Luxury shoe brand John Lobb and iconic Aston Martin make fashion history.
By Rania Habib
Earlier this year, two premier British brands, John Lobb and Aston Martin, unveiled Winner Sport, a collaboration of lifestyle and luxury in a shoe.
Aficionado caught up with John Lobb CEO Renaud Paul-Dauphin, who tells us why Winner Sport is the ultimate driver’s shoe, what’s in store for the region and why he’s not stepping out in a pair of Lobb’s famous bespoke shoes – just yet.
Can you tell us about the collaboration between John Lobb and Aston Martin?
It’s an encounter, une rencontre, between two brands, which unite in this beautiful venture. This encounter could have failed, but it worked beautifully because we took time to make it work, and we shared common objectives of really having a very unique, specific product with the name of Winner Sport, which is a driver’s shoe, rather than a driving shoe.
How was the idea of the Winner Sport shoe born?
It was my initiative of wanting to go deeper into the relationship with Aston Martin. The relationship existed before, specifically with the James Bond movie Casino Royale, where 007 was wearing a pair of John Lobbs. Because of this very successful association I thought it’d be really meaningful to go one step further.
I wanted it to go further, but I had trouble finding the keys to the world of Aston Martin, and when I say keys, I mean being able to walk into the company and talk to people. One day, I was introduced to Marek Reichman, Aston Martin’s director of design, and then I carried this project until I was able to have Marek and Andrés Hernandez (John Lobb’s creative director) in the office together at the Aston Martin headquaters in Gaydon.
This was a year and a half ago, and we had our kickoff in London a few months ago. You have to be humble in this kind of collaboration; sometimes you meet people and you don’t become friends, but we became friends.
What was the common objective between you both?
To create a very unique and differentiating product. John Lobb is a shoe maker, Aston Martin a car maker – the fact that we created a core branding with Winner Sport says what it’s all about.
Another common objective was lifestyle; our customers today, their taste is changing, because moods, habits and trends are changing. There was this idea of bringing lifestyle to the collaboration, and, in fact, Aston Martin created a lifestyle department where it wants to include true lifestyle brands at our level.
What did you think when you first saw the final product?
It was interesting because I saw the evolution. Andrés and Marek elaborated on the idea of Winner Sport, and they wanted to give it a sporty feeling. When I first saw it, I thought – and as much as Marek and Andrés felt something else needed to be done – they brought colours. Then came the idea of the red sole and white sole, and the idea of mixing and matching laces with the uppers, and then came picking colours from the Aston Martin collection. It’s interesting how you elaborate on a project and make it come to life.
How do you expect this collaboration to eventually change or affect your brand?
I think, like in every venture of this kind, there is always a part of the unknown and risk. First of all, it could have failed – it didn’t, which is a good thing. On the contrary, the relationship is very successful. It brings new customers to John Lobb, and hopefully to Aston Martin. It nudges our existing customer a little bit, tells him you are now a fan of black-tie attire, but “here, enjoy something more fashion-forward and fun”. In that respect it’s good because we need to remain true to our DNA, but at the same time we’re bringing this name, Aston Martin, which is a mythical name.
Do you have plans for more collaborations of this kind?
There is a dimension of risk to it, because we have to make sure that whatever we do, if we do more, that they make sense, and they are not only about marketing. These collaborations serve marketing purposes, of course, but we want them to be well thought-out and executed too.
We are in contact with several brands, but whatever we do, we have to make sure it stays within a certain dimension, and that it doesn’t completely transform or cannibalise the existing brands. It’s very interesting because today, different domains speak to each other; it’s not longer purely cars, or purely lifestyle. There are natural conversations and links between different worlds.
John Lobb first came to Dubai in 2009, how have things evolved since then?
It’s been a very fortunate collaboration with the Al Mana Group, who have been great partners. The store at The Dubai Mall is the only store in the world that has the most balanced mix of products. The casual market here is very strong, probably because of the tourists, the weather, and the dress code here.
We have a very nice construction where sales have built up from the start of our operation, and we need to make sure that we build those blocks equally so that the John Lobb home remains consistent. We don’t want to become too casual or, on the contrary, too formal, or remain too consistent in one direction. The future looks very positive.