‘I’ve seen the bad side of the industry, the cheap labour, the conditions, the horrid volume supply chain. I’ve seen the squalor, the crap build and the lack of care and diligence. I’m not down with that.’ Millennials get a bad rap on many counts but listening to James Bleakley, designer and creative director at Piloti shoes makes you see past that. Way past.

Piloti has a history of creating shoes around the automotive and motorsport sector although James and the team are also branching out into the surrounding leisure sector too. 2019 saw them also launch their first women’s shoe, the Vittoria. ‘Women drive and race too but we needed to also move from our home market first’ says Bleakley from the new London office overlooking the Thames. ‘The UK market is a ‘oh my’ moment right now’ he continues, ‘I mean, you guys love a white shoe whereas back home, it is solid black. But I’m learning!’


A Toronto native, he affects a more gentle style and approach to all things, his demeanour only becoming animated when excited. And there is a lot to be excited about. Automotive collaborations are expanding. From a long standing GM/Corvette one through to more recent Pagani carbon fibre shoes. A forthcoming announcement with a Nordic hyper car brand will come later this year. He jets back to Canada occasionally for work and family catch ups, but he is one very busy guy.' I finally had some time to walk around London recently, which was cool, although I kept finding new locations where I want to shoot some product. I guess I just love what I do' he shrugs. There is nothing wrong with any of that. Travelling to suppliers in Portugal, where his designs become reality, I watch a last, the mould for a shoe, get trimmed. James then tapes over it and sketches a slight change to make it look more balanced. Observing, you see how focussed he is on getting it right. Understanding the process from sketch to finished product is an education to me. It is easy to take for granted the shoes you wear, little knowing, maybe not caring, where they are from or how they came to be. Although I suggest you do. 'There needs to be better education that some brands don't care about planet over profit, I do. We have to. It's just common sense.' And he's right. Lets see how common that sense becomes.