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Occasion worthy footwear is making a comeback – and companies such as Dune London, a British brand that specializes in women’s and men’s stand-out shoes and accessories, is leading the trend forward with a dressy shoe collection that will soon debut at FFANY.
Dressy luxury footwear led the market and accounted for 58 percent share of the global revenue in 2019, according to a report by Grand View Research. And as shoppers re-emerge post-pandemic to at last attend formal and upscale events, dressy shoes can once again take hold as an exciting and highly creative segment in footwear.
Dune London’s longevity in the market and distinctiveness is predicated on a keen ability to design affordable luxury footwear that attracts a wide spectrum of well-heeled consumers. Founded in 1992, the genesis of the brand began at a time when there were significant shifts in how shoes were being sold.
Daniel Rubin, Founder and Chief Executive Officer at Dune London, said that at that time, many of the specialist footwear retailers in the U.K. went out of business as more clothing and department stores began selling shoes at lower prices, which was tenable because they were without the high fixed store costs of the specialists.
“Many of the footwear specialists were at the lower end of the market selling the same sort of shoes. There wasn’t much to differentiate them. At that time, I was supplying the trade with private label fashion footwear, which were selling well. I saw a gap for a niche retailer selling good quality, stylish leather shoes, designed in house, so had a real point of difference. So, Dune was born.”
Dune London’s venture into the U.S. market signals a strategic and significant expansion. “The U.S. market is very competitive,” Rubin said. “To succeed, you [need to have a clear point of difference]. We have identified where our niche is: beautifully designed elegant shoes that make you feel special.”
Its Spring ‘23 collection at FFANY will feature 120 dressy women’s and men’s shoe and handbag styles, replete with sparkling crystal encrusted heels, splashy metallics, and handsome burnished leathers. Debra Bloom, Global Buying Director at Dune London, said that the collection is a “curation of celebration” and “truly regal” in its overall aesthetic.
“Since the pandemic, there has been a huge appetite for dressy shoes, heels, and embellished details, and so that joyful confidence has inspired our collection,” Bloom said. “Opulence and color reign this season. Heels inspired by The Royal Jewels cascade down the back of contemporary satin heel courts, while the seasonal must have kitten heel is lifted by a floating layer of crystal spheres. Exotic stamped Brazilian leathers in seasonal citrus brights bring zest to the collection.”
Bloom notes that Dune London has remained a mainstay in the U.K. footwear market over the course of three decades for consistently delivering “glamorous product, distinctive branding, and elevated materials. Our affordable luxury collections span all categories of footwear and bags.”
And the brand emphasized that its success is already seen internationally, with distribution in 40 countries and shipping to 170 countries through their e-commerce site, particularly in the Middle East, where Dune London is “the preeminent dressy brand” according to Rubin. “We feel really confident that now is the time to enter the U.S. market as the next step of our journey to becoming a truly global brand.’
“We are both taking a low-risk route to market by using a marketplace model which will allow us both to understand which of our ranges the U.S. customer really likes,” Rubin added, noting that Dune London will also sell wholesale to other premium stores in the U.S. “We have had a lot of interest from retailers in the U.S., but we want to take it slowly to start with before we build a Dune London team in market.”
Rubin said that as Dune London celebrates its 30-year milestone, as its founder, he is most proud of the brand’s ability to continuously progress in an unpredictable industry. “The fact that we have continued to grow and evolve as a company over
30 turbulent years in the global retail sector is a major achievement and a testament to the entrepreneurial spirit within our team and something I am extremely proud of,” Rubin said.
The authentic passion felt by Rubin and his team is palpable and no doubt translates into its product. “The only way you can survive and prosper in this highly competitive retail world we operate in is to invest and change but remain true to our core values of creativity and diversity. We have also been recognized by our peers in the U.K. industry winning the prestigious Drapers Multiple Footwear Retailer of the Year award five times. I am really proud that we have built a team that is passionate about the brand and about the product.”
Albeit, of late, the mood of the footwear market has been more about observing and reacting to astute changes in consumer behavior. “Of course, many consumers have embraced online shopping, and this will continue,” Rubin said. “We have made a major investment in digital including a re-platform of our website. However, we have been surprised and excited that customers are returning to the stores. Store sales in many locations are up on pre-pandemic levels.”
“Customers want the experience of shopping in a beautiful environment, where they get excellent and knowledgeable service and where they can feel the quality of the product,” Rubin explained. “The customer now expects a seamless omni-channel shopping experience, and that is what we are striving to achieve.”
As anticipation grows for its U.S. debut, Bloom recounts the brand’s aesthetic that has remained intact for enduring Dune London devotees. “Dune London has ruled the U.K. footwear market for 30 years, standing apart from the crowd with our signature designs, attention to detail and craftsmanship – we understand shoes better than anyone.”