Establishing an internationally recognised brand is no easy task. It often takes years of hard work, and it can often be a bumpy road. For Fairfax and Favor the hard work and bumpy roads have been present along their journey, however one key feature of their story is their rapid jump to the forefront of the luxury shoe industry took a swift seven years. Whilst Co-Founder Felix Favor Parker was too modest to say, the success that his company has achieved in such a short period of time has been stunning. In 2013 friends Felix and Marcus launched the company, with a grand order of 420 loafers. What transpired since then has been the establishment of a luxury shoe and leather company that has created a lifestyle, looking to take its brand global and ruffle the feathers of the sedentary giants in the industry. The Guide sat down with Felix Favor Parker to talk all things shoes, country shows and the importance of Gin & Tonics.
The shoe market is renowned for being competitive, how did you ensure that Fairfax and Favor established itself?
‘For us initially we took inspiration from no other than Ralph Lauren. It is such an aspirational brand and every one can relate to it, so we wanted to focus on creating quality products whilst developing a lifestyle brand that would set us apart in the industry. We also used the Country Show circuit to set down our stall and this has proved vital to our expansion, as it was a way in which we could be noticed on a national scale. So yes, whilst the products are vital, you still need a vehicle to get the brand out there and the country shows provided that.’
What is about the shows that was so significant in helping promote Fairfax and Favor and are they still an integral part of your business?
‘Within the UK there is an established show network, and it is a tried and tested method for many brands that have gone onto being major players in clothing, such as Joules or Hackett. One of the main benefits of shows is that it allows for interaction with your customer, which is something that online sales do not allow for. Whilst you are still trying to sell your products, it is an opportunity for your cliental to learn more about your brand and story, which is an essential part of growing in the retail world. As soon as we began doing the shows we realised the potential that they offered, and at one stage we were doing 40 shows a year! These included the Game Fair, and numerous horse trials, with the Game Fair giving us our first outdoors pitch, which was instrumental in us gaining recognition. From then onwards, the shows have been really important for us. Our attitude to the shows is to entertain, so we now have a free bar serving G&T’s and a magician, alongside our staff interacting with the customers.’
What do you think makes Fairfax and Favor so unique?
‘I think we are really good at just being honest, and this has translated into having great customer relationships, which has been key to our success. One part of this honesty is best shown with our social media platforms. Rather than just using models for showing our products, we actually use customer photos that they submit to our social media team and we post them on Instagram and Facebook. This means that it is easier for buyers to see how our shoes will fit into their lifestyle rather than just seeing them straight from model shoots or the cat walk, which again comes down to our vision of honesty and transparency with the customer.’
Are your customers a certain demographic or is it a real range?
‘It really is a huge range if I am honest. We have a customer base that is from all types of background and from many different areas of the country, including cities, the country and towns. However one thing that is prevalent in all of our customers is a love of the countryside, and countryside living is a main influence in Fairfax and Favor products.’
When setting up the company, how did you go about securing manufacturing deals?
‘Prior to selling footwear, Marcus and I had been selling gun slips and cartridge cases, however, the problem is with that gun slips and cartridge cases, if produced properly, they should last for years meaning we would have no return customers! This prior venture had meant that we had manufacturing connections in Spain. Then when it came to making the shoes, it was a matter of going to the factory in Spain and ordering 420 loafers, even though we had no real idea of how we were going to sell them all! As a result when the shoes arrived, it was difficult to get them stocked in stores as they are only interested in established brand, and we were far from that. However, after selling the first order to friends and family, we reinvested the money to order a higher amount and then we were ready to take on the show circuit.’
How has Fairfax and Favor coped with Covid-19?
‘Initially we hit the panic stations. Immediately we had to reforecast our budgets and our sales from retailers plummeted, and all of our show dates were cancelled which is another big source of income for us. I won’t sugar coat it, our initial losses were looking huge and it was looking like a grim year ahead. However, the situation led to us pushing the online side of commerce and the results were amazing. April was 400% up from the previous year and we gave 10% of our profits to NHS Charities, raising £105,000, as well as selling blue tassels and caps. Not only that but over the entire period we are 300% up on last year. The pandemic has also allowed our Facebook page to boom and we now have over 25,000 members.’
What is the plan for the next 10 years?
‘Our overall aim is to make Fairfax and Favor a lifestyle brand that is recognisable to anyone. We want to build a brand that is built upon our ethos of being exclusively inclusive and expand our community. Within in that however there are going to be certain facets that are key to that aim being successful. We are launching clothing very soon with puffer jackets and gilets being produced and back in October 2019 we launched our very first store in Holt, Norfolk. This has been great as it allows for year round interaction with our customer base and we even offer free G&T’s to our potential buyers, which is a one of our main selling points! Hopefully we will be opening up more stores, which will be key in providing further reach in helping us to achieve the brand that we have in mind.’
Interview given in August 2020.
Thank you to Felix for his time.
For more information visit: https://www.fairfaxandfavor.com