Fairfax & Favor was established by childhood friends in 2013 and we've been trying to redefine the term quintessential ever since. We pride ourselves on craftsmanship, innovation, commitment and our ability to create timeless investments that will make you smile today, tomorrow and years from now. But the secret to Fairfax and Favor is adventure. Like all great stories, our journey to becoming a luxury lifestyle brand has been epic. It had to be. We’ve taken chances with our fingers crossed and thrown the dice when there was nothing else we could do. We are a brand built on friendships and very British-qualities; going from rural Norfolk to the mountains of Spain in search of premium quality and the finest details possible.
This is the core of who we are. It is the reason we have been able to create quality footwear that will surpass your every expectation no matter the occasion. Our shoes, boots and bags don’t just bridge the gap between casual and formal, or the countryside and the city, they bridge the gap between style and adventure.
From reimagining what the Spanish Bota could be with our ‘Regina” boot to epitomising what British heritage is through our range of loafers, we have taken the three pillars of luxury - style, comfort and quality - and made them accessible. We are a lifestyle brand that is more than just shoes and handbags. We are a way of life, a band of laughter, an experience glowing with magic and the start of your next adventure, whether it be a few steps through town or a thousand- miles across the unknown.
Those Who Don’t Jump Will Never Fly
Late in the spring of our eighteenth year, a couple of us had an epiphany; to combine our middle names and launch our very first business venture... a bouncy castle company. It was the unconventional birth of Fairfax & Favor.
We had tried to unlock other name-combinations, but this became an exercise in things we shouldn’t do. Fountain & Parker sounded like a counterfeit pen company, James & John had people think we were selling Bibles door-to-door, and we’re pretty sure Marcus & Felix is a wine bar in Soho. The name Fairfax & Favor won.
Our mission was pretty simple: to create the most epic bouncy castle experience ever envisaged - an amphitheatre of giggles - and then pitch up at Hunstanton Tennis Week. It was genius and, with the market there for the taking, we started drawing up a business plan. Unfortunately, our dream went up in smoke. Bouncy castles cost thousands of pounds, insurance was required by law and our bemused parents were reluctant to play the role of investors. It was like watching a balloon slip out of our hands and get tangled in the branches of an oak tree, just out of reach. Nonetheless, it was time to reassess.
There’s no point dressing it up; University wasn’t our forte. However, there was a silver lining: the excessively long holidays. We used these to work two jobs, splitting our time between pub shifts at The Bedingfeld Arms and working as a fireplace delivery team, combining our wages to fund our latest and greatest idea: selling leather gun slips to anyone that enjoyed clays.
It was a tough sell; not least because once you’ve sold someone a gun slip they shouldn’t have to buy another one for a hundred years or so. That’s when the next light bulb flickered on - shoes. Shoes are great. Except for the Kiwis, everyone wears shoes.
We pooled together the rest of our pub-slash-fireplace savings and used our new knowledge of leather to bootstrap our next venture: a line of handcrafted leather boots. The obvious problem was, well, we knew nothing about shoes. This was irrelevant, though. We had a youngblood desire to prove boots could be made well - the way they ought to be - and still sold at an accessible price, and nothing was going to stop us. It was the rebirth of Fairfax & Favor. It was the revival party.
The Alicante Adventure
We found a factory in Spain that made shoes. That was the good news. The bad news was, we had to order a minimum of 420 pairs. It was the same everywhere. The money we had saved was not enough. It wasn’t even close. So we rolled the “we have nothing to lose” dice, found some cheap flights to Alicante, landed in Spain, jumped on a bus and walked around some town at the foot of some mountains for hours and hours, Google Maps sending us on a wild goose chase that failed to produce any answers.
With our funds dwindling fast, we scrabbled together what little Spanish we knew and asked the receptionist at a local school for directions. She went one better. For 50 euros, she offered to call the factory on our behalf and schedule a pickup. We agreed, and the next day four trucks rode into the centre of town, picked us up and then left Dodge in a cloud of smoke. We climbed mile after mile into the mountains, each hairpin bend shaking our nerves, turning any excitement we had felt into brilliant regret, our hearts starting to pound so hard you could see each beat through our shirts. We had been kidnapped.
Of course, they quashed this hasty conclusion of ours by showing us around their factory. Here our naivety shone brightly. Here we made the worst deal in history. The factory agreed to make 420 pairs of off-the-shelf loafers and deliver them within four weeks, but on one condition: we paid every cent up front. We agreed, shook hands, flew home via a few sangrias and spent what felt like an eternity pulling pints and delivering fireplaces, the thought of “what have we done?” hanging heavy on our minds.
Six weeks later, 390 pairs of Fairfax & Favor branded shoes arrived on our doorstep. It wasn’t quite what we had agreed but, for some reason, we didn’t feel like complaining.
A Heroic Death
Our first rookie mistake was storing the 390 boxes of shoes in mum’s attic. Logistically, it was horrendous, while sweeping it clean of dust can only be described as "medically inadvisable". Still, we had our shoes, we had them stored somewhere safe, and we had a plan; doorstep a bunch of shops in Norwich and have them buy our shoes.
This. Didn’t. Work.
One shop bought £80 worth of shoes, another agreed to take ten pairs and pay on sale, while another took some of our stock but, now we think of it, never actually paid. It was a heroic death. But we did learn something from this failure; the fastest way we could generate cash was to coerce our friends and family into buying the shoes.
It didn’t matter if you were coming over for supper, popping around for a drink or what; we expected each of our friends to buy at least one pair of shoes. We may have even patted down a few friends on their way in just to make sure they had their wallets. Weirdly enough, this sales strategy lacked longevity and, more importantly, sacrificed our popularity. Our friends just stopped coming over.
If we ever wanted to clear the 300-plus pairs of shoes that were still playing clutter in the attic, we only had one option; sell direct. Cue our first game fair.
In the summer of ‘13, with less than £300 in the bank, no friends left and a few unpaid bills on the to-do list, we approached Holkham about getting a pitch at their Country Fair, trying our luck two days before it kicked off. Luckily, someone had just pulled out. There was a patch of grass available, six metres by four. Unfortunately, it came with a £600 price tag.
Embracing the spirit of Alicante, we drove to the Holkham offices, charmed them down to £200 (okay, and a pair of shoes for each of the office staff) and went about setting up our first ever stand, which was assembled out of an old gazebo, our living room sofa, bar tables from the pub, old cabinets, tuck boxes, trunks and anything else that looked a bit like treasure if we squinted hard enough. The only thing we spent money on was the Fairfax & Favor sign. It was £25. And we propped it up with two shooting sticks found in an old stable. It was rough, but it was home.
With the sun shining down on us like a new penny, we sold 80 pairs of shoes. It was enough to cover our costs and pay for a pitch at the next one. It was the start of our love affair with shows and, in an attempt to keep the momentum going, we vowed to invest everything we made back into the company. No exceptions.
Glitz & Glamour
After a year of growing Fairfax & Favor by day, manning the pub by night and delivering fireplaces on any weekend we had off, things started to improve. We began paying ourselves £50 a week and focusing every minute we had on the shoes. No more pub or near death experiences.
We converted an underground loo into our office and started using an old stable as our storeroom. The days of lugging hundreds of boxes up and down the attic-ladder after each show were now behind us.
Of course, it wasn’t all roses and sloe gin because getting the stable storeroom-ready was atrocious. It was a century-old scrapyard of junk, dust, festering manure and asbestos. Oddly enough, we don’t have a picture of this day on our wall. We all love sausages but no one wants reminding of how they’re made.
A Letter From a famous Italian brand, with snaffle loafers (which we will not name for legal reasons)
While choosing designs in Alicante, we had naively chosen an off-the-shelf loafer that had a snaffle buckle. It was a gorgeous design and we were little more than dreamers, not experts in copyright infringement. It didn't matter. We received a 92-page letter from a famous Italian brand threatening to sue us. To say it made us quake in our inspired loafers would be an understatement. But there was more. The letter arrived at 5.30pm on a Friday, which was a real weekend-ruiner, and the first few pages of the letter constituted a list of lawsuits they had won. It wasn’t the most uplifting bedtime read. The future of Fairfax & Favor was heading for a cliff edge, our name set to take a nosedive and land with a splat at the bottom of their list, no doubt filed under “Squashed Dreams”.
Their demands were staggering. A £100,000 fine, a full-page apology in The Telegraph, receipt of all our shoes and our signature on a document that stated we would never be so foolish to mess with the brand again. It was terrifying. They were threatening to sue us, and they had the lawyers that dealt with Diana’s divorce from Charles. They had the lawyers you call when you want to divorce a future King and we had Mark from Swaffham; the cheapest lawyer money could buy.
Mark’s plan? To get the £100K fine reduced to £40K. The problem? This was still more than twice our annual turnover. Luckily, we managed to convince another lawyer to send an email on our behalf. We won’t go into details, but he used the phrase “I would like to educate you on a point law” and then offered them a deal to pay much-much-much less, send back all the shoes and sign their document. They agreed. Thank God. And thank God they had sent that letter on the Friday because we were about to order another 800 pairs.
Sending the shoes back hurt but, being young and foolish, we had some fun. We mixed all the shoes, sizes and colours so that no box contained a matching pair. Yes, the famous Italian brand had the last laugh, but we enjoyed a little snigger before the curtain fell.
There is a moment in everyone’s life when the game changes - when all the daydreaming, night-thinking, blood, sweat, tears and hopes of what if finally come together like a New Year’s Eve fireworks finale. For us, that moment arrived when we gave the Spanish bota a different song to sing.
We saw something that no one else had and so we set about transforming this once clunky workhorse into a glass slipper now known as the “Regina” boot. Giving the Spanish bota a slim-fit, stylish heel and an interchangeable tassel, we turned this farmhouse plodder into a polished piece fit for the runway.
Regina has been our lucky charm ever since.
Walk the Walk
We never wanted it to be about the “stuff” we sell. We wanted Fairfax & Favor to be a story that each customer could enter into. We wanted to create a narrative that people could enjoy even when we'd packed our stores away and the shows had come to a close, and that’s exactly what we tried to do. Just take a peek at our Game Fair highlights.
Lost in the kaleidoscope of high times and laughter are our shoes, boots, bags and all. Of course they are. But it’s the experience we create in our pop-up high street shops that will snatch your breath and make the hairs on the back of your neck trip the light fantastic - the music, the dancing, the chorus of awwwwws that surround our magician like whitecap waves and the explosion of belly-giggling that swirls and whirls beneath our canopy, all of it jazzed up by the constant sound of champagne, cocktails and beer filling glasses. When you leave one of our stands, we don’t just want you to leave with a crisp white bag in hand; we want you to walk away with memories embellished with the jewels of fun.
That is the Fairfax & Favor way of life. That is the walk we walk.
Handbags & Glad Rags
With the shows going well, footwear flying out of the stables faster than ever before and our brand beginning to pop like magnums of well-shaken champagne, we took our next leap of faith: handbags.
The reason was simple. Women were buying boots to match their handbags and, well, there was no point waiting for an invite.
Up to this point, Fairfax & Favor has been shoes, boots, loafers and just about anything that had a sole. Now we wanted it to be more.
The Unbreakable Bond
The unbreakable bond between us and you - the gorgeous people that embody our way of life - is something we’ve celebrated since day one.
Since our very first photo shoot - since the first click of a camera and close of a shutter - we have used people that raised their hands on social media as our models. We did this as a way of rolling out the tweed carpet for our customers and because, well, nothing makes an outfit look better than the genuine smile of someone who loves our pieces.
Without the shows, Fairfax & Favor would be nothing but a whisper found in the quieter corners of Norfolk. But we would also be nothing without our followers on social media. From choosing our next models, holding monthly giveaways and offering free worldwide delivery, we do all we can to prove we’ll never take this bond for granted. Never.
A Personal Touch
We have always aimed to break the mould of what a personal brand can be. We love being in the midst of the circus that is the shows, we stay close to our followers on social media, we release limited edition pink tassels and belts to help raise money for Breast Cancer Care and we continue to slip a handwritten note inside every single order that leaves our stables - something we have always done and we always will.
Why? Because our measure of success is as simple as they come: a perfect experience. It is a mission that transcends our brand, from the excitement of our shows to redefining our online contribution, right the way through to our headquarters in Norfolk.
Our office is located in a stable block that dates back to the sixteenth century, our stock is stored in individual stables that have barely been altered and we have just opened a showroom where you can come and enjoy the most personal shopping experience possible; witnessing the beating heart that drives our exciting young brand.
Like we said, we want to promise the perfect experience. That’s our aim.
The Here & Now
The past four years have been breathtaking. We started as two childhood friends that rolled the dice and we now have 27 full-time employees, a warehouse in Portugal, seven factories, numerous channels of business that range from online to shows, showroom to wholesale, shows that have expanded into Europe, a full-time representative across the pond, daily orders from America, and a new stockist in the form of Harrods.
But for all the-pinch-yourself-mornings we get to enjoy, one thing is for sure; this is just the first turn of the Catherine Wheel. More sparks will fly, more explosions will fill the sky and much more laughter, joy and sounds of “awwwwww” will ring out. We haven’t got here by resting on our laurels or our loafers, and we never will.
Thank you for everything, truly. Here’s to the next adventure, to walking the walk, and enjoying the Fairfax & Favor way of life.