The Shoe Snob Blog

July 8, 2013

Written by , Posted in News

Life As A Shoe Designer: Part 1 – An Explanatory Overview

The day that I put my shoes out onto the shelves of Gieves & Hawkes and thus ready for sale, was a good day. Even better was my launch party that must have accumulated around 100 guests, all of which were readers of the blogs or friends of theirs interested in the brand. It was a proud day for myself and it represented the commencement of the goal that I put in place way back in late 2005. But what most people might not realize is that this day also represented the day it all became real. And when I mean ‘real,’ I mean in the sense that it is no longer cheap talk and thoughtful planning but rather a real business that needs to be run and done so in a successful, efficient and constructive manner. And this is where things get difficult as money needs to be made, debts need to be paid and most importantly growth needs to take place for the brand to carry on. Don’t get me wrong though, while this is the time where it all becomes a lot more stressful it is still extremely fun and rewarding and I would rather be doing this & pulling out my hair due to factory frustrations than working for someone else, and thus hating my every waking second (not that working for someone else is bad, just that I personally am not cut out for it, I am stubborn bugger).

New style on new soft chisel toe last…set to arrive SS2014

As a small and new designer in the world of shoes the direction that I laid out for myself was to offer shoes that were classic in nature but offered a contemporary twist to them. If I am going to compete with the likes of C&J, Church’s, Cheaney, Grenson and all of the rest, then I need to offer things that they don’t, or else why would people who don’t support my blog buy my shoes? You see, men are stubborn sorts who don’t like change. I would know as I am one of them. Not when it comes to shoes obviously, but other things. That being, most men (not all) will find a shoe brand that they like and stick to it. Therefore it makes it hard for me to attract those that are already buying the same shoe brand each time they need a new pair. That means that I need to attract those that haven’t yet hit this level of price purchase and appeal to them in a greater manner than the others as to have my line be their first +300 shoe purchase. Or the other way is to offer shoe styles or color offerings that the other brands don’t yet do and thus appeal to customers as a niche brand. Because of this it is important for me to stay fresh and updated with a constant selection of new designs and color options.

New semi brogue model on new chisel toe last set to arrive AW2013

This explains the reason that as a young brand, I have already gone on sale. But in order to keep my shoe line fresh and updated, I need capital and in order to get the capital that I need, I have to make sales (not necessarily discounted ones, but sales in general). However, I purposefully made unique models that weren’t exactly going to be flying off of the shelves, things that were seasonal and could thus appeal to a few individuals who like things out of the ordinary. But this is also a risk that I run because once all of those individuals make their purchase, if I am left with substantial stock, it then becomes dead weight and there is nothing worse than that for a young brand, as it means that I have money that is simply sitting around and at the same time unusable. Therefore sales are imminent as a way to flush out the dead weight (not necessarily styles that aren’t doing well but also the odd sizes or small amounts left of one model etc), make a bit of money and thus create room for new styles and colorways. That is what I have precisely been doing.

New darby brogue with rubber sole coming AW2013, forgive the rough state of them!

In these last 4 months that I my line has been available, I have already made 2 new lasts, a new medallion and about 15-20 new styles/colorways, all of which you will see by Spring/Summer 2014. Some new loafers will be released within 2 weeks, while some new boot colorways as well as my new chisel toe last will come about A/W2013. For me, doing this bit is the exciting part. There is nothing more pleasing than seeing a new creation, especially when it is attractive and even more so when other people like it. But this is probably the part that I do least of on a daily basis. Dealing with factories, customers, emails, sales, quality control and not to mention maintaining my job as a shoe polisher has been what I do most of in day to day routine. For the next episode of day in the life, I will start to explain the nitty-gritty of how dealing with a factory takes place and how I can now sympathize with all the other shoe brands for the problems and hiccups that can occur during production…. Stay tuned and enjoy the new and upcoming models/lasts/medallions that you see presented…..

  • http://www.blogger.com/profile/16018821386625411889 Omar

    Hi Justin

    The first two, grey/ blue and the half brogue are absolutely gorgeous, especially the soft chisel last is very sleek…I look forward to trying it on! One question though, which colour cream polish would you recommend for this grey? I have a dark grey which didn’t respond well to saphir’s dark grey cream, shoe was loosing it’s original burnished finish and I had to revert to a black wax polish.

  • Anonymous

    I have to say in my opinion and for my taste your new semi brogue on the chisel toe last is an absolute winner and I think its time I came in and supported you by buying a pair!

  • Phillip

    Sorry if I missed it already, but when will A/W be available at G&H? I’ll be visiting Laaardon (from NYC) in September. Of course I’ll be popping in regardless to get a shine.

  • Anonymous

    Keep up the good work. Is the web shop coming along well? Maybe put the shoe’s on your ebay for the time being.

    Regards D.