A New Interview From Indonesia
I am back with a new interview of one of the top emerging shoe brands from Indonesia which is Winson Shoemaker.
In this article I discuss a lot of things with him ranging from his background, history and vision.
Let’s jump right into it!
Winson Shoemaker Interview
This article is part of a long series of interviews I do with the best shoemakers in the world.
All have their own vision and unique aspect of life, business and creativity. One of the more exciting shoemaking schools emerging from Asia is certainly the Indonesian one.
To be honest, I forgot I had sent this interview since it took Emil 8 months to send it back. He is incredibly busy with life and his business so I totally understand.
For many, this interview might not be as exciting to read but don’t forget English is not his first language. I edited the text slightly but preserved its authenticity.
1. Hello Emil! It’s great to finally have you here to talk about Winson Shoemaker! Let’s begin with a short introduction.
My name is Emil. I studied Informatics Engineering at university and actually started selling cheap leather shoes back in 2014 in order to pay rent and tuition in Bandung.
2. So that was your first experience with leather shoes huh? And how did you decide to enter the shoe industry after all?
Winson was already making casual work-boot styles before. After I found it’s quite common in Indonesia I began learning more so I could make something different.
Making a traditional shoe the traditional way was very challenging for me to learn.
3. There is usually an interesting backstory about each Brand name. How did you end up with Winson Shoes?
My father’s name is Zarwin. He is a tailor and he named his business “Win’s tailor” because people know him as Mr. Win.
So basically, Winson is Win’s son, which is me.
4. How would you describe “Winson Shoes” now? What kind of people does your brand strive to reach out to?
We are traditional shoemakers and bootmakers who offer something different in the market at affordable prices.
So our target is those who can appreciate the shoemaking process, the art.
Today, you see on our Instagram that Winson makes all dress shoes and boots which are mostly worn by people in offices.
We also continue to make casual boots under the name Midas Bootmaker.
5. Your shoes are Hand-Welted. Is it important to you? In fact, why do you prefer it over Goodyear?
I wanted to make a brand exclusively using the traditional way and working out the details that only hands can do.
If my goal is to make the best shoes I can, Goodyear was never an option.
6. I actually like and respect that! Now let’s discuss materials. How difficult is it to source the best leathers and other components in Indonesia?
We currently import all leathers.
We use upper leather from the Annonay Tannery, Ilcea Tannery, and soles from JR.
Some of our tools and supplies (like threads) are from Japan. Actually we even make many tools here in the workshop such as glue and awl blades.
7. I know you work with a small workshop. How do you currently market your shoes and do you plan to introduce a website?
Not sure a website will work well for Winson.
I prefer email so we can discuss more in detail with our clients. Instagram works as a gallery without any special marketing technique since the beginning.
I also work with House of Agin to sell casual boots under Midas Bootmaker since the designs are usually less wild.
8. Demand for your shoes is pretty high right now. Rumor has it that you have a 6 months full queue right now! Do you plan to increase production, hire more people but with the same level of quality?
I don’t have any plans to increase the production.
The long term plan is nothing more than to keep increasing the quality and improvements on every shoes we make.
9. How many people work with you in the workshop right now?
4 people including me.
10. And how do you train them and ensure they keep your high standards?
We have worked together as a team for a while now and are all passionate about making the best shoes we can.
Most of us specialize in a few processes such as like pattern making, clicking, closing, etc.
But in the end it is a team process.
11. Did you ever believe that you would get so much recognition from people all over the world and sell worldwide?
I never thought of becoming well-known and having a big brand because I only focused on making the best shoes I could make, with the best materials I could get from the very first start.
12. What would you say is the hardest challenge of your business so far?
To maintain the quality consistently and manage the production on time.
When the business is almost all custom MTO, it is hard to have efficient production lines.
13. Now let’s talk about designs. How do you decide which designs to use or develop?
I take a lot of inspiration without thinking too hard about it from scrolling Instagram and other social media.
When customers come to me with ideas, sometimes the design just comes to mind. But I’m sure the work of many bespoke shoemakers and designers I saw before plays a role.
14. It’s quite a difference making classic shoes now than casual boots. Was that a result of your clients’ requests?
Most of my early customers were actually for casual boots, which I still make under the brand Midas Bootmaker.
Most other small Indonesian makers were doing the same, so I decided I like to challenge myself to make something different and special.
15. Which is the most popular request of style and leather?
The balmoral shoes on Aurora last, made of museum calf and box calf.
The Aurora last was the result of a very long time of RnD so I am pleased that customers think it looks as good as I do.
16. Indonesian Shoemaking keeps improving. At what level do you think it is currently at?
We constantly improve and present a lot of new works.
Influencers, social media, and websites like yours really helped to show the rest of the world that we can make great footwear.
A few years ago customers would say they don’t want hand-welt, only Goodyear welt, but now more customers recognize the strengths of Indonesia’s handmade shoe construction.
17. Who do you draw inspiration from?
Not from shoe brands, but shoemakers like Eiji Murata, Yohei Fukuda and Daniel Wegan.
18. Why should someone choose Winson Shoemaker instead of a more established well known brand?
We will never reach the size of many of the major Goodyear welted brands that dominate the market.
Our belief is that if we dedicate our time to always improving our quality and aesthetic, eventually enthusiasts will find us as they research where to find the best shoes available, at fair prices.
19. What does the future hold for Winson?
Other than re-launching our casual boots under Midas Bootmaker, simply making a better quality shoes on every new pair.
Especially during years like 2020 it is hard to fulfill big ambitions but we will continue to make small improvements. For example more leathers, more refined lasts etc.
I hope our followers will enjoy this journey of improvement with us.
20. Thank you Emil! Any last words you might want to share?
I want to raise the job of a shoemaker in Indonesia and make shoemaking the job that people choose with passion, not because of compulsion just to get a job.
First of all, I want to extend my gratitude to Emil for actually giving me this interview.
You can see that he wastes no time talking about the main points and has a clear idea and identity for his brand.
In an age of globalization and false advertising, Winson Shoemaker remains true to its core.
Instead of talking and talking about things they focus on constantly improving. And instead of ramping up production to fulfil demand, they will rather remain small and true to their values.
I respect that and if you follow Winson Shoemaker’s Instagram it is evident. From their designs, lasts, presentation and recently excellent photography they truly strive to improve.
Becoming a shoemaker will never make you rich, but it is a profession full of real passionate people.
As I enjoy some rare vacations after 2 years, I am glad I had this opportunity.
Emil is a very passionate person that cares about every product that comes out of his workshop. I genuinely wish him the best and I encourage you to check out his Instagram.
In the meantime, enjoy a very nice week as we enter the final week of April. I will of course see you next week with hopefully a great article.
Thank you for reading,