Interview: Theo Hassett
“I stopped by Oliver Moore’s in New York late last year and they had a dusty shelf down the back with shoes that may have been gifted back to the makers once the client died, or perhaps when they had no use for them. They’d all been well worn and the making was just incredible…I spent hours in there photographing the details. I walked down Madison Ave past Berluti…Lobb…to me, nothing came close.” - Theo Hassett
There is a growing discernment of quality and craftsmanship in Melbourne. It is a discernment that extends its tendrils into many things, digestible or inanimate. Theo Hassett is a bespoke shoemaker. It is his job, in attempting to craft the highest quality shoes possible, to be as discerning as he can be. There are no shortcuts in the process and no compromises that will not go unnoticed in a pair of bespoke shoes. For their owners, they are the things they are stepping into and out of, wearing them for hours, days, weeks, years and potentially decades. Van Gogh painted them worn and battered after years of wear with due appreciation. They are something to digest.
I walk the set of stairs up to the first level of the Captains of Industry building to visit Theo. It’s an unassuming entrance. The café is operating in the bustle of the day. His workshop is through a crevice of a door flanked by a white ladder displaying belts, wallets and finished shoes. For over three years of work in this place, Theo has proven that if you can make good work out of a demand that is only increasing, there is an opportunity to exist and thrive.
Theo: “The fact that there are two schools in Melbourne teaching shoemaking is the reason I am a shoemaker. They come from Melbourne’s past as a major manufacturing town and if it weren’t for our past, they wouldn’t exist.” I remember a conversation I’d had with Theo prior where he mentioned a tannery in Fitzroy that once existed. It produced thick, high quality leather for a certain type of boots. The demolition must have happened a long time ago. Shoemaking doesn’t happen as often as it used to in Melbourne. Bespoke, has itself had to adapt, influenced by its rarity as a service today. Theo tells me that “only about 10% of customers have a strong idea of what they want” leaving it up to him to guide them into something appropriate and more often than not, sharing equally in the design process.
As the winter approaches, Theo can anticipate to be fitting Melbourne men for more Balmoral boots than Oxfords, a popular choice in the colder months. A side of English behaviour and taste to suit our grey weather, that is to be enjoyed if you know how to. At present he is working on an “Adelaide” Brogue in mahogany coloured Kangaroo leather with Ostrich leg facings. It’s a shoe I’d seen him recently make for himself and one that someone became interested in because of his recent efforts. There’s a solid week worth of work in it if you want to execute it without a flaw. Being able is the only precondition. That takes time.
Roberts & Hassett
Level 1 / 2 Somerset Place, Melbourne
ph: 03 9670 4405
- by Royce Alido