How's it going folks? Hopefully all good...
So, back in January me and Ben had the pleasure of visiting Selvedge Run, in Berlin. I think you've all heard, by now, that we had an awesome time and that wasn't just down to the parties, bratwurst and beer (maybe a tad down to that 😬). No, it was the mega brands + people that we met along the way. Most of which we shared a beer with, anyways, love to multitask, me and Woodsy!
Tonight is the sixth of the interviews we conducted whilst there and features @oakstreetbootmakers. We are going to be posting all of the interviews every day this week, up to Sunday, before Shane aa Mr. Selvedge Run takes a seat at the clobber-cast table next week. So, read on people and enjoy!
So, tell us a little bit about you?
Yeah so I started Oak Street in 2010 and I don't know how much you know about Oak Street but my dad is a cobbler, a greek immigrant so worked at the shoe repair growing up, you know helping, it's just like when your family owns a business you're going to work at the shop and my dad wanted to scare me away from working with my hands but I loved it. So you know I spent a lot of time working there and then after college I wanted to take over the shoe repair and he was like there's no way. You did not go to college to run a shoe repair so that's when the kind of the idea started happening to start Oak Street boot makers so it's kind of like you know my dad he immigrated living the American dream repairing shoes, so I kind of took that American Dream to the next step to actual manufacturer.
So I started that in 2010 and then in 2012 there was a space on Oak Street in Chicago, so Oak Street Chicago used to be where all the makers were and now our neighbours are like Tory Burch, Barney's, those are all on Oak Street. So anyway this space became available on Oak Street and I was like I have to open a shoe store in that space we would get phone calls all the time people were like hey I’m in Chicago, I’m on Oak Street, where are you? And we were like, we don't have a retail location. The space was too big to be just as a shoe store so that's why I started independence, so it has all of the Oak Street Boot Makers line but then all these clothes that you should wear, or can wear. So that is how independence came about.
That’s awesome, I really like it. So that is your flagship store then?
So, when you get in what's a normal day look like? Are you in the store or do you work from home now? What do you do?
I unfortunately I don't spend any time at the store we do some events at the store, but day to day I mean a lot of it is design, most of it is working with production and sourcing materials. Fortunately we live in Chicago and Horween Leather they’re in Chicago they are our number one supplier, I buy almost everything from them. So I spend a lot of time at Horween working on development, working with all the new leathers, so it’s sourcing, it's working with Horween, working with our soul company, developing new patterns is really like the hardest, the hardest and the most time consuming part.
So we have a new boot coming out next Winter, so Winter 2018 showing it here for the first time, it is called the Field Boot and you know it looks simple but like getting the pattern just right, getting the colour of the stitching just right all that takes like tons and tons of sampling. So yeah you know first you have an idea of what a boots going to be, so yeah you sketch it out and then from there you know it's trying to actually develop the pattern and when you develop a pattern for the first time you’ll draw it essentially on blast and that’s how you transpose to figure out what it is going to look like but then when you actually make it it's never ever, ever right the first time, so that you have to go back and tweak and you tweak all these little things until the pattern fits right. That’s another thing you have to do fit trials so you have a handful of fit testers to wear the shoe and then you have to tweak it again, sometimes it looks right but on the foot It doesn't feel right. So yeah, day to day is new development and then working with suppliers.
So yeah, basically constantly being creative, constantly doing the next thing, so yeah that’s cool.
So yeah we’re here showing fall Winter 18 but we are already far in development for Spring Summer 19. So it’s weird when fall is going to be out finally I’ll be already working a year in front so its weird when the product finally comes out you know like sometimes the excitement for me has already faded away and it's like right now I'm so passionate about these new boots and when I finally going to come out I'll be like, oh yeah man that was a while ago. Then I get re-energised again because then you start to do the look book photos and you start to take photos of the product and then I’m reminded again like why I like it so much and then the best part is the customer reaction, so I know like this boot, customers are going to flip out. I think it's maybe the most beautiful boot we’ve created to date.
Yeah so that's a big statement, out trench boot is our number 1 selling product our Lakeshore boot came out like 2 years ago that starting to catch up with our Trench Boot and now the new Field Boot might surpass them all. So it's exciting.
I like that it’s good. What would you say has been the favorite product that you’ve released?
So the Trench Boot is our number one bestseller, I wore the Trench Boot exclusively for 7 years and now I've been wearing our Lakeshore boots, so then that's how your style changes, your personal style changes. I think the Trench Boot is our most iconic boot and you can wear it across styles the Lakeshore Boot for whatever reason, I just love the way it feels on my foot, I'm exploring it in different leathers, so the Lakeshore boot might be my favourite boot but the Trench Boot is right there.
A soft spot?
Thinking about that in terms of how your personal style changes, the shoe that puts on the map in 2010 it was called the Navy Vibrum Sole Trail Oxford in 2010 nobody has ever done anything like that, it was basically a boat shoe on a work boot sole. So you had a boat shoes on a heavy white vibram christy sole in navy leather and in 2010 it was just like, gone. So you know we were new shoe brand that came out of nowhere, nobody had ever heard of us we were a shoe brand that appeared online overnight and we sold out of everything we had made, that was supposed to last year in 24 hours of launching.
Wow! How did that happen? What, how?
2010 men's like blogs, like it just spread like Wildfire, so a friend of mine who wrote it, wrote about it and a website called secret thoughts, his names James he was a friend of mine and you know he seen me create this company and I launched August 30th 2010, he just posted a picture on his blog he said this is my friend George, he is a son of a cobbler he is making shoes in America he is using Horween leather, that is it. He posted that at like 8 a.m. by 10 a.m. Travel and
Leisure Magazine had called me, the New York Times had called me, it just spread...
So his blog must have been really popular for people to be tuning in?
You know in 2010 there wasn’t new shoe brands just popping up you know, I was the first new shoe brand to have appeared in years so it was for writers, fashion editors were coming back from all the summer shows. It was like wow this is something we've never, seen never heard of and they wrote about it. People took a risk you know, they didn't know we were like some fly by night company that's going to disappear and people, were paying $260 I think it was for our natural vibram trail Oxford and then it's sold out at like I said within 24 hours and I'm like fuck! You know what am I gonna do? A brand new shoe company with zero inventory on our website, day 2, so we didn't have a plan for sold out or anything, so then we create on the spot, we had to change the website to say pre-order, 6 week delivery, so we changed to pre-order and again I was like fuck who's going to order shoes that are pre-order 6 weeks. So people kept on ordering, the thing is our customers don’t need shoes, if you need shoes you can't wait 6 weeks, our customers want shoes, they want something well made, they won’t Horween Leather they want made in the USA. So yeah that's where the brand came from and started.
That’s brilliant, that’s really good. Do you still do pre-orders now?
Yeah we still can’t keep up. It took almost 2 years to finally have inventory, so the reason why is, you know imagine we say you know, we’ll say at the factory Navy vibram sole trial Oxfords will take us 6 weeks let's make 10 pairs of size 9, let's make 10 pairs or size 8 by the time 6 weeks of rolls around 10 people have already pre-ordered. So it then keeps on going and going then when we were young, things like running out of leather would happen, so we’d call Horween and say you know we have this leather no order how much longer is it going to take, we ordered it 5 weeks ago and they be like well it's going to take another 3 or 4 days and we like we don't have 3 or 4 days we are going to run out of leather tomorrow. There are little things like that where you know that adds on a couple days onto the 6 weeks. So a lot of growing pains for sure.
So we spoke on Instagram, I’ve got a business because of Instagram, I got to know you because people I follow wear your boots. Loyal to you, Red Wing, Truman Boot Company, Viberg and all these amazing brands because I see it everyday. Have you noticed that you get a lot off messages, has it helped your business?
Yeah focus quite a bit on Instagram so we’ve always been very thoughtful about the photographs we release so you know a lot of times people would say like in can we see a prototype picture, sometimes we have samples here, we always say no, we want anything we release visually to be perfect, so you know we think a lot about what we're going to post like today we have a photograph of a brand new Trench Boot next to a Trench Boot that's been warn for 2 years, it kind of shows you how the leather ages.
We love Instagram it an actual way that we can actually communicate with our customers or customers will messages us, people messages to ask about sizing. We actually respond to the comments that people make so it’s a way that we can actually finally communicate with our customers. The community in general is overwhelmingly positive you know, like here at this trade show you know, we’re with our friends you know, like Brad from Viber Boot Company, we all went dinner two nights ago. Andrew from 316 is here, we go back since 2010. So before Instagram the owners of these brands we would connect, now it's just like you said it's customers who wear 316 but they also where Oak Street, now we can connect our customers. It’s helped immensely, it's a great way to connect to customers.
I think visually, that's the thing, it's a thing of beauty isn’t it? The trying it on and everything comes after, people make the buying decision based on a picture.
Is there a certain part of America that you find you ship most of your stock to?
Yeah, we ship to all 50 states for sure, our biggest States are New York, California which is surprising because of the weather that's number two to Chicago. So Chicago is number one, which Illanoi is number one which is surprising because a lot of people don’t even know we are a Chicago brand, and then Texas. Those are our top markets, then obviously over seas is strong for us.
So how do you do in Europe?
England is good, we sell to some big retailers and clothing companies, one of our best ones, Kafka in Aberdeen. They order seasonally and then Germany we sell to a store called Cultizm, Cultizm is awesome, a web store. Then we are here today opening up new account so those new shoes wont be at those retailers till next Winter but we are always growing our assortment of where it is available.
When it comes to trade show season, do you enjoy it? The traveling, the meeting people?
I love being at home, I love home. I’m not going to complain when we are in Florence showing at Piddy, like to day look at this we are in Berlin and it is beautiful. So yeah like a handful of days its great, when you are on the road for 3 weeks 4 weeks, I’m ready to go home.
Finally mate, you're trapped on a desert island and you can take 4 items of clothing and 1 drink, what're you taking with you?
OK, 4 pieces, so does desert island mean desert island? ‘cos I wouldn’t need boots.
That is exactly what Brad (Viberg) said actually but it’s always been a desert island.
So my real answer is a t-shirt swim trunks flip flops and you know, music to listen to. But if I extend it to a desert island with variable weather then I want my trench boots with the commando sole a RRL cardigan, you will find me in a RRL Cardigan 300 days a year. A chambray shirt so I can roll up the sleeves when it’s warm.
And again since we are extending to a variable weather desert island I’d bring raw denim and I’m a devotee to LVC 1954 501 yeah, that’s what I always wear. Levis Vintage 1947 or 54 501 . DONE.
What drink you taking?
Oh yeah, drink. Water or I really like a nice Cabernet.
Thanks Wesley, man. Was great to meet you at the Run and hopefully see you again, in July?