From Florence to York: Introducing Old-Sole

You’ll find our shop on Swinegate, in amongst some of the city’s finest clothing brands and eateries. But what you might not know is that the Old Sole journey started over a thousand miles away in the beautiful Italian city of Florence.


Old Sole founder Louis Smith fell in love with traditional handmade shoemaking while working in the London fashion industry. He knew that to really become a master craftsman he would need to get an apprenticeship, but in an increasingly rare trade positions are hard to find. Luckily for Yorkshire shoe lovers, Louis is not one to be easily deterred. After all UK options were exhausted, he started to look further afield.


The list of traditional shoemakers across Europe was not long. Florence, however, was home to four. Louis wrote to them all, then bought a plane ticket. The trip paid off. Within ten minutes of meeting renowned shoemaker Roberto Ugolini, Louis had an offer of an apprenticeship.


Louis spent the next three and a half years carefully studying his trade. Under the tutelage of Roberto Ugolini and his colleagues, Louis learnt the art of bespoke shoes. He started from the very beginning then worked his way through fitting shoes and other prototypes before graduating to real customer shoes.


Over time, Louis became a bigger and bigger part of the Ugolini business, until he found himself at a crossroads. With his traditional apprenticeship period over, he needed to decide whether to take on a bigger role in Florence, or whether to return home.


Anyone who has ever left York will know that the more you travel, the more you realise how great it is here. Though Louis loved being a part of the Ugolini business, ultimately he knew that he wanted to be making shoes with his own name on them, and the best place to do that was back in his home city of York.


Working with family back in the UK, Louis completed his final few months in Florence while starting preparations to launch his own business. And thus, Old Sole was born.


Comprised of bespoke Italian shoemaking expertise, great British style and good old Yorkshire friendliness, we’d love to welcome you in.

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