The unique designs of an alternative shoe brand in London have grabbed the attention of buyers in the US and Dubai, led by a founder who continues to break the mould in the traditional art of shoemaking.
Signing these two new international sales deals has provided hope for Leather and Cotton London Director Eze Nwaka whose entrepreneurial journey has been filled with challenges, not least running the business while working full-time.
Eze Nwaka explains: “There are not many Black-owned companies in the British shoe manufacturing industry, but I aim to one day become one of the leaders in the sector, and hope to inspire other upcoming Black designers in the process.
“I’ve faced so many obstacles, from difficulty obtaining finance to working double shifts and constantly having to prove myself in the industry. I had to get out there on my own to present my case, crowdfund, and use my own salary.
“I even had to borrow money from the high street with a 50% interest! Luckily, I found four people that believed in me and invested in my business so that I could make my vision become a reality.”
In January 2020 Eze attended an exhibition in New York using Tradeshow Access Programme (TAP) Funding provided by the Department for International Trade (DIT). It was here that he met the Chief Merchant for The Gathering Shops in the US who wanted to stock Leather and Cotton London shoes in its New Jersey stores.
Shortly after, he saw an opportunity for his shoes to be sold in a new shopping mall opening in Dubai. Despite the deadline having passed, Eze decided to apply and ended up being one of only 20 brands selected from around the world.
Nwaka continues: “My International Trade Advisor at the Department for International Trade has been a breath of fresh air! He has guided me where I needed help with my brand, and has always been there when I’ve needed advice or introductions to a potential business opportunity. I am really excited about these new international opportunities and I look forward to seeing my shoes sold in the US, Dubai and beyond.”
Leather and Cotton London shoes are designed by Eze and manufactured in his factory in Portugal due to the country’s rich history in leather-making. Following his international success Eze continues to work with DIT to identify new opportunities for the brand.
As Leather and Cotton London continues to grow internationally, so too do exports of UK footwear which amounted to £1.9bn last year. The US was a key market with exports totalling £56.8m, an increase of 9.7% on 2018. The South East’s economy is expected to grow by up to £622m as a result of a future UK-US free trade agreement.