Jin Ling, an Australian-based entrepreneur and menswear enthusiast, recently launched his highly anticipated men’s shoe label Huntsman Leather. Headquartered and designed in Australia, Huntsman offers clients worldwide high-quality Goodyear Welted shoes. The label’s motto is simple – look great, feel amazing and make a difference. This stems from its uncompromising emphasis on quality as well as social impact. Part of the proceeds from each purchase goes directly to supporting the impactful work of its not-for-profit partner, Spur Afrika.

Jin’s journey of creating Huntsman

Jin had to balance his journey of creating Huntsman Leather with his full-time job as a Fund Manager. He shared: “The six months lead up to the launch of Huntsman Leather was exciting, intense and stressful all at the same time. Especially considering that I was newly married as well but it has been incredibly worth it! When you’re passionate about something and truly believe in the product you’ll find a way to make it all work. Thankfully I managed to do it with the help of my wife, family and a few close friends.”

Jin’s emphasis on quality shines through all aspects of Huntsman Leather.

He continued “The launch could have happened much sooner. However, I wanted to make sure that everything was 100% right from the start. Ensuring that the quality of the shoes and process was flawless, our website and customer experience at its optimal state and our marketing plan relevant to our audience. We owe it to men around the world to get it right because that is what they deserve.”

His passion for shoes started nearly a decade ago when he began work as an accountant after graduating university. Jin shared that his love for shoes stems from three factors:

  • the craftsmanship and time invested to create a pair of handmade Goodyear Welted shoes;
  • the artistic representation that shoes can be and how it represents a shoemaker’s expression and vision; and
  • the timelessness of men’s shoes.

Jin’s interest in high-quality shoes

After years of saving up, he purchased his first GYW shoes, a pair of Crockett & Jones Lowndes II double monk straps. This represented the start of his true love for shoes. Thereafter, he began focusing on increasing his knowledge and exposure through meetings with key people in the industry. This included George Glasgow Jr. and Teemu Leppanen of George Cleverley, master shoemaker Yohei Fukuda (who Jin insists is the nicest and most humble shoemaker he’s met to date) and others from John Lobb and Edward Green.

The Australian market and its potentials

Shoes are a defining part of a person’s style and important aspect of everyday life.  After all we spend 8, 10, 12 hours or more in our shoes every day. He added: “I believe that every man, regardless of their job, income or status, deserves quality and in this case a good pair of shoes. This will elevate his look and also last him many years.” At home in Australia, he comments that the men’s shoe industry is still quite young. Unfortunately, this leads to limited affordable quality offerings in the market. Hence, many men pay too much for poor quality mass-produced shoes that require replacement every one or two years.”

Huntsman Leather was created to make high-quality Goodyear welted shoes accessible and affordable to men around the world.

Another of Huntsman’s focus is on educating and helping men understand the value of investing in quality GYW shoes. This has the potential to last a lifetime as opposed to mass-produced shoes that are glued/cemented together. Jin added: “In all respects I strongly believe that men are much better off investing A$399 in shoes that are well-made and will last for many years compared to spending A$200-A$300 every second year on poorly made shoes. For many, they’re actually spending more in the medium to long term.”

Huntsmen Leather product range

Huntsman currently offers their ready-to-wear range online. This includes a perfect balance of 11 classic and contemporary styles in various colours. The timeless Oxford, Derby and Chelsea boot are complemented by more modern and contemporary designs such as the Double Monk Strap and Tasseled Loafer. The current collection is based on two lasts.

  • HIGHBURY LAST: for a traditional round-toe look
  • ELLAND LAST: features a more contemporary square toe

They will also be shortly launching their third last (Seville), which is characterized by a higher a more prominent toecap.

The intentional concept of crafting each pair specifically to order for each client creates a very personalised customer experience. Normally, this is associated with custom or bespoke orders that cost multiples of Huntsman’s retail price. Additionally, there is an added option for clients to personalise their Huntsman shoe. You can have your name, initials or milestone date engraved on the outer heel. The aim of the entire Huntsman process is to bring the first-class experience to everyday men around the world.

Since their launch, the two most popular models have been the Kennedy oxford and the Konrad double monk strap.

The popularity of the Kennedy oxford has come as no surprise. In general, the Oxford style is often considered the go-to for professionals. Therefore it is often regarded as a staple in every man’s shoe collection. The number of clients ordering the Konrad double monk strap was also expected. This stems especially from the surge in popularity of the style in recent years as it is perceived as ersatile. It can be worn perfectly in a professional environment or dressed down with chinos or jeans on the weekend. The Alexander and Albert boots have also been a crowd favourite to date. They are their version of the Chelsea and Balmoral styles respectively.

Quality shoes

All their shoes are crafted by highly experienced shoemakers in Spain. They are all Goodyear Welted, which is considered the gold standard of shoe construction. Many craftsmen come from families long-associated with shoemaking, some being in the 3rd or 4th generation. The process of creating each pair is both time and skill intensive and involves over 120 different steps.

For this purpose, high quality calf leather exclusively sourced from select tanneries in Europe is being used. The majority of the calf leather used is sourced from a family-owned and managed tannery in Italy, which counts the likes of Berluti of LVMH as its customer. Huntsman Leather focuses on using vegetable-tanned full-grain leather to ensure the highest quality natural finish without the use of environmentally-harmful chemicals. Suede leather used is selectively sourced from a family-owned tannery in Germany that specialises in luxurious suede leather. The tannery has been operated by the family since the 1800s.

Although today’s world is more focused on the environment and sustainability, there is so much more that can be done. This is especially valid for the fashion industry where there is still a strong preference for fast fashion. Unfortunately, the latter generates an incredible amount of waste.

Huntsman engineers high-quality and durable GYW shoes that will last for many years and help eliminate waste.

Huntsman Leather has also taken it one step further. As already mentioned they craft each pair to order. This creates a more personalised touch and experience for their clients and ensures there is zero waste through the elimination of stock obsolence.

Huntman Leather’s social impact plan

In addition to creating quality shoes, Huntsman Leather aims to help improve the quality of the lives of poor children through its partnership with Spur Afrika. It is an Australian-based charity that engages with, empowers and provides education to children living in the Kibera slums in Kenya. One of the two key reasons why Huntsman Leather was established is to create a sustainable platform to make a positive impact in the lives of the less fortunate through its not-for-profit partner. A portion of the sales proceed from each order of Huntsman shoes goes directly towards supporting these children in Kenya. This includes the funding of school fees and materials, improving the quality the lives of the children and their families as well as supporting the wider community.

The idea for creating a socially responsible business was inspired from Jin’s trip to Cambodia in 2015. Back then, he went to volunteer to teach English at a local orphanage. Jin shared, “I saw how much the children, who didn’t have very much in life, loved and valued education. I understood that for many of them, education was the pathway to a better life. Sustainability and consistent streams of cash flow is one of the main challenges faced by any charity. Through Huntsman, I would love to be able to sustainably support the incredible work of Spur Afrika in Kenya.”

The focus is to provide everyday men high-quality and well-constructed shoes at a fair price whilst making a positive impact on the lives of the less fortunate in Kenya. Excitingly, this is just the beginning of Huntsman’s social impact plan. More children and potentially other charities are expected to share in the benefits as Huntsman continues to grow.

Unique sense of style

The double monk strap is at the top of Jin’s list of favorite shoe models and is inspired by John Lobb’s William and Chapel models. This choice owes to the contemporary and elegant nature of the double monk strap as well as its versatility for wear in most occasions.

He does not believe that there should be any black and white rules when it comes to one’s personal style or in selecting a particular pair as one’s first high-quality shoe. “It’s incredibly simple. The choice comes down to what the person loves and the style that resonates with them most, the pair that they’re most comfortable wearing. For many, this might be the traditional Oxford but for others, such as myself, it is the double monk strap. That’s the beauty of it, the freedom to express one’s unique sense of style.”

Future goals

The short-term goal is to continue to increase the brand awareness of Huntsman Leather. They also want to educate men around the world about the value of quality shoes. In the longer term, it would be great to expand their product offering by introducing new lasts, styles and materials. Potentially they might offer a high-end handwelted range in the future. Additionally, the focus is also on increasing the footprint of Huntsman Leather, both digitally and physically. They also aim atgaining exposure to its key markets outside of Australia and maximise its charitable contribution to Spur Afrika.

This only represents the beginning of a bright journey for Huntsman Leather, with several exciting developments in the pipeline.

Currently, all shoes and boots are available for purchase via their website. Currently, there are no plans to have a physical Huntsman store. However, they plan to establish a physical presence through partnerships with local menswear stores in its key target markets. They also want to organize regular trunk shows, their first of which in Melbourne was booked out immediately. Discussions are ongoing with several specialist stores in Australia, New Zealand, Singapore, Indonesia and Malaysia in relation to stocking Huntsman’s range. Worldwide shipping is available with delivery to nearly all countries around the world.

Have a look directly at the Huntsman Leather webpage and at their Instagram account.

Jin, thanks a lot again for all those interesting and exciting insights into Huntsman Leather! 😊

Picture courtesy: Huntsman Leather