‘Thatʼs exactly what I am. I always was. The Rock and Roll cobblerʼ
Terry was very young when his parents started their own company Waverley Shoes. His father was considered one of the top “lasters” in London and his mother was the most formidable quality controller in the business. By the age of five he was helping out in the workshop, hammering wooden dowels into the three tier wedges he was making for the black market during the Second World War. His parents had a lucrative business making quality high fashion shoes for wealthy both West End ladies and Windmill Showgirls, supplied to them by a somewhat louche character from Maida Vale who went by the name Curly and drove an open topped Jaguar with a rumble seat in the boot.
Terry cut his first pair of shoes when he was on leave from National Service. His father was, by this time, making stiletto winkle pickers. He noticed a pattern his father was working on and realised that he could do it better. Terry was courting a rich American girl called Sandy who he met at the Milk Bar on the Strand and within the space of a year he found himself married, with a baby, living in Rome and hanging out with the Fellini set who were filming La Dolce Vita.
In 1960 Terry’s father called him back from Rome to help out with the business. The family’s winkle picker designs had taken off big time and he needed as much help as he could get to meet the orders. This is the year that Terry first began to design. People were coming from all over the country to buy his shoes and queuing up from dawn till dusk to get their hands on a pair
Terry’s big break came in1964. Terry had separated from Sandy and he was now going out with a young model called Perin Lewis. A pair of shoes he had made for her were spotted on a photoshoot and ended up being stocked by Sue Lock’s Boutique on the Kings Road. The editor of Queen magazine at the time, Annie Traherne, saw them and featured them in the magazine. They were an instant success and started Terry’s career as a shoe designer.
By 1969 Terry had discovered the mind blowing creative effects of LSD. London was in full swing and he was bang in the middle of the scene. In his dad’s attic he came across the original components from the 3 tier wedges that he knew so well from his childhood. Terry made them up in trippy coloured snakeskins to go with the kind of clothes that were being made by the likes of Ossie Clarke. The shoes were sold through Rowley & Oram in Kensington Market, the place to be at the time and the timing was perfect. Before long Bianca Jagger, Cher, Bette Midler and Anita Pallenburg were flaunting his designs.
Soon after the Terry de Havilland brand really took off and the small family business could barely keep up with the orders they were receiving. Then on 4th May 1970 tragedy struck. Terry’s father was testing some new machinery in the factory when his apprentice turned the power on by mistake; his father had three phase electricity cables in both hands. He was electrocuted in front of Terry’s eyes.
In 1972 part of the business was sold to a wealthy architect who helped open a Terry de Havilland store in the Kings Road. The store was called ‘Cobblers to the World’. The opening party was a riot of champagne, cocaine and caviar packed out with all the faces, from rock stars and groupies to fashion journalists and gangsters.
Throughout the 70s the brand thrived. Terry de Havilland shoes were doing 14 trade shows a year and the shoes were being sold right across the planet. The Kings Road was a riot and the fashion business was a fun place to earn your money with all sorts of independent designers doing all sorts of anarchic things. Terry designed Tim Curry’s shoes for the Rocky Horror Show, brought back the stiletto for a Zandra Rhodes catwalk, and made red silk lined black leather thigh boots for Jackie O.
‘I’ll never forget the day I was sat outside the Water Rat having a hair of the dog pint with Bonzo from Led Zep. Keith Moon and tough guy actor Johnny Bindon when up rocked John
Then in 1979 the party was suddenly over. Too much extended credit had been given to US customers which resulted in the company going into liquidation. Terry had become inspired by all the lunacy that surrounded the Punk movement and loved the way they styled themselves. The Terry de Havilland name was put on ice and in 1980 Terry set up a new label called Kamikazi which made shoes for Punks and Goths. These were all about affordable street style. Heavily buckled winkle pickers adorned with skulls, studs and spikes. In the space of a year the company were making over 800 pairs a day and shipping them all over the world from their small factory based in Hackney. Prophetically in 1988 Kamikazi took a nose dive and crashed.
Undeterred Terry set up a new company in 1989 called Magic Shoes once again producing footwear for the alternative street scene. In 1990 Terry met his future wife Liz. They began to work together and steadily built up the Magic Shoes brand. After a chance meeting with the photographer Bob Carlos Clarke, Terry introduced the first commercially produced line of latex boots for the fetish market manufacturing them for both men and women. Terry once again incorporated the platform to his designs which proved a huge hit for clubbers. By the mid 90s the label was being stocked by major UK high street retailers and designers such as Anna Sui and Paco Rabanne were approaching them to provide the footwear for their runway shows. The brand looked set to succeed. However, providing the high street’s major players proved to be a poisoned chalice. With the retailers “money back, no quibbles” policy the shoes were returned in droves, heavily worn but with nothing structurally wrong with them. As Europe was the brand’s main market at the time, the strength of the pound coupled with the burgeoning business of cheap Chinese manufacture, proved to be the death knell for Magic. The small East London factory could no longer compete on the global marketplace and the company went into liquidation in 1999.
Terry and Liz decided to open a shop in Camden Stables Market and name it Cobblers to the World. This time the store was a vision of red velvet and leopard print fabric with silvered walls and spiked rubber seats. Their customers were unconventional to say the least and the designs ranged from the fetish inspired, latex footwear of the Magic Shoes era through to beautifully hand crafted, frivolous styles reminiscent of the iconic designs from Terry’s 70’s heyday. The shop became a mecca for fashion stylists and costume designers and soon Terry was creating shoes for international fashion magazines and movies such as Tomb Raider.
Fate struck yet another blow on Christmas Eve 2001 when Terry had a minor heart attack. Terry and Liz shut the shop in February 2002 and decided to build on their editorial successes and concentrate their efforts on re-launching the Terry de Havilland brand. Terry had more presence in museums than retail shops and this needed to be redressed. After a 20 year absence he decided it was time to once again design under his own name and so the Terry de Havilland brand was re-born
In 2006 Terry was nominated as Accessory Designer of the year at the British Fashion awards, and in 2010 he was awarded with a Drapers lifetime achievement award for his contribution to footwear design over the last 50 years. Terry is also a Visiting Professor at the University of the Arts London. Terry and Liz have a design studio in London’s East End where he still makes Couture shoes for many high profile fans such as Ana Matronic, Kate Moss, Alison Goldfrapp, The Jagger clan, Kelly Osborne, Sienna Miller, Pixie Geldof, and Cara Delevigne.
With plans to open his first London flagship store in over 35 years early this year and with production of his menswear line in design stages, Terry shows no sign of slowing down and the brand Terry de Havilland continues to go from strength to strength.
‘I cannot imagine giving up designing shoes. What would I do with my time ?’
Terry de Havilland