The co-founder of Fresh Footwear and 33 Joints tells Marie Davies about his plans to marry own label Feud with licensing
Why did you choose to work in the footwear industry?
I’ve always known I wanted to work with shoes.
I remember telling my dad that I was going to leave school at 16 and sell shoes, and that’s what I did. My family has always been in the industry - my mum is a member of the Pentland shoe family [she is Pentland Group chairman Stephen Rubin’s first cousin] and my dad worked for Pentland before he left to set up his own business in 1977.
What is the story behind your Fresh Footwear firm?
I started working with my dad on footwear distribution and, following a stint at clothing supplier Cobles, I left to get back into footwear, setting up Fresh Footwear with my dad in 2001. Fresh Footwear was set up to distribute Firetrap footwear which we no longer do, so we’ve started another company called 33 Joints, which will focus on our own brand Feud along with the European distribution of US footwear brand Blowfish.
Fresh Footwear has held the licence for Firetrap footwear for eight years, but this will end in 2011. What is the reason for this? At Firetrap, management changes and differences of opinion on the product direction led to us not wanting to pursue the licence. We also had developed the experience and resources to start our own brand.
How does having your own label compare with licensing a brand?
The main differences are in the design and manufacturing process - we don’t have the quantities to compete on price as more established brands would. But we’ve built up great contacts to get our sampling done efficiently.
You supply to various levels of the market. How has the recession affected your business?
We were hit by lots of customers going into administration at the end of 2008. In addition to this, we buy shoes in euros and dollars so we were hit by the weak pound. It taught us more about margins and efficiency. As they say, what doesn’t kill you makes you stronger.
What are the biggest lessons you’ve learnt?
Product design is absolutely crucial, especially at high street and middle-market levels. High street brands don’t have the marketing or brand budgets that say Nike or Christian Louboutin would have, so design has to do the talking. Under Feud we have offshoot brands Feud London, which is commercial in design, often having washed and battered leathers, and also Feud Britannia, which focuses on boots.
How do you appeal and stay relevant to different sectors?
Any brand we have cannot compete with another. As long as we have clear brand profiles for each we can cover all areas.
Where do you see 33 Joints in five years’ time?
We want to stick to young branded fashion footwear and successfully cover all sectors. Feud will be the main focus and we want to establish it in Europe before we expand in China and the US.
What is your favourite footwear style?
In my younger days Nike Air Max (above), but now I would say loafers or Converse.
What was the last item of clothing you bought?
A pair of Armani Jeans.
Which brand do you admire?
[Premium outerwear brand] Moncler. It’s simple but I like it.
Which is your favourite city for shopping?
Tokyo or Florence (pictured). Florence is small but has everything.
Antony Nathan is co-founder of Fresh Footwear and 33 Joints