Simon Bourne turned a desire to salvage scrap leather into an award-winning footwear brand
Simon Bourne founded The Hand Dyed Shoe Company in 2014 while working as a sales manager for a London-based chair manufacturer. Upset by the volume of waste going to landfill, Bourne was inspired to transform the scrap leather into anything that he could, which he would later sell online via marketplaces Ebay and Etsy.
It was his love of fashion and the creative freedom that designing allows for that drove Bourne to “properly” launch The Hand Dyed Shoe Company in 2016, as the bespoke shoe manufacturer that it is today.
The company now sells more than 30 styles, which are all named after cow breeds. Retail prices range from £299 for the Mr Ox trainer to £399 for the Mr Bonsmara Chelsea boot.
What’s the first thing you do when you get up in the morning?
Brush my teeth. My wife has breakfast with our daughter while I get ready, then we swap over.
What was your first job?
My first “real” job was as a salesperson at JD Sports (at the time known as First Sports). I was there for three years and had been promoted to assistant manager by the time I left.
How would you describe the brand in one sentence?
“Changing the way the world buys shoes” – it’s our company motto.
What’s your coffee (or tea) order?
Black coffee. I absolutely love the stuff and probably have eight to 10 cups a day.
Where are your favourite places to shop?
Twisted Tailor (formerly known as Noose & Monkey), which is an online brand offering alternative tailoring.
Last fashion purchase? Why did it catch your eye?
The blazer I wore to the [payment provider] Klarna “Smoooth Stores” awards in April, which I won [the competition aims to discover and develop retail talent across the UK]. It’s a double breasted, cream-coloured jacket and different from anything else in my wardrobe.
Emails or phone calls?
Emails. I have a bit of telephone anxiety.
Most important lesson you’ve learned during your career?
There’s a quote by Cath Kidston: “When you’re self-taught you always worry that you will be found out.” When I was starting Hand Dyed Shoe Company, I could really relate to this, as I had no clue where to begin but if you jump in and do it, you learn.
What would be your ideal office/meeting space?
Somewhere really bizarre or quirky. I love speakeasy bars in unexpected places, like on a boat or underground.
What’s your favourite part of the creative process?
The imagination. I love the way the mind works and the creativity that goes into a finished product.
What has been your proudest moment since you launched the brand?
Winning the Klarna Smoooth Stores competition. I’m an emotional person but I’ve never cried in front of 350 people before.
What’s the last book you read?
I’m currently reading Sam the Magic Genie by Brian Mayne.
I went to the Costa Brava in Spain with my family last year.
Who in the fashion/retail industry inspires you?
So many people. Lee Alexander McQueen stood out for his eccentric designs and the bizarre things that he put together – things that shouldn’t go together but did. I admire anyone who goes against the norm.
What’s the biggest challenge facing fashion today?
Getting your brand out there. The fashion industry is so congested. There are so many places that people can buy clothes and shoes from that it’s hard to get your message and what you’re passionate about out there.
One piece of advice you would give your younger self?
Live as you are and don’t stress. I’m a very expressive person, and that has led to a lot of self-doubt about who am I and where I fit in society.
Who do you turn to when you need advice?
Always my wife. She’s the best mentor, and the only person who truly knows me and doesn’t judge.
What would we find you doing at the weekend?
Usually working, which is quite embarrassing. I try to have every other weekend off and enjoy driving old sports cars.
What are you looking forward to most in the year ahead?
Seeing the brand develop. I’m full of imagination and have lots of ideas, but I’m quite impatient. I’m very excited to see what the Klarna award brings and the people that it’s going to introduce me to. It’s going be a great, exciting year.