On the up · 15 July 2015

Augustus Pili: The footwear brand hoping to showcase the best of British craftsmanship

Jalil Rahman was inspired to start his own business after having a tricky time finding shoes that had personality. “It always seemed like they came in two extremes your standard classic brogues and then your cuban heels with glitter, ” he said. His footwear brand Augustus PilI is “classic with a twist” and after beingoffered development opportunities withKPMG Small Business Accountingand the British Footwear Association, Rahman is getting ready to debut his site selling the distinctive range.

(1) Who are you and what’s your business?

My name is Jalil Rahman, Im a self-taught designer and founder of footwear brand Augustus Pili. Augustus PilI is the reincarnation of classic English craftsmanship in colour both in complexion and in character. I have worked for numerous British household names in my career. In men’s footwear, English handmade craftsmanship is arguably the best in the world. I want British footwear to get the recognition it truly deserves. And so Augustus PilI was born from the thought “what if the British mens? shoe could be reborn today?”

(2) How long have you been around for?

The brand launched at London Collections Men in January 2015.

(3) How will you make money?

Augustus PilI footwear will be sold exclusively via the forthcoming e-shop at AugustusPili.com scheduled to launch this summer.We have not yet made any concerted push online but we have picked up traction on social media in London, a few cities in the US and then, surprisingly, Angola, Colombia, Mexico, SaudI Arabia and Nigeria.Currently, we are selling well through word-of-mouth, including bespoke editions for certain clients who embody our vision and will continue this on a case-by-case basis.

(4) What makes you different and why should someone take notice?

If you look atour shoes you should see that we use colour and fabric in a signature way. A few weeks ago I was invited to a large licensing event. On my way in I was stopped no less than six times on the London Underground by men asking where they could get my shoes, and in one case a woman wanting to get a pair for her boyfriend!

At the same time our shoes connect with a continuous and deep tradition of British craftsmanship. Our shoes are handmade in the heart of Northampton, England by expert craftsmen. Each pair undergoes over 200 processes before they leave the factory. In today’s era of fast fashion, and at times correspondingly poor quality, Augustus PilI acknowledges the importance of true artisan creations.

In terms of a target customer for the brand, we are interested in interesting men doing interesting things with their lives. Self-starters and initiative takers. It could be a social enterprise, it could be startup. It could be a quest for self-improvement. it’s not too important what it is. What are you passionate about? What can we learn from that? We are interested in meeting those types of people as we too pursue our passion. That meeting point is an inexhaustible well of inspiration and motivation.

(5) What was key in terms of getting started?

Last autumn I signed up with KPMG Small Business Accountingand it was the most important milestone thus far. With assistance from their mentoring programme, I was able to successfully establish a supply chain, launch the brand and outline a clear financial structure to take the business forward.

I hadn’t been prepared for the time and financial awareness required to completethe level of admin typically associated with starting a new business. The supportof KPMG Enterprise helped me to develop the financial and accounting practices, as well as advising me on launch marketing and strategic business plans.

(6) What’s your biggest achievement to date?

The two biggest achievements to date have been debuting the brand at London Collections Men in January and being this year’s selection for the British Footwear Association mentoring programme.London Collections Men, the seasonal men’s programme organised by the British Fashion Council, allowed me to launch the brand on a global platform and build key press relations.

Just after in February I was fortunate enough to be selected for the British Footwear Association’s Accelerated Development? mentoring programme for 2015. This means I will be working closely with the CEO of a large British footwear company this year and so I have very strong expectations for our plans in the pipeline for 2016, both creatively and operationally.

(7) What setbacks have you had along the way?

Many specific to most startups in any industry: cash flow limitations, deadlines, delayseven postal theft. Whenever I encounter a trial of my patience I remind myself of the Japanese saying “TankI wa sonki”, which literally translates as “if you’re short-tempered you’re a loser”. I consider launching a business a series of ongoing problem solving challenges. Treating it this way makes it feel much more manageable.



Rebecca is a reporter for Business Advice. Prior to this, she worked with a range of tech, advertising, media and digital clients at Propeller PR and did freelance work for The Telegraph.

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