Fashion / Interviews

Traditional shoemaking craftsmanship revived in Bristol

By louisa howard, Monday Jan 30, 2017

In a fast fashion world, bespoke shoemaking duo Ollie Cross and Lucy Lloyd have made a business out of doing things slowly.

The pair set up their label Ottowin three years ago when they discovered an unused warehouse space at the Old Malthouse, between Old Market and Cabot Circus.

 “It was found by pure accident,” says Ollie, as he leads me up numerous flights of wooden stairs to the workspace area. He leased the space with ten friends and the word spread. 

“It was a wreck when we first moved in – there were dodgy beams and structures which we had to fix,” he adds, but now the space is home to 24 small businesses and creators.

Ottowin’s studio space in Bristol’s historic Old Malt House

Meanwhile, Lucy is busy parceling up a sumptuous pair of navy shoes for a customer.  It’s apparent from the way she carefully handles the shoes that they are much more than just a product – more an imaginative extension of both their creators. 

This particular pair of shoes are phenomenally light.  “This is all down to the sole,” Lucy explains. “For this pair of shoes we chose to use EVA, a lightweight durable material.” 

But each design is different, with some of the boots needing to have heavier soles and some customers preferring their footwear to have a weightier feel.

The concept for Ottowin, with its ethos on sustainability and maintaining traditional skill making, was born out of a mutual passion for creativity. Lucy, originally from Devon, studied at Cordwainers which is now part of the London College of Fashion and Coventry-born Ollie studied fine art at UWE. 

The pair, who met in Bristol three years ago, admit the reason they chose footwear is down to Lucy, with Ollie affectionately explaining: “Lucy’s passion became my passion, in a really positive way.”   

Ottowin’s creators: Ollie Cross and Lucy Lloyd each wearing their own handmade shoes which Lucy said, “are too comfortable to take off.”

The shoes are made of premium UK leather and the pair can spend days spent rifling through the supplier’s leather warehouse – a treasure trove of multi-coloured and different textured premium hides.   

Such dedication means these shoes are not a throwaway fashion item-  these shoes are made to last a lifetime. Summer sandals cost £130 and their most expensive range is a pair of winter boots at £320. 

Each pair of shoes, although expensive to make both in terms of time and materials, are a work of art in themselves.  Handmade to order, they are therefore unique and as Ollie said, “they create a lineage, a story and become an object that the customer will hopefully cherish”.

Traditional shoe making tools


Throughout February, Bristol24/7 readers can get a 20 per cent discount on all Ottowin footwear – simply enter code ‘B247’ at the checkout.

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