My friend Alan Raddon, who has died aged 76, was a shoemaker whose clients included Billy Connolly, Sir Alec Guinness, Diana Athill and Emma Thompson. Working from his quaint workshop at home by the sea in Aberarth, west Wales, he advertised his wares in magazines such as the Oldie, and had clients far and wide.
Alan was born in Wembley, north-east London, to Charlotte (nee Black), an administration clerk, and Harry Raddon, a printer. He went to Harrow high school and then to Harrow Art School, after which he worked as a creative director for the advertising agencies SH Benson, Garland Compton, Richard Cope and CDP.
In 1971 he took a year-long sabbatical to study macrobiotic cooking in the US, and after returning to become an art director with the BBDO agency and then working as a freelance, he decided to explore his interests in alternative therapies and lifestyles by moving to the Aberystwyth area in west Wales.
There he was a founding member of The Friendly Stores, the first wholefood shop in Wales, and also began training as a reflexologist under the tutelage of Doreen Bayly, founder of the first reflexology training school to be established in the UK.
In 1976 Alan started to make rope soled footwear with vegetarians in mind, and with the mission of creating what he called “feet-shaped shoes”. Later he moved on to using leather, and in 1992 he created the Shandals brand, a style of footwear designed to guide a bunion straight and help strengthen the toes.
When he reached the age of 60, Alan took me on as an apprentice. I was only 18 at the time, and I spent the next five years at his side learning his craft. The knowledge he passed on has helped me to set up two shoe shops in Machynlleth, where I have trained three apprentices of my own.
Agile to the end, Alan practised tai chi, danced at every opportunity, and lived and loved life to the full. Never interested in retirement, he was still making shoes until the day before he died. His final collection will be launched at some point this year.
Alan’s home and garden were a bewitching extension of his personality, where he always welcomed good company and random conversation. Eccentric, flamboyant, generous, supportive, compassionate and inspirational, he will be greatly missed by the many whose lives he touched.
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