Thursday, April 12, 2012

Royal Albartross Handmade Golf Shoes

What do you get when you mix 4 years of research, an Italian artisan shoemaker, 250 steps by hand, and over 70 hours of work?  A pair of Royal Albartross Golf Shoes.  

Once again, while on this selfish quest to meet and greet Golf Artisans I am floored by the products I have come across.  

It is hard to call this just a Golf Shoe, it is more a perfect example of golf and art coming together.

You can find Royal Albartross by going to  They offer a variety of shoes for both men and women, all of which are handmade in London.  

These are anything but the massed produced shoes one can find at his or her local golf shop.  Alex's shoes are as stated on their website "Special golf shoes for a special few golfers".  

The end result screams of an obsession to not just make what was a vision a reality, but to make that dream come as close as possible to perfection.  

Alex was kind enough to share some dialouge with me from across the Atlantic, I invite you all to peek in....

First thank you for allowing The Golf Artisan Review to get some insight on your amazing footwear.  Finding companies and artisans like yourself is exactly what this site is about. 


You and your team have gone to great lengths to create a golf shoe without an equal as far as the time, energy and resources.  As you say, you had a simple idea, to create the world finest golf shoe.  What made you select the long road, and why golf shoes?

Brandon, I feel fortunate that I fell into the golfing arena simply by accident.
I initially studied fashion and woven textiles at Brighton University, UK, but working for a shoemaker during the course really sealed my future.  I learnt every step of how to make handmade shoes. I was so inspired by the craftsmanship and actually making 3-D wearable shoes from different components and leathers, I knew I needed to follow a career in shoes rather than textiles and fashion.
My wonderful Persian Tutor allowed me the flexibility in passing my course designing shoes from textiles which resulted in our initial Albartross mens brogues. Once showcased at my final show catwalk at University, they proved to be very popular. Many friends commented on how golf-like they were, and that was literally the start of how I fell into the world of golf.
I completed further footwear training at Cordwainer’s/ London College of Fashion and then found employment.  All the time I tinkered away in the background to find suppliers and learn everything about the technical side of golf shoe production and examine the competition whilst working for the likes of LK Bennett , Aspinal of London and Burberry. I was 27 when I formally launched the company.  I was awarded the UK Footwear Friends Young Designer Manager Award that year and as a result had the opportunity to be mentored by footwear industry professionals. This was invaluable, and many are still close acquaintances today. I launched my website with the help of a personal loan and started retailing online.  
Tell us more about your relationship with Bob's for Good Foundation* and the donation linked to the purchase of your Limited Edition Mooka.
(pictured above)

Famed former Springbok captain, Bob Skinstad, and his friend, former entrepreneur, Ron Rutland, were both living in London where they encountered a lot of negativity and stigma about South Africa.  They decided that the best way to respond was to be part of the solution. They returned to initiate Bobs For Good Foundation, a non-profit organisation focused on providing poor children with school shoes. The charity supports school children who cannot afford shoes to walk the miles to school to gain an education. We all know educating the youth is the key to Africa’s future, and so through the gift of new shoes, they actively promote the importance of education by keeping learners happy and in their classrooms.  Bobs for Good school shoes are also South African made, there is the added benefit in that every shoe purchase is helping contribute to jobs and wealth creation in the country.

Albartross decided to collaborate with the charity and produce a Limited Edition range of shoes using Nguni hair-on cow hide, that have proven very popular. Nguni cows are the favoured breed of cattle of African tribesmen as they are highly fertile and strongly resistant to disease. They are generally beautiful spotted cows with large curved horns and are a byproduct of the meat industry..

For every pair of Royal Albartross Mooka golf shoes purchased 20 children receive new school shoes.  The full £200 goes to the purchase of shoes, the beneficiaries are strictly screened with help from the government and grass roots NGO’s so they know exactly which individual children from each school is genuinely in need of the footwear being donated. 

What drew you to this cause?

I grew up in South Africa and so African charities and the extreme poverty there will always be something I feel strongly about supporting.  We have wonderful customer's who love our golf shoes.  They are fortunate enough to afford the finer things in life and with this comes the ability to give to worthy causes.  The Mooka collection are truly unique and quite beautiful. Every golfer who purchase a pair owns one of only ten pairs available in either black leather or white leather and they can walk the greens with pride in their shoes knowing they have supported a worthy cause.

I believe in giving back, in a sustainable and genuine way, where we aren't taking anything for ourselves, but instead are getting to the root of the problem and creating awareness. There is so much excess in the first world, and its sometimes easy to forget that there are people in this world who will never earn in a year what we spend on  a pair of shoes or a handbag

According to the Department of Education in South Africa, there are currently 7.5 million children who don’t have school shoes. That’s more than half the school student population. Of course we acknowledge there are many other social challenges that affect underprivileged children such as hungry tummies, inadequate housing, lack of public services but the focus on shoes does allow them to get to school and gain an education which we feel is so important in breaking the cycle of poverty. The truth is that shoes do make an enormous difference, a lot more than one may think. Having worked in some of SA’s most impoverished communities, the Bobs for Good team has witnessed the knock on effect that a single pair of school shoes can have on an individual, family and community, and there stories and photos inspired us.
Shoes are symbolic of pride and self-esteem, giving confidence to young learners in the classroom.  They restore children’s dignity by providing them with brand new school shoes.  In Africa shoes are vital. They are the protective layer between children’s tiny soles and the harsh realities of our tough terrain.Walking barefoot to school can cause infections and diseases so its imperative we shoe up as many children as possible to prevent unnecessary injuries. In winter months, children’s feet become cold and wet when barefoot in the classroom. Bobs For Good shoes are made using real leather so children stay warm and dry all year round.

Apart from the quality, style seems to be at the top of your list.  What inspires the style of your work?  Any particular eras, artists, or musicians?

It didn’t take us long to realise that golfers are looking for something unique when it comes to footwear.  If they are prepared to spend that bit extra on a pair of golf shoes, they don’t mind being noticed.  Our square toe shapes and unconventional colourways seem to have hit the spot.  I am personally inspired by quality as you say, but also coming up with clever details that you can feel and appreciate.  Tiny rows of double stitching, flat eyelets with just the right amount of shine, extra collar padding for ultimate ankle comfort, lace tips that feel great and don't rust or fall off...its all in the thoughtfulness and longevity I try to bear in mind when designing.

Eras and artists, thats a tricky one..there are so many- Tim Little, Paul Smith, George Esquivel, Mr Hare, Tim Walker, Frank Lloyd Wright, Gustav Klimt, Moebius aka Jean Giraud, Jean Michel Basquiat, 
Alexandre Farto, aka Vhils. Everything from fine art to modern murals, music to sculpture to graffiti. I suppose like any designer I am passionate about visuals and textures, smells and combinations- these can be found anywhere especially with the emergence of Instagram etc.  I like vintage furniture and leather goods, anything from bicycle saddles to old golf shoes from my grandparents era. I like black and white photography, old French textiles, anything striped or colourful. I like things that work and look stylish- practical design.

Gatsby-esque fashion styling, the tap shoes of South America, chestnut brown derby's or wingtips from Cheaney's or Church's that have weathered the pavements of time- like the ones my dad would polish and tell me about! All of this comes to mind when designing.

Mostly I think its a longing and appreciation for a time when footwear was more about being smart and less about artificial materials.  Where people ate meals and ventured out in shoes that weren't trainers!  I am fortunate to have encountered and fallen in love with a craftsmanship and an age old manufacturing process that brings leather to life in the form of shoes. Everything the factory in Italy turns their hand to when it comes to sampling my designs has something that can be appreciated.

The ball marker on your shoes.  How did that trademark come to pass?

I have a love of hardware, and shiney magpie-type gadgets and closures.  The ball marker came naturally as branding- a stud of sorts, subtle yet distinctive.
Then I came up with the ball marker idea.  Whilst you are bending over on the green you may as well use the one on your shoe..and ours is designed with that in mind.  Its classy, clever and convenient!  Our customer's really like it, and buy the gold plated markers in addition to the stainless version that comes with each pair.  Distinctly Albartross.

Thank you again, keep up the great work and keep us posted.

Fairways and Greens to all....

*Note:  I received word from Alex that the Put a Foot Foundation is taking up the school shoe project at this time.  Royal Albartross will continue their charity efforts with Put a Foot forward.


1 comment:

  1. Is there a big demand for Handmade/ Leather soled golf shoes?