Q&A with Artistic & Creative Director, Richard Biedul and Cheaney Marketing Manager, Katie Basford
To celebrate the launch of the Cheaney by Richard Biedul capsule collection, we asked Richard about his inspiration for his collection, his dynamic personal style and the all important question of, just who each shoe is named after? Read on to find out.
You had a career in a very different sector, how was it that you found yourself in your current industry and what do you feel lead you to great success within fashion?
Serendipity…I was practising as a solicitor in the City when I was approached by a model agent one evening after work. I was more than a little surprised to hear that she thought I had the “potential” to be a model. I was in my mid-to-late 20’s, unshaven and out of shape. Most definitely not archetypal model material.
I didn’t really give the chance encounter a second thought until I received a phone call from the agent a week later asking if I could come into the agency for a meeting. I agreed; and visited in between client meetings and my never ending mountain of paper work.
The meeting was brief, I was introduced to the head of the agency, we shot some digitals and I was told that they would be in touch if they wanted to take things forward. Honestly I didn’t hold out much hope of hearing from them again, however after another phone call and a contract offer, I found myself closing Oliver Spencer’s show at London Fashion Week and the rest as they say, is history.
As a solicitor it was imperative that I had a 360 degree understanding of every project I worked on and I took this approach into my new industry.
At a base level, this meant analysing every element of the business I came into contact with. I found myself asking question after question to anyone and everyone that had the time to listen. To be honest at the outset I was probably more of a hinderance than a help to most the art directors, photographers and stylists I met, but I was keen to gain as much information as possible from them all in order to try to make sense of an industry of which I had no prior background knowledge.
With your extensive knowledge and background in fashion, what was it that drew you specifically to want to create a footwear collection?
In 2018, another chance encounter, this time with Stacey Wood, (the founder of British brand King & Tuckfield) led to an opportunity to collaborate on the design of a capsule collection of clothing.
At the time, I had no practical experience in creative direction or design but Stacey saw I that had the drive, determination and above all the potential to contribute to the brand, so allowed me into the studio to learn from and help her develop what turned out to be three Sold Out menswear collections.
To be frank, I never thought that all the seemingly useless knowledge I had been acclimating over the years would all of a sudden be capable of manifesting itself into something tangible.
My desire to develop a footwear collection stemmed from my own inability to find the holy grail: the “perfect shoe” to compliment the clothing I was both designing and wearing. I wanted something that was simultaneously classic yet contemporary, elegant yet masculine, refined yet durable and above all, I wanted something that was ethically, sustainably and responsibly manufactured here in the UK. I wasn’t asking for much right?
What was it about Cheaney that resonated with you as a preferred collaborative brand?
First and foremost, I knew Cheaney as a consumer. They produce a wide range of exceptionally well made footwear, at a great price point.
From the first moment I visited Desborough I knew that Cheaney was going to be the right brand to help me realise my creative vision. A quintessentially English shoemaker that does not compromise on quality or style.
The team understood what I wanted to achieve and took the time to Educate me in the craft of shoe making. Spending hours with me in the brand archives as well as the factory floor.
How do you envision the collection transitioning in to men’s existing wardrobes in terms of wearability?
I tried to create a selection of shoes that were as stylish as they are durable. The perfect amalgamation of form and function.
The aim was to design a collection versatile enough to take you from the beach, to the bar and even the boardroom. Each pair are nostalgic yet simultaneously modern. Influenced by my own personal history and the brand DNA of Joseph Cheaney.
From an aesthetic stand point as well a construction stand point the aim was to make the shoes non seasonal. The wearer should be as free to wear all three pairs in high summer as in the depths of winter. They shouldn’t feel limited by preconceptions of a shoes use. A sandal is for life not just for summer.
The key here is to attempt to encourage and maximise the usage of the product. If I had restricted the materials used to light weight, summer variants rather than hard wearing neutral black, it would automatically mean they could only be worn 6 months of the year.
The collection involves a construction that utilizes premium raw materials, resulting in a product that is ethically sustainable. How important was that element for you when you first decided you wanted to design footwear?
Ethics and sustainability are the key principles that underpin every part of my design process. Luckily Cheaney share the same ethos and I was actively encouraged from the start to pursue the best available options to make the offering as responsible as possible. This ensures that the shoes not only look good but made you feel good about your own choices.
What motivated you to select those particular 3 styles?
Quite simply, these are the 3 styles that I would choose to wear over and above anything else on the market and as a consumer I know the shortcomings of each style. Where some designs fail others excel and I simply wanted to use my own knowledge to create my own versions of these three timeless classics.
You personally named each of the shoes, what was the meaning behind each one?
The Steadman is named after my grandfather. Hands down, the best dressed man I ever met. He wore loafers 7 days a week, 12 months of the year. He taught me about the versatility of the style, how to look comfortable in a loafer dressed up and also down. He was the man that introduced me to the art of bespoke craftsmanship. Suits from Savile Row, shirts from Jermyn Street and of course shoes from Northampton.
The Vietri is named after Vietri Sul Mare. The notion that a sandal should be simultaneously masculine yet delicate came to me whilst on holiday on the Amalfi coast. Capable of being worn with both tailoring and beachwear.
The Isaac is named after an old friend of mine from New York. In all the years I’ve known him I don’t think I’ve ever seen him wear anything other than Derby’s. From suits to denim to shorts. Come rain or shine, Isaac demonstrated first-hand the versatile nature of this style.
The campaign for the imagery tells a very clear story and one which you had creative direction on. What was it about London and specifically, commuting, that paired well in your mind to the collection?
The first part of the campaign was shot in transit through London. I think that fundamentally commuting is something we can all relate to. Whether you work in the creative industry or the financial sector, everyone has to travel from A to B and when they do they want to move not only in comfort but also and style.
The full collection is now available to purchase online and in selected stores. Click here to view.