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My fashion life - Stephen Gill

The owner and chief executive of men’s footwear brand Ohw? says you really can judge a man by his shoes

You’ve worked in the industry a long time. What has changed for the better?

Technology and the ability to easily keep in touch with partners around the world.


And for the worse?

The UK has become less interesting as an international market. It’s quite homogenous and no longer the centre of creativity it once was, which is disappointing. This is very much because of the economic climate over the past few years, but also the ownership of the market, which is dictated to by large sports brands and sports retailers.

What are you most proud of in your career?

Launching the Ohw brand and developing the international recognition we are now receiving.


What are you least proud of?

Probably too much to mention, but you learn by your mistakes.


If you could change anything about your job, what would it be?

At the moment, I’m pleased to say I wouldn’t change anything. As well as Ohw?, I’m involved as a consultant in a number of other brands including Realm & Empire, Kat Maconie and Rollasole, and get great satisfaction from the variety that brings.


What part of the fashion season do you most look forward to?

Seasonal launches with distributors, trade shows and retailers, because that’s when you get the first real reaction to the product you’ve been working hard to develop.


And what part do you most dread?

The same part of the season I look forward to most, because at that point there’s no going back.
You get to travel a lot. What is your favourite place in the world?

Although I do enjoy travel, probably the Virgin lounge at Hong Kong airport because that means I’m on my way home to my family.


And your least favourite?


The Virgin lounge at London Heathrow.


Who do you most admire in the industry?

People that act, not preach.

If you weren’t working in the industry, what would you be doing?

I’d be the director of rugby at Leicester Tigers.


Are you a trainers or brogues man?

Neither, I prefer shoes to be stylish casual.

How many pairs of shoes do
you own?

Lots.


How many do you actually wear?

My choice is usually dictated by what jeans I’m wearing, so it can be limited to just a few pairs. That said, I do trial all the new products we’re developing.


Which is your favourite pair of shoes?

The Gatland boot (pictured above) from Ohw?’s upcoming autumn 14 collection.


What are your other favourite footwear brands?

You can’t not admire what Nike does, but I also take inspiration from brands like Buttero, Ndc and Visvim for standout product, simplicity of design and creativity respectively.


What makes a good shoe, in your opinion? Less is more.


What sets Ohw? Footwear apart from other brands?

My business partner Hiro Chen and I both come from a shoemaking background and we have our own factory, so we can work to our standards. The majority of brands have little or no control over how their shoes are made.


Your footwear factory is in China. Do you think people can be quite snobby about Made in England products, or against those that aren’t?

Yes, but I’ve got a lot of respect for UK manufacturers like Loake and the challenges they are faced with, such as maintaining their skilled workforce. It’s also quite alarming that many people in the trade and the majority of consumers don’t realise that a lot of luxury and premium footwear brands are made in China. In fact, the best manufacturing facilities I have ever seen are in China.
Tell us something about you that we wouldn’t expect.

I’m a mean amateur chef.


What’s the strangest or funniest thing you’ve ever found yourself doing as part of your job?

I’m not prepared to incriminate myself.


What footwear trend do you wish would disappear, and why?

Pool slides. Need you ask?


Do you think you can really judge a man by his shoes?

Absolutely!


What shoes are you currently wearing, and what do they say about you?

One of Ohw?’s earlier boot styles, Shaka, which is named after a friend’s bar in Taipei. I suppose that translates to: I like quality and classic style, I’m loyal to my friends and I’m partial to a drink.

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