My Loake Life, we talk to Andy Tite, the Leather Buyer based at our factory in Kettering. Andy has spent his whole working life in the shoe trade and has worked for Loake for 23 years.
What does your typical week involve?
Leather, leather and then more leather.
What are you most looking forward to today?
Going to Italy later today for the Lineapelle exhibition in Milan. This is one of the most important trade shows for leather and other shoe components.
Which task do you wish you could postpone?
None really, as every aspect of the job is important. But I suppose the two things that can be a grind are: paperwork, as it’s a distraction from the leather; and waiting at airports.
Have you always been interested in footwear?
Yes. Ever since I’ve been able to afford them, I’ve always liked wearing nice clothes and shoes. But I find shoes particularly interesting as they’re a lot more complicated than most people realise.
How did you get where you are today?
I would like to think that it was down to hard work, knowledge and a winning personality. But, actually it’s probably just opportunity and a little faith in me from my boss.
What has been your career highlight?
Hopefully, I haven’t had it yet. But so far: the opportunity to pass on some experience and knowledge when we set up our additional factory in India. We wanted to ensure that we had the same standard of shoemaking skill and craftsmanship there as we have here in England, and the opportunity to train the leather cutters to this standard was a challenge that I hadn’t previously had.
What is the best piece of advice you have been given?
There have been two pieces of really sound advice:
If you make a mistake, don’t try to hide it. If you tell people about it, they’ll help you; if you try to cover it up, it’s more likely to turn into a disaster.
Stand further away from the ball when you’re addressing it.
Who is your mentor?
Over the past 30 years in the industry, I’ve learned from so many people but, if I had to single out one, it would be Phil Rhodes, who was my predecessor at Loake. He had the misfortune of teaching me for my first two years as a buyer and I’m grateful for his patience.
What is the best thing about your job?
The opportunity to visit so many tanneries in so many parts of the world. I still love leather as a material and the technical side of tanning, and seeing just what can be made from an animal skin, still amazes and fascinates me.
If you weren’t working in footwear, what would you be doing?
Something to do with building. My brothers are involved in the building trade – I think there’s a degree of satisfaction in any industry that makes things.
Tell us something not many people know about you.
I think I’m an open book – transparent. It’s best to have no secrets and a clean conscience.
Have you got any hidden talents?
I can make things disappear. Cakes mostly.
Black coffee – love it.
How do you spend your time relaxing outside of work?
If you had asked me a few years ago, I would have said golf. But now, I like to spend as much time as I can with my wife and children. It took me a few years to settle down but, now I have a family, I try to make the most of it.
What is your favourite pair of Loake shoes and why?
My favourite style is “Savoy”, which is a very smart, fine brogue shoe that, unfortunately, we no longer produce. But they’re such a good fit for me, and so comfortable – and I can’t seem to wear them out.
What advice would you give your 16-year-old self?
This has to be taken in the context of the fashion trends at the time, but my advice would be: “Don’t buy that pair of black velvet trousers!”