Behind The Lines: BROKEN HOMME

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Born and bred in Costa Mesa, California, BROKEN HOMME is seeking to fix a gap in the action sports market for men’s maturing tastes and penchant for quality leather boots. High-end leather footwear has taken the fashion scene by storm, but who has $300, $500, or more to drop on a pair? Not most skaters and surfers, which is the home that founders Josh Johnson and Jim Leatherman grew up in.

The two long time friends gave retailers their first glimpse of their new footwear brand at Capsule New York and Las Vegas, and the shows helped create a buzzing wave on the scene that the duo are riding into their first line. We caught up with Johnson to learn of the launch, the line, the looks, and the lore behind building a BROKEN HOMME.

Tell us a little about the journey to date of launching your own brand. You’ve been in the game a long time, what has most taken you by surprise in this process?

I’ve had the idea for BROKEN HOMME as a brand for a long time, but almost over-analyzed the market to find out what the actual collection would consist of. Jim Leatherman and I have been friends for over 12 years now, and have always said when the time was right we wanted to launch something together. Over a year ago I launched an inspiration blog under the name BROKEN HOMME to set a taste level for what ever the actual brand would become. At that point I knew I was going  to use the name for a brand, but I still wasn’t sure what product we would produce. We just wanted to build a brand that truly meant something and spoke to where we were in our lives. We also wanted to produce a product that would allow us the opportunity to work side-by-side with our friends, so clothing wasn’t an option. So last October was when we made the decision to build BROKEN HOMME into a men’s leather boot collection.

Footwear is a whole new thing for me, Jim has worked with footwear for over eight years, but it was all new for me. So we knew what we were getting ourselves into with the design and development side of things. But the sales and business side has been a big learning experience for us. Luckily we have some really smart and experienced people around us that have helped at every corner. And having Matt Davis step in with us to be our sales director has brought so much more to the table than we could of ever imagined.

Jim Leatherman and Josh Johnson

You guys had your first showing at Capsule, right? How did it go?

We officially introduced BROKEN HOMME to the retailers the first day of Capsule New York. It was a crazy experience launching the way we did. We were all set up with our showroom, Timothy Heenan Showroom, to introduce the collection, but we didn’t receive our samples until half way through the first day of the show. But the response from the second day of the show was exactly what we were hoping for. So we focused our efforts into building interest heading into Capsule Las Vegas. And the response from the Vegas shows blew our minds. We set a target account list and we showed close to 80% of them as well as seeing newer retailers that mostly all expressed interest.

Timing-wise, why did you think now was the right time for launching the brand? 

It’s always a good time for something new, if it’s done right. And we felt the opportunity to launch a leather boot collection in the fall season was paramount. After analyzing the industry we saw a huge gap at retail for a mature authentic lifestyle footwear brand. There is a new male customer that has yet to find a true "footwear brand" that bleeds true to their lifestyle. So for us we felt the timing was perfect. We understand the reality of the economy, and have experience with businesses on their way up and on their way down. So we definitely feel like we have done our research and are bringing something different to the market to generate demand.

Why leather footwear and vintage work boot inspired looks?

We spent a long time doing market research, defining what our strategy for positioning would be. We wanted to build a brand the speaks to everything we do in our life and we saw a huge opportunity to define ourselves. By no means do we think we’re reinventing a category or anything like that. We just felt that there were no brands that were telling a relevant current story. All the other boot brands are telling their Americana nostalgia story. So we’re going to be focusing on building what our story will be, hopefully for the next 100 years.

Follow the jump…

How would you describe the design aesthetic?

The design aesthetic  is clean and traditional. We made a conscious decision to not over design the first collection. We started our collection thinking about the perfect black boot--from there we focused on trying to make each boot in the collection an everyday piece.

Jim Leatherman and Josh Johnson

I’m loving the brand’s name--how did you land on that?

Thanks, yeah the name has definitely sparked a lot of initial attention in the brand. This is a men’s footwear collection. If you try to look at it literally it has different meanings, but the brand truly stands for the camaraderie obtained through daily consequence. Its an extension of the experiences we’ve had in our life, and the people that have inspired us to get here.

Is the goal to stay focused on footwear or expand into apparel?

Our goal currently is too make the best footwear collection possible. We have plenty of things that we want to accomplish while focusing our efforts on footwear. But we can’t really say that we won’t move into any other categories in the future. If there’s something that we feel inspired by then for sure we will be open to it. But to be honest, we’ll be extremely hesitant to move into apparel. We’ve studied the industry for a long time, and that hasn’t proven to be the wisest decision for too many brands to jump into different categories. So again, for now, we want to do one thing the best we can.

Why did you decide to partner with Timothy Heenan Showroom in NYC?

With BROKEN HOMME we wanted the opportunity to work with all of our friends, and Cory was a huge inspiration for us to branch out and take on the risk of entrepreneurship. He is a great friend, extremely motivated, and the opportunity to share his showroom with so many other great brands was a no brainer.

What’s your goal on the distribution front? Are you targeting shops in LA and NYC out of the gates?

Our plan is to slowly build BROKEN HOMME. We are targeting about 25 retailers across the US for the launch and plan to build within them. We are not only focusing on LA and NYC but have a full US distribution roll out plan.

These stores are a handful of the better action sport shops, as well as the best footwear and clothing boutiques around the US. The best fit stores have to understand product, How to support new brands and help to tell our story.

Have you inked deals with any retailers yet?

We have several retailers on board already. A few highlights are American Rag in LA, Moda in Pittsburgh, Port in Long Beach, and Oak NYC.

What do prices look like?

Our pricing strategy was one of the most important aspects of our launch. We wanted a full grain leather boot collection that was attainable to everyone. There are plenty of $300 plus boot collections out there. So we worked really hard with our factory, and built an amazing relationship with them to get every boot in the line to retail in the $150-$195 range. The quality of the leather, and the durability of the boot is unrivaled at this price. Down the line we are exploring some domestic leather and manufacturing opportunities that will add a higher tiered price point, but we will always be focusing on keeping a sub $200 range in the collection.

What are you guys going to be doing on the marketing side to get the word out there?

This interview is a good starting point.

We are utilizing all our relationships and contacts that have been built over the years to introduce BROKEN HOMME. We are extremely happy with the immediate interest level from our target retail list. In the months leading up to our Fall delivery we will target all the major online and print editorials to build the noise.

Your tumblr site is really solid and definitely reminiscent of comune/CHAPTER. How has the traffic been on there?

Michael Quinones who was 100% responsible for the aesthetic behind the launch of both comune and CHAPTER is one of my best friends and has always inspired me. We definitely share similar interests and inspirations, so when building a brand to personify your life interests you’re probably going to see some crossover. You can make a conscious effort to be different, or just do what feels right, so what you see is what you get with us.

The site traffic has been amazing. For the first year it was only set up to be a taste-level blog, but as soon as we introduced the previews of the Fall collection, the interest level definitely spiked.