A great interview here with Neil Morris, the man behind Veras. Talking about how a project started between two very close friends and transformed into something totally different. Talking about the highs and lows and another change and focus on something more specific and of more personal interest. Easy and relaxed, from the design to the reasoning behind the name, Veras is 'purely footwear' and it looks like it is going to stay that way. This interview was conducted almost 12 months ago and appeared in the last issue of Proper.
Neil, thanks for taking the time out to speak to us. Firstly tell us about yourself and your background and how you came to set up Veras.
Basically started a fanzine with a very close friend of mine Jared Horn in 1996 called Drooghi, bits about football, gear etc…Did a little fashion shoot in the 2nd edition using Duffer, 6876 and YMC. Ended up selling the gear to all the boys and we literally thought ‘could be something in this game’ and it was as simple as that.
Opened a little shop in Port Talbot and after about 10 months ( where we were taking like £300 on a Saturday and we thought we’d end up millionaires), then opened up in Cardiff and traded for about 10 years). We had our ups and downs in the fashion game but overall it was a good experience.
We had some characters over the years in Cardiff however business got a bit difficult. We tried to change the buying to suit the customer and it just didn’t work. The clothes we were selling did not have a big enough audience in Wales (don’t forget this was pre-internet), we tried to buy bits for a younger client but to be honest I don’t think myself and my partner were into the gear and then you’ve got problems. We were wearing SixEight and Ralph and we had a shop full of Camouflage and Snopants!
We remember Drooghi in Cardiff and the Rather Not Say label, can you tell us a bit about that?
With Drooghi I think we sold some nice labels at first. Like I said we stocked 6876, YMC and Duffer in the late 90s. We done well with Mandarina when it first come out, they did some lovely jackets. We brought Trickers and Redwings in around 10 years ago, Superga, Converse, Adidas International, we stocked some good stuff. Rather Not Say was something we started around 2002 I think, the first collection was honestly spot on and I’m gutted because I have not one piece left from it. A guy called Gareth Watkins designed it and it was superb. We did a show in New York and Fred Segal bought it, Union New York, a few stores in Japan . I remember a young(er) Oliver Spencer showing his label next to us. Our gear was much nicer, however I think you’ll agree Oliver has become a little more successful around the world…I’m not bitter, good luck to him. (I’ve got to say that because he’s bought Veras for his shop)..
Who is involved in the brand and what are they responsible for?
Veras is my little thing. My ex Drooghi partner Jared Horn is the UK sales agent, (he is also the Lavenham agent). I also have distributors in Holland, Japan and Australia. I have a Spanish designer (with over 20 years experience in traditional shoe making) whom I work with and I also work with my Japanese distributor and we do some special colourways in certain fabrics for particular styles just for Japan.
What’s the story behind the name Veraz?
I lived in Spain for a year with my wife and kids and Veras was the market town where I bought my fruit on a Saturday. It was great out there. We had a ‘year out’, a kind of belated gap year but 20 years later and this time with kids! I’m still over there quite a bit visiting the factories etc but it’s a great lifestyle over there.
Are you just concentrating on doing footwear?
Yes purely footwear.
What was it that prompted you to get involved with footwear in general?
I’ve always been into nice shoes. But the main thing is due to having a lot of experience with retail I try and produce nice footwear which is commercially right. There are a lot of footwear brands out there that are very expensive and perhaps not available to a lot of people. I’m not talking about appealing to the masses but there are not many nice shoes out there for under £80, I’m trying to change that. My S/S retail for around £55-£60. That’s not a bad price eh?
Aside from your own, what other footwear brands float your boat?
Winter – Trickers and Redwings
Summer – Superga, Converse
What are the main influences behind your current collection and the brand in general?
Influences are the Mediterranean, Sunshine, Cervezas, Barca FC, Espadrilles, Lilos, Mahou and Port Talbot Town FC….
The Spring Summer collection can be classed as Newport Beach meets Newport County
Have you always harboured an ambition to run your own label?
Own business rather than own label if that makes sense
Finally, what are you wearing today?
Uniqlo button down, Benetton shorts and Veras Santander
Keep progressing. I’m in no rush. Also going to speak to Kenneth at 6876 to see if he wants to do a collaboration on a shoe. Don’t mention it though as I haven’t phoned him yet.