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In conversation with: Justin Rhodes, Founder & Creative Director of Elliot Rhodes

We met up with Justin to find out more about his company and how to buy the 'perfect' belt.

Tell us about Elliot Rhodes

JUSTIN:  Elliot Rhodes is now in its thirteenth year of operation and we are a specialist belt retailer with a truly unique offering. From the outset, our aim was to elevate the status of the belt from boring commodity to a real expression of style. We have successfully achieved this thanks to our fabulous selection of interchangeable belts in both leather and natural skins in varying widths and a dizzying array of colours and textures. Elliot Rhodes began as an idea of mine some 15 years ago and it became a reality thanks to my two best friends, brothers Nathan & Jason Diwan. We all have our different skill sets in design, sales and operations but as passionate retailers you will also often find us in-store serving customers! We have three London stores in Sloane Square, Covent Garden and St Christopher's Place. Each offers on-site custom sizing and a personalised styling service to offer our customers specialist assistance in finding the right belt for them.

All of the belts are designed in-house but are manufactured by the finest craftsmen in Italy and Spain using locally-sourced raw materials. The buckles are mainly designed in-house but we also work with specialist artists and sculptors to produce one-off pieces.

With over 600 straps and 800 buckles within our portfolio of designs, there are endless combinations to choose from. Each season sees the launch of new designs, textures and colour combinations that both reflect current trends but also push the boundaries of belt design.

Why did you choose St Christopher's Place for one of your stores?

JUSTIN:  St Christopher's Place is a hidden treasure trove of fantastic boutiques and is the perfect oasis away from the frenzy of Oxford St but due to its prime Central London location attracts a wide array of different shoppers from tourists to local residents. I think that the area has its own character and offers a distinctive shopping experience whilst still being in the heart of London’s retail centre. Having already established two thriving stores in Covent Garden and Sloane Square we were looking for a retail environment that would in some way mimic the boutique style and vibe of both of these locations whilst at the same time being in a prime retail location. St Christopher's Place really did tick the box!

What differentiates your  St Christopher's Place store from the rest? Tell us about the experience customers receive when they shop at your St Christopher's Place store?

JUSTIN:  Each of our three stores is similarly designed yet has a very different feel and customer. The Long Acre store is our flagship store and is still regularly visited by original customers that we welcomed when we first opened our doors 13 years ago! Although our SCP store has a little cross-over in terms of customers the SCP store welcomes its own distinct international mix and our team are particularly good at consulting customers with a myriad of styles and tastes. SCP customers are particularly attracted to our exotic skin pieces and more unique buckle designs so we tend to ensure that the store has a lot of our best pieces!

What’s the most expensive belt you created and who bought it?

JUSTIN:  We recently made a buckle from a megalodon shark tooth that we encased in sterling silver. The megalodon is the predecessor of the Great White Shark, was in existence some 5-15 million years ago and reached some 20 metres in length. Their teeth grew up to 7 inches in length but we sourced a slightly smaller, more wearable size tooth for our design and for good measure popped it on a shark skin belt. A happy customer paid £6250 for the belt and buckle at the end of last year!

What’s your favourite type of belt and why?

JUSTIN:  It is absolutely impossible for me to pinpoint one particular belt but there are a few design innovations that I am particularly proud of. Our new ‘Performance’ collection crafted in neoprene is ground breaking and has been unbelievably well received. Our Cordovan collection with styles such as Pacino, Jolson and Coltrane that showcase hand burnishing and mixing of textures really take belt design to a new level. I am also just launching a new collection where each belt is hand tanned giving an entirely unique drag paint effect on the surface of the leather.

What’s your number one tip for buying the perfect belt?

JUSTIN:  Choosing the right belt takes time so don’t shop when you are in a hurry. You need to properly consider your wardrobe and what you need a belt for. A smart belt is very different from a casual belt so you will struggle to find a one for all occasion belt. Weigh up the best option for you and think about what colour(s) are most practical for your wardrobe. Whatever your needs, once you realise how much of a difference the right belt can make to your outfit, you will be back for your next! Because all of our belt straps and buckles are interchangeable, you can make you belt more versatile to suit different outfits just by a simple buckle switch. Once you have the perfect belt and buckle combination, we custom-size it to fit you perfectly, as you would expect from a specialist.

Looking for a new belt? Read Justin's belt buying guide here.

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