The Natural Shoe Store
While at university I worked on Neal Street for a bit – the mecca for footwear in London. The Natural Shoe Store was the go to place for a host of brands such as Birkenstock and Trippen. The shop has actually had a presence there since 1976, while relocating up and down along the street several times since. Started by Robert Lusk with a desire of offering footwear with a difference based on health conscience benefits, the company has developed a loyal customer base who fit the “independently minded, well-travelled and culturally aware” demographic. Originally introducing Birkenstock and The Natural Shoe by Glen to the UK, the company now stock a host of brands including Bass Weejun, RM Williams, Grenson, Blundstone and Trippen.
They have moved once again, now into the old Birkenstock shop (which ironically is next door to where I used to work). The open plan space suits them well, despite being slightly small than some of their previous residences. With a scandinavian simplicity with oil stained oak floors and blackened metalwork on shelving and tables. Harking back to their aesthetic roots, the shop acts a pleasant canvas for the exciting shoes to be displayed.
I was lucky enough to speak with Chester Lusk, son of Robert, and Kuni Awai their head buyer. We chatted about the various guises of The Natural Shoe Store over the years and how they’ve arrived to where they are now. Building a core customer base has been key to success, and when selecting products and introducing new brands, it’s knowing what those
I was impressed to see the brands on show, not more so than Blundstone, which according to Kuni has been extremely popular. I can understand why, being robust functional shoes perfect for travellers, adventurers and workmen alike. She also introduced me to a nice plimsole perfect for the summer called Kawasaki that used to be an old communist era all-round shoe. Lightweight and comfortable it’s a new contemporary classic in the making.