Here at What Makes a Man we are very pleased to provide a the transcript of a Question and Answer email correspondence with Andrew Loake, MD of Loake shoes. Andrew is the fourth generation of Loake to helm this iconic British shoe brand. As
Andrew Loake at the Loake factory in Kettering, England
regular readers will know, it is the suitamkers, shirtmakers and shoemaker who are our heroes so we are very pleased to be able to publish this transcript. We asked Andrew about his shoes on the occasion of the opening of the new Loake flagship store in London. For our article about the store and the Loake website, see the links at the bottom of this article.
Questions and Answers
Of all the classic English shoemakers, only Loake has been without its own shops, until now. Why open a shop now?
In the past we have seen ourselves primarily as manufacturers, but now it is important for a brand to engage more directly with the public.
Is the shop part of a larger retail strategy, will there be more shops in England?
Prior to opening the London store, we had no direct experience of retailing. It’s possible that there may be more shops in due course but, for the time being, we want to learn as much as we can from this one.
What are Loake’s plans for overseas, especially in the US (What Makes a Man has a large US readership).
We currently sell to over 60 countries around the world but, until recently, our priority markets have been within Europe. We would be wrong to ignore the opportunities in the US though – it’s still the largest economy in the world, and we have a common language.
During these difficult economic times, a number of brands are saying that they are seeing “a flight to quality” in menswear. Do you have an opinion on this with regard to Loake?
Definitely. When economic times are harder, people do spend less money – but they think more intelligently about the money that they do spend. People want to buy good things that they will enjoy owning. You don’t have to choose between high quality and good value – you can have both at once.
What Makes a Man articles on bench-made shoes get the greatest number of reads, especially from American readers. Andrew, what is your view on the American experience of British bench-made shoes?
We have relatively little experience (so far) of American customers , but I don’t see why they should be any different from other Loake customers around the world. English shoemakers have a well-earned reputation for excellence that is recognised around the world. Americans certainly understand about quality and value.
In the City, workers in the financial sector consider Loake to be the workhorse shoe. Though some brands have more styling (and cost more) Loake are seen as handsome, well-made shoes at a good price point. Is handsome and well-made how you characterises Loake shoes?
Certainly, our shoes are regarded as handsome and well-made, but that’s not to say that our shoes aren’t stylish. English classics are very much in vogue at the moment, but we also have a specific collection called “Design Loake”, the idea of which is to combine contemporary design with traditional craftsmanship.
How does being family help shape the Loake brand?
The background of the family business has been incredibly important for me. The business and the family have been inextricably linked and have shaped each other – we all grew up knowing what we know and doing what we do. So, the family/business ethos is heavily ingrained in us.
Are there younger members of the family being groomed to carry on the tradition?
Yes. I am 4th generation, but we also have some 5th generation in the business now, so the future is secure for a while yet. As far as 6th generation is concerned, it’s too early to tell – we’ll have to wait and see . . .
The Princes Arcade shop seems to have shoes which have a more Italian style, slimmer and with more styling than the Loakes we know and love. Are these “Design Loake” shoes? What inspired Loake to produce these shoes?
English classics are very much in vogue at the moment, but we also have a specific collection called “Design Loake”, the idea of whichis to combine contemporary design with traditional craftsmanship.
How are the new “Evolution Loake” shoes different?
Loake Evolution combines the classic styling and traditional Goodyear welted manufacturing methods for which Loake is renowned with the instant wearability of modern footwear. This is achieved through the use of a new system of construction which gives a degree of comfort and flexibility previously unavailable in a Goodyear welted shoe.
Some classic brands – Church, Barkers, have started making ranges of soft sneaker-type shoes. Will Loake do that?
We do produce a range of moccasins, boat shoes, driving shoes, desert boots, etc. under the “Loake Lifestyle” label, but our emphasis will always be on the traditional classics for which we are best known.
Grenson have made a name for themselves by very stylish collaborations with Nigel Hall, French style houses and most notably Albam. Are Loake planning anything similar?
We have no specific plans for collaborations at the moment. We want the world to know more about Loake shoes, but we have to be careful how we spread the word. Collaborating with another brand can increase the “reach”, but can dilute the message and lead to confusion.
What is your personal favourite Loake for:
Formal (suit and tie)
For a formal occasion, I would suggest a toe cap shoe: style “Aldwych” (pure classic) or “Churchill” (for a little extra style).
Casual (chinos and a shirt)
A tan or oxblood brogue: Style “Chester” or “Royal”.
In my opinion Loake Royal Brogues are one of the finest shoes in the world. And my opinion is shared by stylish men the world over . It would be good to hear your view on why these shoes are such iconic classics.
Quite simply, English brogues are probably the most versatile shoes you can find. You can wear them with suits, jeans, chinos, cords – and just about anything else.
What would you recommend to men who are new to good shoes? One pair? Two? Style? If you have a view on this it would be really useful, as readers look for guidance from style leaders.
I’m tempted to say the more shoes the better. But actually, there’s sense in this. Fine leather shoes can require a full day to recover so should be left for at least 24 hours between wears. So, if they’re worn on alternate days, they will last much longer.
Anything else you feel should be said about one of England’s iconic craft brands.
Try some Loakes and see for yourself . . . . .
Our thanks to Andrew Loake for his time and courtesy. Our thanks also to Bridget Grey of Grey PR for facilitating our Q&A with Andrew Loake.
The new Loake store is in London’s elegant and classy Princes Arcade, just off London’s Jermyn Street. To read about the store go to our article here.
To read about Loake’s shoe ranges, their history and why we are such fans of the Loake Royal Brogue, read our article here.
To read our articles about British ready-to-wear benchmade shoes (including Loake), go to our articles here and here
We definitely recommend the new Loake website which includes all models of Loake shoes, available to buy online. The website is here: www.loake.co.uk