IDYSM: Hey Tim, please set the scene for us, where are you and what are you doing right now?
TIM:Im sitting at my desk at 560 Kings Road above my shop. Its Monday morning and I’m depressed.
IDYSM: We’ll start talking about the amazing work you’re doing with Grenson shortly, but it would be remiss of me to not start this interview by asking about the time you spent working with adidas back in the 90’s. This was a different time for the brand, so how and what did you do with them, and how did this period define your taste and knowledge for footwear?
TIM: I was working in advertising and they hired the tiny agency I was working for. Nike had eaten their lunch and they wanted to be relevant again. I spent nearly 5 years working 6 days a week on their business all over the world. They were ready for change, and together we began the process of making the brand cool again.In terms of shoes it made me realise that “newness” was essential to the brands future and that something old could be tweaked and suddenly it became interesting again.
IDYSM: And you’re a genuine adidas fan with a real passion for the adidas Gazelle right? Why does that brand, and that shoe appeal to you so much?
TIM: adidas is the true sports brand for me. Growing up they were the kings. I played football and if you didn’t have three stripes on your boots you were a nobody. The Gazelle is my favourite shoe as its proportions are so perfect. It is so simple, yet still really modern.
IDYSM: Do you think the ability to scour history to find inspiration for modern classics has become an integral part of your work?
TIM: I think most designers cant help themselves doing that, but it cant be our only drive. Its actually more fulfilling to do something completely new that works but its difficult with a heritage brand as people expect classics.
IDYSM: So how did this experience translate to Grenson?
TIM: Grenson began in 1866 and so what we are all about is engrained in peoples minds. I think that what we do has to be relevant to the market but also relevant to the brand. Therefore people want us to design modern versions of what we are known for. I could try and turn us into a Homewares brand but there really isn’t any point.
IDYSM: In your words, what characterises both the brand and Grenson product?
TIM: I like to think of Grenson as an old company with a young heart. We respect our heritage but aren’t suffocated by it. We believe that timeless design is special but very difficult to achieve. I hope the product is well designed and well made, its really not more complicated than that.
IDYSM: What inspires you?
TIM: Too many things to mention but here are a few things: Music, Youth, Experience, Design that works, Craftsmanship, People with ideas…
IDYSM: In some sectors, and I’m thinking specifically of the sneaker world here, product is now dropping at an alarmingly rapid rate. Do you see people tiring of the demands of keeping up with that scene and looking for product that has a more timeless quality?
TIM: I think there will always be the demand for both. Sometimes you want a product that’s been around for 30 years, but sometimes you want the latest thing. You probably buy them for different reasons but both are important. People never tire of newness.
IDYSM: How do you ensure that Grenson product can cater for a range of wearers, as the product caters for everything from the smart to the casual wearer.
TIM: We make Goodyear Welted shoes which is a specific construction that doesn’t allow us to make sneakers, wellies or flip flops. However, we can play around with materials, colours and soles to the extent that we can make a slick black city shoe to meet the bank manager in but also an eight eyelet boot in metallic blue with chunky white wedge sole that you can play Glastonbury in. We don’t try to cater for everyone but we do like to have a bit of variety.
IDYSM: How do you ensure that the brand stays fresh, but also retains it’s core values at the same time?
TIM: Lots of design, but based around our core principles. You either go forwards or backwards, there is no neutral, so we have to design our way to freshness. The other point is IDEAS. We have to have ideas every day, whether it’s a shoe and event or a post on the website, we always try to make people think “that’s interesting”.
IDYSM: What does the future hold for Grenson?
TIM: I hope that now we have rescued the brand, it will continue to thrive long after I’ve gone. We will develop our Women’s collection further, bags and leather goods too and maybe open some more shops. Maybe even a collaboration with a sneaker brand, who knows?
IDYSM: Can you tell us little about your other project, ‘Tim Little Shoes’.
TIM: Tim Little is separate but they both come from my head, so there are obvious similarities. At Tim Little about half of my collection is made in Italy and includes moccasins, boat shoes and sneakers for example, so there is a broader collection. All of Tim Little English shoes are made in the Grenson factory however so that I can watch over the production. The Tim Little customer is a little older, and we also have a big bespoke business, so there are some real differences.
IDYSM: I always end with this question and I can’t wait to hear your answer to this …what’s on your feet right now?
TIM: Don’t get too excited! It’s a pair of Tim Little Derbys called “Catfish Blues” (all of my own collection are named after Blues Songs). They are made in Dark Brown Calf with a double leather sole. I told you not to get excited.
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Photos courtesy of Thomas Tukker.