Tailor Made Galoshes

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When British shoemaker John Lobb began collaboration with Norwegian Swims, the two companies created a fusion between old craftsmanship and new technology.

As a student at Parsons School of Design in New York, The Norwegian Johan Ringdal noticed that many New Yorkers wore their fine leather-soled shoes in rain, sleet, and snow. Ringdal, who grew up in a home where old-fashioned galoshes still were the order of the day, decided to create a line of modern, active footwear in prismatic colors – including galoshes.

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After graduating, Ringdal returned to his native Norway and formulated a plan and established his company Swims. Armed with his design and a pair of old-style galoshes, Ringdal traveled to a rubber and plastics trade fair in Germany. He talked to companies that manufactured everything from bottles to wetsuits, and a company in Taiwan was interested.

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In the spring of 2008 the British company approached the Norwegian galosh producer Swims, set up by Johan Ringdal in 2005, on a cooperation to one of John Lobb’s most popular shoe lasts.

The British shoe manufacturer, established in 1849, is considered one of the real classics when it comes to footwear, and has made shoes for King Edvard the seventh as well as for Frank Sinatra and Ian Fleming’s James Bond.
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The two companies teamed up, and in 2009 Swims, in collaboration with product designers from the Norwegian design office Work, used 3-D modeling to make an optimal fit, so the special adjusted galoshes were tailor made and thus also fit the expression “hand in glove”.

Galoshes were in fact outdated and seriously uncool – until Johan Ringdal single-handedly revived them. Last year, SWIMS sold galoshes, loafers, outerwear, and bags for more than €8.5 million.

Swim loafers
Swim loafers

Swims’ second collaboration was with Armani fashion house for their Fall Winter 2012 collection. In January 2012, the Armani by SWIMS overshoe appeared on the runway in Milan. SWIMS had created a bespoke collection of modern day overshoes aligned with the unique artistry of Armani shoes.

Swims at Nick Hilton
Swims at Nick Hilton

However, there was one problem: good business depended on bad weather. In spring and summer nobody bought galoshes.  The answer was a classic loafer, which is equally at home on the beach or on a boat. It took off and is now sold in 1200 high-end stores in 40 countries.
“SWIMS has become a lifestyle brand,” Ringdal says.

Swims loafers from 2013
Swims loafers from 2013

“Mankind has been protecting shoes for millennia, but not until now has a viable, functional, handsome option been found. Situations like this call for galoshes. Yes, that’s right, the rubber overshoes your dad owns but never wears. Fortunately, what’s old has been made new (and better-looking) thanks to Swims, a footwear line out of Norway that’s redefining and reinventing wet-weather shoes,” states the company Jack Threads.

Over the past 10 years SWIMS has become a vibrant and sought-after lifestyle brand. “The more we grow, the more committed we are to our core philosophy. During the development process of new projects, we humorously often use the phrase: “to SWIMSify”. But make no mistake; this playful approach to design is always matched by an equally large commitment to the quality and the functionality of our products. Who says what are fun and friendly cannot also be great?” the company questions on their website.

Tailor Made Galoshes, written by Tor Kjolberg