It has been a tremendous pleasure for Paul Costelloe to be working with Northamptonshire-based luxury men’s shoemaker Loake for the exclusive unveiling of his Spring Summer 2018 collections at London Fashion Week.
Loake styles in luxury leathers and suedes have been paired with sharp, two-piece suits in light summer-weight wools and heritage linens to accentuate the story of a collection designed and created in Britain.
To celebrate the partnership, we caught up with Andrew Loake, Managing Director of Loake Shoemakers and 5th generation of the Loake family which has been leading the firm throughout its 130-year history.
How does a British shoemaker stay ahead of its rivals in such a competitive market and product area?
Simply by making the very best shoes that we can. Really high quality and value-for-money are not mutually exclusive concepts – it’s possible to provide both. It’s important to communicate with those who understand the importance of good footwear, listen to what they want and make it available to them. I suppose the single biggest factor in facilitating this
has been the advent of the internet and the opportunity to engage with a community of like-minded enthusiasts.
What is the appeal for you of doing something at London Fashion Week? Is this something you have done before?
We’re not natural self-promoters and we prefer to concentrate on what we do best – making shoes. That said, we appreciate the importance of LFW to both the domestic and the international stage, so to be able to participate alongside another brand with shared values is an exciting and welcome opportunity.
The Loake heritage is British design, manufacturing and aesthetic, something Paul Costelloe values greatly in his menswear collections. How is this heritage perceived internationally?
Loake is definitely an authentic British brand, having made footwear for British soldiers and officers in two World Wars, British Olympic teams and other high profile British sportsmen, actors and musicians.
We’ve also produced some iconic designs that have become synonymous with British youth culture, such as our Brighton loafer and Royal brogue, which were first introduced in the 70s and are still in production today.
Fortunately, British craftsmanship is valued around the world and the word is spreading. We now sell to over 50 countries around the world.
One thing Loake and Paul Costelloe have in common is that we are both family businesses. What do you see as the challenges and opportunities of working in a family company?
One of the traps that a long-established family business can fall into is trying to maintain tradition; doing things as they have always been done. At Loake we have tremendous respect for that tradition and heritage, but we also try to maintain the entrepreneurial spirit that our forefathers had. They were pioneers, not slaves to their past. So despite our notable history, we are very much a forward-looking company. We still specialise in fine, Goodyear welted men’s footwear, but the range on offer has been extended to include alternative constructions and a choice of both classic and contemporary designs.
Can you take us through the main design and manufacturing steps of a pair of Loake shoes?
That would take longer than we have time for. There are approximately 200 separate operations involved in making a pair of Loake Goodyear welted shoes. We estimate that, on average, 75 people will handle each pair and the entire process from start to finish takes 8 weeks. The single thing that most people underestimate is the amount of work that happens below the insoles (making the uppers is the easy bit).
What have been a few of the big breakthroughs, game-changers or innovations for the business during its long history?
While our shoemaking continues to favour the traditional Goodyear welted construction and manufacturing techniques, advances in technology have enabled us to develop other areas of our business. We were the first of the traditional Northamptonshire shoemakers to launch a retail website and operate a comprehensive in-stock service that can despatch within 24 hours. Perhaps one of the most significant changes is opening our own retail shops. We have been shoemakers for over 130 years, but now we have a means of demonstrating our craft more directly to our customers.
What’s next for the company?
We are a craft-based industry and shoemaking skills have to be learnt and honed over many years. One of the most important challenges for us is to pass these skills on to the next generation. In terms of product, we will continue to combine traditional manufacturing techniques with our own interpretation of fashion trends in order to offer contemporary classic footwear that appeals to a diverse range of customers, from loyal Loake fans to younger wearers who are just discovering the pleasure and benefits of well made, handcrafted men’s footwear.
When people think of Loake, What do they think?
They think that there’s definitely a place for enduring style and timeless elegance in a modern, transient world.