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The idea behind the brand started on the streets of London, where our founder Thomas Downing and his buddies constantly played football. They'd all be wearing leather-soled loafers, which looked great, though fell apart with just a few kicks and bit of wear and tear. When brought in to be repaired they'd cost a fortune to fix, making them a luxury good. We wanted to tackle these two key issues: durability and price.
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The first objective was to tackle the short-lived life of the leather soled loafer: thus we can up with a gum sole as a replacement, adding the much needed durability and stability. Next, we focused on price point. With direct competitors charging up to $450 for a comparable pair of shoes, we determined that being a direct-to-consumer business would allow us to cut overhead retail expenses and ultimately price fairly under $200.
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Shortly thereafter, the first generation of the Osborne Penny Loafer was born. Stanley Osborne was our great grandfather, and a man who constantly sported a penny loafers on his worldly excursions. Like all of our shoes to follow, we named the shoe after a historical figure who embodied the essence of the shoe.
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As we continued to develop the shoes, we incorporated a memory foam insert into the shoe to maximize comfort without sacrificing the style, durability and stability that the initial models incorporated. We built this into our next series of shoes: The Noah Boot, The Cameron Brogue and The Arthur (now discontinued).
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As we grew the collection we locked down our first space, the location that ultimately became our flagship store: 219 Mott Street in NoLita, New York City. We built the space out to feel like a timeless living room, where one would feel just as comfortable as that might be in their own home.
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With a few styles under our belt, and a full-time store we began expanding into other shoe territories, starting with the sneaker. Our first was the Charlie Sneaker, named after the tennis player Charlie Pasarell, who is best known for his 5 hour, 12 minute Wimbledon match. The sneaker's endurance is intended to match his own, with that same memory foam and gum sole as our classics line. Our sneaker line to this day remains the most popular to people unfamiliar with the brand, though our loafers remain the foundation of the company.
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In the past year we have added a series of summer sneakers, as well as a summer shop out in Nantucket, Massachusetts and a pop-up on Abbot Kinney, Los Angeles. Both of these locations house all of our key styles, as well as the living room feel that we cultivated in our flagship store. In all of the spaces we also host events and house Rise Coffee, one of our key brand partners.
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More recently, we have opened our second full-time store in the West Village on Bleecker Street in NYC which we are truly excited about. The store has all of the key styles and sizes, though the majority of our inventory is kept at Mott given its space.
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Mott is also where we run our online business, accounting for a portion of sales both domestically and internationally (predominantly London). While we are focusing on New York City this year, we are looking to bring the brand back home in time for Christmas 2020.
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We manufacture all of our shoes in Léon, Mexico in a family owned factory that has had its footprint in the city for many generations. In terms of materials, we source the gum sole from Italy and our Grade-A leather from within the U.S. All of the shoes we make are shipped directly to our flagship store, and we do no wholesale—allowing that direct-to-consumer pricing.
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Inkerman has come to embody a number of different ideas, but the underlying principle throughout has been reimaging timeless styles with modern technology.