In case you missed it, we recently welcomed Baudoin & Lange into The Hand family and you can read all about this British brand with European sensibilities, here. To follow on from that journal article, we recently caught up with its co-founder, Mr Bo Van Langeveld, who was a former racing driver turned financier and asked him a few questions.
Here’s what he had to say.
Has dressing well always been something that's always been important to you, particularly with regards to shoes?
One of my earliest memories was being about three years old in a shoe shop with my parents and throwing the biggest hissyfit ever and from that moment onward I've always cared about shoes. As a teenager, I had lots of sneakers and then when I was 18 I got a lot more interested in tailoring and the formal side of things.
Can you tell us about your background as a racing driver?
When I was about 7 or 8 years old I started to race go-karts and it turned out I had a bit of talent for it. My dream was to make it my career and when I was 18, I started racing cars and travelling all over Europe to compete. In 2008, the financial crisis hit and sponsorship made it very difficult so I had to make the decision to bet everything on this career, which had a very small chance of working out. Instead, I went and studied economics and finance which is when I formed the idea to start Baudoin & Lange.
What are some lessons you learned from your career as a racing driver and financier that you can apply to your career now?
On the racing part, it's definitely dealing with pressure. There's a lot of pressure on yourself from the dangerous environment and from the team also. I can't let emotions or anxiety take over so racing has taught me not to get nervous and stay level-headed. In terms of finance, you learn how to work really, really hard and this builds up your stamina which is what you need to be able to do when running your own business.
What was the first conversation like when you met with Allan?
I didn't know Allan, but we went to the same university and he was a few years older than me. I had the idea to make formal shoes that were comfortable to wear all day as I couldn't understand why brands weren't doing this. Allan was the only person in my extended network who had anything to do with shoes, so I reached out to him and eventually met him in his atelier and told him about my idea. At the time, there was a lot of talk about 3-D printing, which I thought was a good idea, but he dismissed it and said that there had to be a human side to it and this led us to our first creation, the Sagan.
One of the great elements of Baudoin & Lange is how diverse your customer base is. What do you think gives your shoes such wide appeal?
We've always believed that people living in New York have much more in common with people in London and Hong Kong compared to people in London have with people living in the countryside. So we've always had this global approach of going to people in the cities. Then again, people do appreciate a high level of quality wherever they are from.
For those who still work in finance, what would be your advice to them in regards to improving their personal style?
Well, firstly, stop coming to work wearing running shoes! Find yourself a pair that you can be comfortable and presentable in as it looks silly. Secondly, stop wearing tailored suits with black canvas backpacks – get yourself a briefcase!
What are some ways in which your own personal style has evolved since founding Baudoin & Lange?
So, I have grown an appreciation for bespoke tailoring and the craft over the years and I now really enjoy dressing up. But, on the other hand, when I don’t need to dress up, I now have a drawer of 50 of the same black T-shirts and a few of the same pair of jeans. So in the morning, I don't have to think about what I wear as that decision has already been made for me.
What made you want to partner with The Hand?
We've always had a strategy and vision of the brand to be something exclusive and that's nice to discover. We're also playing the long game, so all the decisions we take with partnering with retailers take that into account. There are two types of stores we partner with; the likes of Harrods for example, which is great for a small brand to have that visibility. Then we work with specialist stores, like The Hand, who really understand our product as they are absolute connoisseurs.
What's your definition of luxury?
Feeling comfortable, and that goes in different ways. So there's comfort from the moment you put your feet in the shoes – there can't be any pain points as that's not luxury. Then they need to make you feel comfortable and not out of place. Thirdly, the whole process of buying needs to be comfortable. I don't believe in the old-school luxury when the sales associate is snobbish and looks at you when you look at the price. That's not comfortable and that's not luxury. Like we say at B&L, luxury is comfort. Explore our offering from Baudoin & Lange, here