"In previous collections I have made a number of fine, elegant shoes for going out but there are some evenings that demand something that is both beautiful and hard," explains Marc Hare as he introduces his AW12 collection in the late afternoon hum of the Rivington Grill in Shoreditch. "This is especially true in the UK where your feet can often lead you in to dirt, grime and puddles of beer and who knows what else" adds Hare before taking another sip of wine and declaring, "I wanted to make some shoes that could deal with everything that could possibly be thrown at them on a good night and also deal with a long, cold and wet winter." It might be a gloriously warm and balmy afternoon but the haze of wine and spirits acts as the perfect backdrop for the shoe designer to reacquaint me with the carefully crafted, leather characters that make up the 'At Large' collection.
Mr. Hare has always a been a work in progress and this season sees our favourite shoe designer take another confident step forward. From season to season, there is a constant sense of evolution and at times revolution. One ever present facet is the personality of Marc Hare evident throughout. The debut collection was all about making the shoes that he had never quite found in his life, killer evening shoes that felt at home both on the dance floor and in the office. The sophomore collection concentrated on the designer looking fly whilst kicking it on the equator. The third crossed the English Channel for inspiration and focused our attention on his love of Paris and the French New Wave Film movement. In Ain't no App for That, Hare showcased shapes and materials that I've never come across before and most recently. Idolescents for AW11 was a reimagination of all of the shoes that he wanted as a teenager but could never afford in addition to all of the ones that he could afford made better. Last season was based on his favoured month of August and he drew on the colour, styles and inspirations encountered on his self-confessed one-month-a-year of glorious underachievement. With each season, Hare pushes the collection that bit more whilst revealing more about himself. In 'At Large' he addresses his need to have beautiful shoes that could tackle anything and everything Soho could throw at them. The beautiful coming together of sexy and functional is rare but thanks to a soundtrack of Gaz's Rockin Blues and memories of some of Soho's great characters washed down with rum sees the two opposities unite in a series of increasingly passionate embraces in a dark corner. Before we become voyeurs to this union with a pulse racing dose of shoe porn, we will tease you that bit by allow the designer to talk through the collection...
"After the experiments of Idolescents in the year previous we he used Vibram soles and experimented with different leathers, I wanted to make something more refined whilst still being able to do the same things. Following the success of the London shoe of last year we saw that we could make a beautiful shoe that is nice and heavy and wanted to take that on but mould other influences instead of it being a straight up policeman's shoe - they always have to be sexy. We wanted to take this Rockabilly styling. You'll see with the look book was shot in Gaz's Rockin Blues live on a Thursday night because that is the Soho night and that is the Soho club - the longest running one night club in the history of the world. Luckily we rocked up to the door and asked to come in to shoot, he said as long as we paid the entry fee we could do what we liked. So we went in and did it.
With this collection it was a consolidation of everything that had before it in a winter Mr. Hare collection made in to something that was ultimately practical in enabling people to do what they do, which is going out to Soho on a Thursday night without worrying about trashing your shoes. The leathers are high shine so you can just wipe off the night's sediment matter when you get home with a damp cloth and the next day you'll be back to a brand new pair of shoes to help you start again.
We've got all of the old classics in there but made with new materials so they can keep up. For example, there's Miller's with the same construction but with the addition of rubberised soles to deal with the weather and all manner of crap conditions. We've also added a new new last called Rico that is a shorter, wider but rounded, pointier last - it's the complete opposite to the Miller last which is long and elegant. It is shorter, stumpier and a little more aggressive and ready for action. There's six new style on it; Bacon, Deacon, Wilde, Cook, Freud and Bernard. In terms of the naming, some people say that 'all of the greatest drunks that ever walked in Soho' while others call them 'the greatest contemporary thinkers of their time in London.' My winter collections always tend to be personal and this one is specifically about Soho and certain places because when you do a proper night out, you end up in the Groucho, Gaz's and Jerry's. Simply put, they are the perfect shoes for a good night out."
Mr. Hare on 'At Large'
A few styles from the aforementioned AW12 look book featuring Wilde, Deacon and Bacon.
Before we share a closer look at the likes of Bacon, Wilde and Freud, we should introduce the 'harder, better, faster, stronger' versions of the Vonnegut, Stingray Orwell and Miller...
Old friends, familiar yet different.
As mentioned, the new styles that join the evolved favourites above, appropriate the names from the real characters of Soho nightlife, old but not forgotten ghosts that lit up the debauched scene. During the showroom visit at the start of the year I can recall the work of photographer John Deakin accompanying the collection. Much as the British photographer chronicled the twilight world of 1950s and the original Brit Art stars who inhabited it, Hare's leather creations are his own personal portraits of these men.
"The Bacon is the Bacon because he was probably pissed most of the time and so would find it difficult doing a pair of laces up so it's got a monkstrap. The Wilde had to be called that because well, just look at it, it's the shoe he would have worn. The Cook takes its queue from him being so practical and again, when I look at Freud, I see him."
My shoe affections violently bounce from Wilde (top) to Deacon (centre) to Freud (below).
When the time comes each season when the latest Mr. Hare collection drops, my body and mind have gone through a precise and now well rehearsed process. The eyes bulge, the heartbeat quickens and the mind becomes filled with shoe lust. There is so much to covet but the current favourite is the Freud boot and Hare himself shares my enthusiasm but is always looking forward.
"When you start a shoe from scratch they always feel that bit more special, the Kerouac was like that in the very first season and that was the case with the Freud this season. That said, I get as much enjoyment out of refining older styles as I do introducing new ones. They all get refined in the future. The new Miller for this season is undoubtedly the best because every little detail has been honed and tweaked from the knowledge gained both in terms of previous incarnations and from other styles - there are about six shoes which have been compacted in to the new Miller to make it the ultimate. You live and learn. I've never made a secret of the fact that it is a learning process. Previously, as we had been reusing the Miller last in a number of executions I realised its limitations and so we brought in the new Rico last which takes care of them. Now we have two lasts which essentially can cover any classic. The Miller is our Oxford and the Rico is our Derby. I'm excited. It is all about development and striving forward, there's so much more that I want to do."
Despite the whirlwind of success that has seemingly enveloped Mr. Hare since the brand's inception, Hare himself isn't satisfied. Always moving and learning, he's hungry for more and so are we. Here's to getting fat from his shoes...