Over a round of shots at Gallery Bar for Happy Hour, the guys from Bucketfeet broke some big news. Bucketfeet, so far an online-only store for artist-designed sneakers, is making a play in the world of bricks and mortar. To find out where their downtown pop-up shop is, watch the video below. (Hint: It’s across the hall from an Anthropologie). Their official launch party is the 29th, but they quietly opened the doors on Friday.
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So what’s a Bucketfeet? As co-founder and CEO Raaja Nemani explained to me in 8 seconds flat (I timed him–again, watch video), artists from Hiroshima, Paris, Rio de Janeiro and Chicago — more than 30 countries and counting— send their designs to Bucketfeet’s team of 6, who stick them on shoes.
Since they started a couple of years ago, they’ve growing like crazy. In their first year, Bucketfeet sold 1,500 pairs of shoes. Last year, they did almost six times that many. This year, according to Bobby Stephens, the COO and President, they’re on track for 400 percent growth. By the end of the year, nearly 1,000 artists will have submitted designs for their shoes.
All of that made me wonder, why mess with a good thing? They’re moving tons of shoes online. Why branch out into the world of floor design, rent and mall cops?
“As much as anything, we want to stay true to the mission of providing our artists a global platform to showcase their work and tell their story,” said Bobby. “Online can scale that baby out there to all corners of the world, but retail, the in-person model, supports a much more personal connection.”
To fulfill that mission, the store is divided into a retail area, where they have their fall collection among 24 different designs of shoes, along with some other stuff, like hoodies, T’s and kids’ clothing. On the other side of the store, they have a gallery that displays art from students at River North youth arts charity Marwen.
Then Bobby told me something that left me speechless (a rare occurrence). Last Sunday afternoon, they sold more shoes in their single Chicago store than they did on their worldwide website. It’s already more successful than their pop-up in New York City, which was located on Broadway and Grand in what Bobby called “one of the most highly trafficked areas in the world.”
Numbers like that have Bucketfeet doubling down on the roving pop-up model and pondering a future that includes a permanent retail space. “In terms of all of the different prints, it ends up feeling like a candy store,” Bobby says.”One of the only places where we can display that range is in our store.”
When time does come for Bucketfeet to open permanent store, Bobby says he’s positive it’ll be in Chicago. Only thing is, Chicagoans might have to wait till summer. “There’s not a good reason to open a canvas sneaker store in Chicago in February,” he jokes. “Not unless we start selling snow boots.”