As you know, it can be harsh out there, people. The global economy is volatile to say the least. While many dream of starting a business and some even dream of making shoes, few make it a reality. It takes nuts to step off and start something; in the current climate it's been a pleasure to watch Pointer grow. As the brand enters its fifth season its creativity is already expanding beyond hot shoes. But don't be fooled; talk to Gareth Skewis and Rose Choules about footwear and you realise fast that sole is at the company’s centre. I bothered Gareth by email for several days in order to extract info for your reading pleasure. Mr Mat Fowler is your Art Director for this excursion...
Pointer seems to be a nice contradiction: a tight unit that also manages to be free form in approach. Who’s involved?
Rose Choules, Hannah Draper, Mat Fowler and myself, Gareth Skewis.
You almost got that ‘family business’ feel going on. Were you friends before the company formed?
Mat, Hannah and I have known each other for years through going to indie gigs, skateboarding and living in London. I was introduced to Rose by a mutual friend after leaving Silas and starting Pointer; Mat and Hannah are the unofficial Art Directors, Rose is the head Designer and I run the company.
Is it difficult to agree on direction? Or are 4 minds better?
We come from really different backgrounds and have quite different ideas in relation to footwear, design in general, life, art and music. But that somehow seems to balance out perfectly. We really push each other for the most honest opinion, even if it’s sometimes brutal. We could be debating an outsole colour, an eyelet stay, our next art project or if Oasis should be flowed shoes. Some days it’s like working with 3 people who all think they are lead singer in the Velvet Underground (I’m joking; I love working with all of them). We just take the best of all our ideas and distil a common denominator.
In terms of footwear, what are the basic principles you agree on?
We all want to make comfortable, vulcanised and moccasin shoes, but in new designs that are not rehashes. Clean lines and well selected materials are a must; a lo- fi look with comfort is the goal.
Lo-fi, as in, no ‘space-age’ sole system? Do you hate science?
Not at all! Science taught me how to make gunpowder at the age of 13; that really entertained my brother and I growing up, but enough on that... The entire idea behind making footwear with a lo-fi feeling has nothing to do with hating ‘space-age’ soles. Everyone here is a fan of new features coming through in footwear and we feel progression in both design and shoe production are important. But we are trying to do something new in design that still retains that simple, ‘70s, lo-fi look and feel. We try to keep it ‘hands on’ in everything we do, from footwear design through to art direction. This layout has that feel, the art books we publish do too; projects like PAWS 3000 definitely have it!
I think this approach comes through from our backgrounds in skateboarding and music. Those things have always been about creating your own scene and not caring what other people think. When The Stooges first started, Ron Asheton couldn’t play a guitar chord, but they made music their way. In other words: if you are not into things around you, do your own thing.
Please rewind a little and run us through these other projects. Seems like they are a chance to naturally work further with friends. How are the books developing and what the fuck is PAWS 3000?
The art books are a chance to get work out that we’ve been inspired and influenced by. I wanted to do a set of 4 booklets to start with so people could collect a series, like those early Penguin Books. We also wanted a small run of 300 T-Shirts that could go with the first release. Book one is with the Side Effects Of Urethane (a group of artists that I’ve worked with in the past). They’ve been around for a few years and have put on shows in the UK and Europe. They’ve also been active making sure that one of London’s oldest skatespots doesn’t get destroyed (Southbank). Well, at least not for a few years anyway.
PAWS 3000 is difficult to explain! It’s basically a 6-ft Pointer shoe cabinet; a wooden, 2001: A Space Odyssey-style display sculpture. It was designed by Nik Taylor. I’ve been really intrigued by his work for years, it can only be described as odd. The PAWS 3000 will be making appearances at selected stockists during the coming months; all of our SS06 Point of Sale will be based around it. Pointer is sponsoring Nik’s first show in the UK, I’m sure it’s going to be really good.
Collaborations with Side Effects Of Urethane, Mat Fowler, Jethro Haynes and Nik Taylor just feel natural and organic; these people are friends that I’ve always wanted to work with. It’s just been a case of finding specific projects that really suit their strong points. Take Jethro Haynes... To me, his work is screaming to be made 3D in the form of a toy. Nik’s work had to be translated in a different way. I am a strong believer in letting people have as much creative freedom as possible.
That’s a lot of extra flavour! You’re spoiling us and I like it! I see the care and attention really coming through on the shoes too; maybe run us through the styles before you go...
OK, we’ll start with the ‘Heritage’ because it’s one of the first shoes we designed. It’s a moccasin with a full gum, crepe-style sole and has a full grain leather upper, pigskin lined. From the same last we developed the ‘Heritage II’; it’s got the same sole unit but very different detailing and construction on the upper, using both split and full grain leather. The Heritage III is the same shape as the original but comes in split and full grain leather also.
Then we have the ‘Debaser’. With this style, we were trying for a hybrid upper on a clean, vulcanised sole. I’m sure most people who were into the Pixies will know where the name came from. It’s got a heavy 14.5 oz canvas upper and tongue, but the extended toecap, back counter and back strap are all split leather; the toecap is stitched Moccasin-style too. The insole is cushioned and has the ‘P’ logo stamped on it. The sole is vulcanised and has a siped bottom for extra grip; it’s got a ‘P’ rubber logo patch on the back of the sole.
The Growler is next. This has a split leather upper, tongue and backstrap; the toecap and back panel are full grain leather. It’s got the cushioned insole again with an all-over ‘P’ print. The same vulcanised sole with siped bottom; the same discreet rubber ‘P’ logo on the back of the sole. Mat Fowler is our Art Director and this is his pro stalking shoe. Mat, Rose and I just wanted to come up with a really clean mid top, with that ‘70s feel. This is without doubt one of my favourite shoes in the line; it comes in two colourways.
The ‘Tracker’ is kind of a desert boot and it comes in a split leather or canvas upper. Vulcanised siped sole again, but with a rubber toecap this time. Logo patch on the back of the sole, as before. Cushioned insole and bronze eyelets to finish things properly.
And that brings us finally to the ‘Seeker’; this shoe comes in low and hi top. It’s a plimsole style, with a 14.5 oz canvas upper and tongue; the back strap, eyelet stays and toecap are all split leather. Bronze eyelets again and a vulcanised sole with the ‘P’ logo tread. This shoe was a hard slog to get right. We tried to come up with a canvas shoe distinct to anything on the market. We also do a version of the Seeker low in full grain leather, with split leather on the back strap, eyelet stays and toecap. It also has the vulcanised sole with the ‘P’ logo tread but no eyelets this time.
Thanks Gareth. Finally, hit me with a few things that inspire Pointer?
Grey afternoons in the rain, taking on massive footwear companies, Teenage Riot by Sonic Youth, listening to Nik Taylor explain the PAWS 3000 concept, Jethro Haynes T-shirt graphics, The ‘Story’ shop in Sheffield, the 1st Mudhoney album, Waxed Jackets, Fucking Awesome Tees, the first Pixies gig I ever saw (screaming like a 14-year-old girl at a Beatles show), tie dye shoelaces, backside no complies, traditional Zulu hand painted hut prints, Iggy Pop, funny comments written in public bathrooms, Mick Rock photos, Staffordshire Bull Terriers, Pus Head, Giant Elephant statues... And, of course, people doing their own thing.
That’s all folks. Check out www.pointerfootwear.co.uk For a list of where you can check these beauties in the flesh.
This article appeared in Issue 7 of Sneaker Freaker. Buy it here