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Putting the 'her' in Heritage: Red Wing Shoe Co. to unveil women's line

Allison Gettings, left, Gaal Levine and Julie Quinn showcase selections from the upcoming Heritage women's collection. The line will have its international debut Aug.12 at Red Wing Shoe Co. flagship store on Main Street. (Photo By Samantha Bengs)

The company history is familiar to all who have called Red Wing home — a history that has provided well-being and employment to countless residents, a history that provides sure-footed foundation to workers worldwide. Pair after pair, these storied boots have weaved into the lives of many, becoming inescapable in their city of origin.   

Later this month, the pages will turn to reveal a new chapter in Red Wing Shoe’s history, as the company launches a much-anticipated women’s footwear line.

Allison Gettings, a fourth-generation shoemaker of the Sweasy family, has been a driving force in the women’s line development as the director of product creation for the Red Wing Heritage brand. Gettings was working on her own women’s footwear collection, Alli Marie, in 2014 when an idea with the family company came to mind, she said.

“Alli Marie shoes were being made in Portugal at a time when the euro was really strong against the dollar. Importing costs were high,” she said. “I thought about how great it would be to make a women’s line in the United States, and started the conversation with Heritage.”

Two years later, Heritage will launch the collection.

“We wanted to produce something that was meaningful to our company and heritage and also to the women’s market. We didn’t want to put something out that was just a smaller version of a men’s shoe. One of our biggest challenges was how do we take such a masculine brand and make it appealing to women,” Gettings said. “We went through exercises of finding out what is our DNA: what makes a Red Wing a Red Wing? How do we capture the essence of the Red Wing Shoe Company in a women’s boot?”

Before any designer put a pen to paper, Gettings and her team did an extensive market tour, sitting down with customers and employees across the globe, discovering what women wanted in this collection.

“Women were already wearing our men’s products, so it was very telling,” said Julie Quinn, a member of the marketing team.

A new fit

Gettings heard a common issue from women wearing the men’s boots: comfort.

“It is harder for women to break in a men’s boot, because we tend to not wear the same shoes every day and we don’t have the weight to help break them in. We took the whole boot apart and rebuilt it for women,” she said. “We took a lot of weight out of the boot.”

Working with S.B. Foot Tanning Co., the design team redeveloped the leathers for the collection.

“With the weights down on the leather, it makes them softer for more of a feminine, flattering look that is easier to break in. The boots won’t feel so stiff on the foot,” Gettings said.

The fall 2016 launch will feature three collections: Heritage Core, Legacy and Modern.

“With the Core collection, we took styles currently selling on the men’s line and revamped them for women,” Gettings said.

The Legacy collection features two boots based off of shoes from the Red Wing Shoe archives. Womens designer, Gaal Levine, drew inspiration from the earliest Red Wing offerings for women.

“It was exciting and inspiring to have so much history behind this collection,” Levine said. “As we looked through the archives, it was amazing to see that the company wanted to support women and the new activities they were doing in the 1920s. I’d like to think that our new collection does that as well.”

The Modern collection pieces, Gettings said, took direct inspiration from classic styles. “We put them on a stacked leather heel for a more feminine feel,” she said.

“We wanted to make sure that everything in the brand had a clear tie-back to our DNA and design language, all while being wearable, purpose-built, and beautiful.”

Global preview

On Aug. 12, the Red Wing Shoe store on Main Street will launch a global preview of the fall collection of women’s boots. The flagship store will be the only location worldwide selling the products until the European launch on Sept. 1, followed by the Sept. 6 launch in American stores and online.

“These are products that I am really proud of,” Gettings said. “It’s a very humbling experience to come into a brand that is so powerful and to see the impact it has on a worldwide level. To be able to take this vision and create beautiful products for women with the support and brand power behind us is awe-inspiring.”

The company locals know like the back of their hand will give its city a first look as the rest of the world eagerly waits.

“Not only do we have a global presence, we’re cool. We’re one of the coolest brands out there right now,” Gettings said. “I do think there is potential for the women’s collection to grow as big as the men’s collection, if not bigger.”