Former Scientist Turned Designer Talks Seeing His Roker Boots on Harry Styles & Gender-Neutral Shoes

Roker, boots, emerging talent
A pair of blue boots by Roker.
Courtesy of brand

For Footwear News Emerging Talent 2017, the fashion team selected 32 of the most promising and progressive names in shoes to know right now. The specifications we looked for were both formalized and guided by editorial instincts, drawing us to a diverse mixture personalities that fused originality, intuition, verve, business savvy, 0n-point branding, quality, point of view, personality, cool factor, unwavering style and passion. 

harry styles fashion, boots, roker Harry Styles wears bespoke Roker boots with flared trousers and a black shirt on May 12, 2017 in London. REX Shutterstock

ROKER

LAUNCHED: 2017

BASE: “London. I have been here since 2001 after moving from Sunderland in the north of England (the brand is named after the area I’m from). I have developed here as a person, and London is still developing me. We have some of the most creative people here, and it is great to be a part of this community.”

MADE IN: London

BACKSTORY: “I started life as a scientist and then fell into PR. I did that for a few years before I discovered my love of making footwear. I went to London College of Fashion followed by working for bespoke shoemakers T&F Slack.”

YOUR SHOES IN THREE WORDS: “He, she and ze.”

COMPETITIVE EDGE: “We are a gender-neutral brand using traditional handmade techniques alongside modern practices. We have a bespoke side to our business that allows us to produce something that is very individual, but it was important to me that the brand was inclusive and accessible. Given how society is changing, this is becoming more and more important. People don’t want to be dictated to by traditional gender constraints.”

SHOP TALK: “Currently, our shoes are available online but will soon be available in certain opinion-leading stores such as Dover Street Market.”

WISE WORDS: “Really think about what makes you unique — you will be setting up your brand in an already saturated market. Innovate and find creative solutions because you need to stand out.”

MENTORS: “Tim and Fiona Slack of T&F Slack Shoemakers (previously known as Walkers), who have taught me everything I know about shoemaking. They have been making shoes since the ’60s for people such as David Bowie and Catherine Deneuve.”

BREAKTHROUGH MOMENT: “Having our shoes shot by Tim Walker and seeing Harry Styles wearing our boots regularly. Working with a creative talent like Harry is so rewarding. He has a very modern sensibility but at the same time the maturity of an old rock star.

WHAT’S NEXT: “Collaborating with designer Richard Quinn, who won the XXX H&M prize. I tend to work with people who push my work to a different level, so I’m excited to see where Richard’s talent for print takes us.”

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