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Johan Ringdal. Photo: Jeton Kacaniku
Johan Ringdal. Photo: Jeton Kacaniku

People

The man who made galoshes cool

Galoshes were outdated and seriously uncool – until Norwegian Johan Ringdal single-handedly revived them. Last year, SWIMS sold galoshes, loafers, outerwear, and bags to the tune of €8.5 million.

Johan Ringdal. Photo: Jeton Kacaniku

As a student at Parsons School of Design in New York, Ringdal noticed that many New Yorkers wore their fine leather-soled shoes in rain, sleet, and snow. They jumped puddles, and their shoes suffered the effects of slush and salted sidewalks. But Ringdal grew up in a home where old-fashioned galoshes were still the order of the day.

“Galoshes are really practical,” Ringdal says.

“I was sure it must be possible to make something elegant to protect the expensive shoes of Manhattan business people.”

After graduating, Ringdal returned to his native Norway and formulated a plan. He sketched out how he thought galoshes 2.0 should look. 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 in developing and manufacturing the product.

In 2006, Ringdal sold his first pair of galoshes. They were colorful and cool enough to appeal to style-conscious consumers.

One of Ringdal’s first customers was the boutique store Ferner Jacobsen on Stortingsgaten in Oslo, renowned for high-quality footwear and clothing.

“Having a reference customer of this type made all the difference,” Ringdal says. “But I had to do all the selling and distribution myself for the first two years.”

International success happened in 2009. SWIMS was contacted by classic British bootmaker John Lobb, whose distinguished customer list has included the likes of Frank Sinatra, Prince Charles and Calvin Klein. Ringdal worked with John Lobb to develop a special galosh to protect its luxury shoes.

Photo: Jeton Kacaniku

From rain wear to lifestyle brand

Two years later came a call from Armani, which led to the development of Armani by SWIMS, a galosh collection designed to match Armani’s range of shoes.

SWIMS was going places. But there was one problem – good business depended on bad weather.

Customers bought galoshes during fall and winter. In spring and summer, they vanished from the shelves – and SWIMS disappeared from the radar.

SWIMS needed products it could sell during summer. 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 became a lifestyle brand,” Ringdal says.

Now the company is set to launch several products aimed at women and has plans to open its own stores. 

 

Text: Inga Ragnhild Holst 

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Last edited: May 20, 2017

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