Hailing from Britain, J Shoes has garnered international praise for its contemporary designs and quality craftmanship. In an August Man exclusive, we sat down with Creative Director, Nick Drury, to discuss the current collection as well as what’s in store for this leading footwear brand making waves in Asia.
J Shoes is an English brand that has gained traction in Southeast Asia in recent years with stores opening in Singapore, Thailand and Vietnam. Tell us about the differences and challenges you’ve faced in selling shoes here in Southeast Asia compared to Europe?
I think the biggest noticeable difference is the retail landscape itself. In Europe we have quite a few independent shops and boutiques as well as department stores. However in Asia the focus is on malls and Department stores. This was a big influence on the design of our own stores; we wanted to maintain a boutique feel even in a mall setting.
The ethos behind the J Shoes brand celebrates understated individualism and creativity. How has this been translated into your latest FW2012 collection for men? What was your inspiration behind the current collection?
J Shoes is very much about a sense of timeless or personal style, and as you say, an understated individualism. We have focused on a couple of key stories such as our Harborough welted range with its original made in England “Dainite” sole, and the mix of modern design and traditional craftsmanship which permeates our brand. The main inspiration was a balance of a couple of ideas: the outdoors, nature, exploration and something cleaner, simpler but still very natural.
Describe the type of man who would wear the FW2012 range of shoes? Which is your favourite pair of shoes (or range of shoes) in the current FW2012 collection and why?
I think our guy is confident and pretty savvy; he is someone who appreciates quality and character, someone who has a timeless sense of style. Definitely my favourite range is the Harborough collection. I love everything it stands for: quality, heritage and modernity all in one.
Have you tailored your product offering for Asian tastes and preferences? If so, how?
We haven’t changed our focus or identity to fit into any market. What we have done is incorporated a few projects to cater for certain specific markets. SMU (Specially Made Unit) products were made for markets like Japan, we also did a collaboration with TANGS and ISETAN for Singapore; so there are things we do at a local leave to offer something different.
What are some of your thoughts on men’s footwear trends in Asia? How are they different from other parts of the world?
There are local differences in footwear trends in Asia, and that is also true of the whole world. As a generalization I would say the look in Asia is cleaner, but in today’s modern world of communication, it’s all about diversity.
J Shoes has been affiliated with British celebrities like Sienna Miller and Oasis in the past. Any plans to use celebrity endorsements in Asia to further build the brand in this region?
We are not actively seeking celebrity endorsement, that’s not to say that they don’t buy our products.
You’ve mentioned previously that you would like to take the brand into other areas (be it accessories or apparel) to make it more of a lifestyle brand. What’s in the pipeline?
We are working on collaborations with apparel brands like Universal Works but the focus here is on footwear. We are also looking at bags and belts as a natural progression.
What is the greatest lesson you’ve learnt so far as the Creative Director of J Shoes?
The importance in believing in what you do. Without that its difficult to keep passionate and enjoy what ever it is you are actually doing.
What are the top three things you own that say the most about who you are as a person?
My rescued 60’s watch.
Our home, which we renovated recently.