Dune London Eyes U.S. Expansion

Since joining the company as president of U.S. wholesale, Richard Kelsey has overseen the brand’s entry into the U.S. market for spring 2014.

Dune London’s New York showroom.

NEW YORK — Dune London is expanding Stateside.

This story first appeared in the April 7, 2014 issue of WWD.  Subscribe Today.

“New York is a truly international city with such a strong heritage in fashion,” said founder Daniel Rubin. “It makes sense to open there first. Personally, I also know it better than other cities in the U.S. and feel we would perform really well there.”

To ensure the company’s New York success, Rubin hired Richard Kelsey, previously president of Splendid and Ella Moss footwear, as president of U.S. wholesale. “I saw it as a huge opportunity to take what we’re so successful at doing in the U.K. and throughout Europe, and expand it to the U.S.,” Kelsey said.

Since joining the company last May, Kelsey has overseen the brand’s entry into the U.S. market last August for spring 2014. Lord & Taylor, Nordstrom, Belk, Hudson’s Bay, Piperlime and Zappos are among retailers to place orders, which are currently hitting stores.

A third-party warehouse in New Jersey was hired to fulfill U.S. retail orders. A space for a flagship in SoHo here is being scouted for a slated fall opening. In the meantime, a Midtown headquarters was established — the first Dune London showroom outside of London.

Keeping the Dune London heritage while entering a foreign arena has been instrumental to the U.S. strategy — especially when it comes to product. “All of our design and development is still in the U.K., so the product that you’re seeing here is the product you’ll see in our [U.K.] stores,” Kelsey said. “The U.S. retailers can get the product the same time as the stores in the U.K., and that’s very important.”

The brand will make its first major play for shelf space with fall, with its first press day taking place Thursday. For fall, the brand is offering women’s styles ranging from classic brogues to sky-high stilettos, as well as a wide range of boots. The classic styles are reimagined in luxe materials (Lurex, calf hair, holographics) with trendy details (metal trims, crystal embellishments, decorative zippers). Accessories and men’s shoes will also be presented.

Price point is a key part of the selling story, with most retail prices hovering in the low hundreds. “We’ve got customers that tested us in a certain amount and, without receiving product, have increased their orders for spring,” Kelsey said. “I think that lends a lot of credibility to the product and the price-value relationship to the product. We’re not going to be the cheapest, but we’re not going to be the most expensive. We’re affordable luxury and that’s very key for the brand.”

Describing the contemporary footwear market as a “heavily saturated competitive landscape,” Kelsey foresees the brand’s main competitors to be Vince Camuto, Kors Michael Kors and Sam Edelman for women, and Johnston & Murphy, Kenneth Cole and Ted Baker for men’s. The fact that those names are already established and familiar to the typical U.S. customer does not deter Kelsey.

“We’ve thought about it a lot,” he said. “Those brands are all powerful brands. [But] I think the design elements are our own, and our interpretation on trends is our own. We’re very successful in the U.K., and there are a lot of brands there that we compete with. Given a little bit of time, we’ll win over the U.S. consumer.”