FN scoured the world to find the coolest stores for men’s shoes right now. These retailers raise the bar with eye-catching aesthetics and elevate footwear to the art form it truly is.
The Alchemist, Miami
One of Miami’s hottest men’s stores is extremely parking-friendly — in fact, it’s inside a parking garage. The Alchemist, a 2,000-sq.-ft. designer men’s store co-owned by husband-and-wife duo Roma and Erika Cohen, is on the fifth level of a notable Lincoln Road parking garage that was designed by Swiss architectural firm Herzog & de Meuron.
The boutique carries a tightly edited selection of luxe men’s footwear from Rick Owens, Givenchy, Buscemi and Del Toro, as well as exclusive Adidas collaboration styles from Raf Simons, Kris Van Assche and Kolor. “We have always had a simple approach to a buy: If we like it, we buy it,” said Roma Cohen.
Founded eight years ago, The Alchemist has two other locations in Miami as well, including a women’s flagship on Lincoln Road and a new jewelry shop in the burgeoning Design District.
Cohen predicts major growth for the men’s market. “We see a huge gravitation toward what could potentially be ‘social friendly’ on social media,” said Cohen. “Brands with a unique approach and a catchy, well-made gimmick have been selling extremely well, like Buscemi’s 18K-gold hardware.”
A Ma Maniére, Atlanta
Opened in October 2014, this 1,500-sq.-ft., two-floor men’s store in downtown Atlanta carries a wide assortment of high-end kicks. “I wanted the possibilities for the brand mix to be endless. I wanted to push the shopper— [I wanted] them to be excited to grow into new things,” said owner James Whitner.
He’s no stranger to knowing what consumers want — Whitner also owns the Social Status and APB retail banners. “APB is for the sneaker enthusiast and Social Status is grounded in street fashion,” he noted. “A Ma Maniére is [more of] a fashion and luxury experience.” Here, Whitner gives FN a quick rundown on A Ma Maniére:
Common Projects, Buscemi, Henderscheme, Air Jordan, Diadora, Nike NSW, Rick Owens by Adidas, Asics, Puma, Filling Pieces.
“It has to be fashion first — and preferably something that isn’t saturated. New and great doesn’t happen often, but there’s nothing like seeing it and knowing it will work.”
“I’m always aware of the direction things are going in. Some brands are meant to push customers forward, and others are just to add a different perspective to our product mix.”
Kapok, Hong Kong
Marketing exec Lyra Yoe offered some background on this 10-year-old retail chain, which has 12 locations in Hong Kong, Singapore, Taiwan and Japan, and recently partnered with Maison Kitsuné to help the retailer open a Hong Kong flagship.
What was the initial goal of Kapok?
We wanted to create a sense of discovery and enjoyment in a new style of stores. We used our understanding of the Hong Kong audience, with a French touch.
How would you describe your merchandising philosophy?
Kapok’s role is to help young and small brands reach an audience in Asia. At our core, we’re a champion of the small and independent brands.
What are some of your top labels?
Our key men’s shoe brands are Common Projects, Eytys, Reebok, Rivieras and some niche Scandinavian and French brands.
Who is your target clientele?
Our customers are creative individuals in their mid-20s to early 40s. They are culturally sophisticated, well-traveled and highly connected to what’s happening in society.
What’s the secret of your success?
We have a large assortment of top international fashion brands, such as Maison Kitsuné, Common Projects, Margaret Howell and many more, but I like to think that our customers shop at Kapok because we give them a remarkable shopping experience that can’t be replicated anywhere else.
Graduate Store, Bordeaux, France
The Graduate Store opened in 2010 in a district that is “an alternative to classic commercial places,” said co-owner Clément Hervouet, who offers brands such as Common Projects and Converse, as well as Clarks, Alden and Red Wing.
He noted that the idea for the retail shop grew from a personal frustration. “We always thought the offerings were really poor in our city,” said Hervouet, adding that the merchandising philosophy at Graduate is classic. “We emphasize the product, as well as textures and materials. But the product has to work by itself.”
Inside, the atmosphere is warm, with wood accents enhancing the authenticity of the space. “[The design] is linked with our range of product and what we try to relay to our clients,” said Hervouet.
Last year, the owners opened a second store on the same street with the aim of offering exceptional products from heritage companies as well as new labels. “We’re working with Mackintosh, Neighborhood, Edwin, O.A.M.C., Junya Watanabe, ArmorLux, Universal Works, Stone Island, RRL and Comme Des Garçons Play,” said Hervouet.
The Luxury Arcade, Abu Dhabi, UAE
Lina Mustafa, founder of The Luxury Arcade, had noticed a gap in the market for a mid-range multibrand store, especially for men. After studying fashion design and the fashion business, she returned to her roots in Abu Dhabi and, in June 2014, opened her store in the World Trade Centre Mall.
Mustafa’s aim is to attract customers who appreciate simplicity and minimalism — and buy a mix of streetwear and luxury. To that end, Filling Pieces and Asfvlt are key brands in the store’s mix. “I like what those brands are about,” said Mustafa. “The designer for Filling Pieces wants to bridge the gap between high end and street style, and that goes hand-in-hand with what I believe in for The Luxury Arcade.”
The store’s atmosphere is clean, urban and spare, featuring a large art installation on the walls created specifically for the space. “I wanted this to be a place where customers could enjoy shopping and listening to good music,” Mustafa said. “I like to offer customers pieces they can’t find elsewhere in this region. And I’m different because I tend to gravitate to quirkier items that won’t appeal to everyone.”
Lapstone & Hammer, Philadelphia
Men’s store Lapstone & Hammer, which opened on May 15, spans roughly 4,000 square feet and features both athletic and dress shoes — perfect for the man looking for one-stop shopping. “We’ve designed the store to have a bar-and-lounge atmosphere,” said owner Brian Nadav. “We have two rooms: one for handcrafted leather footwear and heritage menswear, and the other for premium sportswear.” The upstairs mezzanine houses pop-up shops and capsule collections, while a back gallery space, called Pauline’s, is used for events and art openings. Below, Nadav provides a few more highlights about the store:
Sportswear from Nike, Air Jordan, Puma, Saucony, Onitsuka Tiger, Converse, PF Flyers, Diadora, Lacoste. Leather shoes from Clarks Originals, Filling Pieces, Yuketen, Vico, Timberland, Red Wing, Danner, Clae.
“I look for quality and craftsmanship. It’s our intention to pay homage to the art of shoe-making while serving the needs of the 21st century consumer.”
“We have an extremely wide demographic. From the 18-year-old sneaker guy looking for the latest limited-edition releases to the 40-plus guy who is sophisticated and understands what handcrafted shoes are all about.”
Sneakerboy, Melbourne, Australia
Artistic Director Chantal Sciola shares insights about the two-door retailer, which has been tapping into the most current and selective movements in sportswear and high-fashion culture since September 2013.
Why did you open Sneakerboy?
We felt there was an emerging space in the market for a purpose-built luxury sneaker store. High fashion was changing rapidly — there was a clear shift toward street-style clothing and footwear — and that had not been captured at retail.
What are some of your key brands?
We carry a mix of sportswear such as Y-3, Adidas, Nike, Reebok and luxury brands such as Balenciaga, Buscemi and Saint Laurent.
Who is your target clientele?
Our principal customer is the new wave of luxury consumer from the U.S. and Asia, but sneakers are so elemental to so many people. We appeal to a wide demographic.
Describe your store’s aesthetic.
We took an “anti-retail” approach. We wanted the shops to be more like assembly places, so many of the design cues come from public spaces like the Metro.
What makes Sneakerboy unique in your market?
Our customers use the stores as touch points and meeting places. We also use the stores for releases and special-product launches on Saturdays, which always attracts a crowd.
From the day it opened in April 2010, Soto has carried a range of international designers from Europe, the U.S. and Japan, many of which have never been in Germany before.
“There was something missing in the city’s retail landscape,” said David Fischer, who co-owns the business with Philip Gaedicke and Omer Ben-Michael.
All three have a fashion background and are passionate about the industry. They stock brands such as Nike, Common Projects, Adidas and New Balance in a “clean and simple” atmosphere. “We give the products enough freedom to speak for themselves,” Fischer said of the store design. “We want people to feel comfortable browsing our stores, touching things, trying things on and, most importantly, shopping.”
The store targets a fashionable crowd that is well-informed and international. To meet the needs of that chic clientele, the owners have an equally sophisticated approach to merchandise.
“You can buy the latest Nike limited-edition sneaker, as well as a gorgeous Thom Browne or Dries Van Noten piece and it
all happens under one roof. We feel like the mix of these styles and worlds is a realistic way for a modern man to dress today,” Fischer said.