By Katherine Ellis
Photography courtesy of Old Gringo
The cowboy boot has been revamped by the creative design duo Ernie Tarut and Yan Ferry, who have brought the American staple to a whole new level with their joint venture Old Gringo. Combining their 30 years of experience in leather manufacturing and boot making, Tarut and Ferry founded Old Gringo in 2000. The brand has since grown internationally and has over 500 retailers in the U.S., as well as a 40,000 square foot factory in Leon, Mexico. The boots have been seen in Taylor Swift’s on-stage performances and worn by Miranda Lambert on her wedding day.
FAJO Magazine asked Tarut and Ferry 10 questions about their style, work and business.
1. The Cowboy boot is considered a distinctly Western and American staple. What makes your boots stand out?
Yan Ferry: We are the largest handmade boot manufacturer in the world and a lead trend setter in leather finishes and embellishments. Most importantly, it is our original artwork and the balance of the artwork on the various elements of the boot that make our styles the non-utilitarian boot of choice. So much so, that we are constantly working with our legal advisors on copyright infringement lawsuits!
2. How do you feel you have elevated this piece of Americana?
Ernie Tarut: We use classic cowboy styles and enhance them with vintage finishes, new colourful ways and embellishments that our customers have come to expect and love. Our boots are conversation starters!
3. Does the cowboy boot element become an inspiration for other pieces of your brand?
Tarut: Yes, our boot designs inspire our handbags, belts and jackets, especially the leather finishes. The leopardito print is a good example.
4. What is your design aesthetic?
Tarut: Old Gringo’s overall aesthetic is the worn-in look and feel of the boots. Not only are they on-trend with the distressed nature of the leather, but they are also extremely comfortable. Other features include our use of embroidery, studs and rivets, and unique leather finishes.
5. How would you describe your customer?
Ferry: [Our customers] are fashion-focused and career-minded. They demand unique footwear and luxury leather goods that represent Vintage, Contemporary, Rock Star and European styles.
6. Who is your most memorable customer to date?
Tarut: One day, a UPS driver was making an Old Gringo delivery to one of our retailers and said: ‘Are you going to open the box now?’ The retailer confusedly asked: ‘Why?’ ‘Well, I would like to purchase a pair from you right now!’
7. Do you wear Old Gringo?
Tarut: All Old Gringo employees rock Old Gringos!
8. You have a customer base in the U.S. and Europe, however, the cowboy boot may not be considered by some as a ‘fashion staple.’ What is your client base?
Tarut: We are noticing a wider overall acceptance in the footwear industry. Our breakdown is always an interesting topic, since it is not what you would assume for what some label a ‘Cowboy Boot’ company. 60 per cent of our retailers are fashion accounts and 40 per cent are Western retailers. 60 per cent of the consumers shopping at the Western retailers are from large cities on both the East and West coasts of the U.S. and are not the ‘traditional’ Western consumer.
9. What is the story behind the name ‘Old Gringo’?
Ferry: Ernie was given that nickname which has stuck with him. When we decided to create a company that combined both of our skills, Old Gringo just seemed to be the perfect fit. [As for] the story behind Ernie’s nickname, it is somewhat of a mystery!
10. What are your plans for the future?
Ferry: Our focus at the moment is launching our flag ship east coast location. Going forward, Ernie has plans for a minimum of four to six additional stores within the U.S. and Europe. By September 2012, [we also want to begin] selling our more fashion-forward styles to consumers online.
Tarut: We predict accelerated growth in Europe for the remainder of 2012. South America is another region of interest for the company, where we are looking for a distributor. Slated for the fall 2013 season is the launch of our new line, OG by Old Gringo. This line will be strictly fashion-focused footwear, embodying our distinctive ‘organic distressed finishes’.