Oliver Sweeney X Apple

We recently teamed up with Apple to talk to their customers about our Shoe Tattoo initiative. Apple have been celebrating the local creative community in a series of instore talks and we were delighted to take part.

Tattooing shoes has been part of our brand for several years now and allows our customers to do something truly unique. Our Cobbler-in-chief Tim Cooper talked to a captivated crowd about our brand, and how the idea of tattooing originated.

Here is a summary of the Q and A

Who is Oliver Sweeney?

We're a menswear brand with footwear at our heart, but more importantly with creativity at our heart - our CEO (me) is a fourth-generation shoemaker and I still get to design some of the collection.

We take old techniques and we modernise the, we use innovative materials in unusual ways, we find archive constructions and bring them up to date and we still use the amazing anatomical last ( the form the shoes are built on) that Oliver created in 1989, a last this has a different shape to the rest of the industry - the cone of the last is swung to the outside and the bottom has a gentle curve and a natural arch - this means our shoes fit the foot more naturally and in an increasingly digital business we have much lower returns than the industry standard. We are a community of individuals both within our own team but also amongst our customers.

When did you first become aware of Apple?


Apple first came into my life in 1985 when I came back to work for a shoe company in Camden Town (I haven't moved very far since as we are now based in Kentish Town) after a couple of years working for a French shoe company. When I joined that business they we still doing the budgets and forecasts on huge (table sized) pieces of paper, hoping that the horizontal totals matched the vertical ones after adding them up on a calculator. I had the then revolutionary idea of using a new thing called a spreadsheet, so we went out and brought a Macintosh computer - it had a mouse 5.25" floppy disk drive and a printer the size of a desk, it was an amazing thing, no double slash commands or navigation using the arrow keys and our accounts team (not design at that point) were converted to Apple - I loved the credo and call of Apple then and to this day, the idea that we could "think different"

I think that Apple as a brand has always been about creativity, about a community of individuals and about daring to "think different"

Where did the idea of Personalisation come from?


Personalisation is popular request from our customers, whether it’s a simple initial or something larger to celebrate an event. Our personalisation is something a little different… tattooing.

Our idea of tattooing shoes came about 7 years ago when a large London department store (the one with the yellow bags) offered a number of footwear brands the opportunity to have a pop up shop for the month of September, one of our marketing came up with the idea of creating a tattoo parlour for shoes - we won the pitch but the next problem was to find a tattooist, having approached about 10 all of whom told us that the only did skin I asked Sarah who said "i can do that" we purchased a tattooing kit online and after a couple of weeks practise and many hours of watching tutorials online they started to look something like tattoos ( if you squinted and the room was dark)

7 years later we tattoo more than 500 items a year and have popped up in San Francisco, Paris, Singapore, Dubai, Seattle etc etc. What does it mean though? What makes it special? - For me it comes back to many of the same things i got from that early Macintosh and my first IPod, it's about individualisation in an increasingly homogenous world, it's about allowing our customers the ability to be unique. it's about self -curation in a similar way to my early playlists on ITunes, it gives our customers the ability to be creative and to reflect their personality through artistic impression.

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