If you’ve never heard the name John Lobb, it means the brand is doing exactly what it’s supposed to. Two key elements of luxury are quality and exclusivity -with all that comes attached to those concepts- and for John Lobb that’s pretty much it, but taken to mindblowing extremes. John Lobb does not advertise, nor does it carry a very recognizeable logo or monogram, but that is part of the allure of the whole business. Founded in 1866 by the man himself, John Lobb started this whole enterprise in a rather unorthodox way: he made his very own pair of boots, then walked from somewhere in northern England to London (250 miles, as the tale goes) and tries to start a business. “It was all very slow at the beginning”, says David Berrios, US Director of the brand who’s in Mexico City for The Artisan’s Month at Silver Deer Polanco -you know, the place where you get your non plus ultra luxury goods if you live down here-, “but then there’s a gold rush in Australia, so he goes there and becomes really renowned making a heel that hid gold inside, so you can move around with gold in your shoe without being exposed…” You can’t get more luxurious than that, I tell the man. He laughs and then continues the story: “He gets back to London, where he was part of an exhibition diplaying artisanal works on shoemaking and other different crafts… and he won the Royal Warrant.” We’re no experts, but according to time frames, we assumed it was issued either by Queen Victoria herself or her hedonist heir Edward VII -and that’s another luxury benchmark for you!
“We cemented our feet, so to say, in British heritage”, expands David but since the brand has been perfecting their game since Victoriana, it’s obvious they’ve become part of British heritage itself. “I used to work for many other shoemaking companies and the standard has always been John Lobb, it’s always been how does your work compare to John Lobb?“
Well, the answear is both quite complex in its execution but simple in its logic: you make the best out of the best know-how while using the best materials available out there. Just an example: every year, John Lobb produces a limited line of products within a theme and variation on what already exists. This year they’re going to the extreme with a line of shoes made out of a single piece of leather, put together just with one seam. It took Karl Lagerfeld four years to acomplish that kind of craftsmanship for some couture pieces from his fall 2014 collection for Chanel. That must be quite the mind fucker puzzle for any expert, wouldn’t it?
David goes on explaining that the main reason they’re here now is to show the customers that the brand does really care about them catering to very specific demands. I ask how the mexican crowd is different from any other and David says “it’s not so much about different taste levels… we had one customer yesterday that wanted a pair of crocodile shoes for a ceremony but at the same time he said he had to be very cautious because he’s in politics and it would damage him to appear wearing something like that.” Discretion is a big factor, then, too. Personalized discretion? Sure, they got it covered.
Then there’s millenials. How does John Lobb reach this generation full of discrepancies such as attention to sustainability but so very keen on individuality but also now very focused on logomania again? “Well, our customers are well informed. We are a brand of tradition, so they might know us from their parents, but we also have more casual things to offer.” He means of a line of trainers with models like the super relaxed Levah or the very competitive Porth. “Best sellers”, David points out with a grin. Silver Deer carries the Levah in different colors and they’re actually very good looking and, more importantly, very light. That kind of invisible attention now is the main reason the brand has made it this long with such a prestige: tradition and continuity are unbeateable wether we even care to realize it or not. The best example is that of a nameless singer who was in the store the night before for the private event and wanted to place an order for an upcoming award show. David had to say no to the request because they wouldn’t rush the product. “You buy a pair of John Lobb’s and you know you’ll still have them in five or ten years, so these pieces take time to make, too.” Nothing is more precious than time, of course, and John Lobb sure knows this after 152 years.