Last year saw the London-based global brand Duke + Dexter prioritising its communication with customers and reviewing why and where they were wearing its shoes. ‘Just because we’re homebound in locked-down London wearing our new collection of loungewear loafers, doesn’t mean our customers in LA want the same shoes to go out to dinner in,’ explains founder and CEO Archie Hewlett. ‘To that end, we’ve blended styles for those still on the go with those who’ve found themselves spending a lot more time indoors. Offering a shoe for both situations has been pivotal.’
Duke + Dexter has also changed the way it tells tales and stories, broadening what it talks about as a brand. Instead of chasing sales with discounts or pleas for support during the pandemic, it’s set out to create engaging, wholesome content with help and advice. This spirit has continued through to its collaborations and from Jenson Button to Mensa, the brand has highlighted issues with mental health, particularly in men, and given a focal point of conversation for the entire D+D community.
Duke + Dexter is made in England and has always had a defined sense of what its own Britishness means and, more importantly, what it doesn’t. ‘We don’t sit back and rest on our heritage or overplay our 200-year-old production techniques,’ says Archie. ‘Instead, we focus on our shoes being of the very highest quality, thanks to our knowledge of the carefully selected materials we use and the team behind them. That’s enough for us and our customers. We don’t need to spin a yarn of a 300-year-old dusty factory that more often than not turns younger customers off – how many times can you release a black brogue and call it new?
‘Our Britishness is not the Britishness of everyone else,’ continues Archie, ‘and to this end, our Britishness will not waver after Brexit because we have a different attitude and approach, and are unafraid to point a finger and start a bigger conversation. We’re very much still the new kids on the block in terms of British shoe brands, so we’ll make a noise and kick up a fuss. We like that.’
The brand is successfully keeping its existing customers, while attracting new ones by giving them all a reason to wear D+Ds and, also, a bold community to be a part of that’s prepared to go against the grain. The new Ritchie sneaker embodies this approach. It is built with a custom sole unit and bespoke black D+D heel bar feature, so it looks great with everything and is purposefully designed to be ultra-comfortable, all day, every day. ‘We used its versatility and comfort to ask our customers to slow down, walk not run, and to wear their Ritchies on days they’re taking it easy, grabbing dinner, coffee, or just strolling through town,’ says Archie. ‘Being able to stick a finger up to their mates in running shoes is very much the evolution of the city sneaker and D+D is there first.’
This year will see the brand launching its biggest collaboration to date and it comes as no surprise that it’s set to cause yet another D+D shockwave through the industry.