high-end shoe makers like ourselves are now showing the world the real meaning of footwear. I think people are realising that it's not all about trends. Consistency and comfort are being increasingly valued - elements that C & J have built their name on. Although we are a traditional shoemaker our designs are also modern. In 5 years, I think we will see more people choosing footwear for both style and comfort, not just style alone, and seeking to buy shoes that will last more than just a few seasons. So there will be a greater demand and appreciation for quality craftsmanship and classic simplicity; all good news for English manufacturing in my opinion!
Crockett & Jones.