Leslie Hepsworth Steps into New Shoes at Duca Del Cosma

The Italian footwear brand creates beautiful, hand-crafted shoes with stunning and quirky designs. The shoes are the most elegant high performance sportswear, designed for the utmost comfort as well as their dramatic styling; Italian design is at the heart of the brand and the shoes are hand built at one of seven bespoke sites in Portugal. All of the shoes are waterproof and breathable. Golf Features caught up with Leslie Hepsworth.

Golf Features: Not many people would take on such a role during a pandemic. What was your thinking behind this opportunity?

It wasn’t planned! When I stepped down from SRX/Cleveland, I did some work on a consultancy basis and during that time was contacted by Frank Van Wezel, who had owned Hi-Tec for many years before selling it.  After always loving the Duca del Cosma brand, Frank decided to buy the company in 2016. From then a slow path took place with his investment, although he wanted to drive the business to higher levels. So after numerous phone calls with Frank, and most importantly after seeing the quality of the product - and because my favourite passion is brand building - I joined the company and set about the changes required to develop the brand for the long term. 

Golf Features: Can you explain some more about the history of the brand?

Duca del Cosma was started in 2003 by Balvadino Mattiazzo and Anjte Elle. Balvadino was Italian born and graduated from the Sarteco Fashion School in Florence, whilst Anjte graduated from the Munich school of Graphic Fashion Design. Both still work for Duca in our design team, based in Venice.

Golf Features: Who are the key people involved in the business?

For the UK, we have alongside myself: Tony Eccelston, the UK Sales Director, who has been here since the beginning, and Niki our Operations Manager, as well as a growing team of customer service. We also have a larger office in Holland, alongside a warehouse facility with the main finance, marketing and logistics teams based there.

Golf Features: Have you had any resistance to the unconventional styling that some of the lines sport? 

Not at all. Most brands offer products to fit the majority of the market - black, textile and sometimes very traditional - we don’t, and never will, and it’s that point of difference that our accounts and consumers like: bringing a little fashion and style and colour into a technical product is very in vogue now.

Golf Features: The range of shoes is quite stunning. What is your best service, and why do you think this is?

We offer a unique product, with high quality Nappa leathers from Italy, handmade in Portugal.  We often speak of the shoes never having quite the same finish, as they have been touched by 100 hands before they are finally boxed up. This point of difference, with a highest RRP of £189, and being designed and manufactured in Europe avoiding all Far East issues, is really paying off.

Golf Features: How are the ladies shoes selling?

Fantastically. Ladies do like to match outfits and we have some brilliant designs that really give opportunities to do this: we even have some amazing new leather gloves in Cheetah and Zebra prints - how’s that for bling! 

Golf Features: You have a strong line of boots, which seems most unusual for a golf shoe manufacturer. Have they been well received?

We have a very solid business in boots - the range has always sold well and as such we have increased the range offering. Ladies are massive buyers and just keep growing in numbers, so a great market is available to us here, as in my mind no-one offers products in the sector like Duca.

Golf Features: I understand many people are wearing the golf shoes away from the golf course. Is this something that you are likely to encourage with future designs?

Most of our shoes offer the ability to be worn on and off the course. Having driven to the course in them, many can also be worn with jeans and have a great style and presence about them, so many of our customers wear them all day and everyday - they truly are that comfortable.

Golf Features: What is the design process for making a new golf shoe?

For Duca this starts with looking at the latest fashion trends and colours from the world’s largest fashion houses. Those up and coming colours are then incorporated into new designs and any new technologies: it is an art overall, but the aim will always be comfort, style and beautiful products. 

Golf Features: Traditionally, golf shoes were bought on price points and for different times of the year. How has this changed and informed the thinking for the new designs?

Many golfers used to wear just one pair of shoes all year round. Most people now have more than one pair and some of those have become trendier with more sporty-looking shoes, so owning one winter and one summer shoe is pretty normal now. The design of technical mid and outer soles has for us made spikes almost redundant, as we believe we can obtain the same high grip levels and support without the addition of other material embedded in the sole unit. This also gives more freedom in weight and outer sole performance design.

Golf Features: What does the future hold for Duca Del Cosma?

Controlled expansion: we are looking to work with the best accounts and retailers across green grass, online and the High Street. We are working to a distribution base that most shoe brands would not be able to make cost effective for them, but being privately owned I don’t have shareholders or public company demands forcing the business down the wrong path.  We will stick to our method and grow steadily with partners who like what we have to offer, and who we hope will enjoy great products and margins.

Golf Features: How does this rate with your other jobs in the golf industry?

It’s fun. I have always loved shoes, and boy I don’t miss spreadsheet suicide on the hardware side of the golf industry!  It’s easy to feel here that we can move the brand forward and have the ability to make a difference by doing all the right things for retailers. Brand building is ace - and to do it with a quality product - so I am glad I took on the role.