London-based footwear label Roker was very much an insider’s secret in the British capital, having operated as a bespoke shoemaker since its inception in late 2016 and been the go-to collaborator for some of the city’s most experimental and eccentric up-and-coming designers like Charles Jeffrey Loverboy and Richard Malone.
With Jeffrey in particular, Roker’s Alim Latif had created out-there designs, from high platforms for men to bespoke riding boots featuring hand-painted, child-like patterns, putting the brand on the map for its gender-fluid, open-minded approach.
Given Roker’s exposure on the catwalk, Latif said that requests from stylists kept flooding in so he decided to take the leap and expand his business beyond the bespoke services he started with to include wholesale.
But he’s doing it on his own terms: The collections are carefully edited, embrace the same gender-bending spirit and are only sold to special boutiques like Browns in London.
“We want to hold on to our bespoke roots, so we’re controlling our wholesale business. The shoes are such statements in themselves that we need to find the right partners,” said Latif. “The idea was to make the brand accessible to all and show my personal style and what I’m into.”
The brand is also part of the British Fashion Council’s Newgen scheme, which supports young talent, and showcased its spring 2020 collection as part of London Fashion Week Men’s last weekend.
The range was filled with delicious pastel colors and stayed focused on brand signatures like the square toe and the chunky block heel. Even when it came to more classic styles like brogues, Latif added edgier twists in the form of thick, geometrically-cut rubber roles.
While some styles, like Mary Jane pumps, were more geared towards women than men, the majority of the collection was filled with unisex styles: loafers, flat boots featuring large gold buckles and even lace-up knee boots with block heels.
“There’s a need for gender-neutral collections, especially in London where there’s demand beyond the gay community. Monarchs in the 17th century wore these kinds of shoes, why can’t I make them for men?” added the designer.
Watch FN’s video below on how to clean your sneakers.
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