Putting their best feet forward
Updated: 2015-01-26
By Wang Ying (Shanghai Star)


Lantang 蓝棠

Lantang-Bobu started as two separate shoe companies, selling footwear to Shanghai's well-heeled. Today they are one of the city's best known shoe companies. Wang Ying looks back at the history of the brand.

Lantang-Bobu is a shoe company that began as two different labels, each with a history tracing back to the 1940s. Lantang specialized in woman's shoes, and Bobu was an expert in men's footwear.

Putting their best feet forward

In 1947, shoemaker apprentices Zhang Lyu'an and Sun Changsong rented a small counter on Nanjing Road to sell women's shoes.

The counter initially had 36 pairs of shoes and quickly attracted many customers, thanks to the high quality of shoes and the efficient management of Zhang. Their success encouraged them, and they teamed up with another two apprentices to open a second shop on the same road.

Business flourished, and the two counters sold between 60 and 70 pairs of shoes every day.

Most of the customers were high-class ladies and foreigners, who only cared about the quality of the shoes and ignored the price tag. The four men made a huge profit.

In 1948, their lease ended and the first counter was relocated to No 1195 West Nanjing Road.

They put all their earnings 135 taels of gold, into buying the new shop. They spared no expense in outfitting the new outlet, the woolen carpet on the floor alone was worth 16 taels of gold.

They named the store Lantang because its pronunciation is similar to La Donna, the store where they leased their first counter and started their shoe business.

The leather shoe store officially opened on November 25, 1948, and its workshop was located in Yangjing in the east side of the Huangpu River.

Based on foreign shoemakers' samples, with some adjustments, Lantang specialized in making shoes for Chinese women. Its shoes won great popularity among its high-end customers, including movie stars, social celebrities and wives of party leaders.

But the unstable economic and social environment finally drove the store to the brink of bankruptcy, and the shop owner had to sell it after 1949.

The brand was revived when it moved to No 1169 West Nanjing Road in 1957. Its shoes were exported to more than 10 countires and regions including the UK, the US, Russia, Hong Kong and Macao.


Bobu 博步

Originally named Diwujie (Fifth Avenue), the Bobu Leather Shoes Store was founded by Huang Qilin, the second son of lingerie entrepreneur Huang Hongjun.

Huang Qilin decided to enter the leather shoe business after seeing many of his friends showing off their imported leather shoes. Huang decided to create a Chinese brand in this unfamiliar business.

Huang called his shoe brand Diwujie because he heard that Fifth Avenue in New York is a place where all the best shoes in the world are available.

In 1945, the Chinese Diwujie Shoe Store opened at No 751 Nanjing Road, with the workshop on Kangding Road of Jing'an district.

Huang decided to label Diwujie's shoes Bobu, which means high quality.

From the very beginning, Diwujie only provided tailor-made service to ensure all the shoes were totally unique. The store's special business mode and its high prices meant the shoes were only affordable for foreigners, businessmen, and social celebrities.
Diwujie strived to keep its doors open even during the worsening economy of the late 1940s, and was renamed Bobu in 1954.


Langtang and Bobu started to lose their popularity with the rise of big-name foreign brands and homegrown trademarks.

In 1987, the two brands merged into Lantang-Bobu. Apart from continuously focusing on their own specialties, the new joint venture helped the two brands develop new products and be more competitive.

At their peak, the two brands sold their shoes to all the provinces in China except the Tibet autonomous region and Taiwan. Customers had to buy the shoes with a special certificate or wait in a long line. Their combined annual revenue once exceeded 90 million yuan.

Regaining their former glory became the main aim of the company. According to Wang Gushan, vice-general manager with the Shanghai Lantang-Bobu Leather Shoes Co Ltd, Lantang-Bobu hopes to strike a balance between stylish and comfortable in its shoes.

Lantang-Bobu operates four stores and more than 30 specialty counters across Shanghai, its products are also available in Suzhou and Changzhou of Jiangsu province, and Changsha of Hunan province.


In August 2009, Lantang-Bobu launched a tailor-made high-end leather shoes service, harking back to its classic shoemaking tradition by utilizing the latest 3D laser scanning technology.

"We want to offer something our competitors do not, and tailor-made shoes used to be our specialty," says Wang.

In two to three seconds, the shoemaker can get accurate information about a customer's feet. With advanced 3D technology, they can make a pair of shoes that fit the customer’s requirements.

The tailor-made leather shoes are about 1,000 yuan more expensive than the regular shoes sold by the brand.

Wedding market

"We make shoes for men and women, but we are still developing new markets, such as wedding shoes," says Wang.

In September 2014, Lantang-Bobu officially launched a special counter in its store for wedding shoes.

"We came across this idea after receiving quite a few enquiries from our customers who found it very difficult to buy tailor-made wedding shoes," Wang says.

By setting up a special design team for the shoes, the wedding shoes made by Lantang-Bobu are created to ensure comfort, style and durability.

"There are many stories about a pair of wedding shoes bought online breaking during a ceremony, and that is one thing our products will definitely not do," says Wang.

Lantang-Bobu's base customers are middle aged to older people, and the brand is continuously adding new products and services to attract younger generations. For the last six years, the company's sales revenues have risen steadily at an annual growth rate of 10 percent.

If you go


Add: 1169 West Nanjing Road 南京西路1169号

Tel: 021-6253-5453

Open: 10 am-10 pm


Add: 979 Xinzha Road 新闸路979号

Tel: 021-6271-1325

Open: 9 am-9 pm

Copyright © 2014 Shanghai Municipal Education Commission. All rights reserved.