Here is a thorough look at the process of a well-worn Red Wing Peco boot being resoled. Chris Bray of Billykirk has documented the intricate process with Red Wing Shoes’ Senior Director of Red Wing Lifestyle, Dan Dahl from start to finish. This captivating look also entails a short interview that makes for some worth while reading.
1) Describe a typical day for the Senior Director of Lifestyle at Red Wing and what does your job entail?
I oversee the brand managers in three markets, Japan, North America and Europe. This included budgets, design etc., pretty much anything it takes to help the brand succeed. Not too exciting really but a lot of fun. I get to meet and work with a lot of great, interesting people. Travel quite a bit which is both good and bad as I have a family with 4 busy kids.
2) How, when and who got the Red Wing Japan movement started and can you elaborate on what that relationship means to Red Wing? Is it considered successful or wildly successful to the bottom line?
Japan really looked to the US for fashion inspiration in the 70’s. In the US during the 70’s, wearing overalls with work boots was popular. This trend carried to Japan and then during the 80’s expanded exponentially. Kimuya Takuya, a famous movie star, wore Red Wings in his role as a character in a popular TV series and Red Wing sales exploded. Since then, boot sales have fluctuated but the “realness” and authenticity of Red Wing resonates with the Japanese like no other boot. Red Wing is very successful in Japan thanks to a great Red Wing Japan office who love the brand and take wonderful care of our customers. The “Americana” trend is big in Japan and we are lucky to be the boot pared with authentic American and American inspired clothing.
3) Who decides on what boot or shoe to re-visit for the Heritage line or who to collaborate with? How much time and money goes into bringing back these old Heritage items? In other words, do you have a vault of old lasts you can utilize so there really is not a great deal of investment? Where does the Beckman Boot and other Heritage styles fit in % wise to the overall sales at Red Wing?
Aki Iwasaki is our creative lead. We have on archive all the catalogs from 1905 forward. Aki spent several weeks and scanned all the catalogs so we now have a disk with all this information. Aki has a long term plan of looks he likes and wants to bring back. His latest is the 101 Postman shoe and Postman Chukka. I can send pics if you want. We do have some old lasts and lots of old machinery to help make the old styles authentic. Some of the machines we use come from the early 1900s. Beckman is another Aki design. As the generation of fans in Japan from the 1980 matures, he wanted to offer something more formal to this 40 to 50 year old group. Beckman started Red Wing and owned a high end shoe store so a Beckman collection just made sense. Heritage styles make up about 15% of sales at Red Wing. The rest is either Red Wing work which includes some heritage styles or Vasque or Irish Setter. Dave Hill is our design director and product lead in the US. He is the narrator of the latest Complex magazine video. Dave is a 35 year veteran of SB Foot, the tannery owned by Red Wing. His knowledge of leather is unmatched and he helps Aki come up with authentic leathers to match with Aki’s style designs.
4) I assume the bread and butter of the Red Wing collection is still blue collar working guys and hunters so when the powers that be see Red-Wing mentioned on all these fashion blogs and the GQ’s of the world, do they truly embrace this new demographic or see it as a passing fad?
I think they worry it is a passing fad but we have been selling strong in Japan for 20 years so I think they are starting to embrace the Heritage division. Also, we are dedicated to US made which makes us popular at the factory. Bill Sweasy is the owner of Red Wing and he is certainly a fan.
5) Are there any interesting, obscure stories at Red Wing from the past that might be interesting to the Selectism readers?
Cool story about Eric Clapton who insisted on having the clutch pedal on a new Ferrari re-worked so he could wear his 875’s. He refused to wear the driving shoes recommended by Ferrari and would only take delivery if they would change the pedal so he could drive with 875’s on. The quickly cut off the pedal and re-welded to accommodate. There are tons of stories but I am probably too new to offer the best ones. I will try to dig some up and get more to you.
6) What does the future hold for Red Wing? Any glimpses you can share on what you guys are working on would be great.
I mentioned the postman shoe and chukka above. New for Fall 2010 is also a Beckman Chukka.