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My fashion life - Ashley Morris

Linzi Shoes may be celebrating its 25th anniversary but its co-owner has still found time to train for a marathon.

This year is Linzi Shoes’ 25th anniversary. What are you doing to celebrate?
We have just celebrated with an event in central London, which also encapsulated the launch of our autumn 14 collection. We are also launching a Linzi exclusive range of leather loafers and brogues in mid-August. Typically all of our shoes up until now have been in synthetic fabrics.

There must have been some highs and lows in the past 25 years that stand out?
The standout moment for me was the opening day of our very first shop in Woolwich, called Shoe Crazy, all those years ago in 1989. It is no longer trading but I can remember working all through the night with my wife and co-owner Lindsey to get the shop ready to open; we never actually got to bed that night. There have been no lows, honestly.

Have you always been interested in footwear?
Yes, I have always been interested in fashion, but as an early career move I was a trainee dental technician. When I got engaged to Lindsey it just felt right for me to leave teeth for feet.

Having started as Shoe Crazy you took over the name Linzi Shoes from Lindsey’s parents’ market stall when they retired in 1999. Did the name originate from Lindsey’s own name?
Lindsey’s late parents, Johnny and Marlene Berger, were a major fixture in Romford Market selling shoes way back when, and their stall, Linzi, was named after their daughter. Lindsey still runs it today.

Who worries more about their own shoes, you or Lindsey?
I do, definitely.

Who is more likely to bring work home with them?
It has to be me. When one has an independent retail business like ours, running a business is a 24/7 job. We never switch off, but obviously we have the support of our amazing staff, with around 60 of us right now. My day starts around 6am in our warehouse.

Who else in the industry do you admire?
Mike Ashley, the founder of Sports Direct. I admire him because he has built up his business empire from scratch. When he wants something he goes and gets it. He is an old fashioned, competent, professional retailer.

And whose shoes would you like to walk a mile in?
Oh, this is a great question. My own Asics trainers; I am actually in training as we speak for the 2015 London Marathon and for the Royal Parks half marathon in October. I am raising funds for Children with Cancer.

What’s the best career advice you’ve been given?
To go with your gut instinct in the first instance. Your first instinct is generally the right one.

You have five stores in Westfield Stratford, Lakeside, Basildon and two in Romford. Any plans for more?
Never say never.

Do you have a favourite?
My analogy would be that they are my children - how could a father prefer one over the other?

What’s happening at the moment in terms of footwear trends?
For our autumn 14 ranges, we have observed what has been on the runway collections and worked the new offer accordingly: manly flats, brogues, loafers and shoe boots with cut-outs in a multitude of colours and styles.

How do you compete with the high street?
Over the years I have learnt it takes attention to detail, a keen eye for value, keeping our USP [of giving a high-end look to lower-cost product] central to everything we do and getting them into the shops within four to five weeks.

Have you ever considered selling brands as well as your own label?
Very early on in the business Lindsey and I made a decision to only sell our own brand, as this would put us above any of our competitors in the area that we trade.

What about men’s shoes?
Men buy both branded and leather shoes from a high street retailer, or from an independent menswear shop. Women, on the other hand, have a very special relationship with shoes and are not averse to buying a pair a week - even though they know they have dozens of shoes residing in the wardrobe.

What is your pet hate?
My pet hate is bad service, absolutely everywhere.

What is your earliest memory?
The very hot summer of 1976, being able to play on my bike with my friends until very late into the night.

Have you got any hidden talents?
None at all.

What’s your favourite pair of shoes?
Classic Tod’s driving shoes. They go with most outfits and I have quite a few pairs.

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