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Funky Footwear Brand Uptown Yardie Blends British and Jamaican Culture

in All Posts/Black Money/Shopping Guide/The Diaspora by
Have you ever seen footwear that makes you stop and stare? Those are the type of products that UK-based Uptown Yardie creates. Ever since we discovered this brand, we’ve been in awe of their bold and unique styles. We decided to chat with the owners, husband and wife team, Rohan and Natasha Clarke to find out more.
Rohan and Natasha Clarke

What inspired you to start this business?

The designer behind the brand is Rohan Clarke. He trained at the London School of Fashion Cordwainers and had worked for several shoe companies. But the one thing that frustrated him was being told that his designs couldn’t be made.
He knew that this wasn’t true because not only does he design shoes he also makes shoes. He was disillusioned, but his wife convinced him that he could do this himself and so with some gentle persuasion this husband and wife team started Uptown Yardie.

How did you come up with the name Uptown Yardie and what does it mean?

Uptown Yardie is a British company inspired by Jamaican heritage, selling a lifestyle, captured through shoes and clothes.
The name is inspired by a Bob Marley quotation “me ah bring downtown uptown” meaning he is bring the man dem from the ghetto to where he was living uptown at the time. The original uptown yardie is someone who comes from the more affluent parts of Jamaica.
For us using the term Uptown Yardie is about reclaiming the name from a negative association to a positive. To the true meaning of the word “yard” which to a Jamaican means home. For instance, “nowhere nah better dan yard” mean nowhere is better than home.

What separates your brand from the numerous other shoe brands in the market?

The Uptown Yardie brand creates for a progressive man or woman who does not follow fashion. We design for people like us who have a passion and love for things that are well crafted and that has more longevity than one season.
We believe that a shoe should have a distinctive and individual character that is shaped through the ideas and vision of it designer and craftsman who are united and driven by a common goal, a common spirit to create the most beautiful shoes.
Each piece has been carefully selected by our team to ensure it embodies the qualities of style, elegance and exclusivity synonymous with the Uptown Yardie brand whilst reflecting the unique philosophies of design and craftsmanship for which Rohan Clarke the designer is renowned.

What has been the most challenging and most rewarding part about owning your own business?

The most challenging part of owning your own business is realizing that you have to have many strings to your bow, you have to be more than a creative to make it work. What we mean by that is the creativity of what we do is our passion but we need to be able to market what we do, we need to be able to understand how to maximize our online sales, we need to be social media experts.
All of these things take skill, expertise and time. Juggling this, whilst maintaining creative time is a constant challenge. But we are learning and we are pulling in people who do have that expertise.
The most rewarding thing about owning your own business is loving what you do, seeing your passion come into fruition. In the past when we’ve worked for other people they want to be safe, they want to follow the crowd, it stifles innovation.

Where do you see your brand in 5 years?

That it has an appeal to a diverse audience across the globe. Although the brand is inspired by our Jamaican heritage, Uptown Yardie is created to appeal to people that think outside the box. It is a brand that crosses boundaries, ages and races.
Ultimately if we can do that and make the brand self-sufficient that’s where we want to be in 5 years’ time.

What advice do you have for aspiring entrepreneurs?

Be prepared to put the work in. Owning your own business is not a 9-5. The other important aspect is to know your business inside out, costings, business forecasts, risks and opportunities. If you’re a creative this isn’t the sexy stuff but it’s vital if you want what you to do to be more than a hobby. Ask yourself “If I was standing in front of a group of potential investors and they put me on the spot.
How confident could I answer questions about my product and my business model?” If you’d struggle, then there is some homework to do. We did it, wrote a business plan with costings and forecasts. It was long, believe you me but we are more confident about exactly how much it costs to manufacture every aspect of a shoe, what the wholesale cost is and the retail price based on a formula.
Besides the above, if you have a dream and want to do it. Go for it. Don’t listen to the naysayers. You never know your idea might be the next big thing.
-Tony Oluwatoyin Lawson (IG@thebusyafrican.com)

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