For our latest interview, we caught up with footwear specialists, Yogi, to learn more about one of my favourite footwear brands. Speaking to Tim Peck (Design Team Manager), Jennie Bianco (Head of Marketing) and Paul Batista (Head of Sales) we hope you enjoy our chat!
Hi, cheers for taking time to have a chat, how are you today?
Very well thank you, reminiscing about the last few weeks of summer. Hope you’re well?
For those who may not know, please can you give us a brief backstory into Yogi, from past to present day?
Yogi footwear was launched by the people responsible for creating the Duffer of St George brand. Duffer of St George was the brainchild of Marco Cairns, Eddie Prendergast, Barrie Sharpe and Clifford Bowen. In 1984 they set up a London market stall and grew it into one of the first original streetwear brands. The influence it had on the way British men dress was huge.
Your footwear is made in Portugal, how did that come about?
Sustainable development and ethical practice are cornerstones of the Yogi brand and values we hold dear. Our products are designed and crafted with longevity and durability at the forefront of our philosophy. We use a third-generation family run factory, who can make small runs of product, reducing any waste that may go to landfill. Additionally, the materials that they have access too are 2nd to non.
How has the brand progressed over the years?
We have always been careful to develop the collection in a considered manner over the years, staying true to the brand DNA sourcing from rich high-quality materials, focusing on traditional construction techniques and that comes through in the end product.
Whilst maintaining the brand integrity, we have carefully expanded the width of the collection adding in new silhouettes where appropriate to help the brands target market grow however, we always draw inspiration from traditional pattern development.
The negative heel with its orthopaedic benefits has always been the most visually obvious USP for Yogi, so you will see many of the new developments tailored around this, which delivers on brand integrity as well as genuine postural benefits for the user
We are always exploring new developments and experimenting in the background so watch this space, there are some interesting developments to come.
By the mid 1990s Yogi’s more pronounced profile directly referencing the Earth and Roots shoes from the 1970s was being appropriated by the style alumni who had also adopted the Duffer aesthetic also exemplified by the Yardie Cardie – another Duffer milestone. In the intervening years the Yogi brand broke away from JD Sports’ acquisition and began to refine the silhouettes which made the brand highly recognisable whilst reclaiming the comfort credentials associated with the iconic negative heel (promoting good posture), and ‘Made in Portugal’ product values pitched at the premium market segment.
Where do you draw inspiration for the brand?
As above, we always sense check that we are staying true to the brand DNA sourcing from rich high-quality materials, focusing on traditional construction techniques and patterns, this ensures we maintain integrity of the brand and deliver a great end product. Whilst staying routed in traditional techniques, we are always researching and exploring new techniques that can help improve the sustainability of our impact on the environment.
Whilst you will see some elements of each seasonal collection that draw from trend influence, Yogi has such a rich and specific DNA, we are less trend influenced than some brands because our design language is traditional and classic it has a timeless appeal.
Obviously COVID has affected everyone’s life the past couple of years, how has it impacted the business?
The restrictions that resulted from the pandemic presented an opportunity to diversify our product range in terms the polarisation of ‘indoor’ and ‘outdoor’ activities – adopting outdoor hiking influences such as metal ‘ski-hook’ lacing & paracord lacing options on our negative heel styles and lighter-weight outsole options. Also, reverse engineering upper patterns into mule styles with our negative heel USP promoting good posture.
Is there an item you have designed which you’re particularly proud of, or means something to you more than the others?
Every style we create has been refined over many months sometimes years before it’s delivered, so we are confident and proud of every single piece. Of course, we all have our individual favourites within the team. Being from a design background and always focusing on what is new and upcoming, my personal favourites are some of the newest developments which I can’t share too much on. However, one of my current favourites from the collection are Finn with its luxurious comfort and tactile look, being a little more complex in terms of the panelling it’s a great piece to experiment with material contrasts with the multiple panels.
You’ve had collaborations with Hikerdelic, how did this come about?
We met the guys from Hikerdelic at a trade fair and the relationship developed from there. We love their vibe and ethos, so a collaboration was the natural next step.
You’ve teamed up with Professor Green and Gizzi Erskine – tell us more?
Professor Green is so much more than just a musician and the causes that he is passionate about mirror ours. The friendship between Stephen and Gizzi brought a natural chemistry to set on the day of the shoot. Womenswear is a new development for us and being able to highlight this with additional content really helped the exposure of the range.
Could you tell us about your plans for the AW21 collection?
Introducing some fantastic colours!
As well as fashion, this blog is all about music and football – do you have much interest in either?
I used to live for football growing up, as most young lads I aspired to be a pro. Also, like most, never saw this come to light but did manage to represent my county at junior level. Nowadays I don’t follow the club football so much, but really enjoy getting behind England in the Euro and World Cup tournaments.
I’ve always had a wide and eclectic taste in music, and just discovered country music recently due to my Fiancé’s influence, I find it relaxing and emotive, powerful tool for enhancing your mood and mindset.
What’s the best, and worst, thing about running an independent label?
Best – great opportunity to work with fantastic product and people, being a small team, we all have a close connection with the product and see this through from initial synthesis to market.
Worst – can’t think of any in honesty!
What advice can you give to any youngsters wanting to forge a career in footwear?
Sketch more, go to university with a product or footwear design degree. Familiarise yourself with manufacturing techniques and materials, starting with the traditional and understand the limitation and benefits all and how design can be tailored to work within and sometimes stretch these parameters. Also, Adobe Illustrator is typically the most used software in the footwear industry, so familiarising yourself with this software would be an advantage.
What are Yogi’s plans for the future?
From a product perspective we are exploring development of a small apparel collection to supplement intertwining our core values, focusing on great quality materials, traditional construction techniques and styling.
We are looking at new outsole development allowing us to experiment with different materials with different texture and weight properties which will help add further diversity to the collection in future seasons both in terms of the product visual / physical characteristics as well as the application and use of the product.
We are also looking at some exciting new developments centred around our negative heel outsole, with some interesting applications. Internally we are all excited to see these shape up, focusing on further increasing the comfort and wearability of the negative heel.
Describe Yogi in only 3 words…
Traditional, Quality, Considered