When it comes to style, some things never change. For many young men, the desire to have a beautiful pair of black, pebble-leather Oxfords to wear with their suit or sleek, brown suede loafers to wear with their jeans at the weekend is just as strong as it was for their grandfathers. However, what does change is the mindset of the men who make them, such as the Swedish businessman behind Myrqvist, Sebastian Ohrn.
The Swedish entrepreneur shaking up the London shoe scene
Having dabbled in the footwear world selling shoe accessories online in his spare time while at St Andrews University, he decided to establish his own label in 2016 to shake up an industry whose prices, he felt, were unnecessarily inflated - and barring a generation of guys getting a handcrafted pair of shoes in their wardrobe.
“When I started the business I questioned why retail prices have to be so far away from production costs,” he says. “This inflation occurs because of all the middlemen in between the factory and customer – so I wanted to create a company that used as few of those as possible while still making well-constructed shoes using high quality materials.”
The result? A company which designs its shoes in Sweden and makes them in Portugal from the finest French leathers and English suedes, sold directly to customers through their own website at around half the price of its competitors using similar materials and techniques.
However, this design aesthetic is combined with something that makes the shoes even more noteworthy: features adapted specifically for a Northern European climate.
“Early on we introduced optional half-rubber soles onto our formal shoes, which not only made them far better suited to walking in the rain, but also meant they didn’t have to be repaired as often as a full-leather sole,” says Örhn. “And we have studded rubber soles on all our boots, which gives better grip on icy streets.”
This combination has gained the brand a firm fanbase in Sweden. As an entrepreneurial brand without flashy advertising budgets or the support of bigger stores selling the product, Myrqvist has grown from a brand fulfilling orders from the garage at Ohrn’s parents’ house in Bromma to a company with two bricks-and-mortar stores in central Stockholm. From 2017 to 2018 sales grew over 150 per cent and in 2019 sales have almost doubled giving Ohrn the confidence to test the product internationally.
In addition to the design of the shoes, the brand also has a clear Swedish profile. Everything from the design of the shoes, to the names on the shoes, such as Äppelviken and Mölle, creates a clear Scandinavian profile and has been well received by Myrqvist's loyal customers.
“Having spent more than half of my adult life in the UK, I know the market well and cultural barriers aren’t an issue,” says Ohrn. “London in particular makes a lot of sense for Myrqvist as it’s the menswear capital of the world and it is a place stylish guys flock to from all over the world.”
In order to finance this, Sebastian has got the support of some of Sweden’s most noted investors, most notably Magnus Wiberg and Patrik Hedelin from venture capital firm eEquity. However, while the investment is encouraging, it’s his faith in the brand he’s built up over the past four years that gives Ohrn the conviction that his shoes will find an with men audience overseas.
“When you look at our customers, it ranges from students buying their first pair of shoes to members of our royal family,” says Orhn. “We have built this business solely based on word of mouth, of people recommending us to their father, brothers, and colleagues. So many different men of all ages like our shoes, and I am incredibly proud of that.”