We catch up with designer Vidal Kenmoe to talk further about his custom-made, Douala-based luxury shoe brand.
Vidal Kenmoe is the former British RoyalArmy officer who traded in his military know-how for shoe soles.
Despite still consulting for the army, he spends most of his time in Douala, Cameroon making, cutting and polishing beautiful footwear. Kenmoe founded Shoes by Vidal in 2016, boasting high standards of craftsmanship with each pair he produces. One look at his brand's overall aesthetic confirms just why these shoes have been in high-demand. Kenmoe happens to thrive in a fashion market where its people seek out luxury products abroad.
We catch up with Kenmoe to talk further about his inspiration, production process and more.
Audrey Lang for OkayAfrica: Where did the desire or passion to make shoes come from?
Vidal Kenmoe: My passion for shoes comes from two things mainly—my mother's love for shoes and fashion, as well as my time spent in the Royal Army, where a special interest was taken towards dressing.
How long have you been making shoes?
I have been making shoes since 2015. I learned the craft in 2013 and I'm still perfecting it.
What does it mean to you to employ the use of local artisans?
It feels good being able to contribute in that sense and to share my experiences with them and vice-versa.
Photo courtesy of Vidal Kenmoe.
Creating one shoe takes two to four weeks and involves over 100 steps. Is this true?
Yes, it does take a few weeks on average to design and manufacture a pair of shoes, but with experience that time can be reduced in half.
Where are the majority of your customers based?
My customers are spread out around the world but the majority are based in Douala, Cameroon.
Talk to me about the process of making a shoe that boasts such a high standard of craftsmanship.
It all starts with forming the right shoe last for the design required. Once the last is done, the next step is pattern cutting followed by clicking the leather (upper), followed by the sewing of the upper with the under and then molding (also called lasting) and lastly, the finishing.
Do you have partnerships with raw material sellers to access the genuine leather, suede, velvet calfskin and various fabrics?
No, I simply purchase what I need.
Photo courtesy of Vidal Kenmoe.
AgA by Vidal appears to have come later. Tell me about the line.
AgA is the sandals and accessories line. AgA does both male and female sandals and we're hoping to move into belts, watch straps, wallets, key rings holders and many other leather products. The motivation for AgA is the need to satisfy customers' demands for leather accessories (other than shoes) at an affordable price.
In 2017, you made a pair of shoes for Samuel Eto'o. Have you worked with any other notable figures?
Yes, I have provided shoes to several diplomats, professional athletes, MDs, artists and politicians.
What challenges do you face, apart from power outages, that halt your use of sewing machines and finishing bands?
Not many these days. We purchased a power generator, so power cuts are no longer an issue. My biggest challenge remains people's lack of education on handmade shoemaking.
You dwell in a country noted for a 1 percent that travels abroad for luxury goods and yet you create luxury shoes. How do you fare? What sets your shoes apart?
My designs are unique, my mix of materials—that include leather, suede, denim and African fabric—the discipline I put in the making, my attention for details, my focus on functionality which are mainly comfort and durability.
What else do you hope to accomplish as a young entrepreneur?
As a young entrepreneur, I would love to see my brand spread across borders and become a standard for shoemaking worldwide.
Kenmoe recently marked Shoes by Vidal's second year anniversary in Paris with a meet and greet and the launch of a new suede collection. Learn more about his new collection, his lines ShoesbyVidal and AgAbyVidal on Instagram and his website.