Gohil’s in Camden: a place of handmade history

By Diana Roman

Gohil’s Handmade Leather Goods in Camden is the place to go, if you’re looking for quality that will last you decades. They “hand make everything” and “only use leather”. Everything is made and retailed in the same shop since 1966.

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This hidden gem sits right before Camden Lock and is the place where Rock Royalty used to get their boots made back in the 60’s and 70’s.

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The shop was set up by boot-maker Velji Gohil, who came to Camden not too long after the Indian independence. His boots drew attention because their vibrant colours stood out in all the black and brown that was around at the time.

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Kalpna Gohil, the daughter-in-law of Velji Gohil, says of how they “used to cater for a lot of them[…]who were later legends”. Some of the famous names that walked through their door, to get their made to measure high-heeled boots, are George Harrison, Eric Clapton, Syd Barrett and the rest of Pink Floyd. The band even mentions them in “Nobody Home”, off of “The Wall”:

“Ooohhh Babe when I pick up the phone

There’s still nobody home

I’ve got a pair of Gohil’s boots

And I’ve got fading roots”

Another reference to the boots is made in the beginning of the song:

“I got elastic bands keeping my shoes on”

Roger Waters said the lyric is also about Barrett. His mental state worsened so much, that he stopped lacing his boots and used elastic bands to keep them on.

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Syd Barrett wearing the Gohil’s boots in 1969.

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Now, the boot-maker is retired and the business is in the hands of his son and daughter-in-law. One of his last commissions, as told to Nick Foulkes, was a pair of “gold-leather boots with golden wings, spurs and toe caps for David Bowie”, which took a week to make and cost £500.

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Today, the prices will not draw you back so much. The bags’ starting price is £62 and for a pair of sandals, as little as £42. That’s a small cost for “solid leather”, with “long-term” wear, as Mrs. Gohil puts it.

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She says that despite stopping the manufacture of the famous boots, they have “expanded into other items, as opposed to just shoes”. They now make various bags, belts, purses, wallets, card-holders and many more. If you are lucky enough, you can even get some items custom-made.

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Opened Thursday to Monday, 10 a.m. – 6.30 p.m.

Also read: 5 Can’t-miss Independent Bookstores in Camden

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