In the last article of our series for the autumn/winter issue of No.3 magazine, we follow in the footsteps of St James's most well-heeled gentlemen to speak to Jonathan Lobb, of the eponymous shoemaker
For many in St James’s, doing business is very much a family affair. “I'm trained as a last maker and master craftsman at John Lobb,” says Jonathan Lobb, “but I'm also a director along with my two brothers, and my father is currently chairman.” Carrying on the esteemed Lobb name – personally as well as in business terms – must bring its own pressures, but Jonathan looks at it simply. “Obviously the whole climate has changed around us, but we've carried on doing what we do in essentially the same way it was done when he founded the company.”
On doing business in St James’s...
“Our company has been in existence since 1849, which is when John Lobb became master craftsman. He went on to open up a shop in Australia, made his reputation over there, and off the back of that he came back to London and set up shop in about 1866 in Regent Street, and we've kept the business going in the family ever since.”
On the area’s unique atmosphere...
“I'd put the Palaces at the heart of St James's, but then you have all these nooks and crannies. I generally tell people to take a step back and look at the actual buildings, and there are certain buildings that have been standing for such a long time. I've worked here for the best part of 30 years. I suppose when you're younger you don't think about it so much, but as you get older you actually appreciate the history and the way things change. And the fact that certain things haven't changed and have continued gives you a certain feeling of responsibility.”
On the St James’s community…
“When you're established for a long time it gives you a sense of pride, and it's something you want to maintain and continue, so you're very much part of the fabric of St James's. We all run very independently, but the businesses here are all conscious of the fact we exist and the fact that we're together – that certainly creates a sense of community. We have the Royal Warrants, and the connection with the Palaces and the Royal Household, so we're very much connected to that sort of community.”
How is the area changing and adapting?
“As an independent business, you won't survive if you don't give your customers what they want, so you have to be flexible and adaptable. Although our craft is an old one, which stretches back centuries, what we produce is very relevant and very contemporary.”
You can read more stories from our neighbours in St James’s here.