When Nathan Brown launched Lodger Footwear after years working with top sports shoe companies, he had spent seven years dreaming up the concept. "I always thought that there is all this great technology and innovation in sports footwear, but I love classic shoes and I just didn't see the same innovation being applied to classic shoemaking," he says.
Lodger combines the technology and innovation of athletic footwear with the craftsmanship and style of classic shoes. In the basement of Brown's Mayfair shop customers undergo a 3D laser scan of their feet to build a virtual model, which is then matched up with a library of lasts using a special software. The scanning technology is normally used by running shoe companies in Japan while the software that interprets the scans is made in the UK and was originally employed to make orthopaedic shoes.
"I love looking at other industries, gathering things for new uses," says Brown. "We have pulled together different things in unique ways for a very different result," he says. While he enthuses about technology, he champions traditional craftsmen when it comes to the shoemaking, which takes place in Italy and the UK.
He is happy with progress so far given the economic climate. "We are growing every month. We wrote our projections a year and a half ago when the world was a very different place, but the retail isn't too far off plan. We broke even in April, six months after launching, and considering we are in a downturn that is something I am very proud of. It is a tough time to launch but we are happy." Next year he hopes to take the brand to continental Europe and Asia.
Brown's desire to provide value for money is evident in his pragmatic approach. "We'll do things by hand where it makes a difference—like painting the Italian shoes to get a beautiful colour—but in other cases using a machine may be easier, cheaper and more consistent," he says.
As well as the permanent collection of ready-to-wear footwear, there's a monthly launch of a new shoe, which is available for only that month.
Unusually, customers don't pay more for the custom-made shoes. "Usually people jack up the price on limited editions but a lot of my customers are savvy businessmen and they understand that the work that goes into custom-made shoes is the same as the work that goes into ready-to-wear," says Brown. "Instead of being flashy with marketing we try to offer great value and great customer service. That is what makes the difference between success and failure.
"The thing I worry about the most is an exceptional customer experience. We are not a product company but a service company. We are all about fulfilling a service for customers."