When most people see an old shoe ad, they think, “how quaint.” When Lauren Stowell sees them, she thinks how she can recreate the style for the modern woman. Such is the credo behind Royal Vintage shoes, a budding footwear company that recreates women’s shoes from the 20s, 30s and 40s, often working off old ads or catalog pages for inspiration. Vintage, both actual and inspired, is having a resurgence, from the successful Vintage@Intermezzo trade show capsule to costume designer Janie Bryant’s capsule for Unique Vintage.
“We have a pretty big growing archive of original shoes that I find or buy, plus old magazines from the period,” says Stowell, who owns the company with husband Abby Cox, both self-defined Super Vintage People. “These are primary sources, like the Sears Roebuck catalog from 1938.”
Two and a half years old, Royal Vintage is actually the expansion brand from the company’s American Duchess line featuring historic 18th and 19th century styles. “American Duchess was targeted a bit more for the entertainment world, costume designers, etcetera,” says Stowell. “Now there’s vintage for a more mainstream modern girl and she needs footwear to match.
Pop culture has really driven interest in vintage, from shows like Downton Abbey or The Great Gatsby. “We have customers who say ‘I want to look like Lady Mary or Daisy Buchanan. It’s so exciting that people are embracing vintage fashion in that way.
Most of the shoes are recreations, not reproductions. “People equate vintage with really high quality but that’s just not always the case, especially shoes from the Depression or the following war which put restrictions on manufacturing and materials usage and even heel height.”
Best sellers are the 1940s styles with their thicker heels or platforms and comfortable construction. “People like the lower heels or ‘Grandma shoes,’ which are more practical. The 30s are also catching up with its interesting Deco details.”
Royal Vintage doesn’t necessarily hit the costume crowd or even avid Swing Dancers looking for Lindy Hop shoes. “We put rubber soles on everything and dancers want leather, plus our prices are a bit high for a costume or dance event.
Royal Vintage sells to stores like Unique Vintage in California, Revival Retro in London and Vecona in Germany and is looking to expand its wholesale business. Royal Vintage shoes range from $145 to $160; with boots selling from $200 to $230.