As a young slip of a lad I was told that a good way of assessing the quality of the man was via assessing the corresponding quality of his shoes. This advice clearly stuck with me because I was later to become an absolute and unashamed shoe obsessive. I still remember my first pair of beautiful, hand-made, English chocolate suede loafers which were a birthday present for my 12th birthday.
In my mid-twenties my father gave me the rather cruel but frustratingly apt nickname ‘Imelda’ after Imelda Marcos, the former First Lady of the Philippines who was infamous for her modest little collection of around 3,000 pairs of shoes.
Sadly, my own collection didn’t even approach this level of remarkable decadence, but I have remained a shoe fanatic ever since. It was, therefore, with an inordinate amount of pleasure that I got to delve deep into the remarkable world of Baudoin & Lange, the hottest new thing to happen to men’s shoes since the Gucci horsebit loafer.
This delving not only took me into the devilishly chic boutique in the Burlington Arcade, nestled in the very bosom of Mayfair, but also permitted me the opportunity to chat to the disarmingly charming CEO of this company which continues to go from strength to strength and seems set on world domination.
Bo van Langeveld told me that he did the usual path of coming to study in London and finding himself tumbling, slightly unwillingly, into the world of Venture Capital. “I came to London to do my Masters and then ended up following the kind of ‘traditional path’ that people do, and started out working for a Private Equity firm in the City.”
It wasn’t long after this that Bo’s entrepreneurial spirit clearly kicked in when he noticed a glaring gap in the market, waiting to be filled. “I immediately noticed that all of these guys I worked with were wearing their beautifully made suits and had plenty of disposal income to spend on clothes of good craftsmanship.
Most of them had the interest to look good and dress well, but in the morning they’d all walk to work in trainers and then change into formal shoes round the corner before arriving at the office.
I found it very strange because clearly these guys had the enthusiasm to buy something, you know, comfortable but formal, and yet no one had any shoes like this. Somehow the fact that no one was wearing this kind of shoe showed me that it’s just not there, this didn’t really exist.”
“This really started my own shoe journey, as I can’t say I knew much about them before this moment. I started to research how shoes are made and I realised that formal shoes had been made the same for about 200 years, there wasn’t much innovation there. This kind of shoe is sturdy, it’ll last you a long time, it is what it is. I thought – this just isn’t of the modern lifestyle anymore. These shoes are robust but too tough.”
It was at this point that Bo met Allan Baudoin, who’s the other half of the dynamic duo ‘Baudoin & Lange’. It was clear that this was a match made in heaven as Bo brought business acumen and entrepreneurial zeal, and Allan brought an incredible knowledge of shoe making. “He had fallen in love with the idea of working with his hands and making something which was like a piece of art. He travelled around the world to do various apprenticeships and absorb everything he could and together we started to build this business.”
It was clear that in the early days it was the definition of a one-man-band (well, two man) and what was so incredible to see, as I pulled on pair after pair of exquisite shoes in the Mayfair boutique, was how these entrepreneurial gentlemen had built something from practically nothing.
The ‘Sagan’ was, and is, the iconic staple of Baudoin & Lange, a slick, beautifully constructed suede Belgian loafer which filled that walk-to-work in style and comfort gap. The Sagan was a slam dunk from the start and started to adorn the feet of the West End glitterati almost immediately. Although what I found most remarkable was that even though the business has evidently grown exponentially, the relentless commitment to an end product that is beautifully made, and moreover, made to last, has never wavered.
The Baudoin and Lange range has since blossomed and now includes various new themes on the Sagan Classic, like the Sagan Stride which has an almond coloured rubber sole and so is perfect for beach-side use, or even on-deck if you’re the yachting type, or the Rover Boots which are in a classic Chelsea boot shape. The Mayfair Boutique offers meticulous and genuinely enthusiastic service, and word on the inside is that more boutiques are to follow.
54-55 Burlington Arcade, London W1J 0LB