Project TWLV is a new Swedish/Italian quality footwear brand in the upper midrange segment, which makes Blake/Rapid stitched and Goodyear welted boots. Founded by two people with extensive experience from the shoe industry’s more fashion-oriented area, which now use their knowledge and contacts from this to get the brand widely spread.
One of them is the Gothenburg based Henrik Hobik, who has run the Nordic agency Selected Brands for over 20 years, who currently has brands like Ugg, Sperry, Hush Puppies, Supra and others. The other is Antonio Panella, Italian living in Switzerland, who during 12 years was the creative brain behind Paul Smith’s successful shoe range.
It started in a classic way in the late summer of 2014, Henrik Hobik was looking for boots that had the design and feel of the classic workwear boots, but with an updated, more modern look. When he couldn’t find any the idea was born to make them himself instead. He had just stepped down from the CEO position in the company and was Executive Chairman, with a little more freedom, and wanted to take on a new challenge which building a shoe brand from scratch would be.
– I had some contact with Antonio Panella during his time at Paul Smith several years ago, since we distributed the brand then, so I called him up to ask some questions and get some tips and advice. Then it turned out that he resigned from Hugo Boss, where he worked, two days before, and he was instantly interested in the idea, Henrik Hobik says.
I meet him in Selected Brands premises in the central parts of Gothenburg, where a small meeting room for some time act as a showroom for Project TWLV. The table is packed with models from the first collection that just started selling with versions coming later in the winter, plus a lot of different samples that they’ve developed.
Cause things happened fast after that phone call with Antonio. Henrik was going to make six styles, when Antonio came in they said that he would make six styles as well, from there the name Project TWLV derived (even if it didn’t stop at the original idea of twelve styles). They have removed the vowels mostly to simplify trademark registration. Through Antonio’s many contacts among shoe factories in Italy they soon found a good partner in a small factory in Tuscany.
– They have been flexible and fast, which certainly facilitated the work of the brand, Henrik Hobik says.
He visits the factory every now and then, while Antonio is there very often and are relatively hands-on in production, and also makes quality control at spot.
Project TWLV’s shoes are Blake/Rapid stitched or Goodyear welted, divided between the slightly neater chelsea boots and side seamed boots made withBlake/Rapid, and sturdy boots with sometimes double soles and Cuban heels that are Goodyear welted. The materials they use are different grain leathers, some kangaroo and also horsehide called soft cordovan and cordovan. Itss not regular shell cordovan hides, but hides often referred to as culatta which is horse butt made with a similar tanning process as she’ll cordovan, but it’s not the muscle membrane used but the outer grain part.
– Later in the winter we also release is a model that will be made entirely of material from the Swedish tannery Tärnsjö. Uppers in their rough suede, leather lining and soles that all are vegetable tanned. It feels great to make the connection to Sweden clearer this way, Henrik says.
Prices begin at € 450, up to some Goodyear-welted models in their cordovan which are sold for € 750. I’ve just inspected the shoes briefly, but it feels as if the quality level is quite okay for the price. At the moment there’s only men’s shoes, but women’s shoes will drop later this winter.
At Pitti Uomo in January they showcased the boots for the first time, and since then they have participated in no less than seven fairs, plus some other customer visits in between. And the hard work has paid off. With with the first smaller fall collection recently released several dealers around the world are already in. For example Lodenfrey in Munich, NK in Stockholm, Eger in Oslo, Coccodrillo in Antwerp and not least Barney’s in New York.
– The interest has exceeded our expectations. The products are one part, but obviously our background plays a big role. Many people know who we are and therefore have the courage to invest in the brand, Henrik Hobik says.
He himself describes the work of Project TWLV as a bit of a fresh start for him. After only have worked with more fashion oriented shoes and clothes for decades traditionally constructed shoes is a new and interesting world, and to that the fact that they run theiir own brand with all that entails is giving him a new glow.
– I’m learning a lot all the time. But also carry with me a lot from my background, just like Antonio. Taking this type of product out as widely as we hope to succeed with had been hard to do for a couple of novice shoe nerds.