WORDS BY NATALIE YIASSOUMI
The East London shoe label is paving the way for a gender neutral footwear industry.
Conversations around the urgent need for a more diverse and inclusive fashion industry have been aplenty in the last year. Yet it remains a rarity to find a brand that truly embodies progress and looks beyond all traditional concepts of gender, age, size or even consumption itself.
That’s why London-based shoe label Roker is a real gem to know and follow: It was founded in 2016 by designer Amir Latif with the mission of subverting traditional English shoemaking. And Latif achieved this from the get-go by marrying his gender-fluid design ethos with old-school craft: He produces gender neutral platform boots and loafers, which are then made by hand by craftspeople in his East London atelier, using traditional techniques of shoemaking that are usually overseen these days, in favour of mass production.
Needless to say the finished produce is of the highest quality, complete with supple leather, statuesque toes and sturdy heels. Every shoe, be it an ankle boot featuring a high heel or a more mannish loafer, is available in a wide size range that covers both men’s and women’s sizing – because in Latif’s world heels shouldn’t have gender and self expression should be limitless.
I have always felt that the future of footwear can only be one that is all inclusive and gender neutral. From the very first pair to now, I create without binary constraint,” said the designer.
Latif started off with bespoke services only and created a series of one-of-a-kind collections for the runways of fellow independent designers, like Charles Jeffrey or Richard Malone, who share the same non-confirming approach to gender and all forms of social stereotypes.
The response to his forward-thinking attitude – and fierce, statement-making platforms – was immediate: Some of the world’s most famous stores – including Browns, Matches and Dover Street Market – came calling and the brand expanded its offer to a mainline collection that features signatures like platform boots, loafers and chunky Mary Janes.
Intrigued? Give Roker a follow and get better acquainted with the label’s colorful, non-conformist universe that includes everything from close-ups on the sharp square toes and highly photogenic buckles of its popular boots; films by artists and friends of the brand; and shots of Miley Cyrus rocking an extra high, glitter version of the boots, created in collaboration with one of fashion’s most promising young designers, Harris Reed.