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Lad Lands Fortune After Starting Business Because He Couldn't Find Shoes He Liked

George Pavlou

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Lad Lands Fortune After Starting Business Because He Couldn't Find Shoes He Liked

I look back to when I was 21 years old and I'll always remember bumming around, not doing much, holding down a shite job and asking mum and dad for money to fund anything outside of going to the pub on Friday night.

It was a bleak existence. But for Archie Hewlett, he'll look back to when he was 21 and remember something altogether more amazing.

And that's because Archie is the owner of Duke & Dexter, a British footwear label, he won't mind me saying, he pretty much stumbled into creating.

At 18, and having given up a place at Durham University, Archie was doing what anyone who doesn't know what they want to do does... recruitment.


Now in recruitment, you've got to look the part - swish suits and shiny shoes are the order of the day. But what happens when you can't find any shoes? You've trawled ASOS, been to every shop on the high street and even gone with your mum to fucking Clarks. What's next?

Well, the next step for Archie was to make himself a pair.

"I started going to 'fancy' recruitment events," he told us. "I love loafers but I couldn't find anything I wanted online which were contemporary and affordable, so eventually had a pair made."


From there, a single pair of grey suede loafers were the start of something Archie hadn't even given a second thought. Event after event, Archie kept getting asked where he got his shoes from and before he knew it, some friends were asking if he could get them some too.

As a favour to his pals, Archie just charged them cost price but as more and more 'orders' came in, he began to realise he might have an actual business on his hands.

And so, in late 2013, Duke & Dexter was born.


"The first order was from Kuwait, oddly enough. I hadn't even thought about this possibly going outside of the UK, I had no idea how to ship to Kuwait." he said.

"I expected my first official order to come from a friend or a friend of a friend, not from Kuwait. I guess that's when I first realised I had started to create a product with global interest."

Since that first sale to the gentleman in Kuwait, Archie's designs have exploded into the fashion world. So much so, the likes of Tinie Tempah, Jose Mourinho, Justin Timberlake and Ryan Reynolds have all worn his shoes.


Eddie Redmayne was also wearing Duke & Dexter, brogues when he won an Oscar in 2014 for his portrayal of Professor Stephen Hawking in The Theory of Everything. For real...

"Loads of friends accuse me of paying these celebrities but I could never have afforded their fees. It's usually just their stylist seeing them online and telling them they're wearing them or a celebrity sending them to a stylist and saying they want to wear them."

Archie says his designs are inspired mostly by 'interior design and artwork'. It's as simple as that. And though he started off wanting each and every design to be big, bold and different from the rest, he soon realised that actually, subtle design changes were what his customers wanted.


"A lot of inspiration comes from customer feedback. Making subtle changes wasn't actually something we started with but sometimes people are just asking, 'Can I have that in grey?'," Archie said.

"But then for other collections, like camo, you can change the materials and the prints and make something altogether different."

Naturally, with success like Archie has enjoyed, comes a lot of hard work, especially when stores like Harvey Nichols come knocking asking for your product.

Only a few months into trading and Archie was already receiving large orders from a retail store in Bahrain, leaving him contending with a business world he simply didn't know that much about.

"I've always worked hard. I didn't go to uni because I didn't want to. I didn't want to go into that world. I just wanted to work. That's what I focus on."

And now he has his own business to work on, that's exactly what he's doing. But like any 21-year-old, he's got his own ways of escaping from the hectic life of a young entrepreneur.

"I like the usual stuff, going out for drinks with friends and catching up. I love playing sports and travelling," he continued.

"I can take a break whenever I want or need to. That's one of the huge benefits of running your own business."

I can't say I'm not slightly jealous... of both Archie and Ryan Reynolds, to be honest.

Almost three years into trading and Duke & Dexter, is now 'operating on a seven-figure basis' and all off the back of one bloke not being able to find any shoes - a familiar story for most lads with an altogether different ending.

I'm 100% sure there'll be plenty of lads reading this who have sailed well past their 21st birthday and are still unsure of what the hell they want to do with their life.

Take Archie as inspiration and know that something as simple as not being able to find some shoes, could be the start of something really special.

Words by George Pavlou

Topics: Justin Timberlake, Business, Shoes, Ryan Reynolds

George Pavlou

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