Native Shoes and its line of mostly EVA footwear known for its airy, simplicity has maintained quite fashionable wits about them via collaborations that have kept the brand at an interesting intersection between high design and an approachability that makes sense, even for kids.
It’s a fine line to walk and as the Vancouver firm this year ramps up its links with other brands, it’s arming itself with a broader assortment to present to customers as Native slowly rolls out bricks-and-mortar.
The company bowed its first door in Vancouver in December. This summer, it will try its hand at a Nantucket pop-up with a permanent door set to open sometime soon in the Bay Area.
“That’s a really interesting way for us to be, as a brand, very inclusive, but to still talk to an audience that wouldn’t necessarily be exposed to us otherwise,” said Native Shoes creative director Michael Belgue of the company’s collaborations. “We can still show up as Native or a version of not taking things too seriously and making people smile.”
The company, with a tagline of “Keep It Lite,” caters to an audience that’s about evenly split between adults and kids, making the thought behind its designs, collaborations and in-store presentation an interesting one.
“There [aren’t] many stores that show up that way,” Belgue said of the in-store design approach that caters to both adults and kids in much the same way its footwear does. “So how do we show up in a way that’s not alienating to both?…. That’s one of the things we really think about, and how do we balance that.”
Within the Vancouver store, that’s echoed in the design lines carried throughout the space, the modularity of furniture, simple materials in the way of birch plywood and white melamine presented in an elevated way and a fun gumball machine-like shoe dispenser — fun yet chic.
When it comes to the product, Native’s first collaboration was with Marc Jacobs in 2012, using leftover selvage denim from handbags that was turned into a boot. The following year came a mash-up with Comme des Garçons and then Issey Miyake in 2015.
The company recently launched a collaboration with high-end swimwear designer Beth Richards, with a cheery bow using Italian stretch fabric referenced from one of the line’s bikini tops on a pair of Native flats. There’s also a pair of slides touting Beth Richards “Make Waves” slogan.
In June the company will release a collaboration with George Cox on a limited-edition EVA creeper in three colorways. In keeping with Native’s brand, the company’s spin on the classic shoe — worn by everyone from Joe Strummer to Sid Vicious — is lightweight, soft and flexible in comparison to the Goodyear welting process applied to the production of the originals. The Native x George Cox creepers are also accessibly priced at $65.
“The thing that’s really interesting in the way that we look at our collaborations is that it’s not necessarily about mass appeal in all instances,” said Belgue, who can pinpoint precisely when and where he bought his first pair of George Cox creepers at the age of 14. “It’s about doing something interesting that’s never been done before and having fun with it.”
The company’s also linking with Sanrio later this year for a Mr. Men Little Miss collaboration followed by another with Hello Kitty in 2019.
Belgue outlined a few more collaborations in the pipeline, one with an Italian textile manufacturer and another described as a “New York, downtown girl iconic brand that always shows up in really interesting ways.”