In this era of throwaway culture, how refreshing it is to hear a business bragging that their products are being built to last a lifetime. Launched last month, 1800 Shoemakers, founded by father and son team Grant and Richard Lloyd, seeks to start a sartorial revolution Down Under from the feet up.
“I have a keen interest in fashion, particularly footwear, and I realised there was nothing for young professional guys who need high quality footwear that won’t completely break the bank,” says Richard, who has a background in science and marketing medical devices. “There are few options under the $600 to $1000 price tags of the master shoemakers from the UK.”
Grant, who has been involved in the shoe industry for much of his working life, admits to listening to his son’s pitch with a “dose of scepticism”. “But I soon realised that he was right,” continues Lloyd senior. “I have a tradition in footwear, and this project really excites me. It’s funny, but once footwear is in your blood, it seems to stay there.”
The pair is proud that their skills “complement each other” and that they “even support the same football team!” (Arsenal, if you’re wondering.) “We both have a healthy respect for what the other can bring to the business,” says Grant. “And that’s important.”
The pioneering shoe company has initially launched online.
“We provide much input into the styling of the shoe,” continues Grant. “Richard is very useful there as he has a great sense of contemporary dress, but with a classic look, and I have much knowledge of footwear from the years I’ve spent in the business. So we could stipulate, very clearly, the styling and the profile that we wanted, and what we believed would be ideal for the New Zealand foot — as that can be quite an issue, too.”
Richard reveals that key to their shoe’s quality is a process called Goodyear welting. “It’s the gold standard of shoemaking, nothing compares to it,” he says. “All of the higher-end shoemakers use it because it’s so durable and means that so long as you take care of the upper, the shoe will last for many, many years, as they can be re-soled.”
The shoes comprise timeless designs such as the brogue and the Oxford, available in black, tan or oxblood.
“We all know that fashion is temporary, but class is forever,” Richard says.
“We wanted to refresh that, while still remaining true to the roots of those styles.”
“Footwear is something that needs a good eye for detail, which Richard has,” adds Grant. “You can get it right — or miss the mark — by the slightest of things. These shoes are not going to be for everyone, but that was our intention.”
Richard says that they wish to sell to those who share their passion for classic, well-crafted, high-quality products: “We’ve worked closely with the manufacturing team to really fine tune our shoes for the New Zealand market. Many of the bloke’s here tend to be a bit more flat-footed, with broader feet than the European and Asian markets, so we really wanted to design something that worked for them.”
The shoes are handmade in India, at a factory handpicked by the father and son team.
“I’ve been to many factories and tanneries in my lifetime, and I was keen to ensure that it was of a certain standard,” states Grant. “This one certainly ticks all of the boxes. It has been running for 20 years and has a lot of local and international input, including from Europe — it’s a real united nations! The quality of the leathers is exceptional.”
What makes this project even more fulfilling for Grant and Richard — and increases their appeal as a brand — is their family’s impressive, international shoemaking heritage. In 1840, Richard Lloyd sailed into Nelson from England and established a shoemaking business, having learnt the craft from his father, David. Richard’s son also worked in the family business. Grant’s father worked in the footwear industry for 40 years and now Grant and his son Richard are re-establishing that legacy.
“I’m thrilled that we’re carrying it on,” beams Grant. “I love history, and I love family, and now here we are, with the same passion.”
“I’m someone who takes care of things,” Richard says. “It was instilled into me back in my football days, through my dad and my granddad, that I would always polish and waterproof my shoes. We want to attract customers who will take a similar pride in their footwear. I really do believe there is a massive gap in New Zealand for this. There is a burgeoning class of professionals with spare cash who are calling out for such products — quality items that traditionally haven’t been available to our historically rough and ready culture.”
Serving up some sartorial suggestions, via a blog, will be another fundamental philosophy of the firm.
“Versatility is vital,” Richard says. “This is where we have much to do with our marketing message and it is something that I am really focussed on — about how to wear these classic styles. So many of these points of fashion have been lost. For instance, not many people know that an Oxford is more formal than a brogue; or the fact that a brogue looks good with no socks and bare ankles. You can really dress down what people would assume are more formal items. So that will also be a big part of what we do — educating Kiwi males on the finer points of classic styling!”