‘The wise adapt themselves to circumstances as water moulds itself to the teapot,’ says an old Chinese proverb. Certainly, 2020 was a year of rare upheaval during which too many British factories lay quiet, but despite the challenges Edward Green’s doors have reopened. Although demand is tentative for now, these difficult circumstances call for evolution rather than revolution.
Covid-19 and Brexit notwithstanding, the company’s mission is clear: to make handsome, beautifully crafted shoes designed to last for many years. It’s that authenticity that buyers have found appealing for more than a century.
Many of the changes of the last nine months were already apparent in the market. Millions of us have become accustomed to working from home, with all the freedoms that brings to our dress. Undoubtedly, there’s been an increase in demand for loafers and boots instead of dress shoes such as Oxfords. But will this continue? As people return to the cities and offices, will they continue to dress more informally, or will there be something of a reaction, with people yearning for a sense of formality after spending so long in their jeans? As a shoemaker, Edward Green’s job is to keep a close eye on shifting trends to ensure that the right shoes are available, however tastes develop. It looks likely that the demand for brown suede loafers will continue to be strong in 2021.
The company has recently introduced the Connemara, a hiking boot, inspired by its classic Galway field boot. The Connemara has a padded ankle collar for extra comfort on the trails, along with the Galway’s distinctive chevron design and bellowed tongue. This year’s new colour is Raw Umber, a caramel tan which fits well into today’s less saturated, natural colour palette.
Whatever they buy, customers increasingly want to do it online. Every British brand will be giving much thought
as to how it can improve its customers’ online experience. Edward Green now offers same-day delivery within London, or next day elsewhere within Britain. Indeed, there are many changes that businesses can make to support online and wholesale customers more effectively. The company has recently started offering its own extensive retail stock via its global wholesale network, giving buyers a much wider choice and ensuring that they can enjoy the experience of having shoes fitted in-store. ‘Omnichannel’ is something of an industry buzzword at the moment but intelligently blending the advantages of physical stores with the flexibility of online is something that will continue to develop in the years to come.
With Brexit now upon us, Edward Green’s vital interest in the European market remains undiminished. On the one hand, most of the world’s best calf and sole leather comes from Europe while on the other, sales in the European market will continue to be important to the brand. Whatever happens, they will continue to make elegant shoes with meticulous care and attention and, while political and commercial tides may ebb and flow, that is something that will never go out of fashion.