Follow the Journey

CHAPTER 1

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. Fountaine & Parker sounded like a counterfeit pen company, James & John had people thinking 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, 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 time to reassess.

CHAPTER 2

Night Thinkers

There’s no point in 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 for After The Antique, 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 lightbulb flickered on - shoes. Shoes are great. Except for the Kiwis, everyone wears shoes.

We pooled together and 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. It was irrelevant, though. We had a young-blood 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 re-birth of Fairfax & Favor, it was the revival party.

CHAPTER 3

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 420 pairs. It was the same everywhere. The money we had saved was not enough. It wasn’t even close. With nothing to lose, we 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.

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 pick up. 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, we had been kidnapped.

Of course, they quashed this hasty conclusion of ours by showing us around their factory. The factory agreed to make 420 pairs of off-the-shelf loafers and deliver them within four weeks, but one condition: we paid every cent upfront. 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.

CHAPTER 4

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... well, easier said than done.

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.

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 show season.

CHAPTER 5

Rolling Stones

In the summer of ‘13 with next-to-nothing 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 meters 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 (OK, and a pair of shoes each for 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.

CHAPTER 6

Glitz and 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 a small token wage a week and focusing every minute we had on shoes. No more pub or near-death experiences attempting to deliver 1/2 tonne slabs of stone.

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.

CHAPTER 7

A Letter from A Famous Italian Brand

...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 real weekend-ruiner and the first few pages of the letter constituted a list of law suits 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, they had lawyers that dealt with Diana’s divorce from Charles. They had 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 of 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.

CHAPTER 8

Regina

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. 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. With its slim-fit, stylish heel and an interchangeable tassel, we had turned this farmhouse plodder into a polished piece fit for the runway.

Regina has been our lucky charm ever since.

CHAPTER 9

Game On

Year-on-year at the tail end of July, our entire team gear up in preparation for a full-blown magical weekend of boots, shoes, sunshine and showers as we fly our flags high for the Game Fair.

To us, the Game Fair is more than just a show. It is a milestone, one that overcomes us with a monumental sense of pride and achievement. In our early days, the show circuit was a daunting prospect; we were miniscule fish in a monstrously large pond, and didn’t we know it. We paddled in the shallow end for a few years, with a 3 metre stand here and a 6 metre stand there, but it was in 2015 where the Game Fair allowed us to really push the boat out, giving us our first real opportunity for our first BIG pitch and oh boy, were we going to make the most of it.

A bigger pitch meant more space, a whole 9 metres to be precise. 9 metres meant more customers, more customers inevitably equated to more sales, more sales required more stock. It was turning into a military operation, one which required us to collar all of our closest friends to help muck in with no objection; we didn’t need to do much persuading, however, as the temptation of the free bar was a clear selling point.

Since that memorable year, our Game Fair experience continued to flourish. We will forever welcome our customers with open arms and entice with exclusive product launches, a sprinkling of wizardry from our in-house magician, and of course the temptation of a refreshingly light gin-based cocktail, kindly provided by our friends at Twelve Keys Gin. To top it all off, our specialist whizz-videographer has documented every step of the way, so you can just sit back, relax, delve into our video archives and relive the memories...

CHAPTER 10

The Here and Now

The past years have been breath-taking. We started as two childhood friends who took the plunge; now we have 30 full-time employees, a warehouse in Portugal, numerous channels of business that range from online to shows, showroom to wholesale and new stockists flooding in.

Back in 2017 we were elated when our Imperial Explorer was crowned the winner of Best New Footwear Product of the Year at the Shooting Awards; and, most recently, Fairfax & Favor was named Best Luxury Brand of The Year at the 2019 Direct Commerce Awards.

Our Breast Cancer Care campaign is our chance to give a little something back for a cause that has touched both our family’s. We are utterly overwhelmed with the continued support this campaign receives, heavily endorsed by bloggers and celebrities and cheered on by our incredibly loyal customers. Thanks to you, to date we have raised a staggering £99,189 for the charity.

From rickety beginnings in a bedraggled pop-up gazebo plopped in a field come rain or shine, our journey on the show circuit has helped shape who we are, and what we believe in today. Our remarkable, hard-working show team are now a dab hand on the circuit, demonstrated by their fabulous accolade, winning a Gold award for Best Trade Stand at the prestigious Badminton Horse Trials.

We end by saying a big thank you for everything, truly. Here’s to the next adventure, to walking the walk, and enjoying the Fairfax & Favor way of life.

The NAF British Junior squad completed the European Championship in Maarsbergen, five clear rounds, an individual silver and team silver.

Being presented the award for winner of Best New Footwear Product of the Year at the Shooting Awards

The Fairfax & Favor stand at the Game Fair 2019

Drapers 30 under 30

Piggy French wins the Fairfax & Favor Rockingham International Horse Trials

Winning the Direct Commerce Award for Luxury/Prestigious Brand

Supporting Breast Cancer Care

Equestrian Team GBR in Fairfax & Favor boots

Fairfax & Favor at The Game Fair

Supporting Breast Cancer Care

The Fairfax & Favor Holt Store opening

Becoming an official British Eventing Partner

The Fairfax and Favor Team

First Prize for the Fairfax & Favor stand at Badminton

Team GB in Fairfax & Favor