Interview by Melanie Gropler

Rough, tough, crafted, authentic and mostly worn by men – this is what Red Wing’s Heritage Brand stands for. So far. With spring summer 2016 the brand is going to reach out to the ladies out there: designer Allison Gettings launches ‘Lady’s Boots’, the brand’s new women’s footwear line. With the new collection Gettings wants to create footwear for women that is both beautiful and wearable. “I believe that there is a growing movement of women who are embracing their own craft and the craftsmanship of other women in the world”, she stated. Joining the company full time in 2006, Gettings is thrilled to be launching a women’s line for Red Wing’s iconic Heritage Brand that started with shoes back in 1921. Here, the designer explains her motivation and the challenges of doing women’s footwear and how to design stylish but comfortable shoes.

You once said that you really wanted a women’s range for years. Why do you start a women’s wear collection only now? Why do you think the time is ripe for it?

Of course, growing up in the business I’ve always wanted to wear Red Wing and we have never had an assortment of shoes that a woman could wear and still look stylish.  There are a lot of reasons why the time is ripe for us to launch this collection.  Our men’s Heritage line has done a tremendous job building brand internationally, and we have a strong network of retailers that will help us support this new collection, which didn’t exist years before.  I also believe that there is a growing movement of women who are looking for footwear that is both beautiful and wearable, who are embracing their own craft and the craftsmanship of other women in the world.  So from an internal perspective, we are in the right place to launch this collection, and I believe that the market is ready for it as well.

The boots you are wearing are from the new collection. What’s the feeling like to walk in them? And how do you feel about the first collection?
Yes, the boots I am wearing are from our Fall 2016 launch collection. They are surprisingly comfortable, as is the whole line. We have two layers of performance foam cushioning in each style which you can feel as soon as you put them on.  I am thrilled with our initial collection. We have interpreted our Red Wing Shoe Company DNA in a few different ways which gives the line nice diversity while remaining true to our brand. We took very little inspiration from the outside world for this collection, focusing mostly on who we are and our rich heritage. The result is an assortment that is unique to the market but also very timely.

Allison Gettings wearing new Red Wing Lady's Boots
Allison Gettings wearing new Red Wing Lady's Boots

The market for women’s shoes is much more challenging compared to the men’s footwear market. Where and how do you want to position Red Wing for women?
The women’s footwear market tends to gather on two opposing poles: we have high-end products that are very precious, fashionable, and expensive, and then there are “fast-fashion” brands that focus on of-the-moment trends, sacrificing quality for price. We basically ignore these two camps – our products are built like work boots – they are high quality without being precious, they are fashionable without being trendy.  These are classic pieces that a woman will keep in her wardrobe for years.

What does your distinguishing mark look like? How would you describe your first collection?
The first collection is fairly conservative. Red Wing Heritage is currently known as a men’s brand, and many of our existing styles have become iconic in the market. With our women’s collection we wanted to demonstrate that we are committed to women with the breadth of the line and the careful thought and consideration that went into each piece, and we also want to make sure that there is strong tie back to the existing collection. Consequently, the women’s line features the same design language and brand values from our men’s line, but with a feminine perspective. In future seasons, once women in our markets know who we are, we will have more liberty to experiment with our assortment.

What are the key pieces for 2016?
In such a tight collection, all of our pieces are key!  I am most excited about our Legacy Collection, which features the tall lace up which I am wearing in this picture and a classic, tall pull-on boot we originally designed as a majorette boot back in the 1930’s. The tall, lace up boot, our Gloria, pays homage to the first style that we made for women back in the 1920’s and is meant to be a statement piece that women will create an outfit around.  Both of these styles showcase our natural, premium leathers and are completely unique to the women’s collection.

We are also enthusiastic about the pieces in our modern collection, which feature feminine interpretations of our iconic styles. These boots are instantly recognizable as Red Wing to those who know and love us, and are also a little more sophisticated than our core products, making them perfect for a woman who is looking for a high quality boot without compromising fit, quality, or style.

Finally, the products in our core collection are probably what most people in the market are expecting from us, and I hope that in reconstructing these boots we exceed expectations. Every detail on these styles has been thoughtfully considered, from the weight of the leather, to the fit of the boot, to the precise proportions of the patterns. If you are a woman who has ever worn a Red Wing Heritage boot before, we definitely encourage you to check out this collection.

Where do you see the current trend going?
I think women are continuing to pay more attention to the people and processes behind their products. We want the story behind the shelf: who actually made this product and where was it made? What kind of values does the company have? Are they participating in the world in a kind and sustainable way? Is the product made by people who are passionate about quality and value? We want to feel a personal connection to the items in our lives that transcends just how they look, which of course, is still fundamentally important.  Fast fashion and couture will always remain important in the market, at least in the near term, but it is this smaller, growing trend that I find the most compelling. I would love for Red Wing Shoes to be known not just for our products but also for how we treat our employees, our customers and the world.

What was the biggest challenge with designing women’s shoes?
The biggest challenge for us was taking a men’s brand and a men’s collection and re-interpreting it for women today without detracting from our current success and reputation.  However, our Women’s Heritage team is all women and so this was also the most fun. Taking an iconic brand known for old-world craftsmanship, working with our own tannery which is five minutes down the road from our headquarters and making something that we are proud to show to our friends and the world is a dream job for all of us. We can’t wait to show it to you!