Royal Vintage Founder and CEO Lauren Stowell’s introduction to footwear took place in 2011 when she launched a crowdfunded shoe based on an 18th century Georgian design. “It was a riot back then,” she said. “We needed 63 orders to produce 200 pairs and we received 230 orders almost immediately.”
Since then, Stowell’s business has evolved to include styles based on designs from the 1920s to the 1940s. Royal Vintage, which will make its footwear tradeshow debut at FFANY, Nov. 29-Dec. 1, offers saddle shoes, oxfords, Art Deco sandals, spectator pumps, World War II-inspired boots and more for the modern women with an appreciation for vintage designs.
In fact, the company was born out of Stowell’s own desire for accurate historical reproductions of footwear. “There’s a whole group out there, including myself, who enjoy wearing vintage fashion and costumes, but there’s a hole is our niche—footwear,” she said.
A long-time vintage fashion blogger, Stowell said vintage footwear tends to not hold up or fit as well as vintage clothing and the footwear brands that do provide nostalgic designs tend to focus on pin-up silhouettes. “I saw an opportunity to make a more practical design. Some of our shoes can be ‘grandma shoes’ but those tend to be our best-sellers,” she said. “We are a company that is very passionate about shoes—whether they are old or new,” Stowell added. “I want people to know we come from an authentic place. We walk the walk and talk the talk. We love history and dress in vintage or vintage-inspired clothes every day.”
Few brands take pride in being anti-fashion. However, it’s a design direction that works to Royal Vintage’s advantage. “We’re actually fashion backwards,” Stowell laughed. “But we look at Pantone colors and pay attention to fashion and then we interpret those ideas through our own lens. If everyone is wearing spring green, then it would behoove us to make a spring green shoe,” she quipped.
For Fall ’18, Royal Vintage sources inspiration from an early 1940’s catalog with a strong color palette, including moss green, aqua and garnet. One of Stowell’s favorite styles in the collection is an old ski boot that she converted into an everyday boot.
And while the company is obsessed with details and historic accuracies, its footwear is designed to fit properly and hold up to the demands of contemporary life. “We research shoes—lots of research—maybe too much research, but we don’t want to just pick a style out of an old catalog and copy it. Old shoe designs are not good for now,” Stowell said pointing out that foot lengths and widths have changed over the centuries. “All of the intricacies are very important to us.”
As a direct-to-consumer business, Royal Vintage has gained a loyal following of vintage fashion enthusiasts through word-of-mouth and social media. “I love this community. It is very social—Instagram is full of beautiful girls wearing beautiful clothes,” Stowell said. However, the company sees new fashion opportunities and greater volumes through wholesale. It’s a good time to be a vintage-inspired shoe brand, Stowell said, adding, “I think there’s a lot more acceptance of different trends than there used to be. You can wear anything and rock it and its accepted.”