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My fashion life - Jonathan Hirst

The co-founder of moccasin brand Mocks is enjoying the sweet smell of success.

Where did the idea for Mocks come from?

Initially, we were looking at Tod’s and Car Shoe and thinking about replicating the idea, but manufactured in England. The Made in England movement was very strong then, and the plan was that it would be very premium. But we discovered the material we work with now, which we call Mocklite, and realised there was a gap in the market for an affordable product.

We launched in stores in 2012, but my partner Catherine Bardell and I started the business at the end of 2011.

What is Mocklite?

It’s a commercial product, a man-made rubber-like compound generally used in medical and catering applications. We call it Mocklite because the material’s scientific name is impossibly long.

Is it true you can put Mocks in the dishwasher?

Yes, you can. They’re also scented. This season’s scent is Ocean Breeze. I have a pair of white ones I’m always putting through the dishwasher!

Which stockists picked up the brand first?

Office. We really wanted Office from the start. When we first met with them, we hadn’t even got the prototype ready, but Catherine convinced them just on the basis of pitching it. She also engaged the buying team at Office by baking cakes and sitting in their reception, and when she sent them up, they came down to meet with her.

How many stockists do you have now?

About 80 to 90 independents in the UK, as well as Office, Schuh, Footasylum and Asos. We’re almost saturated in the UK in terms of our desired partners, so international markets are our key focus. We’re in Nigeria, Korea, the Middle East and some bits in America, but it’s in its infancy, so we’re working to try to get the right US partner.

Were you worried about growing too quickly in your early days?

Yes, definitely. There was such a demand for our product last year that we couldn’t afford to place our orders in the factory
as they needed to be paid up front by us, but our retailers were on payment plans so we had a six-month delay on getting the cash. Our big retail partners were very helpful, and we looked at several different options in terms of financing, but we ended up signing a licensing agreement with Focus International last June. Now it’s a huge support to us in terms of finance.

How did winning Young Fashion Footwear Brand of the Year at the Drapers Footwear & Accessories Awards last year feel?

It was fantastic, we were thrilled to be nominated in two categories: Best New Business and Young Fashion Footwear Brand. We were delighted to be recognised, given the other brands nominated.

Have you got plans to launch any styles other than moccasins?

We’re introducing accessories for spring 15. There will be bags and eyewear.

Is it true that you once spent a week’s pay on Vivienne Westwood trousers?

I did, yes. I’m very into fashion like that. I also once borrowed money from one of my friends to pay my rent for a month, but instead of paying the rent, I spent it all on a pair of Gucci loafers.

Do you still wear the Gucci loafers, or are you more inclined to wear Mocks?

No, of course I only ever wear Mocks now. Gucci is so last century.

Who would you like to see wearing Mocks, if you could choose anyone?

Definitely David Beckham. Having him representing any brand is basically like printing money.

What’s the best advice you’ve ever received?

The best advice is to always find a mentor, someone who you can trust. Mine is Kerry Pullin (now working at Specsavers), who I met when we were both working at Matalan.


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