Long before hipsters were folding their pant cuffs over their Chelsea boots, Australia’s Blundstone was manufacturing their own, original brand of cool. The company’s lightweight yet durable Chelsea has been around for over 140 years, and is back in the spotlight due to the recent uptick in men’s boots. Now, the family-owned company is launching their first boots specifically for women (though Blundstone maintains their boots have always been unisex), and is keen to become a brand that can be worn year-round.
Vamp recently had the chance to chat with Blundstones National Sales Manager Tim Engel, who discussed the brand’s history and where it’s headed in 2016.
Vamp: Give us a little background on Blundstone for those who might not be familiar. How are the boots made and what makes them so special?
Engel: Blundstone is a family-owned boot company from Tasmania, Australia that has been in the shoe business since 1870. The majority of the Blundstone range uses the injected molding process in factories around the world. What makes them special is they are high quality boots that are light weight, very comfortable, extremely durable and maintain a classic style as the original Chelsea boot. A big part of the brands philosophy is that we offer the consumer a quality boot that they truly fall in love with and in turn become our ambassadors. We like to say “Go anywhere. Do anything.” This statement of individual freedom is the soul of our footwear brand and we are passionate in the notion that they’re not just boots, they’re Blundstones.
Vamp: Has the recent Chelsea boot trend in men’s footwear increased Blundstone’s brand awareness?
Engel: We are the original so being copied by so many brands has definitely helped us. Footwear buyers and consumers always gravitate to the original in a category. I’ve heard other shoe brands say they have a “Blundstone” type boot. We love that!
Vamp: Why do you think the Chelsea boot is back in such a big way right now?
Engel: The Chelsea boot is an iconic style that trends up and down. The difference this time is that the younger male and female consumer is jumping on it.
Vamp: You used to only offer men’s boots. What made Blundstone want to branch into a women’s line? And how has it been received so far?
Engel: Actually our boots have always been unisex but worn mostly by men. Two years ago that changed with skinny jeans and tights becoming so fashionable in women’s apparel. Chelsea boots became the boot of choice and our women’s business went off the charts. Last year we introduced our first women’s lasted Blundstone and it has become an instant hit.
Vamp: What’s new for women for Fall ’16?
Engel: The one women’s Chelsea is a classic twin gore Blundstone in which we have expanded the colors in both smooth and nubuck leathers. The new Twin Gore Lace Up boot again will be unisex but we feel it will get more play for a female consumer.
“The Chelsea boot is an iconic style that trends up and down. The difference this time is that the younger male and female consumer is jumping on it.”
Vamp: Is Blundstone a 12-month brand?
Engel: Blundstone customers know that our boots can be worn 12 months a year. As an unlined leather boot, Blundstone’s are very comfortable through the summer. Plus the “Aussie style” of wearing your “Blunnies” with shorts is starting to catch on.
Vamp: How has this winter’s unusually warm weather affected sales in the U.S.?
Engel: We are not really purchased as a winter boot. But Q4 was so warm that consumers were not even out shopping for shoes in general, so yes it did effect Q4 sales but now that winter is here consumers are going out and getting their Blundstones.
Vamp: Is there anything else we can expect from Blundstone this year?
Engel: Aside from keeping a keen eye on our quality as we experience such strong global growth, we are very aware of keeping our distribution at the right level. We have extremely loyal retail partners that have supported the brand long before we became so popular. We want to expand our business with those who supported us since day one. Whether it is in the specialty footwear channel, outdoor specialty or fashion boutique—Blundstone will only be found in the best retailers that maintain the brands integrity.