NEW YORK — On a recent afternoon, grimacing artists lined up outside the Bushwick takeout window Mixtape, their feet uniformly dressed in $200 workman boots. It would seem Blundstones are the latest unlikely trend to hit New York City’s scene, joining bossa nova music and revised diner food as new hipster fancies. Clunky, lug-sole Chelsea boots by the Tasmania, Australia-based heritage brand have begun populating downtown design studios, cafés and art openings. Paired with oversize denim pants and raggedy knits, the heavyweight boots are appreciated as a rare hybrid that can withstand New York snowstorms and brush up for dinner.
During a recent data assessment, the company was surprised to see that sales were surging in Brooklyn. While the sleeper trend was not a purposeful one on Blundstone’s part, the company is now hoping to further ingratiate itself with its unlikely new audience.
Today, the company will open its first attempt at U.S. retail in Williamsburg, Brooklyn, N.Y. The 450-square-foot space will remain open through peak boot season, scheduled to close at the end of March. It is strategically located just off the Bedford Avenue subway stop at 192 Bedford Avenue and will host customization initiatives and community-driven events. It will be the only store in the U.S. to carry all of Blundstone’s offerings, as the company is usually carried piecemeal through third-party retailers.
“As a brand we prefer people to discover us rather than artificially elevating the brand. We want people to love it and it takes a little patience for people to find us, but then we have seen popularity spread by word-of-mouth,” said Blundstone’s chief executive officer Steve Gunn. The company’s head of U.S. distribution, Steve Libonati, said Stateside sales have doubled in the last two years.
New York’s art community has provided something of a marketing case study for the brand. “We have noticed that communities of creative people are quite tight and word spreads faster among them; it comes down a lot to social networking,” Gunn said.
The label has seen similar success in Canada and Israel — its two biggest markets at present. “People started embracing us there about five years ago and if you walk into downtown Tel Aviv or Vancouver or Toronto, you cannot look without seeing Blundstones on people. Now we are increasingly seeing that start to happen in the U.S. as well,” Gunn said.
The shoes, while not the cheapest work boot option at around $200 retail, are prized for their durability. “They are a good value for their quality of material, they conform to your feet and wear to you. People know that they can wear the same shoe year in and year out,” Gunn said.
While Blundstone has traditionally been a unisex shoe company, the brand has started issuing women-specific designs in the last few years to offer slimmer foot profiles.