James Kearns: London’s Self-Made Shoemaker

James Kearns. Photo by Salvo Sportato
James Kearns. Photo by Salvo Sportato

LONDON–James Kearns, a luxury footwear maker and leather-smith from London’s rising Hackney neighbourhood, learned everything he knows about crafting luxury footwear from You Tube. That’s right, you read correctly… You Tube.

“It basically all happened quite out of the blue,” Kearns said.

His home is dotted with fresh fruit that he macerates into juices, jars of vitamins and discs of Puercha tea from the Yunnan province of China — an elixir of sorts that uplifts the spirit and expands the mind.

As we sip the tea, we realise that Kearns, with his pristine skin, healthy hair and bright eye whites, is as much of a purist about what he puts into his body, as he is about making his ultra-comfy boots that are sold in the luxury promenades from Boston to Tokyo.

A bonafide health enthusiast, Kearns, 35, opted out of his work as a sound engineer to follow his passion for fashion, first by making suits, then leather jackets and finally dedicating himself completely to the shoe business, totally by chance.



“One day I had 70/85 pairs of shoes on order, and I knew that it was time to quit my day job and make this my real job,” Kearns said, noting that sometimes orders take about one month to fulfil due to the meticulous manner in which they are made.

Kearns takes us up into a small attic studio where rows of patterns are neatly stacked, rolls of leather are tucked into shelves and the smell of freshly, naturally tanned leather fills the warm air. He blows our mind away, as he stitches layers of treated horse leather entirely by hand.


He develops his own patterns, weaves the shoes by hand, washes the leather, rusts the iron eyelit holes with home vinegar… and so much more.

“They are normally made over three to four days depending on the treatments and drying times,” Kearns said.

Kearns mostly uses horse leather because of the interesting yet modernist natural patterns it makes after it has been washed and tanned. The result is a unisex spirited line of lace-up boots that are a cross between a lace up hi-top sneaker and a boot that are perfect for a millennial culture of media savvy entrepreneurs and rebel creatives.

“My customers hail from the media world, advertising and even banks. What I find is that they usually come back 7 seven to eight years later.”

PRICE: GBP 900 to GBP 1000

WHERE TO BUY: http://www.jameskearns.co.uk