Whilst the UK is on lockdown and most of our plans are on hold we thought it would be a good time to take you on a virtual tour of the world with a look at some of our favourite shoe store designs from across the globe. The importance of shoes can never be underestimated – they can make or break an outfit and the right pair can make you feel like a million dollars. A good pair of shoes is the one key item that people are always willing to pay more for – whether that be for quality and comfort or a particular label – and this exclusivity is reflected in some of these store designs.
Although shoes come in all kinds of shaped and colours, they generally come in pairs and are no more than a foot long (unless you’re a basketball player) so this physical element creates a great structure for retail designers to work with – key pieces can be effectively highlighted on pedestals and however much the styles change they will still fit into the same spaces on the walls and windows of each store.
We’ve chosen these 10 retailers because they are innovative or interesting. Some are literal works of art, some are ‘on brand’ and feel as familiar as a pair of your favourite slippers. All of them are inspiring and have filled us with lots of shoe store design ideas of our own. Which one is your favourite?
1. Irregular Choice, Carnaby Street, London
We start our tour in London’s Carnaby Street with the Irregular Choice flagship boutique. This shoe store design reflects the brand’s punk attitude and alternative design to a tee. Irregular Choice is the brainchild of Dan Sullivan, a second-generation shoe designer who opened his first shoe store in Covent Garden when he was just 18 years old, before going on to create the Irregular Choice brand in 1999. These shoes are now sold through hundreds of stockists all over the world.
Dan’s original philosophy was to create something that stood out from the crowd and he has maintained his niche market position by striving to ensure that Irregular Choice is not influenced by passing trends, in order to remain discernibly different. His bright, original shoe designs are reflected in the colourful shoe store design, with bright candy colours, walls of foliage and flowers, patterned flooring, carousel horses and illuminated stairs. The shop is a welcome addition to Carnaby Street where customers have told them that it helps to keep the spirit of the area going.
2. Dr Martens, Carnaby Street, London
Sticking with Carnaby Street now we couldn’t really take a stroll around here without popping in to see Dr Martens. This iconic brand was first developed in 1945 by a convalescing German solider (Dr Klaus Maertens) who wanted to create a comfortable boot for his broken foot. His idea was licensed in 1960 by a British shoe manufacturer and after initially gaining popularity as a functional work boot, Dr Martens were adopted with the multi-cultural Mod and Ska movements who championed them as a symbol of British working class style.
The Dr Martens store in Carnaby Street embraces these working class roots with an industrial design of exposed brickwork, concrete and pipework with functional metal racks. They also showcase their musical influences as this ‘Made in Music’ window design shows with Marshall Amps and leads adding to the practical authenticity of the brand, which is as popular now as it ever has been. The shoe store design is also very much ‘in-keeping’ with the brand’s ethos of ‘kicking against the norm’ and the rock and roll reputation of the local area.
3. Camper, London, Milan and Melbourne
Further along the street, Spanish fashion brand Camper gives us a great example of a shoes store design that is in keeping with it’s surroundings. This design phenomenon is something we have touched on in our previous articles including our feature on coffee shop design. Despite being a ‘chain’ with stores across the globe, they have decided to design each store so that they are sympathetic to their locale.
Founded in Mallorca in 1975, Camper value variety and individuality which is why it is important that each of their stores has it’s own signature design which ‘infuses their brand identity with new perspectives.’ Their first store opened in Barcelona in 1981 and they now have more than 400 worldwide. Here are a few examples to show you the difference (and wonderful innovation) in their designs, some of which have been produced via the brand’s ‘Camper Together’ project:
3.1 Camper on Carnaby Street, London
The Carnaby Street store embraces the famous street’s swinging roots. With a sophisticated twist on the Mod hues of red white and blue, the colour blocked shelves are reminiscent of a Piet Mondrian painting. Simple, clean lines and backlighting ensure that the shoes are the stars of the show in this shoes shop design.
3.2 Camper, Via Monte Napoleone, Milan
Again, this store is shoe-focused but with a very different style. The walls are completely fitted out with pale, knotted plywood and bespoke wooden shelving arranged from floor to ceiling in a sophisticated grid, backlit with tube lights – to create a completely original look and feel compared to other shoe stores in the area. Designed by Kengo Kuma as part of Camper’s ‘Camper Together’ collaboration where the brand has partnered with leading designers to create exclusive products and unique stores. Kuma describes the design as ‘achieving complexity though simplicity with just two materials – plywood and a stone floor’.
3.3 Camper Emporium, Lonsdale Street, Melbourne
The shelving units in this store follow a more uniform pattern in straight lines down both sides but no – it isn’t boring because there are 30,000 red shoelaces hanging from a false ceiling overhead creating a theatrical ambiance. Designed by Marko Brajovic as part of the store’s ‘Camper Together’ initiative the laces are arranged in a series of undulating curves, inspired by a carnival costume.
4. 24 Kilates – Barcelona and Bangkok
Another Spanish shoe brand that has been making waves with their shoe store designs is 24 Kilates. Like Camper, the brand uses a range of design across their stores.
4.1 24 Kilates – Carrer del Comerç, Barcelona
The 24 Kilates store in Barcelona uses bright, bold blocks of colour including lime green and purple, contrasting with black and a wall of lime green chains reminiscent of Camper’s Emporium shoelaces. This contrasts sharply with the brand’s 3 stores in Bangkok, Thailand which have been hitting the headlines for their decadent interiors:
4.2 24 Kilates – Thonglor Road and Rama Road, Bangkok
Taking inspiration directly from the brands name (which means 24 Carats) The store on Thonglor Road is known as the ‘clockwork’ with intricate shelving designed to look like the inner workings of a golden watch or clock, whilst the store on Rama Road has been designed to look like a mine with faux wooden props, display cabinets reminiscent of trucks on rails and walls constructed from rocks encased in wire. The design implies that the shoes are a precious commodity – like diamonds or gold, embedded amongst the rocks. Another 24 Kilates store in Bangkok (sadly no longer open – pictured at the start of this section) was known as ‘the vault’ and mimicked a bank vault full of precious items, where the shoes were contained within a wall of drawers designed to look like safety deposit boxes.
5. Iguaneye – Minamiaoyama, Tokyo
Staying in Asia we head over to Tokyo now for a look at a totally eccentric design from shoe brand Iguaneye. This Japanese brand describes their look as being ‘inspired by the footwear of Amazonian tribes but with a modern twist’. With shoes that are minimal like sandals but allow you to move freely as if you are barefoot.
This philosophy inspired the shoe store design concept here, with a high tech ‘cave’ based on the unique shape of the shoes and the idea of creating a ‘a shelter for our ancestors.’ Constructed from triangular plastic sections, bolted together to create an undulating geometric design. The shoes are presented in single pairs on cubic wooden stands dotted throughout the minimalist space.
6. Likelihood, Union Street, Seattle
Skipping across to the US now for a tour from coast to coast and another shoe store interior that uses context in their design. Likelihood makes use of the ample natural light and high-ceilings in their store space by incorporating a traditional American ‘bleacher’ (stepped sports seating area) into their display, with bright white walls, exposed concrete columns, wooden panelling and curtains to reinforce the gym hall feel – with a sophisticated twist.
Hexagonal tube lighting is suspended from the high ceiling, complemented with hexagonal display units on the floor -both echoing the brand signage and logo. A vast neon sign by Canadian artist Kelly Mar states: “I Called Shotgun Infinity When I was Twelve” emphasising the irreverence and playfulness of the brand.
7. Kith, West Sunset Boulevard, Los Angeles
Streetwear brand Kith co-created this stunning space for showcasing elite footwear at their West Hollywood Store as part of a collaboration with New York-based collaborative design practice, Snarkitechture.
The store features many unique elements including a treat bar, exposed concrete, which appears to be carved out and a ceiling created from 200 casts of Air Jordan trainers nestled amongst some foliage. These features lead to the ‘elite footwear’ section of the store – a room within a room that’s a bit like a fishtank – where the whole ceiling is a lightbox, the walls are constructed from glass fins centred around a pale parquet floor with marble benches.
8. Jack Erwin – Flagship, Madison Avenue, Manhattan, New York
This high end flagship in NYC takes its inspiration from its location in Madison Avenue. An area known for a plethora of advertising and marketing companies, the motif for this store is a reimagining of the corporate office space, pairing familiar workplace materials including powder-coated aluminium, commercial-grade carpet and teal glass with bold, bright colours to create a fresh – almost invigorating backdrop for the brand’s elegant leather shoes.
This design-focused space showcases the shoes with maximum appeal to corporate shoppers. The simple clean lines enhance the quality and style of the products and epitomise the brand ethos: ‘Clean Design for Complex Lives.’
9. Gray Matters – West Street, Brooklyn, New York
Staying in New York we skip over to Brooklyn now for a look at the sublime Gray Matters showroom. Although not strictly a shoe store, we couldn’t resist including this in our collection, for the clean contemporary design. Like the showroom we designed for SikSilk in Barcelona – this is not a standard shoe store but a showroom for the brand, available by appointment only to trade. It also houses the design studio for the women’s fashion shoe retailer.
Exposed ceilings and painted wooden floors complement the brilliant white painted walls, offset by pops of powder blue and terracotta in the minimalist furniture. The key feature of this design are the mirrors, including a huge curved mirror that looks like a doorway, with a sweeping curve of coloured carpet leading towards it and smaller round mirrors that look like portholes.
10. Melissa – London and Brazil
As we reach the end of our tour we are heading back to London now (via São Paulo) with a brand we know and love.
We worked with Brazilian shoe brand Melissa several years ago. Sustainable and ethical long before it was a thing, Melissa recycle plastic into shoes and have collaborated with a lot of famous fashion designers including Vivienne Westwood and Jason Wu to create high-end designer collections of injection moulded plastic shoes, which are adored by celebs.
The Melissa flagship store in São Paulo changes a lot – almost like a pop up. They also have a store in New York NY and a couple of years ago they opened one in Covent Garden. We did some initial concepts for Covent Garden and some designs for their shops in Brazil, which were tremendous fun to work on. Melissa were always keen for the shops to be an experience – not just for selling shoes, way before everyone else started doing the same thing.
10.1 Melissa Flagship, Cerqueira César, São Paulo
As you can see from these pics the store changes a lot. Collaborators Viktor and Rolf describe the brand as a space where art, fashion and design come together – and they were drawn to work with them as that’s how they perceive their brand ‘universe’ as well. From giant yellow Koons-esque poodles to dangling neons, visiting this shoe store is very much an art experience (with regularly changing exhibits).
10.2 Melissa, King Street, Covent Garden, London
This store has some highly futuristic elements with light sculpture and space age display cabinets alongside traditional chandeliers and vintage style seating, more in keeping with the building in which it is housed. With their sustainable materials, designer collaborations and customer experience focused Melissa are really blazing a trail for others to follow and well worth a visit.
The future for shoe retail
Everyone needs shoes and many people are loyal to one brand but in the current climate it is becoming necessary for shoe retailers to reinvent themselves or create exciting experiences in store like Melissa in order to retain that fidelity.
Melissa are also on point with their use of recycled materials and other brands are also using sustainable materials and ethical practices to engage with customers and increase brand loyalty. Tom’s shoes have a philanthropic aim, giving away £1 for every £3 they make. So far they have given away more than 95 million pairs of shoes and they have also funded health and clean water programs in third world countries. Imagine if every consumer made buying from this kind of retailer their priority – others would be sure to follow suit and together these brands could make a huge amount of difference, if consumers voted with their feet.
Along with sustainable and ethical purchases, shoppers are seeking out hand made, repairable, recyclable, customisable and bespoke shoes. Many sports brands now offer the ability to personalise and customise shoes. You can create your own unique pair online and watch them being 3D printed in store or shipped to you. Nike have also introduced AR measuring in some stores to make sure that every customer gets a perfect fit
Every pair of feet is different and has different needs. Now that we have the ability to personalise and respond to customer needs more rapidly than ever, it is clear that the shoe retail industry needs a shake up. It is time for some of the leading footwear brands (or even some new brands) to ‘step up’ in order to succeed.