retail news

Fashion meets function at The Natural Shoe Store

Natural Shoe Store Charlie May

 

The Natural Shoe Store and I go back a long way. To the eighties to be precise, when its Bass Weejun loafers were the height of cool, albeit far out of reach of my meager pocket money budget. Founded in 1976 by Robert Lusk as a destination for all things earthy and comfort-soled, it was always a bit of a stealth influencer. From appealing to London’s affluent muesli munching post-hippies, it carved itself a niche as more of a luxury stop-off for those seeking functional style and comfort.

Eventually I did grow up to avail myself of its Bass Weejuns, not to mention my favourite red Sanita clogs a few years ago, plus endless pairs of rugged German-made Hirsch socks. Then there were the Birkenstocks. Lusk introduced Birkenstocks to the UK in the seventies, but it wasn’t until the 2000s that insane queues coiled outside the Neal Street flagship store, necessitating full time security staff to keep the peace. The rest of course, is history.

But with global brand availability, it’s harder for retailers to monopolise their niches. They have to expand, diversify and modernise. And so The Natural Shoe Store has had a revamp, enlisting Kuni Awai (formerly an in-house designer for B Store), as its chief buyer.

The Natural Shoe Store 70 Neal Street WC2

 

The remit has broadened to include newer brands and more fashion-forward styles, while staying true to Lusk’s dedication to quality and thoughtful design. German-made Trippen is a key brand. These jolie-laide comfort shoes have an avant-garde appeal and are ethically produced with environmentally-friendly materials. They get an entire wall of the new store (which has recently relocated to 70 Neal Street). Bass loafers are still present and correct, alongside new entrants, Grenson shoes and Charlie May for H By Hudson. (Charlie May’s laceless boyfriend shoes in the main pic attracted a lot of love on my Insta.)

BELOW: TRIPPEN, TRIPPEN, G.H. BASS, GRENSON
The Natural Shoe Store Trippen
The Natural Shoe Store Trippen
Natural Shoe Store G H Bass Loafer
Natural Shoe Store Grenson

 

Birkenstock may have grown into its own behemoth brand, but there’s still a big presence at The Natural Shoe Store. (Awai told me that these Birkenstock £19.99 slides are a huge consistent seller and you can easily see why.)

BELOW: BIRKENSTOCK X 2
Natural Shoe Store Birkenstock
Natural Shoe Store Birkenstock

 

A part of me misses the quiet charm of the old Natural Shoe Store, but Neal Street is a huge tourist destination and Lusk is mindful that passing footfall needs to be attracted by exciting product, not just brand values. That explains the saturated suede designs of French brand Arche as well as Salt Water’s classic seaside-y sandals and Tracey Neuls’ sculptural offerings. It’s eco chic for today’s design-conscious generation and should secure a bright future for The Natural Shoe Store.

BELOW:ARCHE, SALT WATER, TRACEY NEULS, NATURAL SHOE STORE
Natural Shoe Store Arche
Natural Shoe Store Salt Water
The Natural Shoe Store Tracey Neuls
The Natural Shoe Store 70 Neal Street WC2

 

Visit The Natural Shoe Store at 70 Neal Street, WC2 and Thenaturalshoestore.com

WORDS: Navaz Batliwalla/Disneyrollergirl
IMAGES: Disneyrollergirl and The Natural Shoe Store

THE DRG STYLE INDEX: H&M BEAUTY, SUPERGA, BROWNS, DIOR, RAF SIMONS

Here’s the latest weekly DRG STYLE INDEX ranking, a round-up of the brands currently buzzing on my radar…

1. H&M’S BIG BEAUTY PUSH

H&M beauty launch via The DRG Style Index

There’s something interesting kicking off in the high street beauty space. I think it’s similar to what happened with jeans and shoes a while ago, when the UK chain stores invested heavily in fashion-forward designs, outdoing the specialists at their own game. Topshop’s make-up is five years old this month and the product quality, design and branding are as good as many of the more premium brands. & Other Stories shook things up with its experiential retail approach, while Urban Outfitters is also jumping into the beauty space in a bigger way, stocking Tonymoly from Korea among others. Next: H&M is launching a 700 piece beauty line in September. Yes, H&M has dabbled in beauty before but not in any serious way. And in keeping with its new eco-conscious focus, this new endeavour will include products that are organic, Ecocert-certified, and sustainable. That’s not all. A higher-end premium beauty line is also pencilled for release, so keep your eyes peeled.


2. SUPERGA X LIBERTY ART FABRICS COLLECTION

Superga X Liberty Art Fabrics

I’m kind of over all the Liberty X Nike collabs. They were novel for a while but they don’t excite me much any more. Instead I prefer these, a new collab between Superga and Liberty Art Fabrics. There’s something a little bit 80s Euro exchange student about this collection – I’m thinking Best Company ice cream coloured ankle-crop cords, Invincta rucksack, Agnes B tee and Ray-Ban aviators. Ahhh innocent days…


3. BROWNS GOES OMNI-CHANNEL

Browns is acquired by Farfetch in a push for Omni-channel retail
It’s all change this week for Browns. One of the first multi-brand luxury boutiques in the UK, the 45-year-old business has been superseded in recent years by younger upstarts, including MatchesFashion and MyTheresa. And Farfetch of course, who made shopping from indie stores a global possibility. Farfetch has now acquired Browns, hoping to reinvent it for the millennial generation of luxury consumers. Owner Jose Neves will run Browns as a separate entity (Net-a-Porter’s Holli Rogers will be its CEO), using it as a testing hub for Farfetch’s ambitious omni-channel retail strategies.


4. FLIP FLOPS FOR DIOR

Flip flops on the Dior runway for Cruise 2016

Can Dior do for the humble flip flop what Isabel Marant did for the slide and Celine did for the Birkenstock? I loathe flip flops, but am oddly drawn to the flip-flop-and-boy-trouser combo seen on the Dior Cruise 2016 runway…


5. RAF IN THE SPOTLIGHT

Raf Simons dancing at the Dior Cruise 2016 party

Is Raf Simons angling to be the new Olivier Rousteing? The ‘camera-shy one’ of fashion was papped dancing at the Dior Cruise party last week and has been giving heaps of interviews to promote the Cruise show in Cannes. An eagle-eyed Youtuber also spotted the Apple Watch adorning his wrist during this Business of Fashion interview. Whatever next – Raf selfies on Snapchat Periscope…?

WORDS: Navaz Batliwalla/Disneyrollergirl
DIOR IMAGE by Antonio de Moraes Barros Filho/WireImage

ASK ALISON: IS IT A STORE OR A HOME?

Freunde-von-Freunden-Apartment 2

Here’s the latest ‘Ask Alison’ guest post from retail expert and DRG contributor, ALISON BISHOP, on how brands are merchandising their store environments to inspire customers to feel at home

More and more digital brands want to lay down physical roots and create their own permanent stores. At the same time, retailers are ramping up online sales initiatives for increasingly digitally savvy shoppers. So now we have the trend to make showroom-style spaces resemble highly curated homes and apartments. Which makes us want to buy everything and move in. (more…)

GUEST POST: Old Soho meets new Soho at Old Tom & English

Old Tom And English restaurant and cocktail bar in Soho, London

DRG contributor ALISON BISHOP visits Old Tom & English,  the new-old Soho eating establishment that’s perfect for sipping and snacking

They had me at ‘personal cocktail cabinet’. There’s something about the current trend for home-style retail that puts you instantly at ease, so I was interested to see how the idea could be applied to dining.

Soho’s latest ‘underground’ restaurant, Old Tom & English, is inspired by visiting a friend’s apartment for a dinner party where intimate nooks and crannies invite hushed tones for gossiping and lingering. (more…)

THE DRG STYLE INDEX: WESTFIELD, APPLE WATCH, GOOGLE, FARFETCH

It’s all about the tech this week with updates from Google, Apple, Westfield and Farfetch. Read on for my latest weekly DRG STYLE INDEX ranking, rounding up the brands buzzing on my radar…

1. WESTFIELD TO LAUNCH FUTURE FASHION EVENT

Westfield future fashion digital retail theatre

Westfield is always forward thinking when it comes to experiential retail. Coming soon is its London Future Fashion event, bringing the SS15 trends to life using virtual reality and ‘interactive fashion avatars’ (above). (more…)

Feeling at home at the revamped Hermes New Bond Street store

London's Hermes New Bond Street flagship reopens

Making your retail store feel like a home – a relaxing, inviting and luxurious one – is quite the thing right now and Hermès has of course nailed it. Enter exhibit A: its newly re-zhuzhed London flagship in the old Time & Life building in New Bond Street. This year marks its 40th anniversary in this location and it’s celebrated by doubling the size, enhancing the tactile factor and giving us a whole lot more product. (more…)

THE DRG STYLE INDEX: BYREDO BAGS, SOPHIA WEBSTER, RODARTE X SUPERGA, HARVEY NICHOLS’ SNEAKER CONCEPT

Here’s the latest weekly DRG STYLE INDEX ranking, a round-up of the brands currently buzzing on my radar…

1. BYREDO BAGS ARE COMING
Byredo bagsWho doesn’t love Byredo? The scents, the packaging, the whole brand concept. This Spring, founder Ben Gorham is extending the brand into its first retail store and launching leathergoods. (more…)

THE DRG STYLE INDEX: THE ROW, APPLE X PINTEREST, STOWAWAY, MIH JEANS

Here’s the latest weekly DRG STYLE INDEX ranking, a round-up of the brands currently buzzing on my radar…

1. THE ROW’S UPTOWN MOVEThe Row to open a New York store in 2015
Coming not-quite soon: The Row has earmarked a store for New York. OK, it’s not due til the end of the year, but I’m sure the Upper East Side townhouse store will be worth waiting for… (more…)

THE DRG STYLE INDEX: JAEGER, MOTHER OF PEARL, A.P.C, VIVIENNE WESTWOOD X OPENING CEREMONY, CAROLINE ISSA X NORDSTROM

Here’s the latest weekly DRG STYLE INDEX ranking, a round-up of the brands currently buzzing on my radar…

1. KIRSTY HUME WAKES UP JAEGER

Jaeger ss15 featuring kirsty Hume
It takes a while to wake up a snoozy brand but Kirsty Hume in Jaeger’s ss15 campaign grabbed my attention. If the clothes are as good as the ads… (more…)

Ask Alison: Finery London’s creative pop-up showroom

Finery London Greek Street pop up

Here’s the latest ‘Ask Alison’ guest post from retail expert and DRG contributor, ALISON BISHOP, on last week’s experiential retail pop-up from FINERY LONDON

A good pop-up still has its place and this one blends a few retail trends at once. As a taster prior to its launch onto the ‘premium high-street’, last week online fashion site Finery London opened a week-long pop-up showroom that mixed physical creativity with digital experimentalism. (more…)