Name : Aki Tominaga-Watkins
Job Role : Senior Sales Assistant
Retail Shop / Country : 92 Jermyn Street, London
What did you do before you started with Crockett & Jones?
I was a self-employed seamstress before I started with Crockett & Jones. Dress making had been my interest since my teenage years when I was living in Japan, but my ambition had always been to make and design shoes. I had made shoes in Japan but not Goodyear Welted, so arriving in England in 1994 I just wanted to get straight into it. Although, it was very difficult… all the equipment I needed made it quite a task. So I continued to make clothes because it was still a passion and it still allowed for my own creativity… I still have customers that ask me to make garments for them now!
Why did you decide that retail was a career you wanted to pursue, and what brought you to Crockett & Jones?
To be honest, I didn’t know about the brand when I first arrived in England. It was a friend who had previously worked for the company who mentioned it. When I looked further, I found out it was a British family owned company which had several retail shops Worldwide. I had worked in retail stores in Japan, so it was a comfortable industry to go back into that involved my passion. I feel a real sense of pride when introducing our range of shoes to customers, for me it’s not just paying the bills… If I wasn’t passionate about the product we make I couldn’t do my job.
Can you remember the first pair of shoes you ever sold?
Actually I don’t remember! I remember that I sold 4 pairs on my first day, but not the styles.
How long have you been working for Crockett & Jones? In that time, are there any standout / interesting moments?
I’ve been with the company for 5 years, and although there is always something interesting going on in the shop, it’s visiting the factory that is the most special for me. I am a big fan of vintage shoes, especially vintage C&J shoes… I own five pairs including a pair of ice skating boots. So when I visited the factory for the first time and saw all of the old ladies styles, it was amazing. Some of the older styles have slight heels, so I am always asking Jonathan when he’ll make ladies shoes with a higher heel! The smell of leather around the factory is incredible.
From the current collection, what is your favourite Crockett & Jones style?
For Ladies, Jessica has to be my favourite. Its design is very similar to some of our original ladies shoes and in polo suede this style is unbeatable. I also love kilties (fringes); I have a kiltie for all of my shoes. For Gentlemen it has to be Galway 2. I love U-tipped boots and shoes, they are so classic. I’ve seen some vintage ladies boots like it at the factory… so maybe one day for the new ladies collection!
Working in London, you must know some hidden gems. Tell us something interesting about the City that you would happily recommend your customers do or see.
Although not a hidden gem, I love the parks in London. London is so busy all of the time, but you can stop in any park and just unwind. With food in mind, and Japanese cuisine being my favourite, there is a very good traditional Japanese restaurant called Asakusa in Mornington Crescent. They offer really authentic homely Japanese food and it’s not pricey or pretentious – be sure to try shochu drink, a personal favourite.
In your opinion, what really makes a pair of Crockett & Jones shoes special? Is it the Design, the Construction, the Heritage, the people?
I think the key for Crockett & Jones is Jonathan Jones. He is unbelievably hard working and his choices are always spot on. In Japan, Jonathan is like a celebrity. I can recall several Japanese customers coming into the shop on different occasions saying that they had heard rumours of Jonathan being in London, and if he would be visiting the store… they’d all love to meet him. I believe the Jones family is what really makes a pair of Crockett & Jones shoes special.
What shoes did you wear to work today?
Today I am wearing Badminton in Tan Scotch Grain. They are a ladies special order unlined chukka boot, which means they’re super comfortable. The scotch grain is easy to look after and the colour looks great with tweed trousers. I’ve had them for 3 years and now have a pair in Black Scotch Grain – I love them!
Who inspires you professionally and personally?
Professionally, again would be Mr Jonathan Jones and his family. They have a really tireless work ethic and are very keen on quality, the standards are never cut and that is what makes Crockett & Jones as a business so successful. Personally it would have to be my parents. Like all Japanese people they are exceptionally hard working and have always put my interests before their own.
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