That Norwegian footwear label SWIMS isn't a much more well known brand in the UK is unfathomable considering the rain we get here, Londoner's delectation for fine leather shoes and SWIMS practical, stylish galoshes. I wonder if you stopped people on the street and asked them what a galosh is how many would know? - let alone spot anyone actually wearing a pair. That is all set to change this autumn/winter as the fashion world embraces the galosh - not that there hasn't already been enough rain this summer to warrant a pair of the rubber overshoes. The modern rubber galosh has been around since the late 19th Century, but outershoes have existed in various forms since the Middle Ages. It's easy to think that modern footwear technology would negate the need for a protective rubber overshoe so how then, has SWIMS become the premium international retailer of galoshes in seven short years since their launch in 2005? The answer lies in a fundamental pursuit of practicality without compromising on style. More than many places, we know about rain in the UK and, as cutting-edge as a leather or suede pair of shoes may be, they will still deteriorate if continually worn in wet weather. In a rare sensible moment - although also an uncompromisingly stylish one - fashion designers are re-discovering the galosh, with Miuccia Prada and Patrik Ervell producing incorporated 'galosh' details on shoes designs for their AW12 collections.
SWIMS, of course, are ready for the inevitable rise in popularity. They can be found in over 25 countries and more than 1000 stores including Trunk, Harvey Nichols and Orlebar Brown in the UK. SWIMS began as the producer of 'The Modern Galosh' but have cleverly developed into a label that excels in waterproof/resistant shoes that still maintain a fashion edge with a range of brogue and boot styles. So if you're not brave enough to rock an orange SWIMS Classic galosh over a blue suede loafer, there are stylish, fully water-proofed, brogues available too. Utilising state-of-the-art high density nylon and rubber combined with leather and woollen linings the collection includes unexpected and elegant shoes that will keep you dry in April showers, June monsoons and all through the wet winter as well. Swims galoshes range from £49-£99 and men's footwear from £169 - £279.
Because spoke to SWIMS founder, Johan Ringdal, about the origins of the brand, the best ways to wear the modern galosh and what inspires him.
Because: What did you do before you launched SWIMS?
Johan Ringdal: I was a student attending Parson's in New York when I came up with the idea of re-designing the overshoe. I was wearing my grandfather's old galoshes - and wanted to make this very practical item modern again!
Where did the name come from?
Well, the galosh protects your fine leather shoes from getting damaged on rainy days - hence I wanted the brand to be associated with water. Most of our products are related to water in some way or another, and I also wanted a certain playfulness in there..
The galosh is on trend for AW12 with several designers playing with the style. What are your thoughts about this turn around, if you like, from the days when you were mocked for wearing galoshes in Paris to them now being celebrated by high-fashion brands?
I have always admired Prada and obviously I think it's really cool to see them being inspired by the galosh trend... Remember, there were no upmarket galoshes or overshoes before we introduced the SWIMS Classic. Our collaborations with John Lobb and Armani probably helped put us on the map, but I believe the hard work of getting the best stores to buy into our concept and then getting the "taste makers" as customers is the key.
My grandfather used to wear galoshes over Churches brogues to do the gardening! And I always thought it was so stylish and looked very creative. But I've never seen them anywhere else - do lots of Norwegians wear galoshes?
Back in the days - yes, but mostly older people - like grandfathers! But now you can see SWIMS everywhere, from 15 to 80 year old people. I think it's a combination of two things - it's trendy and people want to protect their expensive leather shoes. People own several pairs - they want different colors.
What inspires you?
Evergreen products (Google it - fascinating), mountaineering and the Steve Jobs book
A selection from SWIMS AW12
The SWIMS Classic in Olive worn over brogues