“My first fashion internship was at Topshop,” says designer Jemima Janney. “It taught me a lot – I was put in one of many booths and asked to churn out design after design but when I saw one of my creations go into production it gave me such a buzz.” Six years on after a stint working in New York for Rag&Bone and menswear runway label Billy Reid, she is the only designer behind new leather sandal brand Laiík.
Family-run and inspired by traditional Greek footwear, it’s the authenticity and purpose behind Laiík that first attracted Janney to the job. “When I was working for Billy Reid I became so aware of the amount of waste that the industry was generating,” she says. “Working in line with the fashion calendar and producing four collections a year felt pointless at times. The idea behind Laiík is that we create classic pieces that are made to last.”
The concept was born after years of family holidays when the founders started getting requests from friends to bring leather shoes home from Greece for them. “The traditional Greek sandal had lost its recognition,” Janney says. “Every high street retailer had one in their collection but they lacked durability and authenticity. We wanted to reintroduce a timeless style but give it a modern twist that felt right for the city.”
Sandals come in colours that mimic the vibrancy of buildings and street art in Athens – a side to the Greek capital that Janney never knew existed; “It’s a beautiful place with an interesting history but it was important to me to keep things contemporary,” she says.
The shoes sit somewhere between fashion and practicality; “Fast fashion is more about aesthetic than it is about longevity, whereas the name Laiík comes from the Greek word meaning ‘of the people’,” Janney explains. “Transparency in production is a big focus for us and everything is made in Greece using Italian leathers that vegetable dyed and chromium free. We spent months testing natural rubber options for the sole to ensure the shoes were as durable and as comfortable as they could be and everything is trialled for six month’s worth of wear before earning its place in the collection. The attention to detail is incredible.”
Bridging the gap between creativity and designing for purpose, Janney feels as though boutique labels like Laiík hold more appeal than fast fashion brands. “People like to be able to talk about the items that they wear,’ she says. ‘It’s not about overt branding anymore but knowing that what you’ve bought has a story.”