The concept of luxury is devoid of meaning, insofar as it’s tired and overused and we’re somewhat sapped by it. It’s lost its essence, with some associating it merely with ostentatious and flamboyant branding, popular associations and price. However, our experiences working with luxury brands have led us to develop our own interpretation, one that aligns seamlessly with our client's perception.
This alignment is nowhere more evident than with our newest client, Crockett & Jones. Founded in 1879, C&J is a behemoth of a craft-led footwear business; it produces 2,500 pairs a week, has 13 stores, approximately 268 stockists (71 in Asia), a vast SKUS range for both men and women (and this doesn’t take into account the MTOs models it makes for brands and retailers), and a healthy online business. Despite its size, though, C&J isn’t greedy, and we like that.
James Fox is C&J’s Marketing & E-commerce Director. He’s a rarity in the trade, not just because of his wisdom or astuteness, but because he cares about product over profitability. “The positive of being a family business is that it enables us not to be led by a creative or a financial director. It enables us to be led by the family, and whether you like it or not, the family cares. We can choose not to be driven by profit and silly trends,” he states. In today’s conglomerate-owned world, independence is a rarity, and regardless of size, it should be recognised and it should be valued.
So what is luxury then and is the perception now starting to shift somewhat? One thing it’s not is greed. “Greed is the antithesis of luxury,” Fox says, “It saps creativity, energy and any amount of individuality out of a business. It promotes a short-term way of thinking and goes against everything we stand for as a company.”
TagWalk, the fashion industry’s go-to resource, has reported that there was a 12% decrease in logos within the SS23 collections this year, pointing to a shift towards quiet, understated luxury. In an article for Forbes, writer Richard Kestenbaum opined that The Definition Of Luxury Is Expanding And Changing, and is signified by the three T’s; Time, Truth and Trust. It’s a neat and concise way of going about it, and an interesting one, too. Before we could bring this up, though, James had already crossed one of the T’s.
“Luxury to me is time and it’s investing in something that's going to be with me for many years to come.”
Crafting each pair of shoes takes eight long weeks and the Goodyear welting process allows for multiple resolings, ensuring decades of use. This dedication to craftsmanship is evident in every aspect. “Whether it's the consumer's time, as they'll spend many hours in our shoes, or the factory's time, we aim to meet our end consumer's expectations,” he adds.
Truth is hard to place your finger on, but Kestenbaum believes that it relates to being reactive and relevant to the consumer. Now, C&J doesn’t need to worry about relevance, for it’s the keystone of a mature, well-rounded wardrobe. But with regards to being reactive, it’s proved it can gently pivot according to consumer tastes. Take, for example, the increased emphasis on loafers with flexible soles and an overall influx of casual suede options. It proves that you can be traditional and modern at the same time, and being able to successfully offer that is a marker of a luxury brand.
Trust is the final one, and the conversation moves into discussing the business’s retail and wholesale operations, with an emphasis on high-quality service in its store. “To have those many faces representing the brand in so many major cities that you can trust adds gravitas to that,” he says. I think we can all agree that a polite passionate sales assistant is, without a doubt, a luxury today.
With regards to wholesale, “we need to work with trusted partners because,” he says, “as there are so many charlatans out there who will take your brand, make a quick buck and put it on discount or not sell it at RRP. The only way to run a business like ours is to go down this partner route and understand if you're going to sell Crockett & Jones shoes then you're part of the family.” C&J is no longer stocked in large department stores such as Harrod’s or Selfridges for this reason.
For us, C&J ticks all the boxes of what a luxury brand should look like and behave like in this day and age. It’s a tightly run, extremely consistent ship steered by people who are emotionally invested in the mission. We can’t wait to get started.