Based in NYC, The Sabah reinvents the traditional handmade Turkish slipper with a modern silhouette. Founder Mickey Ashmore first fell in love with the slipper after receiving one as a gift while living in Istanbul four years ago. Comfort persuaded him to wear the shoes on worldly travels, but the look was “very Aladdin.” Utilizing heritage construction techniques passed down from a familiar Turkish family, Ashmore shaved down the curl of the toe, added better quality leathers and launched the updated design as the Sabah. Now that “The Dealer,” as Ashmore refers to himself, has gotten a good bit of media love in recent months, he insists on meeting each of his customers personally, ideally over a drink at his Manhattan showroom or, in correspondence.
Customers wait six to eight weeks for their shoes, depending when in the production cycle their order has been placed, as each is handmade in Turkey. The Dealer communicates throughout the construction with images, and notes about the process. The leather is cut, uppers stitched then stretched on lasts, taking shape over several days. The uppers are then hand-stitched to a naturally tanned water buffalo midsole by Cem Dikici, a fifth generation craftsman whose surname translates as “shoe stitcher.” It is Dikici’s hand (or one he trained) employing an awl and two needles, binding sole and upper. The arduous process is unique and gives the Sabah its distinctive look and durability. This commitment to craftsmanship has become “a community which goes well beyond product,” as Ashmore puts it. As proof, when a car accident led to a production delay, Ashmore informed customers, who in turn sent dozens of notes that were printed and presented to the injured craftsman.
Global enthusiasm isn’t just evident in the brand’s design, but also in their social media presence as well. Their Instagram feed often features the slippers jumbled with passports, dog-eared novels, coiled scarves and belts, offering a portrait of a traveler as seen from the perspective of the TSA’s plastic bins. Ashmore credits Paul Theroux’s “The Great Railway Bazaar”—alongside the Wharton School of Business—as key to his entrepreneurial spirit. “A journey is much more than a destination, says Ashmore. “It’s who you meet along the way.”
And while the craftsmanship is the obvious a draw, Ashmore credits some recent success to a single shade of blue—”Biarritz Blue” specifically. After catching the eye of artist George Venson (founder of Voutsa) while visiting an East Village hardware store—each came to restock the tools of his trade—the chance meeting led to a collaboration. The limited edition run of 50 hand-painted Sabahs feature Venson’s “Lips” motif, and will debut on Monday, 10 November 2014 in San Antonio. For more information on The Sabah Dealer and the handmade shoes, contact Ashmore.
Images courtesy of Mickey Ashmore