I have been so excited the last few days. Life is just fabulous. I have started meditating 10 mins a day (day 4 - tick), back in a routine at the gym (after snapping my ACL- tick), signed-up to Dry July (my liver will love me – tick), haven’t scraped my car-wheels today (no husband moaning – tick) and business is going brilliantly (tick, tick, tick). To top it off I found 10 mins to go through a stack of “stuff” I bought back from Canada and found two incredible reminders of what would rate as some of the best retail experiences I have had this year.
One of my business partners (Gina Brugh) and I were wandering around Gastown, Vancouver in March and literally stumbled upon this incredible retailer; Six Four Hundred.
Six Four Hundred
Like a shining star, we wandered down a set of stairs to see what was all the fuss and where were all these people coming and going from. We did assume it was a bar and we were perhaps looking for a bar, but this was a million times better.
At Six Hundred Four, live by one simple principle: shoes can be shoes; or they can be a storytelling piece of art. Like an awe-inspiring art piece, they want their story to be told because of the emotion it evokes. When these stories are shared everybody wins, with no bigger winner than the charities they donate to.
So how does it work?
Six Hundred Four partner with talented local artists to create meaningful original art pieces, that they digitally print onto their shoes. The artists are compensated through an up-front payment and commissions on shoe sales.
With each pair strictly limited edition, each artist is featured on 604 pairs, with a unique pair number laser-engraved on the sole. Each pair of shoes goes through an extensive development process, sourcing the best materials from around the world and handcrafting with precision. 6.04% of each sale goes to the charity of the artist’s choice. Accounting to roughly $10,000 donated to each artist partnered with.
These shoes are available for purchase exclusively from the webstore and flagship store (aka "Sneaker Gallery") located next to the steam clock in Gastown at 151 Cambie St.
This is transactional storytelling at its best. The design of the store was very gallery, however in an approachable and flexible way. Considerable thought had gone into how customers could flow through the store or how it could be versatile by putting the middle display walls that could rotate at different angles or spin completely around.
The art and artists were contemporary and the work lent itself beautifully to sneakers. I loved how the artwork was then applied to the selling touch-points from display throughout the store to the actual shoe boxes making them as collectible as the shoes. The piece de resistance, every sale did good.
Unique soles for unique souls
Now further down the road (after we did find a bar and regained our sustenance) was one of the true design artisans from Canada, John Fluevog Shoes. Renowned for his art deco inspired, progressive shoes, this store and design centre in Gastown is a masterpiece. Whilst designed in Canada they are made all over the world, including Portugal, Mexico, Peru, China and Vietnam. Everyone from Madonna, Beyonce, Lady Gaga have a pair of these in their wardrobe.
The shoes themselves are way too inspired for my wardrobe but I do appreciate the detail, design and authentic storytelling that has gone into the masterful tale that has made John Fluevog famous. This is a store I want to just hang in because it felt so warm and inviting. A minimal yet somehow rich design, there is storytelling from the way the display tables are cut through to the massive story on the wall. Up the stairway you literally head to heaven – the actual design studio. We unfortunately couldn’t sweet talk our way up for a tour as much as I tried (maybe they could smell the gin?) The use of glass, brick, wood, steel and bring nature to life through the exterior and interior greenery made it a truly unique experience.
The storytelling of John Fluevog and to be fair his retail mastery is peppered through carefully crafted touchpoints. I have my own copy of The Fluevog Post for Summer/Spring 2017 which not only sells the dream of this seasons shoes but the Anatomy of a vog, the craftsmanship tales from Chennai and the winner from Open Source (more on that later). This is the storytelling for a community for Fluvogers. A bunch of creative, quirky, incredible people who are most likely quirky, clever and stand-out in a crowd.
Reviewing the website and the tentacles of this community there are many other gems. The Flumarket where you can sell your pre-loved shoes and connect your eBay or Craigslist post on their site. A wonderful way of connecting a Fluvoger and their passions (and having control over the authentic listing of your products).
FluevogCreative where you can demonstrate your artistic and creative flair by submitting your creative idea for a product based on a live brief. This opportunity gives you the chance to play artist and ad man/lady and create a Fluevog ad that will grace the pages of magazines around the globe. If that’s not enough, you’ll get some pretty sweet perks too and saving the world from bad ads.
YOUR IDEAS COULD BECOME ACTUAL SHOES
Finally, taking a page from Open Source Software, Open Source Footwear gives everyone a chance to have a say in the shoes they want to see. All you need is an idea. Click the Submit Your Design button, sign in and send away! If John’s inspired by your design, he’ll turn it into a real shoe, add it to the collection, name it after you, and send you a pair!
This is a retailer, designer, artisan who knows how to connect with the heart, soul, mind and wallet of their shoppers. Building a group who seek more and seek to participate, this is retailing at its best.