John Lobb unveils new store concept in Paris; highlighting By Request service
John Lobb has unveiled a new store concept in Paris that feels as much a private art gallery or gentleman’s club as a traditional shoe shop; part of a global expansion that includes openings in California and the Middle East.
The swish new store concept, located at 51 rue François Premier, in Paris’ Golden Triangle between Avenue Montaigne and the Champs-Elysées is smartly understated yet nonetheless opulent – a blend of noble woods; off-white plaster walls; mat stainless-steel panelling; custom-built bronze tables and sweeping velvet couches.
“I hope this space is a place and moment to cool down. Where you can discover the brand. Even if you don’t buy today you will remember what you have learned and want to come back,” explains CEO Philippe Gonzalez.
John Lobb’s new store carefully arranges its three levels of service: ready-to-wear; By Request and Bespoke. With the central section devoted to its recently launched By Request service, where clients can tailor any of the house’s catalogue, like iconic looks such as the Lopez loafers or City II to their personal satisfaction. Draws pull out silently to reveal signature leathers like Museum Calf; textured Grain Calf, or exotics like crocodile or lizard. Along with multiple choices of buckles – in rose gold, anthracite or palladium – and nearly 10 choices of soles. All finished with your own monogram.
“Let’s say you have a pair of shoes you love that are 20 years old. We can reproduce them, and you can chose the exact leather, patina, laces and soles. I find being able to reproduce a Lopez for client very reassuring,” smiles Gonzalez.
Founded as a bootmaker in London in 1849, John Lobb has shod the feet of such diverse luminaries as Prince Phillip and Richard Avedon. Today, its ready-to-wear and By Request service is based in its Northampton, England plant with 110 staff. While its Bespoke shoes and boots are made by a team of 15 artisans in its rue Mogador atelier in Paris.
Ready-to-wear classics are priced at around $1,500; By Request at upwards of $2,000; while true bespoke – which requires the making of a personal last for each customer, and takes at least four months to produce – can easily range up to $5,000.
Born in Cornwall, John Lobb ventured as far as Australia before returning to set up his first shop in Mayfair, so travel is very much in the brand’s DNA. Just like at Hermès, which acquired the John Lobb brandname in 1976.
John Lobb is also on the move in California, moving out of its current South Coast Plaza mall location to a new boutique on Rodeo Drive; and closer to the VIP clients, who will be catered to in a private upstairs space. In Paris, the store’s back wall is a glass cabinet containing classics from its archive, from a buttery pair of monks to some deeply hued hiking boots whose patinas all ooze history.
“We wanted a warm ambience to greet our customers, a comfortable space to select your shoes. Somewhere where you want to stay while your shoes are being shined,” says the CEO, who worked with French design firm Ciguë on the decor.
Gonzalez sees John Lobb as having multiple clienteles because “we address multiple men, in many professions. Our customers have style, and that style reflects their professional live – whether they are a lawyer or work in a bank. Today we have many people in the tech industry design or advertising. And our shoes fit those different styles.”
Born near Lyon, Gonzalez, whose grandfather emigrated from Spain, worked in textiles before joining Hermès, which sources much of its skill and products in the region. Chez Hermès, he specialized in fine materials, before he was made CEO of John Lobb in 2018.
His brief? “To carry on bringing desirability to the brand. John Lobb is really about values, savoir-faire, quality and the selection of the right leathers. Values like durability and repairability.”
The brand’s next voyages will see it open its LA store on June 18; in the Mall of Emirates in Dubai in October; and extend its Fukuoka store in south Japan – building on its current network of 19 stores.
Future goals are to grow its women’s business, and the new store boasts women’s version of iconics like the Lopez, City and Lawry boot. Though not a ready-to-wear collection, unlike Berluti, the LVMH bootmaker, whose historic store is located just around the corner.
“That is not in our ambitions at the moment,” says Gonzalez quietly.
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