‘Remarkable’ man behind the women’s footwear chain remembered by family, friends and colleagues.
Samuel ‘Sigi’ Faith, founder of women’s footwear chain Faith, has died aged 82.
Known to his friends and family as Sigi, Faith went into business in 1952 with his father, retailing and exporting woollen textiles after an extraordinary childhood.
Born in 1928 as the only child to Jewish parents in Hamburg, Germany, Faith arrived in the UK in 1938 on the Kindertransport, a scheme that rescued 10,000 Jewish children from Nazi persecution. His father was sent to Sachsenhausen concentration camp in Germany.
Sigi Faith eventually settled in the Shropshire town of Oswestry in 1939, having been accepted as a non-paying boarder at the local fee-paying school. In 1945 he left the school to study accountancy in Birmingham. It wasn’t until three years later that he was reunited with his parents, who arrived in England after sheltering in Shanghai for most of the war.
In 1964, Sigi Faith opened his first footwear shop in Wood Green, north London, trading as Faith Footwear. He quickly grew the business, which made its mark on the high street by producing fashion looks at reasonable prices.
However, he retired from a hands-on role in 1997 after a stroke, and his son Jonathan, who had joined the business in 1978, took over the day-to-day running of the company. Sigi Faith kept an office at the business, and maintained some involvement.
The Dune Group executive chairman Daniel Rubin, also founder of the now-defunct supply group Browning, said: “I first met Sigi Faith some 30 years ago, when I started supplying Faith. He had a profound effect on everyone who was lucky enough to come into contact with him. Both physically and through strength of character, he had great stature and presence. He was enormously generous and a real gentleman, with very high moral and ethical standards, which he never compromised.
“When there was a problem with deliveries or quality, he was always calm and considered, always trying to resolve the issue fairly and reasonably. He was a great leader and natural mentor and teacher. He was incredibly loyal to his staff, many of whom work in The Dune Group today, and his suppliers.”
Philip Meltzer of Indian footwear supplier Mirza said: “He was an absolute gentleman in the true sense of the word and had a great capability to put a young man at ease. He was always very receptive to new fashion ideas and had a calmness and determination that encouraged good relationships with his suppliers.
“On a personal basis, Sigi became a friend, ready to offer any advice when asked.”
Richard Paice, ex-president of industry charity Footwear Friends, said Sigi Faith was an outstanding man, both professionally and personally. “We were in the same niche of footwear and we established a very good personal relationship. He was a gentleman in the way he conducted his life and managed his business. He made it a rule to settle all his bills within a week, a discipline that was remarkable and a reflection of his fairness and integrity.”
Jonathan Faith said his father would be remembered for his “outstanding integrity and sense of fair play, which inspired tremendous loyalty from his staff and suppliers”.
Sigi Faith is survived by his wife Terry - who he married in 1951 - Jonathan, daughter Nicola, six grandchildren and a great granddaughter.
Faith was sold to Bridgepoint Capital for £64m in 2004, when the family exited the business. It subsequently went into administration twice and the Faith name is now owned by Debenhams.
An extraordinary life
1928 Born Samuel ‘Sigi’ Faith in Hamburg, Germany
1938 Arrives in England as a refugee from Nazi Germany
1951 Marries wife Terry
1952 Goes into woollen textiles business with father
1964 Opens first Faith Footwear shop in London
1978 Son Jonathan joins Faith
1997 Sigi retires from the business; Jonathan acquires Faith
2004 Faith Shoes has 72 standalones, various concessions, 25 overseas franchises and 2,500 employees; the business is bought by private equity group Bridgepoint Capital for £64m
2008 Faith goes into administration
2010 Debenhams buys the brand name after second administration
2010 Sigi Faith dies aged 82