As Creative Director Tim Little is responsible for revitalising English heritage brand – Grenson shoes and igniting a renewed demand for traditional English brogues. He started his own label in 1997, early last year Tim bought Grenson shoes and now owns the brand.
Tim designed the G2 range as an easier, more modern take on ‘Goodyear’ welted shoes, many of the which are taken from the vast Grenson archive. Styles are stripped back and deconstructed making the shoes easy to wear and more relevant today. The new cult versions have sold out season on season in Top Man, Kurt Geiger, ASOS, Urban Outfitters, Matches, MyWardrobe.com, Harrods, Selfridges, and are worn by Paolo Nutini, Jefferson Hack, Clive Owen, Noel Gallagher.
LDNfashion menswear correspondent Colin Chapman caught up with Tim for a chat..
Clearly, English shoemaking heritage is a passion, when did your interest in footwear start?
The Co-op shoe department, Long Eaton, circa 1971 to be precise. Its not glamorous but it is true. My Mum bought my school shoes there, and the poor assistant was up and down the sliding ladder getting every pair for me to try. I just loved the smell when she opened the box and I still do – sad I know.
What are your very favourite pair of shoes to wear and why?
I love my own label “Bumble Bee” tan brogues of course, as I’ve had them for years.
I also, love my navy suede Adidas Gazelles with white stripes – I think I have 12 pairs of Gazelles at the last count.
There seems to be a renewed interest in heritage brands in general and fine shoes in particular, what is your take on that?
Heritage has always been important as it means authenticity. Recently it has become a fashionable word but really all it means is that “these people must know how to make a decent product as they have been doing it for a long time”.
What is just as important to me is to buy products from specialists – I buy a watch from a watch company, a suit from a tailor and shoes from a shoe company, why buy shoes from someone who also sells deodorant?
Grenson shoes have been worn by some illustrious leaders in men’s style over time, like Cary Grant and David Niven – which contemporary men would be suitable figureheads for Grenson today?
Wow big question – what is contemporary? For me it’s Paul Simonon of The Clash and he’s over 50.
Buying shoes online is a last bastion for many people in terms of online shopping, as it’s all about fit. How did you go about designing an online service for Grenson?
Keep it simple! Great clear pictures, simple navigation and no quibble returns.
One of your approaches is to ‘pare down’ classic Grenson styles. What makes a pair of shoes modern and comfortable – and why has this changed?
The whole deal with English shoes was they had to be sturdy. That was what they were known for, but I felt that they could be wearable in the summer, wearable everywhere, and so I de-constructed them and made them light. They are still very English but they are also wearable.
When you’re going through the archives what makes a particular style jump out as being ripe for reinvention?
Simplicity. Beautiful but simple shoes are so lovely, why complicate them?
We don’t have a big archive but what we have is based on simplicity. Simple lines, gorgeous leathers, simple soles….
How has visiting the factory and seeing the shoemaking process added to your understanding of fine footwear?
When you see inside a shoe factory, you will never buy cheap shoes again. The intensity of expertise that goes into them is amazing. What can I say? Our shoes are so handmade it’s incredible.
What are your hopes and aspirations for Grenson as a brand?
I just want the brand to be respected. In 1866 and again in 1980 Grenson was known for its product and I want it to be known again. Together William Green and me will put this brand back to where it belongs….wherever that is.