As Red Wing Shoes opens its first UK women’s store, Drapers speaks to franchise owner Rachel Brickley about why now was the time to branch out.
American footwear brand Red Wing Shoes has opened its first dedicated women’s footwear store in the UK at 8 Newburgh Street, Soho. The franchise store is operated by Rachel Brickley, who also runs Red Wing’s menswear store, which is located at number 17 Newburgh Street, and menswear independent American Classics on Endell Street.
The 637 sq ft shop is spread across two floors and mixes Red Wing’s full women’s collections with a range of add-on and lifestyle products, from shoe care to magazines and accessories.
Q&A: Rachel Brickley, owner, Red Wing’s London franchise stores
Why open a dedicated women’s footwear store?
Our women’s collection launched about two years ago and, at the end of last year, the owner of Red Wing stores in Berlin, Hamburg and Munich opened the very first standalone Red Wing women’s store in the world. Over the course of these two years, our women’s product has evolved and refined itself. It just felt right, and now the collection has grown to its current capacity, it was only natural for it to have its own dedicated environment all under one roof.
Why do you think women’s interest in the brand has been increasing?
A lot of women’s footwear on the market is very much trend led or season biased. And our company has always remained an evergreen product in which mostly everything can be worn no matter what season it is, what job it needs to withstand or what environment it is exposed to.
Much like the current menswear growth over the past decade, it’s as much about authenticity and craftsmanship as it is about being ethically sound and economical. It’s about buying less and buying better: spending more money on something that will last that you can repair, love and adore rather than buying more of something of a lower value that you will need to replace.
What are the design features?
All of the fixtures were handmade in Europe and carefully chosen by ourselves and our Red Wing design team, who worked incredibly hard with only a small space. Alongside our new footwear we have displayed worn pairs and also boots from our archive that date from the 1920s up to the present day, so our customers get a sense of our company’s past and gain a clear idea of what they’re buying into.
We wanted to create a very relaxed and mellow atmosphere where people aren’t met with a sales pitch because that’s not what we are about. We want customers to come and take a seat and truly immerse themselves in the store, try some shoes on or read a magazine and have a chat. Our location on Newburgh Street just a few stores down from our men’s shop is the perfect place. It’s a lovely street filled with brands doing very much the same thing we do and there’s a nice sense of community.
The store does not only sell Red Wing. Why is that?
We took inspiration from our men’s store when it came to visual merchandising and non-Red Wing product. By doing this it creates more of a lifestyle shop feel rather than just your average shoe store. We stock products such as accessories that complement our footwear, while meeting our own brand values. These may be handmade or independent, small or local. This is very important. We’ve included a great independent magazine called Oh Comely, and Stetson hat makers, which have always been a staple among the Red Wing stores.
The menswear store opened in 2013. How has it been performing?
We are very proud of our men’s store, now in its fifth year – it’s been an incredible journey. London has a very dedicated [Red Wing] following, but there has never been a flagship store and our collection could never be found in its entirety in one individual setting. It was needed, and it’s been received extremely well, not only by the city, but tourists, too.