An interview with Yvette Worrall, Company Director at Conker Shoes
Who are you?
I'm Yvette Worrall, I'm 33 years old and I've been based in Totnes in Devon for 15 years now. I'm now a Company Director at Conker Shoes, I co-ordinate things on a day-to-day level, and I'm also a made-to-measure pattern maker.
How did you end up in Devon?
I was born in Derby and I grew up just outside of London in Berkshire, but I came to Devon to study art at Dartington College of Arts all those years ago. I now have a child here and for me it's about ensuring a life here with my family in the West Country. It's really important; this is where I want to live.
What are your passions in life?
Working with people, that's really important to me. Colour, fun, making, workshops. Being with Conker allows me to put all of these things together.
How is your work/life balance?
Work/life balance is really important and it's one of those things that we're very fortunate in this town, in this community and in this part of Devon, we're able to get a really high quality of life without necessarily having the income that you get working in other parts of the world. So at the end of a working day we can just head down to the river or we can head up to the moor, we can go for a swim in the sea, and that makes us very, very fortunate.
What’s your average day like?
It's about ensuring that the front of house is running well, that everything's going smoothly in the workshop, liaising between those two departments. We decide what it is that needs to be made each week, that might be collating customer orders, it's also about deciding what we're going to make, how we want to show our product in the shop. What we want to promote online, what's being made this season, what's looking good. Perhaps also new supplies, materials to bring all those exciting elements together.
What drew you to Conker?
Conker was established in 1977 so before I was born, but it's one of those names that everybody knows of here - and all over the world. It already had a reputation for fun, for quality, for long-lasting products and excellent customer service. That's what I knew of it already. When I had the opportunity to come here and be part of this team I got to start making again, which was exciting, but I got to start making creative decisions again.
How has the business changed since you’ve been here?
People don't just come and shop in person in shops, people shop online, they want to access you in different ways. Luckily that's um something that our product can cope with, people access our us through Facebook, they use that as a gallery, we've got an online shop, but actually people still love coming and visiting us in person to get that fun, bespoke, personalised service and product.
How would you sum up Conker’s ethos?
Conker is about making a durable, sustainable, well-made product that's going to be with someone, offering them comfortable feet for many, many years. It's also about having fun, it's about investing in and knowing the people who have made your shoes, and knowing that those people will remember you when you come back years later, they'll have your details on file, they'll know the sort of colours that you love.
What is “cordwaining”?
Cordwainers are people who work with leather, make things with leather. We're not cobblers, we don't repair other people's shoes. Britain has a long strong history of shoemaking, it's one of the key industries that we've always had and over the last few decades that industry has been in massive decline. It’s slowly making a resurgence. People are beginning to understand about making again and customers are understanding that they can invest in a little bit of something and it will last them forever. We're part of that really.
How do you use Great Western Railway’s services?
We use Great Western Railway anytime you use a train. It's great for us, if we need to go and see suppliers up in London, we'll organise meetings. It's really important to us that we're connected. So on a day-to-day level we don't use cars.
How do you feel about being in the West?
I love living in this part of the West Country. I love going down to Blackpool Sands and swimming in the sea, I love going for walks down at Start Point, I love being up on the moor and the space that you get there, having adventures in the snow. The coast is stunning. It's one of the most beautiful parts of the world and every time we're able to get out of town and just be in the world we're reminded of this.
Do you think Conker would work anywhere else?
Totnes is quite individual and unique, it's got a reputation for not being ordinary, and creative, for having free-thinking people, doing all sorts of projects. I think Conker and Totnes go hand in hand, they're sort of synonymous really.
Find out more at conkershoes.com