Interview With Fairfax & Favor – Supplier of Luxury Footwear
More and more men are looking for luxury shoes to wear. That might be for a day’s shooting, a day at the Polo or a function. This week, we caught up with the founders of the luxury footwear label, Fairfax and Favor. Take a look at the interview:
Fairfax & Favor was founded by Marcus Fairfax Fountaine and Felix Favor Parker with the aim of bridging the gap between smart and casual. Whether you are required to dress up for the occasion – or down, as so often in modern society – Fairfax & Favor can provide you with the perfect blend of traditional British style and modern contemporary elegance.
With headquarters in the scenic surroundings of old Norfolk, but with strong links to the city, Fairfax & Favor’s guiding principle is to create footwear that can be effortlessly worn at all social occasions no matter where you are. Whether you have just finished a day’s shooting in the country or you are heading to the smartest place in town, you can be quite confident that your Fairfax & Favor’s will never let you down.
When did you first start Fairfax & Favor and how did the idea come to you?
Marcus and I had this idea that all our friends liked smart shoes but they either were far too expensive or they were cheap and fell apart. So we saw a gap in the market to make good quality shoes for a fair price.
We came up withe the idea for the boots when we are in Spain looking for manufacturers. They are a traditional Spanish riding boot but we cleaned up the design and added the interchanging tassels to a great reception.
Tell us about the Brand? Who is your target audience? Who is your typical kind of customer?
Fairfax & Favor are the middle names of Marcus and myself. We had always talked about starting a business and actually had come up with this name for our first company aged 16 but we just didn’t know what it would be!
The brand ethos is based around the values of having a great time and not taking yourself too seriously. Our typical customer is normally a young proffesional with strong links to the country.
Did you have funding before you started? If so, did this help? Did you have a mentor?
We started it with £4500 each that we had accumulated through savings and then we took a massive punt and flew to Spain and with a design in our head bought over 400 pairs of shoes. It was one of the most terrifying moments of my life but also the most exhilarating.
What was your first breakthrough?
When the 400 shoes turned up we tried selling them direct to the wholesale market with little success. We would get tiny orders for 5 or 6 pairs of shoes which hadn’t even covered the cost of petrol to go to pitch to the shops. After a month of this, we had hardly dented the enormous pile of shoes and we realised this wasn’t working. Previously Marcus and I had worked for a leather goods company and we had been managing their trade stands at the shows for them. We thought maybe our shoes would sell at those kind of events too. The next fair local to us was The Holkham Country fair and they cost for a 3 x 3 metre stand was £300.00. We only had a £160.00 in our bank account at the time and we told them this and they accepted this amount. The fair was vital for us otherwise it looked like this might be the end for Fairfax & Favor. Thankfully our shoes were so popular we sold out of all the stock we had bought with us and managed to take over £5,000 which enabled us to book our next show.
How have you marketed the brand?
We are creating a luxury lifestyle brand with the emphasis on understated elegance. For us the best marketing we can have is to have like minded people wearing our products, so we try to keep selling!
Since starting, what has been your biggest challenge?
The biggest challenges we have had has been managing our cash flow. Marcus had to book all of our 35 shows in March when there was no money coming in. We have a combined trade stand bill for our shows of £47,000, so finding the money to do that and convince people to lend it to us as you can imagine was not easy. Our other big challenge has been finding factories to produce shoes and boots to the quality we expect without cutting corners.
What convinced you this would work? Men and Women’s footwear is very competitive – what makes you unique from the rest of the market place?
We had absolute conviction in the fact that we weren’t going to work for anyone else, so we were determined to make it work, whatever the cost. Footwear is a very competitive market but we have some great products and we hope the whole buying experience you have with us is great too. At any of our outdoor trade stands customers past and present are encouraged to come and have a gin and tonic with us. We strive to have the best customer service where other big companies cannot compete in that respect. All phone calls when we leave the office are diverted straight through to our mobiles so day or night we hope we can help with any queries.
Where are you now selling and how many orders are you getting a day?
In our first year we have turned over £200,000 through a lot of hard work and determination. The shows are exhausting work as you are constantly on the move and can be working up to 16 hour days. The nice thing for us now is we are seeing an increase in sales on our website and are taking around £10,000 a month.
What is next for the brand? Are you hoping to expand abroad?
The dream for Fairfax & Favor is to become the place to go online for your favourite shoes. We are not interested in doing Brogues or Oxfords, we like to supply shoes so that people ask you where you got them from. So look out for our funky coloured loafers and Chelsea boots coming soon.
We want to do the show circuit in America as we feel our brand would go down very well there.
Where do you hope to see the brand in 5 years?
We would like to be at all the most prestigious events and taking centre stage at fairs like Burghley and Badminton and of course worldwide. I would hope by then we have a few flagship stores in various countries but still with an emphasis of being an online retailer.
And finally what piece of advice would you give to aspiring entrepreneurs?
I Think it’s great doing it with another entrepreneur. It can be a lonely place making these big calls and gambles. The other advantage is there is no wasted time with two as you will always be bouncing ideas of each other. We always say Fairfax & Favor was made in car journey’s.
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