Shoes by Vidal is a Cameroonian brand that produces handmade luxury shoes. Vidal Kenmoe is the face behind the brand: the former British Royal Army officer and trained aerospace engineer spends most of his time in Douala making, cutting and polishing new shoes. He founded his company in 2016 and demonstrates the highest craftsmanship in every shoe he makes.
In an interview with the newspaper Le Monde Afrique, he explains that the British Royal Army is recruiting young volunteers from the Commonwealth countries and that he joined in 2011. They were obliged to always be well dressed and shod with polished boots. They even had working hour of learning how to line up their pairs of shoes neatly. Kenmoe’s passion for shoes was born on the one hand there, on the other hand by his mother, who is also very enthusiastic about shoes and fashion.
He himself was a sniper at his military time. After their work, he and the other soldiers were entitled to three months of rest and recovery, during which many returned to the university or did other things unrelated to the military. Kenmoe decided to make footwear.
Kenmoe himself does not like the term “luxury” himself, he prefers to say “handmade”. In 2013 he had learned the craft. He had learned from a former soldier in Derby and eventually became a shoemaker in the same city. He learned to use, cut, assemble and sew different shapes. After a few months of practice, he made his own shoes. In 2015, he moved from the British to the Cameroonian army.
Kenmoe tells “Le Monde Afrique” how in September 2016 after a tennis match a major got very enthusiastic about his pair of shoes and he spontaneously said he could make him some. The major initially thought he had misunderstood him, but Kenmoe repeated his words.
He ended up making him three pairs of shoes, one in black, one in blue and one in brown. The major was very satisfied and word about his talent got around. In one year he made more than 100 shoes.
In an interview with “okayafrica” he explains that it can take several weeks to design and manufacture a pair of shoes. The shoes of his customers are tailor-made: if you want leather, velvet, fabric or even fur processed, he processes it too. All the materials that he can find locally.
The prices vary between 75 and over 300€, for an average earner in Cameroon almost unaffordable. But even with those prices Kenmoe doesn’t earn much on his shoes: if he sells a shoe for € 75, about 55€ of material costs are deducted, 15€ he gets himself. If he completes a shoe in four or five days, so that is just 3 -4 € daily wage. He knows for himself that he could earn twenty times more as an engineer.
To attract new customers, he presents his creations on his website and in social networks. He supplies diplomats, managing directors, stars like footballer Samuel Eto’o and the Cameroonian Diaspora, who make up about 70%. But he does not want to open a shop for fear of losing the traditional setting and the warm atmosphere of personal interaction in his small workshop.