FOUNDER JOURNEYS: IT’S AN ITALIAN AFFAIR FOR SEPAND OBOUDIYAT
Lauren Ho, travel editor of Wallpaper* magazine, talks to Sepand Oboudiyat, founder of Sons of London.
Formerly a technologist at RBS, Sepand Oboudiyat had a complete career turnaround and in 2015, despite having no prior experience in fashion, launched his luxury gentleman’s footwear brand, Sons of London. Carving out a niche for high quality yet affordable shoes, the brand has fast become a firm favourite of the city’s most stylish men. Designed by Oboudiyat, handcrafted in Italy and cut from the finest Tuscan leather, the collection comprises eight definitive styles from classic Oxfords to Chelsea Boots. Unsurprisingly, Oboudiyat spends a lot of time on the road, particularly in Italy, where he says his top tip would be to ask the waiter for a recommendation and not to order straight from the menu.
What has been the most unexpected experience you’ve had on your business travels?
Stumbling upon what is now my favourite restaurant, in a secluded village, with a total population of 12 people.
How has travel impacted your life and your business?
Italy is crucial to Sons of London as it is home to our team of artisan shoemakers and also where we source all of our leathers. I spend a great deal of time there, developing new products and overseeing production, and it has become my favourite country in the world; the food, wine, scenery, design, style and way of life- it really is becoming my spiritual home and to say that it has greatly enriched my life would be an understatement!
What are the three things that help you achieve a good work-life balance while on the road?
I see work as an integral part of my life as opposed to something that is in conflict. My business travels are among some of the most fulfilling and inspirational periods of my life, so finding a work-life balance isn’t really an issue for me.
Describe your travel style in three words
Light, informal and intense.
What travel destination has been the most important to your business and what have you learnt about it?
Italy, in particular Le Marche. This is a region known as the shoe valley of Italy and is home to much of the country’s luxury shoe making like Prada and Tod’s. It is where our artisan shoemakers are based. I have learnt that Italy is a country of contradictions: on one hand, the Italian lifestyle is a triumph of the simple things in life, like food and wine, being the best, and on the other hand, life in Italy can also be overly complicated with crippling bureaucracy and notorious unreliability.
What are the most important factors in a good piece of luggage?
Style, function (it needs to be thoughtfully designed to encourage smart packing), and durability.
What is the one surprising thing that is always in your carry-on luggage?
I don’t carry anything all that surprising, but perhaps, in this digital age, my note pad and ballpoint pen for sketching out new ideas and outlining new strategies.
What is the ultimate packing tip?
Pack only what you think you need and then remove half of it- with the exception of underwear!
What makes a trip a journey?
It’s about mindset and outlook: you can choose to view travel as a chore, or you can view each trip as an adventure. I prefer the latter.