The Menswear Style Podcast

Robin Carlo, Co-Founder of Lennertson

March 15, 2022 Menswear Style Episode 166
The Menswear Style Podcast
Robin Carlo, Co-Founder of Lennertson
Show Notes Transcript

Co-founders Robin Carlo and Robin Todde have been friends since high school and creatively collaborating ever since. Lennertson is made up of the countless people who contribute to their vision. Be it their lastmaker in England, the craftspeople in Spain, or you who wears their shoes. Lennertson shoes are made by craftspeople who've perfected their trade over generations. All leathers used come from European tanneries, and shoes are constructed using the durable and traditional Goodyear welt method. This makes a pair of Lennertsons your trusted companions to take on the world's pavements for years to come. Rugged and Refined  is their mantra, and this dictates the choice of shape, proportion, patterns, and materials they use.

In this episode of the MenswearStyle Podcast we interview Robin Carlo, Co-Founder of Lennertson about his background and the story behind the shoe brand which makes refined footwear for the rugged individual. Peter Brooker and Robin talk about why he turned to the shoemaking industry, who the Lennertson customer is, how they funded the brand launch, the meaning behind the brand name, shoe manufacturing, shoe design, and what's next for Lennertson.

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PB:

Hello and welcome to another episode of the menswear style podcast. I'm your host Pete Brooker. Today I'm talking to Robin Carlo, one of the CO owners of Lennox and Chu and Len it's an L E double n e r t s o n is a rugged and refined style shoe and bootmaker. Aiming to make style items that better represent people like us. The lionhearted translates to the core principle we swear by when designing footwear naturally, I'm reading off their website rugged, refined, this is our mantra as such, it dictates our choice of shape proportion, patterns and materials. Really enjoyed talking to Robin, he he went out of his way he set up his own microphone got a different feed and a different video just to make sure that the audio is crisp so and really tuned in guy, I think you'll appreciate this one here is Robin to talk about the brand in his own words. Well, it's my great pleasure to introduce to the podcast Robin Carlo, co owner of lenaerts and choose how're we doing today, Robin?

Unknown:

I'm good. Thanks. Thanks for having me. Hi. Oh, let me just say, I really appreciate you having me on the podcast. I'm a real podcast nerd. And I really enjoy your so I'm very excited to be here today. Yeah, we

PB:

were just talking Off mic about the elaborate setup that Robin's got going on here just to appear on the podcast, he's dragged out an old kick drum microphone. He's got the audio going through another channel. He's got a beaming or three different satellites. So I really appreciate you.

Unknown:

You're welcome.

PB:

But Robin, please, for the uninitiated, introduce yourself and how best do you describe Linux and choose to your friends?

Unknown:

Right. So like that my name is Robin Carlo. I'm co owner and founder of LAN atone or LANSON if you want to pronounce it a little bit more Anglo Saxon, but that's our E double n e r t s o n for those listening? How would I describe LANSON to my friends? Um, well, I think most of my close friends kind of see me as the guy who's always telling a story or more frankly, the natural born marketeer. So I probably explained to them the exact same way I do across all of our channels. I think our Instagram bio really encapsulates it very well, which is that we make refined footwear for the rugged individual that's built to last by people who care in Europe. So concretely, there are three core values in that the first being style, not just any style, but one that we refer to as rugged refined. The second being quality, not just talking about quality, as sadly a lot of companies do these days, but actually delivering on quality for us. Specifically, that translates to making shoes using the traditional good your wealth construction method, and sourcing high end materials. And lastly, the fact that we're an ethical company. So there are no workers in some corner of the world being exploited just because we felt like designing some shoes. It's passionate shoemakers, we work with people that really take pride in their craft.

PB:

Okay, cool. And so what's your background personally coming into this?

Unknown:

So both me and my business partner had no background in the shoe or fashion industry at all. Just like to make a point, my business partners first name is also Robin often creates a lot of confusion. So I'll just refer to him as forth as my partner. But I also want to clear like, I want to make clear, we just launched a brand. So we both have day jobs as well. I work as a brand strategist for an agency something that I'm also very passionate about helping other companies define their brands and stand out in the marketplace. And my partner is a graphic designer and videographer. So what I think the finds both of us, the Moses defector, we're pretty all around creative people. That's also actually how we met and became friends we've been friends for No, not more than 15 years. We first actually we met because we played in a metal band together, which we still have some real cool stories about. So through music, and since then we've collaborated on many creative projects ever since. But I do want to emphasise, you know, we're not just marketeers for this brand. We actually design the shoes ourselves. I personally am pretty much self educated in about everything I've done in my life. So before we started this project, I read about every book there is on shoe construction. I could choose apart really to understand how the product made what what the mechanics behind the product are. So we're heavily involved in every aspect of the brand, basically.

PB:

And so why shoes? I mean, was it something that you were noticing in your day job that people weren't quite getting right or something that you're wearing? That wasn't happening for you? What's the story?

Unknown:

Absolutely, yeah, definitely in the day job. The thing is, like I said that the style aspect is really important for us to think that we want to be rugged, refined, like the mix of the two. So both my partner and I, we kind of grew up in like different subcultures punk rock and stuff. And we're always wearing like plimsolls, shoes, black fans kind of stuff, you know, and then you grow up and you get a job. And at certain point, I had a decent job, where I had to have meetings with government officials and stuff. And I had to wear decent shoes. And especially if you look in Belgium, Holland, and pretty much all of continental Europe, really, dress shoes are really fancy here. Like they're there. They might be refined, but they're never rugged, refined. So this was something that I just felt was lacking. And yet, that's I felt a personal need for this kind of shoe. And I made an educated guess there would be other people who felt the same. And yeah, that's pretty much how we got started.

PB:

So they're like, you're wearing fancy shoes that weren't really you? You didn't really feel actually, I mean, they could be comfy, but you didn't feel that comfortable in them?

Unknown:

No. Absolutely felt like an imposter, to be honest.

PB:

That's what I was groping for Frankie. Yeah, I was felt like

Unknown:

I was playing a part. There's this. I don't know how to translate this. But yeah, good way to say a lot of especially Belgian dress, shoe brands look very bad light, like modest, a little bit posh, but also modest. Just very well behaved. And will that lie? I can't explain it any other way. Really didn't felt like, like myself. And yeah, that's, that's what motivated me to, to try and figure out if we, if we can do something ourselves.

PB:

And what's interesting, so that kind of segues into a question I was going to ask, but you prompted me in the emails about who your customer is, are they more people like you that have found themselves stepping into domesticity by Miss chance, and now needing a decent pair of shoes, but don't want to get the bad shoes or the flashy shoes? So who are your customers?

Unknown:

Well, for part, definitely that. So? I proposed a question. Because I think it's a very interesting subject. Also, just from a sociology standpoint, looking at different kinds of people. So just geographically, I'm very happy that in the short time that we've been selling shoes, we've managed to resonate with people all over the world, which I definitely wasn't expecting before we launched. So that's one part. It's it's continental Europe, but it's also the UK Scandinavia. In the United States, we get a lot of orders from so that's just in terms of geography, but if I looked at like the different kinds of buyers personality types, if you will, there are like three main categories. The first one would be people that are actually used to wearing the typical continental that like dress shoes. And really having that ever thought about it, they wear them, they like wearing them, but then they see ours and they're like, Hmm, that's a little different. And it just resonates with them. That's one, one category. The second would be what I would call the boot hats. So I don't know if you ever see them on Instagram, it's like the same kind of guys were really into salvage data among like these Japanese denim brands. And they're really into boots, mostly American boots. And, and but that's footwear that's purely rugged, not really refined. And what's funny, they're into our brand, but they don't really buy our boot smart, but much they're really into our shoes because they look at our shoes, and they're like, Hmm, when I need to wear a shoe that's a shoe that has a boot vibe, you know, because it's a little bit more rugged. Right? And then finally the which the final category is definitely you know, ourselves as a prototype. It's people who used to be like part of some subculture be it skateboarders, punk rockers, metal hats, or if they're a little bit older, perhaps people are really into like the mod scene and they see our shoes and something just really resonates with them. It's like okay, yeah. If I if I want to wear something that's that's a little bit more decent, a little bit more dressed. This is absolutely me and Can that yeah, so that's that's pretty much the three main buyer times.

PB:

Yeah, I think that's really interesting because if it sounds like we're not too dissimilar in our choice of style, where we are much more comfortable being in a casual element, that's kind of what our modality is. And then as soon as you have to get dressed up either for work or an event, like we just mentioned, it almost feels like you're putting a costume on to go to that place. But these, this kind of fits a bill allows you to kind of slide into that look, without having to completely force yourself into something else, if that makes sense.

Unknown:

Yeah, absolutely. On our website, in the about page also wrote, you know, it is a duality, there is a tension, but that's part of your personality. If you resonate with our brands, you know, you are both rugged and refined. And that's who you are. And so, exactly, you don't need to dress up. It's just who you are. And it matches

PB:

they get they get man. So where was the web? How did you raise the capital? I'm always curious how has he said brands like these get started.

Unknown:

Um, first off, I think I should point out that we start this brand with very limited capital. So part of it is just a Romani out of our own pockets, some savings and stuff. A larger part is some funds I've borrowed from a family member. And then we also did a pre order campaign in October, that raised some help raise some additional funds. What still, it's it's a small scale operation that we're starting with. So we produce limited production runs. When I do think you know, how you raise capital is one thing, but how you spend it early on is an another important thing. And that's where, me being a brand strategist, and working in marketing, and my partner, being a videographer, graphic designer, we have a lot of skill in house, especially for an online brand. We don't have to pay our people to do this stuff, or even the design of the shoots. We don't have to pay a designer because we're doing everything ourselves. So those skills have come in handy. And I do think that I think generally speaking, if I may say so myself, I think we're doing a pretty good job with the branding, because I often notice that new people will discover the brand. Peter, you might be one of them. And they'll often think that we're bigger than we actually are. No, I want to make this clear. We are at this point, just two friends who are into designing things, we have recently launched a shoe brand. We're very dedicated and serious into turning this into a profitable successful brand. One at this point, we are just two friends designing shoes, you know if I'm being completely honest,

PB:

well, yeah, I mean, the website, which is kind of like the front of house for your brand, right? If your online looks very comprehensive, it's, you know, well spelled out imagery is really good. Again, thanks. You guys are doing it all in house. So it's, yeah, I think you have to kind of harness those skills, don't you, when you're a small company, you can't really build something when someone's just got an idea of how to draw a shoe on the back of a fag packet. That's only going to get you so far down the road, you might have a good idea, but it always helps when you got some, a couple of arrows in the quiver.

Unknown:

I don't know which one is better, you know, if you have a lot of money to invest. You know, I'm not saying we're the smartest entrepreneurs out there. We're trying to be smart entrepreneurs, but it's just the way we are doing it. And also, we're very passionate about it, but at the same time, the shoe brand is kind of a project for experimentation. So creating different kinds of content and stuffs. producing those is also stuff that we really enjoy doing. So it's a great place to just be creative for us to brands both with the shoes and with the marketing side of things really.

PB:

And How close were you to calling the brand Robin and Robin? Was it was that a name in the hat?

Unknown:

I actually when we were coming up with different names. There was one I'm not sure what exactly was at this point but that was based on the fact that we're both Robin but it turned out to be something that was already in existence so I'm really happy we said settle with Leonard some people seem to resonate with the name very well and it's not in use match. It's especially in this more Dutch spelling. There not many people out there using it. So um, yeah, I'm really happy with it, or does it mean yeah, that's an interesting story. So Leonard or Leonard, like Leonardo Are you writing in English and every variant comes from an all mediaeval Germanic name, Lou and heart, which means to have the heart of a lion like lions harder, that's basically what it means. And we were like, ah, that really, really matches, you know what we're going for with the rugged, refined and that's that's one piece of it. We added some because we want to convey a sense of heritage. Even though we're not a heritage brand, were brand new, but our shoes are being made in a very traditional way. And then when the name came together, and more philosophical, if you will, meaning to it, as we start riffing on the idea, like, Who do we think is lionhearted? Who are the brave people in our lives, and we settled on the idea that it's actually about our parents. So what defines both the other Robin and myself is the fact that we're typical working class sons. So we've had, you know, I've seen him grow up, we've known each other for a long time. We have parents that really worked very hard in their life, sacrificed everything in order to get their kids ahead of life, which is not really like the idea of the self made, man. It's not really a sexy story. Besides John Lennon song, maybe working class hero? Well, that's pretty much who we are. And we're really grateful for them living their lives that way, because it is something that gave us the opportunity, for example, to start LANSON. So it's kind of a tribute to our parents as well.

PB:

That's nice. That's a nice story that's got some romance to it. I love that

Unknown:

brand strategy. viewpoint. I think that's why it's a good name. Because people always ask, what does that mean? You get a dialogue. And yeah, talking about your brand. That's good.

PB:

Yeah. If you just said, Oh, I just pulled out the sky. Well, I mean, that's, I mean, Kodak, to be fair, you know, that doesn't mean anything they pulled out really? Yeah. If you ever look like why did the guy changed? I can't remember it was called before he goes, I'm gonna call it Kodak. And so what does that mean? Yes, absolutely. Nothing. Moving on. still around.

Unknown:

Any if it sounds good is also important. That does, it's got to have got to have a ring. Right? Yeah.

PB:

Tell me, Robin, where? Oh, where? But more importantly, how are these shoes and boots made, please?

Unknown:

Right. So the shoes are built in Almansa, which is a small, traditional shoe maker town in the south east, southwest of Spain close to Valencia. Like I think shoe working in the shoe factory is the most common trade in this town. People have been doing that for generations. There are a bunch of factories there and workshops. We design them here at home in Belgium. And I also want to mention that we design and develop the shoe lost. Which if any of your listeners don't know what a shoe loss, this is the shape on which the shoe is built, it's often glossed over. But it's an incredibly fundamental asset for defining the shape of the shoe, which is a fundamental part of the aesthetic as well. So we collaborated with Michael James from spring line on that one, it's spring liners and located in Northampton, which is the shoemaking town of

PB:

England. epicentre of shoemaking in the world, literally, yeah, definitely, definitely.

Unknown:

Spring line as the last remaining shoe last maker in England. And we collaborated with Michael on designing the last. So everything is custom. And, you know, how are they made? Well, by all these different people, that's that's important. Already mentioned, we use a good year welt technique, which is a more than 150 year old shoe making method that yields the most durable shoes. But the thing is, people are making these shoes, they always want to get this across a pupil and many people like really Yes, we can, you know, we could brag about the fact Yeah, we're designing the shoes from scratch, paper and pencil, and that is where it starts. But I really want to give props to the people we're working with. Because Michael, for example, in spring line, the influence he had in designing the last with us was was very significant, great guy to work with, by the way. And if we look at the factory, you know, we had a very long development period, we spent up to four years developing prototypes, working with four different shoe factories. And just to give some reference, that's really unusual for most shoe startups, most just go to one and they'll figure it out there. But we were very specific on what we wanted to do. And the partners we ended up with in Oman saw they also have an influence the way they finish the shoe. The way they translate our pattern from a 2d illustration to an actual 3d shoe. The way they especially have a couple of styles that are like hand painted. They're really putting like their touch to it. So there are they are our designs but in the end It's really collaborative effort.

PB:

Wow. That's pretty cool. I mean, so that's basically that sounds like that would have taken a long time to get a prototype together. But as well, if you're, if you're putting it through a lot of different hands, so what was that, like when you first had the shoe in the hand was a hallelujah moment.

Unknown:

Not really, to be honest, I

PB:

didn't know, briefly, when

Unknown:

the first prototype that we made with our current partner wasn't a perfect shoe. It almost never is. But it was a perfect pattern. And that was the first factory that translated the pattern correctly. So at a certain point, when we finished our last, which we made with with Michael, we made a loss before in Portugal, but that didn't work out. So that's how we ended up with with Michael James. When we had finished last that we approved, we send that out to four different factories, three in Spain, and one in Portugal. And we all ask them to make the same shoe. And the funny thing is, we ended up with four different shoes. Oh, wow. Okay, that's how much influence, you know, every stage of the process has. So when we got the first one from our current manufacturer, we could see like, there were a number of fundamental things that were just spot on. And we will, okay, these people, these are the ones that we're going to work with. So we improved with them along the way. And yeah, it just worked out in a great collaborative effort. And they're there, I have to say it is there. What what differentiates them the most from the other factories we worked with is the fact that we'll, we might ask something, and they'll say, we haven't done this exact thing before. And with most factories, that's where that ends, they'll say, so try this thing that we're doing every day. But the people we're working with now they're like, We haven't tried us, so we want to try it, you know, they're they really like a challenge. And that's a great way to collaborate.

PB:

That's pretty cool. I also, just as you're talking there had this for haven't really fleshed it out. But here we go. I've been doing this podcast for him for about five years. And in the first couple of years, there was a lot of Kickstarter campaigns with watches, it just felt like anyone could go out, design a watch, kick, you know, cut out the middleman and boom, go and kick start and you'd have a watch there. And then it'll be your own design. And I feel like now there's in the last couple of years, a huge push towards either skincare or shoes. And it doesn't necessarily have to be people like yourselves who don't have a background in in shoes, but perhaps have a background in something else that they can apply and transfer them skills to making a brand work. Do you find that the did you find that this is actually a crowded market with people coming to factories wanting to make their own shoes? And do you find people kind of fall by the wayside? Because they they don't have the right approach to it?

Unknown:

Interesting question. So is it a crowded market? Yeah, I guess but we're doing something, you know, shoe, nobody, well, everybody needs shoes, but nobody needs expensive shoes. That being said, we have very competitive pricing. But you know, it is a considerable amount. So it is a luxury product and the end address shoe just as and when you get that type of customer, they're really looking for something that's nuanced. And we are nuanced. We're doing our own thing. It's not screaming uniqueness. It is a nuanced approach, like I said, but I think the market is getting crowded with a different kind of new brand. And, and one question that you wrote in the email that I was thinking about, like what makes us different, and I think I've already touched on it a little bit. But another part that's interesting, and for me to explain it, I would have to kind of reveal a dirty little secret of the shoe industry. Something a lot of people don't know, but most new brands and and some mainstream bands as well actually don't design choose. Very low people notice but about every factory in Europe, shoe factory has their own set of factory standard loss, their own collection of standard models at Derby and Oxford, whatever. Most brands will just go to one of these factories, pick out one of these last, pick a pattern, choose some colours, slap their name on it, and that's pretty much it. I don't want to throw shade at any of these brands. There's nothing wrong with this business model. But there are a lot of those brands any day that I'm scrolling on Instagram. I'm not exaggerating, I'll see five up to 10 different brands and I personally know that they're all made at the same factory. And I even know which factory? Because I, because I've been there and I can just see. Okay, yeah, that's definitely that lost with that pattern. So, you know, maybe the most average consumer won't notice this, I'm not sure. But I think it's definitely getting crowded for those brands. I'm not sure you know, with original branding and marketing, you can do a lot, but I'm happy that we are different. It took us a long time, a lot of a lot of headaches as well, up to four years, like I said, but in the end, we are doing something that we can really stand behind and be proud of. And we just noticed that people notice that it is slightly different, it is unique. We're just two guys running shoe brand out of a garage at this point. But there's all these people from the United States that you know, trust us enough that feels the brand and the designs resonate enough with them in order for them to you know, import them and ship them to them. So that means something I think,

PB:

yeah. And also, if you have a community around you, then the people that do get it really get it. I remember absolutely. And the guys that are into their shoes, sneakers and boots, they're kind of fanatical about this. I had a friend he he was massively into sneakers. And at a time I never really got it. But I do know. And we were on the train to London and his trainers. They were white. They were they looked like they were covered in cement and crap. And I said, Dude, what's going on with you? How come you didn't play these on the way? I guess? This is the design. They're supposed to look, they're supposed to look shagged. Basically. Yeah. How much they cost me. He said they cost like an astronomical amount. And but I was kind of fixated on his shoes from then on, because there was something different about him. And he kind of had the idea to get these trainers and no one else was ever going to be wearing these either, like really ahead of their time. So yeah, I think I didn't really have a point of that. But I do know that when guys are into their shoes, and they find their brand, or they find something different about that brand they love to latch on to and it becomes like a conversation stimulator for them.

Unknown:

Absolutely. Yeah, definitely.

PB:

Robin conscious, we're just running out of time on Zoom. I feel like I could talk to you for a long time. But tell me what's next for the brand. But what plans we got for 2020?

Unknown:

Well, we, we had a plan drawn out at the end of last year. But we had to reassess a couple of times because of COVID. And our stuff we we had a little bit of a rough start, you know, there are a lot of supply chain issues going round in all industries is probably not new to anybody. So we had to reassess and we're still reassessing to be honest. But on the product side, I can say we're moving on with this current collection. So we got to stock up this now. They remain popular there, they keep being ordered. But we're also going to be sampling some odd remodels, probably the same styles, but in different colours, different materials, we're looking to make some suede styles, perhaps some wax weights, some material that I'm really into late as of late, we're probably first going to get her some feedback on those, before we decide which ones we're going to actually put into production. So that's one thing. Also working on a on a brand new design. And that's a stylish hide boots. I've had that idea in the back of my head, like since forever, but I think we're finally gonna start developing it. And the one thing it's a small thing, but I'm really excited about it's in May, we're part of a consumer trade fair in Germany. It's it's run by the people from the Heritage posts magazine, not sure if you're familiar with those. No, sorry. It's a really cool magazine about you know, heritage style clothing and all sorts of stuff. I haven't really been down there doing basically convention with all these different brands coming in. I'm just really excited about it. And in that line of thought we're also looking into the possibility of doing some pop ups or collaborate collaborations with some retail stores. Because you know, when COVID starts winding down, we really look forward to engaging with people in real life and you know, just talking shoot with them instead of always doing things digitally. Yeah.

PB:

Well come to London, come to London. Plenty of great places for pop up shops.

Unknown:

You got Yeah, definitely would love there.

PB:

You got Brixton pop up Brixton, loads of places in Shoreditch I'm sure you know you're familiar with the area. My kitten running around in the background causing chaos. So but I go and attend to that. But in the meantime, Robin, thanks so much for jumping on lenaerts and.com is a place people can go and check the shoes, spell e l e double N er t s o n but we'll put all the links over on the show notes at menswear style. So you can also Nowhere to go directly. All right, brilliant Robin, take care yourself, mate and best of luck continued success.

Unknown:

Alright, thanks for having me and talk soon. All right, take care

PB:

you've been listening to the menswear style podcast be sure to head over to menswear style dot code at uk for more menswear content and email info at menswear style dot code at UK if you'd like to be a future guest on the show. Finally, please help support the show by leaving a review on iTunes or wherever you're listening to this podcast. Until next time