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Interviews

Justin FitzPatrick (II)

August 1, 2014

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Going back to J.FitzPatrick footwear and to your experience. What would be the “cultural” differences between English and Spanish in this industry? What are the strong points and the weak points of each?

English Weakness – They are too rigid in the idea of “these need to be English through and through.” They won’t do what they are not used to, what they perceive to be too flashy. Basically many of them don’t modernize for fear of losing that “Englishness”

English Strength – they are consistent and make solid shoes that are good value for money and that stand the test of time.

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Spanish Weakness – Consistency and a true understanding of why shoes must be good to be a player in the industry. For this reason, alone I believe that Spain is not nearly as known for shoemaking as is England and Italy even though they have been making shoes just as long if not longer…..they need to have more pride in shoemaking if they want to be contenders in the idea of “great shoemaking countries.”

Spanish Strength – They are adaptable. They can make anything. They have no look, no culture influencing the shoes. That is what I love and partly why I chose them. My shoes look like they could be made anywhere…there is mystery to them.

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Whom would you bet on for becoming on a short term the star in RTW shoemaking? 

Bow-Tie = Spanish owned but made throughout Europe. English inspired with a mix of modern design…very interesting stuff

 Norman Vilalta = bespoke shoemaker coming out with a RTW line.

Christian Kimber = designer out of Australia

Awl & Sundry = American brand making ‘handmade’ shoes out of China, with online customization

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What the biggest unexpected success so far?

How well I have done in Hong Kong since launching my website (jfitzpatrickfootwear.com) really took me by surprise. It is by far my strongest city for sales. But the real surprise is how well I have done in the US. I have probably sold half of my shoes to Americans since launching. I always knew that it would be the biggest market, but not by how much bigger it is than everyone else.

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If your business received a capital injection of 1.000.000 Euro, where would the money be heading?

I would first save 500K. I would then use 200K to hire people that could help drive the business forward and to international growth. I would then use about 50K to travel the world doing trunk shows to try and reach as many cities as possible and all of my customers within those cities. I would use another 50K on advertising and then use the last 200K on stock, between the shoes and the accessories.

Then after 6 months to a year after having the new employee’s I would approach the big hitters like Nordstrom (in the US) and try to get them to buy my shoes for their shops, thus expanding brand recognition to the normal people of the world (not just selling to the blog readers of the world). After having built the brand for another 2 years after having that cash injection, I would use the 500K that was saved to put towards our own shop.

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But if the injection would be of only 100.000 Euro?

30K on employees, 30K on shoe stock, 10K on new accessories, 10K on trunk shows and 10K on advertising within London and 10K on cash flow

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Do you intend to broaden the number of available models or to use other skins for the basic models, or are you heading towards an MTO program in the future?

Other skins, not sure…not a fan of exotics. Would love to get my hands on Cordovan but it’s like a mafia and little guys like me have almost no access to it unless I want to spend like 5 times the price…using more fabrics in my shoes, yes indeed!

New models of course. I am addicted to making new models. I have so many samples to release, but just no money to make them into full size runs…

Yes, the MTO program should launch soon. I am just testing last for narrow and wide widths before I launch it.

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In another train of thoughts, I’d like you to tell me how you see the new Stefano Bemer rebranding. You spent some time in that studio (My time with Stefano Bemer) and things are probably seen differently from your perspective. Do you think that Stefano’s spirit can be retrieved by the new models?

Let’s just say that I appreciate what Tommaso Melani (the new owner) is doing to keep the brand alive. He has good ideas and direction and is a smart businessman. But no one could ever replace Stefano’s brilliance in design. For me, he was probably one of the best designers of all time.

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See also Justin FitzPatrick (I)