1977 was the year Fleetwood Mac released their classic Rumors album, the year Steve Jobs founded Apple Inc., the year George Lucas’ Star Wars opened in cinemas for the first time, and the year the King of Rock n’ Roll sung his last tunes. It was also the year the first Red Wing Shoes mono-brand retailer was established in Europe with the shop in Frankfurt, in fact it would go on to be the only of its kind for the next three decades. Today, the shop is owned and operated by Kami Hashemi, a seasoned veteran in the European retail business. As part of this season’s “The Chronicle of an Icon” exhibitions Red Wing Heritage celebrates their relationship with the first European Red Wing flagship store. To tell the story of the shop we caught up with Kami.
What is it with Red Wings that appeal so much to the modern man?
“Made in USA, comfort, quality, craftsmanship and the fact that the older the boots get the better they look. When you meet other people wearing Red Wings you feel like belonging to the same small tightly knit community.”
What made you go into the Red Wing retail business?
“I was impressed with the quality, the craftsmanship and the durability of the products.”
Kami’s parents entered into retail back in the 70s opening several shops at the then newly established mall at Frankfurt’s central underground station. Growing up Kami would find himself working in the shops, he even recalls making his first sale at the age of ten. In 1992, after graduating with a bachelor’s degree in business administration, he began working full time in my parents’ shoe store. It wasn’t until 1998 Red Wing offered Kami to buy the flagship store along with all its inventory and the rights operate it.
What do you love the most about the brand?
“Over the years I’ve come to learn that unlike many other companies Red Wing isn’t driven by money. To Red Wing it’s more important to do the right thing. They preserve their heritage and keep on doing what they do best. I also love that you’re still able to buy styles that were introduced some 60 years ago.”
How do you care for your Red Wings?
“In the past I tried oiling, cleaning, conditioning and so on. Later I learned that for the conditions in which I use my shoes they don’t need much treatment. So basically I do nothing, I just wear them.”
Do you have any particularly memorable customer experiences from the many years of running the shop?
“I remember one wayfaring timberman showing up for a repair. While on the road he had badly needed a repair, but he hadn’t been able to find a cobbler that could resole his boots. So, instead he cut off a piece of worn out tire and screwed it on to the beat up soles of his boots himself. When he got to Frankfurt several months later the rubber had held up and Kami’s cobbler was able to resole the boots properly with original outsoles.”
Do you collect anything?
“The question would be easier to answer if you asked what I don’t collect.”
How many pairs of Red Wings do you have in your private collection?
“1200 pairs; the entire stock we have. Anyway, they all feel like my private collection. All right, I have 8 pairs that I use and 12 pairs that are still in the box.”
Which is your favourite Red Wing style?
“The 8804 Supersole, also known as “the Frankfurter,” the lightest Goodyear welted boot in the world.”
What does the future look like for the Red Wing store in Frankfurt?
“Making more and more people happy wearing a pair of Red Wing day by day.”
In addition to the Red Wing Shoes store Kami is also the proud owner of B74, one of Frankfurt’s finest denim lifestyle shops.