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How a cricket started Xuki Handmade shoes.

(If I could find him I’d make him a director… non-executive of course)

Xuki handmade sandals are based on a pair of shoes bought in 2005 for 50 Pounds in Chelsea, London. They’d been handmade in Spain and I wore them every day of every summer after that, until one dark night in 2011, a cricket munched a large half-moon out of the top of the left shoe.

I was undone. Many soles and heels had come and gone by then, but this cricket damage was an insoluble problem until November this year. My husband Stephan saw them properly for the first time when I was mournfully showing them to a friend. Until then I’d investigated and discarded several local shoe manufacturers (reliability was a problem). I’d even shlepped them to the Midlands in Kwazulu-Natal on our holiday to see if a renowned shoe making factory there would adopt the pattern and maybe I’d see a new pair one day. But when I phoned them, they declined, saying they have their own designs and designers and so the shoes mouldered on in their packet, all the way back to Cape Town.

So I gave up for a while. But the dream refused to die and one evening I showed my friend the sad state of my faithful old companions, which lay there like two dead fish, grey and green with mould. She was suitably sympathetic, but my husband Stephan seemed to see them for the first time. Unable to sleep that night, he got up at 3 a.m. to dismember the victim of the cricket to get to the basic pattern. Then he made a new shoe from leather offcuts from another project. Naturally I was thrilled to wake up to the prototype, purple thread and all, but now we still needed a sole and a heel. The old ones were rather unspeakable by this time and couldn’t be reused.

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In an hour we were on our way to the local shoemaker in Fish Hoek who couldn’t supply us with a leather sole but referred us to Woodheads in Cape Town. After finding another shoe repair outfit who supplied us with a very thick leather sole, we set off to Woodheads. Meeting Geert Schuitema at Woodheads was an historic event for us. With white hair and sharp twinkling blue eyes behind his specs, he is the archetype of an expert in all things Shoe, who’s been living his passion for decades. Turned out that he had similar patterns already attempted and discarded by other people, in all the sizes including children’s sizes. These were not quite what we wanted, although the children’s sizes appealed to us and so we made a pair of them for a beloved grandchild.

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And now? More colours, more sizes, more designs.

It remains for the market to tell us what it thinks of the sandals in the children’s sizes, so do let us know if you are interested. They would stay a while longer with children than is normally the case as their feet grow bigger, because the design allows the sizes to be much more flexible than normal sandals.

As for ‘our’ pattern, we have the prototype in size 7 for now, which seems to fit 6 – 8 as well. But we’re organising the grading of smaller and bigger adult sizes as soon as possible in the new year. We look forward to announcing more news on this and especially new colours in 2016!

For me, it is absolute bliss to have my dear old friends reincarnated again – they feel like soft slippers even when brand new. I’m glad I didn’t kill that cricket, partly because according to a borrowed Chinese superstition, crickets bring good luck and killing one is very unlucky.

There seems to be some truth in that.


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