Florsheim Seeks to Boost Image

The Midwestern footwear company to open a pop-up shop in SoHo designed by hipsters Paul Birardi and Eddy Chai.

Florsheim is getting in on the vogue for heritage American brands and taking steps to freshen its image.

This story first appeared in the September 16, 2010 issue of WWD.  Subscribe Today.

The Glendale, Wisc.-based footwear company will open a pop-up shop in Manhattan’s SoHo neighborhood today to unveil a line called Florsheim Limited Edition that was conceived to bridge the gap between Florsheim’s main line and the edgier Florsheim by Duckie Brown collection. Limited Edition was culled from the vast archives and includes boot, waterproof, brogue, wingtip and plain-toe styles retailing for $110 to $150.

Florsheim hired Paul Birardi and Eddy Chai, co-owners of the men’s boutique Odin, to design the shop at 109 Mercer Street, which will serve as a template for a possible redesign of Florsheim’s 35 U.S. stores as well as potential shop-in-shops at major department stores.

“First and foremost we wanted it to be a comfortable space that reflects the brand, and a cool, interesting space that you want to be in,” Birardi said. “If you go back to the archives and see where they’ve been, there’s so much history and a lot to be said. Men really related to the masculinity and the heritage of the brand, the quality and comfort. Their old stores had curved windows and the feel of an old-school shoe store.”

Birardi and Chai strived for a balance of vintage and modern. “I was with Coach when it went from dark wood stores and all-leather product to a whole different environment,” Birardi said. “I saw how the aesthetic of the store can mirror new product and make it successful.…We really think what Florsheim is doing is on the same path to reinvention.”

Established in 1892, Florsheim is one of America’s oldest footwear brands, with a heritage of classic design and sensible value. Florsheim’s collaboration with Duckie Brown has encouraged the stodgy footwear brand to step out with more stylish, younger product. The pop-up will carry secondary product categories specially designed by Birardi and Chai for Florsheim to complement the collection, including hats, scarves, socks and more.