To some people, this French footwear brand’s best days were in the distant 1980s, but its new flagship attempts to breathe fresh life into its offer.
Think back, quite a long time, and for those with grey hair or indeed those employing hair dye to hide this reality, the name Kickers will have a certain resonance. Back in the early 1980s this was the footwear brand of choice for the post-punk generation and the brightly dyed leather meant wearers made a distinctive style statement from the off.
That was then and the brand seemed to disappear almost as quickly as it had gained prominence. Yet in fact this is one that never went away – it’s just that the arrival of less outré colours and newer labels meant that although there were still plenty of Kicker stockists, it seemed to fade somewhat.
This is a brand that has its origins in a quintessentially counterculture way of thinking. It seems almost natural therefore that the most appropriate home for this French brand’s flagship should be the left-leaning, liberal-thinking Rive Gauche, in the heart of Paris.
The single-floor store, on the Rue du Four, has been open since earlier this year. And its position midway along one of the broad streets that lead, or seem to lead, to Le Bon Marché, that most Parisian of department stores, means it may benefit from passing traffic, but it is probably something of a destination in its own right.
Indeed, look along this street and it is the Kickers store that is the most obvious, with its loud bus stop-style logo.
This could be a sleeper among footwear brands, overdue the kind of revival that has seen the fortunes of Converse All Stars rise and rise. And like all footwear brands that have been around for a long time, clothing also forms part of the offer – although this does seem to remain something of an afterthought when the name Kickers is uttered.
Key looks and merchandise mix
Shoes, or more accurately, outdoor shoes, are what Kickers is all about and these are given pole position at the front of the shop. If you were to apply a label to what’s on view that might upset some but which would be instantly understood, it would probably be Timerlandesque. For the most part, whether the shoes are for men, women or kids, these are boots and thick-soled shoes that make you think of heading for the great outdoors rather than tripping lightly around the ateliers of the Rive Gauche.
The other point about the offer is that while the kids’ collection has some evidence of the colour that used to be the brand’s hallmark, bright pigmentation has been more or less excised from the men’s and women’s stylings. For those familiar with Kickers, back in the day, this may prove a mild disappointment, but perhaps the passage of time has meant that wearing loud frog-green leather shoes (for example) is not as acceptable as it might once have been.
Kickers’ brand positioning was always at the better end of the mid-market and time has not changed this status quo. Expect to pay around €90-plus (£77) for a pair of the boots or about €60 (£51) for the shoes. If you can afford Kickers shoes for your children, then money probably isn’t too much of an object, although the kids will look cute.
Mention should also be made of the Kickers-branded “jeans clothes” – a casual collection designed to fit with the shoes and boots. These ranges play second fiddle to the footwear, as their secondary position within the shop indicates. Is the brand due a renaissance? If Paris is anything to go by, possibly not.
Whether it’s the trees, created from pine offcuts, the school chairs set in niches around the perimeter, or the bicycle and skipping ropes on the back wall, this is a store where the visual merchandising exercises real shopper pull.
In essence, much of what’s on display takes the form of open-front boxes attached to the wall in which stock is displayed. There is nothing regular about the manner in which this has been done, with the boxes positioned seemingly at random around the shop. In a similar vein, there are also what might be viewed as red sentry boxes –these succeed not only in capturing the eye but also create mini-shrines for the stock that’s on display.
Blackboards, vintage typewriters and old bicycles all add to the feeling of a store that wants to wear heritage on its sleeve.
Hard to tell how good or otherwise the service in this store is as just before midday on the day of visiting last week there were no shoppers. The three staff who greeted your correspondent were helpful and friendly however, so the score given is the normal default position.
There is a pleasing child-like simplicity about the Kickers brand and the flagship store does much to emphasise this. There is little that is too tricksy about this interior, but the contrast between the bold red walls and the simple white with red line drawings in other parts of the store does succeed in turning heads.
The men’s area features raw concrete walls and the stripped pine floors throughout seem in tune with the brand and the way in which it operates. Good to see the single pendant light bulbs (originally this idea came from the Dutch design group Droog) with red cabling, which add to the basic but contemporary feel of this retail environment.
Would I buy?
It’s that old question really – is a good-looking store with efficient visual merchandising going to be sufficient to persuade you that it’s worth shelling out for something that you probably didn’t know you either needed or wanted? Looking objectively at the Kickers stock, the answer is probably no, but on the other hand, if you were in the market for a pair of stylish outdoor shoes, then perhaps this store would demand that the wallet is pulled out.
Kickers is a hardy perennial and is likely to be around for a long time to come, but it is open to dispute whether a flagship of this nature will be sufficient to effect a Lazarus-like resurrection of the brand in other markets.
This is a good store, but it is one that for the moment at least seems to be home to a brand whose best days may be behind it.
Address 46-48 Rue du Four, Paris
Brand established 1970
Founder Daniel Raufast
Store in a word Simple
Reason for visiting The brand’s epicentre