Financier turned footwear designer Adam Lewenhaupt founded CQP in Stockholm in 2013. Launched with €50,000 of start-up cash, the brand — renowned for its understated yet considered silhouettes and a curated product offering — manufactures its handmade sneakers in Portugal.
Mats Klingberg: Why did you start the label?
Adam Lewenhaupt: It was initially a passion project. The idea came from not being able to find a specific type of shoe that was both laid-back but somewhat elegant; shoes that could work as well on casual days in the office as on a night out. It was a narrow niche, but I figured if I wanted a shoe like this, other people would too. I literally started with a blank sheet of paper and a pen, and started drawing.
MK: But you had no formal design training?
AL: That’s right. The trainers looked terrible at first. But trial and error and determination eventually got me to a decent-looking product that was launched a year later. We of course tweaked a lot; I must have made 20 different prototypes.
MK: Have you always been creative?
AL: I’ve always been into design, even when I was young. I never thought I would end up in fashion, though; I actually dreamt of becoming a car designer. My family were quite artistic. My grandparents, for example, had lots of fantastic Danish furniture from Kjaerholm, Mogensen and Poulsen. It had a profound impact on what I perceived as good design, even as a child. I think I have always carried it with me subconsciously.
MK: Did having a finance background benefit you when you finally launched your creative venture?
AL: Definitely. I didn’t have financial backers — I doubt I would have been able to convince people to invest in a former banker who decided he could design and sell sneakers. So my experience with keeping track of numbers was key. The money I invested was used to build the brand, on graphic design, the website, to travel around visiting the factories and order the first batch of products. With the limited funds available, I had to be financially efficient to make it work.
MK: What makes CQP different to any other sneaker brand on the market?
AL: CQP is a sneaker brand for nerds; as in, people who are as obsessed as I am with the finer details. Our main differences are not even visible to the naked eye, and that’s part of our appeal. We use very little padding in the construction, which makes our shoes extremely soft and smooth. Our soles also feature metal shanks — it’s a technical feature normally reserved for dress shoes, but it really makes a difference in terms of comfort and fit. And we’re really good at getting our colours right.
MK: Tell me about your colours, and fabrics.
AL: Our styles are simple — and we have seven silhouettes in our collection, so we develop our colour palette to keep them interesting. I tend to use more suedes because of the way the colour takes to the texture — it just looks so rich and earthy. I personally prefer it to leather because of that.
MK: You have a huge colour selection available in your made-to-order sneaker service. Why is it so extensive?
AL: In a world of mass production, it gives customers the chance to create something that is personal and unique to them. There is so much variety in the range; from prussian blue to saddle brown and granite, we have 120 colours of suede and 60 leathers to choose from. Customers can even pick the colour of their soles and laces — we have 17 shades of sole, and the laces can be dyed the exact same colour. Autumn is a great time to launch a project like this, as there are so many darker and warmer hues that look great in a trainer. And with a 6-8 week turnaround, it’s a great gift for Christmas.
MK: How do you spend your Sundays in Autumn?
AL: My Sundays are generally spent with my wife, running after my two young kids. I seem to live in our Atlon shoe as a result… it’s a hiker-running style sneaker which is great for going on long walks in the park. We prefer to be outside as much as possible to keep the kids active. Thankfully I have a ton of shoes fit for the purpose; my wife is a bit fed up of all my shoes piling up.