Behind the Scenes with Juta Shoes

Just Got Made • 28 Feb 2020

Each month we ask manufacturers, makers and skilled craftspeople that turn ideas into beautiful products. This week we speak to Joanna from Juta Shoes, the social enterprise that supports women to find meaningful, creative work.

Hello, please introduce yourself!

We’re Sabeha and Joanna, and we run Juta Shoes. Juta is a social enterprise that runs sustainable shoemaking workshops and sells bespoke espadrilles made from reclaimed leather.

And what do you make?

We sell bespoke shoes made-to-order, both for individuals and wholesale to shops and brands.

We also run workshops in our studio where you can make a pair of espadrilles from reclaimed leather. We take you through each step: choosing your leather, cutting your pattern, pinning and sewing until you walk away with your own hand-made shoes.

Can you describe a typical day?

We’re in the studios on Wednesdays, which means we all arrive around 10 am and have a cup of tea. We look at the orders we’ve got in that week, get out all the equipment and materials we need to work on them and start preparing. 

If we have a wholesale order, we’ll prepare kits so that everyone can take work home with them. We sort out the upcoming workshops, who’ll be teaching them, and put together suitcases of equipment if we’re teaching any workshops outside the studio. 

We also fit in time to test new patterns, brush up on skills, and continue training for any new makers. And, of course, complain about the weather!

Tell us a bit about the unique equipment and materials you use

Our shoes are made from reclaimed leather. We work with upholstery factories, interior designers, car manufacturers and others who have leftover leather and vegan leather offcuts. We take the pieces that they can’t use – this means we can save materials from landfill, and our shoes are often totally unique!

We have a low-equipment approach to shoemaking. Our design only requires a pair of scissors, a pair of pliers, and a needle to make, so there’s no expensive machinery or complicated techniques to learn. It means that anyone can come to a workshop and create a pair of shoes, and also that our work is portable so we can travel with our workshops.

What was your motivation to start?

We started Juta in response to a need in our community for flexible, well-paid, creative work. Our community of makers and teachers are women who have incredible creative skills and enjoy sharing them with others. Expensive childcare, lack of formal training and inflexible work hours mean that creative fields in London have high barriers to entry, so we created the work we wanted to see in our area.

And what is your favourite part of what you do

Watching someone finish up their shoes on a workshop – there’s something so wonderful about seeing someone create something that they might have previously thought was out of their skill set. People sometimes don’t believe they’ll walk out with their own shoes after just three hours and we’ve occasionally had people cry with happiness when they finish!

What one piece of advice would you give to others starting out

Sit down with your numbers and really get to grips with your financial model. It can seem scary (if you don’t have an accounting background) but you can always ask for help! The more you understand your costs and prices, the better picture you’ll have of what your business will look like when it reaches the size you want it to reach. 

For us, we discovered that workshops were a much more sustainable business model than only making shoes, and it’s changed how we operate and what running the business looks like. The earlier you can test and find this out, the easier it will be to figure out where you should spend your time and how you’ll make it work.

Thanks Joanna! If this has inspired you, please share it with someone else who needs to know.