Shoe Club: Urban Renewal Warehouse
Our Urban Renewal team recently purchased thousands of pairs of vintage shoes from a dead-stock warehouse just in time for summer. Here, Heather and Aaron give us a peek into the One of a Kind Vintage shoe collection and share their favorite finds.
There are so many shoes here! Where did they come from?
Heather: Ten years ago these two guys bought out a dead-stock assortment from Joseph LaRose in Miami, a really popular designer back in the day. A lot of modern designers use him for inspiration. Our old buyer came across them and purchased almost their whole warehouse. Thousands of shoes, probably five to ten thousand pairs. They are all original designs from the ‘50s through the ‘80s, authentic and dead-stock, which means none of them have ever been worn. We basically bought out an old shoe store.
What are some of your favorite styles?
I’m obsessed with the whole platform clog trend. We had a few with the wooden platforms from the ‘70s and a cool assortment of neon, metallic platforms. We also had a bunch of the original gladiators. We send most of these to the Urban stores and the ones left over we put online
Aaron: As you can imagine, it’s hard to get large quantities of things. Most of the time, shoes are given away when they already have scuffs and holes. If platforms are in right now, they are harder to find.
Heather: That’s why this huge buy is such a great find– it’s so rare to find a company that is selling all never-worn shoes in full size runs. It’s almost impossible to come across!
Explain the difference between One Of a Kind Vintage and Renewal.
Heather: All of our shoes are One of A Kind vintage except our cowboy boots. This summer we’re taking all of our bulk cowboy boots and cutting off the tops, so hopefully that will do well. Renewal pieces are new designs we make from vintage materials. We try to go out and look for things and in the process we’ll stumble across awesome pieces we can get in bulk.
Is thrifting something you’ve always enjoyed? Heather:
Always! I have five generations of women in my immediate family, so I have clothes passed down to me from my great, great grandmom, which is basically where I get all my inspiration. Last summer the Renewal team went to the World’s Longest Yard Sale, which started in Alabama and went up to Connecticut. We drove the whole way and found a ton of amazing pieces for five bucks.
So when you aren't out searching, what’s a typical day here in the warehouse like?
Aaron: We only come here on Tuesdays. We touch base on where orders are. We try on new samples and talk about how much we need to buy of something. After that we come to the warehouse and pull from our one-of-a-kind vintage racks to make two sets of forty pieces for the website.
Heather: Most of what we make is based on vintage samples, so if we find something we love we keep it here and try to recreate it or keep it for inspiration.
What do you guys listen to when you’re here?
Heather: I like classic rock, but the boys make me listen to screaming music and dance music.
Aaron: I usually have on the Yeah Yeah Yeahs and Johnny Cash, The Shins.
Heather: You like good music. We like to have fun around here. We take work seriously, but they tease me all the time. All the time! I’m the only girl. We act like brother and sister.
Aaron: Heather has to be our fit model sometimes, so she’ll come out in these little bandeau tops and we’ll be like, “Woo, yeah Heather!” We like to get out of the home office for the day.
What’s the strangest thing that’s come through here so far?
Aaron: I get excited when we get old designer pieces. We have an ‘80s Gucci tracksuit that’s amazing. It’s in great condition and will go online soon.
Heather: Aaron! I know what the craziest thing is. The baby shirt!
Heather: It’s a tank top that says Junior Gaultier on the front, and it has the belly cut out of it for a pregnant woman, so it shows her belly. It’s kind of gross, it skeeves me out!
Aaron: We keep passing it around to everyone. I’ll put it in the knit girl’s samples so when she’s going through her rack of samples she’ll be like, “What is this doing in here, ew!”
What’s the hardest thing to come by when you’re trying to find vintage shoes to sell? Heather:
Larger sizes! I feel like peoples’ feet used to be smaller, honestly! A lot of these are five and half and I’ve seen a three and half. I’m a size eight so it’s hard to find anything over a seven. Even when you do find a larger size, it’s super narrow.
Sneakers are even harder to find because those you definitely don’t get rid of until there are holes in them. We thought it’d be cool to get a bunch of old Nike and Adidas styles, old boat shoes and sell them in Men’s, but they are almost impossible to find.
What’s different about vintage shoes and those produced today?
Heather: I’d say the quality. Today everything is made to be disposed of. Nothing lasts anymore. It’s hard to find something new that’s not based off of a vintage design as well.
What are your tips for finding quality vintage shoes?
Make sure the sole isn't peeling up. I notice on vintage heels that the bottom wears off and there’s a nail that pops out. Make sure that the heel is sturdy and intact, and there’s not a lot of wear and tear on the shoe. We've had to get rid of a lot of shoes because they were moldy and the glue melted out of the shoe.
So what’s the next big shoe trend?
Heather: Just looking at upcoming trends for fall, at some point ladies’ shoes will be popular. In our trend books, a lot of pictures are very proper and lady-like, so it might not happen immediately but I can see it being bigger next fall or winter. A lot of these shoes here came with matching bags! Too bad girls don’t wear that right now.