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Two friends from Belgium start their own shoe brand, break with local fashion traditions, and find an audience worldwide.
Robin Carlo and Robin Todde just launched the first collection of their new brand: "Lennertson - Refined footwear for the rugged individual."
"We are breaking with Benelux tradition."
The reason for this new brand? Growing dissatisfaction with the existing offer of (dress) shoes in Belgium, says Robin Carlo, 1 of the 2 founders. "A lot of men's shoes in the Benelux - and in fact most of continental Europe – aren't much to our liking. They're either very posh or painfully modest looking. That just doesn't fit with guys like us. For us it had to be different. Refined? Sure. But with a robust and rugged edge."
As for how that "different character" had to look, the guys peeked across the channel. "Our designs are unique and nuanced. At the same time, we don't want to reinvent the shoe. An important source of inspiration are old classic shoes from England. Fundamental is the shape of the shoe." - says Robin Carlo. While continental designs often use pointed toe shapes and low profiles, the British form appears to be rounder, more robust, and has a taller toebox.
Shoemaking can be authentic and sustainable: "Our shoes are a European product, from sketchbook to stitch."
For that particular shape, Robin & Robin first had to design a last. So they went to the source and worked with Michael James from Springline: the last remaining shoe-last manufacturer in the UK.
The shoes themselves are made by a family-run factory in Almansa (Spain) and are Goodyear welted. A more than 150-year-old method that involves a lot of handcraft, specialized old machinery, and skilled labor. "We made test samples with several factories" - states Robin Carlo - "But the level of finishing of our current partner is second to none."
Durability also comes into play: After all, Goodyear welted shoes last for years and are endlessly repairable. "We don't want to be a fast-fashion brand. Apart from the quality, the styles are also timeless."
When we asked ourselves who we thought was really brave, we ended up with our parents: a generation of working-class men and women who worked extremely hard to give their children the best in life.
The guys did not choose the name "Lennertson" lightly. It's loaded with meaning, even towards their parents. "The name Lennert comes from the medieval name 'Lewenhart' which means 'Lionhearted': someone with the heart of a lion and who is therefore brave. It suited our rugged yet refined shoes. When we asked ourselves who we thought was really brave, we settled on our parents: a generation of working-class men and women who lived a life of hard work and self-sacrifice to give their children the best in life. A story of two sons, hence the '-son'."
Barely launched, yet orders are coming from far and wide.
"We've just launched our first collection and have only been on Instagram for a couple of months. We've focused on storytelling during that time: taking our followers on the journey with us as we went through the final stages of development."
This tactic seems to have paid off, as the pair of Robins report they've had orders come in from all over Europe and North America. "Honestly, we weren't expecting to sell more than a couple of pairs to some friends on this first run. But then all these international orders came in. Our product is solid, and our messaging is authentic. I think we really struck a chord with a specific crowd."
“Right now, we’re focusing on getting this collection to a wider audience. But simultaneously, we’re making plans: long and short term.” And what about women’s shoes?
Asked what those plans might entail, Lennertson concludes some variations on the current styles might be coming in the short term. Long-term plans point in 2 directions: "First of, we want to design additional styles. Secondly, we’re looking to expand to women due to popular demand: the same style, just different sizing and possibly adjusted lasts."
The collection - 6 unique styles, all "ruggedly refined" – is available at lennertson.com in limited stocks for the time being.
About the Robins:
Robin and Robin are both 33 years old and have known each other since high school. There they forged a friendship that has since given rise to 17 years of creative collaboration. In their twenties they toured Europe with their metal band. More recently they have been active in media production and brand design.
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