The Shorrock brothers are your classic definition of the ‘third culture kid’. The British-Korean mix duo has lived all across the globe before settling back to their home base in Hong Kong, where the Shorrocks ventured into founding Lane Eight, a direct-to-consumer workout shoe brand. Following their father’s footsteps as a footwear developer for every sportswear brand imaginable, Josh and James also heralded from backgrounds in product development at Adidas and editorial with Hypebeast, which led to the build of their own brand.
Sustainability is the Name of the Game
Lane Eight was launched at the start of 2017 when the brothers came up with the idea for a versatile performance shoe that was missing in the market. “We could see that consumers were not necessarily athletes who would be solely doing one sport, but were people doing a variety of activities like group classes, the gym, and runs” as observed by the Shorrock’s.
“What the consumer does is quite different from what the brands are telling them to do…we saw that our consumers were versatile, and we figured we could make a shoe that’s as versatile as them” continues James. Amidst the saturated sneaker field, the brothers developed their signature AD 1 unisex shoe featuring a unique design and playful colors, that was suitable for all sports and for the streets.
Designed for every workout – from lifting to runs – Lane Eight’s AD 1 collection has been revamped with an all-sustainable model. Debuting its new colors (Cloud White, Lunar Gray, and Electric Neon), its redesigned shoe uses vegan microfibre in replacement of its suede, algae for its midsole, and a knit upper using recycled polyester yarn from 11 plastic bottles.
Josh, responsible for Lane Eight’s product development, explained its motivation in its new design stemmed from their own sustainable practices in their everyday lives; with a goal of making a product with low impact as possible in hopes of standardizing the baseline for footwear production.
However, for a start-up like Lane Eight, challenges were faced in onboarding the right, trusted supplier and the increasing costs from sustainable materials. Despite so, Josh is adamant that its costs would never be transferred to its customers but rather take in a narrower margin that would fit with their business.
Despite being constantly compared against Allbirds – an early pioneer in DTC sustainable footwear – the brothers welcome the competition and challenge in hopes of creating a change in the industry. “Whether other brands sort of stretch the limits of the language or whatnot, you know, I think there’s a lot of fluff and I think part of the issue is customers don’t necessarily know what the differences are, so you can get away with a lot” cautions Josh.
When asked about Adidas and Allbirds pending collaboration, Josh replies cheekily “Well, I need to see a shoe first!” Josh also gushes on environmental organization Parley for the Oceans, “It’s a great partnership, it would be a company that we would love to work with as well”.
We Are One
Although initially developed in Hong Kong, the brand had found success in the States, where the brothers had also previously spent some time in. “We knew that if we were big in Hong Kong, it doesn’t really mean anything outside of it. Whereas if you build a profile in the US, you can export that and establish our brand equity” explains James.
The brand gained wide exposure and popularity through strong social media presence and influencer marketing on Instagram and Facebook, but also email campaigns which rewarded them with a high conversion for the brand. Additionally, Lane Eight has been aggressively seeding influencers, personal trainers, and kitting out gyms and sports teams until its shoes became recognized for its performance and quality itself.
“We are very confident in our product, and we know that if it fits right, 99 times out of 100 they’re going to like the shoe and come back for more” assures James. From personal trainers to gym-goers, Lane Eight’s AD 1’s became highly recommended by anyone and everyone from the fitness scene and had become a brand icon and shoe status of its own.
The pillar to Lane Eight’s success is also attributed by the community it had built, frequently highlighting members of its community on its socials and website. Living and breathing the brand’s own ethos, the team trains together during lunch hour in the park around the corner of their office until word spread and expanded to the scale of hosting weekly events extended to members of the community.
“We’re genuinely trying to build relationships with all of our customers and partners, trying to get them involved so that they feel like they are actually part of the Lane Eight story and not just someone who gave us money and we gave them shoes” shares James.
In line with their new sustainable model, the brand also works with local charities such as Run Hong Kong and Inspiring HK – both of which promote health and wellness to struggling communities locally. The brand welcomes customers to donate any shoes to give them a new life with its charity partners.
From Clicks To Streets
From its astounding success online, the brothers had quickly dove headfirst into investing its first brick-and-mortar store back home in Hong Kong. After several pop-ups trials in the city to test the waters, customers were demanding for a long-standing space to try on their shoes. The brothers had then found a shop in Hong Kong’s trendy Starstreet Precinct area, neighbors to boutiques Monocle and Kapok.
Adjoining to its office at the back of the store, the team works on making brand magic and also utilizing the space as a distribution hub for its online orders. “There’s a lot of backend work in terms of integrating systems and a big thing for us is trying to ensure that the online and offline experience are consistent” revealed James.
Having an agile mentality has helped the brand survive throughout the pandemic and in fact, being a digitally native brand had not disrupted any of its operations but instead, its sales volume skyrocketed. Additionally, with its Hong Kong store being a destination location, diehard Lane Eight fans are still making their way to its shop, eager for a pair of new kicks to train during the city’s third wave lockdown.
Despite its rising success from a strong response within the community and expert guidance all around, the brand admits facing challenges to this day. “Success is never guaranteed – we failed a lot. I think the good thing is, we don’t fail or make the same mistake twice, and that’s the key to success” asserts James. In the midst of expanding its headcount and establishing a Lane Eight fitness community internationally; the brand is already looking to designing its next model based on customer feedback and ensuring its build creates the least carbon footprint.
With everyone jumping in on the sustainability bandwagon, Lane Eight is undoubtedly giving AllBirds a run for their money as the brand is on track to becoming the world’s best sustainable workout shoe.