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Attire Accessories - Tracey Neuls Interview

August 12, 2014

Footwear designer Tracey Neuls ensures that the look of her East and West London boutiques is as conceptual as her extraordinary shoes. Here she tells us about her original approach to retail “It really seemed like there was a gap in the market for footwear that empowered the woman, made her feel original, special and ‒ on top of all of this ‒ comfortable.” “I use the shop as a gallery space. There isn’t one static presentation, but rather a series of changing exhibitions. Throughout the year, we’ll create situations that challenge how people shop. We might collaborate with artists or other creatives, or simply bake bread in the back to make people think twice.” What is your career background before opening the boutique? Before setting up my footwear label, I studied fashion design. I designed for companies like Nike and Falke, where the body shape was a big consideration. This is a discipline that I think I've carried over into my own aesthetic; in the factories I work with, people have said my shoe designs dress the feet. What prompted you to launch the business? At the time that I started up, I felt that the fashion and footwear options on the market were very limited, and the passing trends didn't appeal to me either. It really seemed like there was a gap in the market for footwear that empowered the woman, made her feel original, special and ‒ on top of all of this ‒ comfortable. How did you decide on the concept of the shop, including the premises and location for your store? In terms of concept, I think the shoes speak for themselves. I really wanted to find a premises on a street which didn’t have any prior associations with the industry, or fashion in general. Marylebone Lane is so close to Bond Street but couldn’t be more different, which made it an ideal choice for me. At the time of opening there was a sausage maker, a small DIY shop and the Button Queen ‒ all niche independents doing what they do well. What accessory lines to you offer and how does this support the rest of your product offering? Our main focus is the shoes. However, just last Christmas, we brought out some utilitarian bags in our signature shade of neon red. There are essentials like laptop covers and wallets, as well as the original Loopy bag, a style we’ve been doing for years. The design is so simple and has really stood the test of time. How would you describe the presentation of the shop? I use the shop as a gallery space. There isn’t one static presentation, but rather a series of changing exhibitions. Throughout the year, we’ll create situations that challenge how people shop. We might collaborate with artists or other creatives, or simply bake bread in the back to make people think twice. This open minded approach to space completes the story of my footwear designs. What do you consider to be your core customer base? I would identify our core customer base as creative professionals. Tracey Neuls women are confident and quite often don’t fit into a certain age bracket. We even have mothers and daughters who shop together and both buy shoes here. What are the key factors you consider when sourcing new product lines? The boutiques are primarily Tracey Neuls shops, so not a lot of sourcing of other products goes on. However, anything external that we do bring in is very original, like our shoes. Often it will have a sense of humour to it, or a small beautiful detail. And of course, quality is an important factor when bringing in other labels and products. How important is product knowledge and customer service in store? These aspects are vital to the shopping experience! I remember one shopping trip where I managed to select, try on and ultimately buy an item of clothing without any of the sales assistants making eye contact with me once. Our shops are very different to that. People make kinetic connections with shoes. The process of selection is almost like making a decision about a new pet; it's serious stuff! How important is an online presence to your plans for the business? This platform is growing. At first I was reluctant to embark on online retailing as our shoes are very tactile and we also really like interacting with customers in-store. But alas, I do see that the website is very convenient and our business is growing in this area. We try to make it as “human” as possible. Do you run any special events to attract new customers? Every once in a while we have on-brand collaborations but in general, not really. Word of mouth is what brings our customers to the store; they love the shoes and want everyone to know. Although I do remember one instance where the girl was so thrilled with her shoes that she wanted them all for herself, exclaiming: “No one will ever hear where I bought these!” Who would be your ideal customer for the boutique, and why? We already have the ideal customer: she’s self assured, confident and knows what she wants and won’t compromise. Whats been your proudest moment since opening the shop? Our Geek style has just been nominated by The Design Museum as one of the best designs of 2014. How do you view the current state of the market? There’s more choice than ever before, but somehow it all looks somewhat the same. I aim to create shoes that also appeal to people’s emotions and stand the test of time. Too much of fashion is throw away now. What advice would you pass onto other retailers? I think part of the fun being a retailer is that you can do whatever you want in terms of display, merchandising and atmosphere. There are no set rules, so have some fun with the space. What are your future plans for the business? This spring we’re launching the Tracey Neuls men’s footwear collection! Special thanks to Laura Sutherland




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