When, in Henry VI, Shakespeare wrote: “Tis a happy thing to be the father unto many sons,” it is very, very unlikely that he was thinking about shoes. We know that. You know that. But, if Sepand Oboudiyat was reading the same line, we can guarantee that footwear would be the only thing on the entrepreneur’s mind.
Back in 2014, Oboudiyat was in the business of banking rather than fashion. But, in under 4 years, he has grown a luxury London-based brand from nowhere, with no experience in the sector or ins into the industry. So how have Sons of London, now counted among the finest British shoe brands, stepped up? And just what makes their feted footwear so good?
The founder took a risk, leaping from finance to fashion
Despite having no prior experience in fashion, Oboudiyat saw an opportunity to challenge luxury retailers by launching a gentleman’s shoe brand with a very particular audience — his own peers.
“I had a great career in the City,” Oboudiyat tells Gentleman’s Journal. “When I left I was a Director within the technology function of a major UK investment bank, but I believed in the idea. Sons of London was inspired by my own frustrations of trying to get the shoes I wanted at a reasonable price, and when I spoke to friends and colleagues I realised I wasn’t alone.
“So, initially, the ‘Sons of London’ were our intended customers – essentially the guys I was setting out to solve the problem for,” he continues. “But this evolved, and we extended the concept to our shoes, naming each of our styles as a Son: The First Son – a cap-toe Oxford; The Second Son – a semi-brogue Oxford and so on.”
Oboudiyat took his time in assembling the right shoemaking team
After hanging up his crisp City suit, Oboudiyat had to set about the critical task of assembling the right team of craftspeople. His search began in the UK, in our island’s shoemaking capital of Northampton, before moving to Spain, Portugal and Italy.
"Sons of London was inspired by my own frustrations of trying to get the shoes I wanted at a reasonable price..."
“We had samples made in each of the factories and then made the decision based on the quality of the final product,” he explains. “Each of the factories from which we had samples employed master shoemakers in their own right, but the factory we selected in Italy was just on a different level – the result was exceptional.”
Today, the same exacting standards apply. Each ‘Son’ is meticulously handcrafted — down to the very last stitch. The fine full-grain leather is sourced from Tuscany, to ensure that is it stronger, more durable and moisture-resistant than any other material. The shoes are sculpted by one of 16 expert craftsmen and women in the Le Marche region of Italy. And, to bring out every nuance of natural depth and colour, each pair is hand-finished and antiqued — twice.
Sons of London established — then perfected — a new business model
“In traditional retail,” says Oboudiyat, “by the time the brand, various middle men and department stores have added their mark-ups, a pair of high-quality shoes has been marked up somewhere between 5-8 times what it costs to produce – ending up with a retail price of £400 or more.
“I saw an opportunity to streamline this business model by selling directly, passing the cost savings onto our customers, giving them a better deal without compromising on quality.”
And that, in a nutshell, is the whole idea. Sons of London have done away with fancy shops and pipe-dream price-tags, and built an incredibly inclusive brand. They may have been inspired by the city, but the are shoes that every gentleman can afford. Gentleman’s Journal have been wearing Sons of London for years, and can attest that the quality of these shoes is second-to-none. Each Son is as beautiful, individual and classic as the last, from the brogue to the boot.
Despite being a small, independent brand, they have a big vision
Despite only being in their third year, Sons of London have grown over 100 per cent year-on-year. Last year, each of the styles was given a new lease of life by being rendered in suede, and new colours — oxblood, navy blue and tobacco suede — will hit the range imminently.
“We are still a small independent brand,” says Oboudiyat, “but we are 100 per cent focused on our mission to create the most beautiful men’s shoes possible. Independence means we can take our time and only release product when we feel it is ready, and our latest Sixth Son — a tassel loafer and the first new Son to be released since our launch — has been over 12 months and countless iterations in the making.”
This year’s Limited Edition program even allowed customers to own a one-off limited Sons of London design, as a thank you to the brand’s loyal customer base. And you heard it here first: For Sons of London fans, there will be yet two more sons before the year is out — a Penny loafer (the Seventh Son) and a lace-up boot (the Eighth Son).
“So I’m really excited that 2018 is looking like a busy year of product releases,” says Oboudiyat. “We can’t wait to share with our loyal customers!”
Sons of London
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