Interview With The Founder Of Yogi Footwear25. 09. 2019
Tell us about how Yogi came about?
We originally came up with the idea in the mid to late ‘90s. We had been buying dead stock trainers in Cyprus and Poland. One of the guys we were working with found these shoes called Earth Shoes. They were a bit like a brand called Roots, with their negative sole unit. The negative sole was meant to be good for the posture and the spine. Roots has a shop on Regent Street in the ‘70s - all the Soul Boys used to wear them. So we put the Earth Shoes (about 12 pairs) in the shop and they sold out straight away. We decided to do something like them too.
What about the design?
The Earth Shoes were the initial inspiration. We did just one shoe to start with, because nobody had that last. In the end we went to someone in Portugal to make our own one. Everything was basically done off that last. The first shoe was a lace up. Then we did the boot version in three colours, followed by one with a Velcro strap in the second season. It just grew very quickly from there. I remember at one point us having about 200 different samples on the floor of the studio. It was good times. People picked up on it really quickly.
How did the name come about?
At the time we decide that we didn’t just want to call it Duffer of St George footwear. It had to be something by Duffer or something that sounded like a brand in its own right. Craig Ford (who worked in Sales and Marketing) came up with the name. It sounded a bit mysterious. There was that whole Japanese dragon thing going on at the time. Prada Sport had just come out too – everything was really pared back. It seemed to fit.
How would you describe the original aesthetic?
The idea was based on the concept stores like Beams in Japan. They had a big influence on us. They had a really small collection of their own products and they just built around that. The main thing was just about getting the look. All of our Duffer of St George clothing and the other brands we were stocking – things like YMC and 6876 - were pretty simple looking at the time. So we wanted the shoes to reflect this too. We always tried to push it as a separate line to the clothing.
Where were you selling Yogi?
Office and Selfridges were early stockists. Richard Wharton at Office was making some desert boots out there at the time. He said go to the factory, meet this guy and if you get something made I will buy it from you. He wanted Duffer in his store. We had 200 accounts in the UK. All the really good accounts: Geese; Flannels; Cruise; Hip; Philip Browne – bought really early and did really well with it too.
What sort of people were wearing Yogi?
Trendies I suppose. We also did small sizes for girls. At the time people were also wearing Birkenstocks. They fitted in with what was going on. Noel Gallagher, Paul Weller, Bobby Gillespie, David Beckham all wore them. Jamie Oliver was one of the people who wore them quite early on too. Craig came over and said that some guy had just come in who was a cook. Jamie told us that he was making a show and that he was going to be famous. So we made him a cup of tea. He also said that he was doing a cookbook and needed some samples to shoot. And he also said he was making a TV show. We’re like, alright, just give some gear to get rid of him. He left, really happy, with a couple of bags of gear. A couple of months later he invited us to the book launch at the ICA. There were massive posters of him wearing all of it. It was brilliant. We were then like: “Hi Jamie. Do you want anything else?” He definitely wore Yogis pretty early on.
How long did it last for?
Maybe five years. The market had moved on and it didn’t feel as relevant anymore. We started changing the styling. But even in the shop we had moved on. We were starting to do classic brogues with Trickers. I guess Yogi just fell out of favour. It probably peaked in the early 2000s.
I remember the whole window of our Shorts Gardens shop being full of the entire collection. It looked great. We were really proud.