Meet the artistic director behind the iconic men’s dress shoe label
Words by Bridget Barnett
There’s a good chance you’ve heard of heritage-rich, Hermès-owned men’s shoe brand, John Lobb. The label’s roots date back to 1866, and designs have been championed by the likes of Prince Harry and Frank Sinatra.
If you haven’t heard of Lobb’s London-based artistic director, Paula Gerbase, it’s time to get acquainted. Along with sitting at the creative helm of the brand since 2014, she is also one of the few women to have worked independently on Savile Row, launching her own sharply-tailored label 1205 and, most recently, industry-praised, multi-disciplinary line, Gerbase.
Here, we speak to Gerbase about love, anxieties, and 3000-metre-high mountain climbs.
“My relationship with John Lobb has been a journey of personal discovery, allowing the house to speak through me and ensuring that all the creative choices I make within this role maintain the values of the house. I see my role as a guardian of these values for future generations.”
If you could change anything about the fashion industry, what would it be?
“That we as an industry begin to truly champion a sustainable way of working and living. This includes the way that we create, the types of products we produce, the manufacturing processes and our commitment to upholding those practices.”
Do you approach working with women’s and men’s fashion differently? How so?
“My approach with both men’s and women’s design is always the same – starting with quality materials, allowing them to speak to me and creating designs which hopefully put the beauty of these materials forward rather than masking them with unnecessary noise.”
What’s your favourite way someone has described you?
What’s your favourite way someone has described John Lobb?
“A house of modernity, quality and integrity.”
When you took over as artistic director of John Lobb, you went deep into the archives. What did you find that you weren’t expecting to? And what did you confirm about the brand?
“What I found in the archives was a surprising history of movement. So many shoes and boots were created for sport and a dynamic lifestyle – walking boots, ski boots, tennis shoes, riding boots. It’s an archive which speaks to the innovation which has always been present at the house.”
“I think the loosening of the rules and a return to a more individualistic way of dressing makes menswear quite exciting right now. Personal style is being celebrated more than ever.”
Does anything about work make you anxious or stressed?
“Making sure there is always integrity in the work I do and that it will last the test of time rather than just one season.”
When do you feel most yourself?
“On top of a 3000-metre-high mountain after a strenuous climb.”
What do you think the world needs more of?
“Kindness and collaboration.”
What has been the best part of your day today, and what has been the worst?
“The best has been watching the sun rise in Tokyo as I’m here for work. It’s too early to have had the worst part, but the jet lag will probably get me later on!”
Experience the traditional artistry of shoe polishing with a complimentary in-chair shine, using John Lobb shoe-care products, at The Polishing Lounge. Available at Lane Crawford ifc mall until November 30 on Mondays, Wednesdays, Fridays, 11.00am to 2.00pm only.