In the early 1900's Benjamin Griggs and Septimus Jones set up a boot making partnership in Northamptonshire creating boots for factory workers and the military, but Dr. Martens as we know it today wasn't formed until much later. In the 1960's the then Chairmen of the company Bill Griggs licensed the famous air cushioned sole from a German inventor and the famous Dr. Marten 1460 boot was born.
The now iconic boot was initially sold to factory workers and the military but was quickly adopted by early multi-cultural, ska-loving skinheads in the 1960's. The Who's Pete Townshend also famously wore the Dr. Martens boot live on stage.
The boot continued to be popular throughout generations, 1970's punk, the 1980's scooter boys and my generation, the 1990's grunge style. Although the 90's were the years I was in my teens, I have to be honest, and say that grunge wasn't really a trend I followed personally but it was hugely popular with my friends and people of my age.
In the early 00's troubles loomed for Dr. Martens as the sales started to drop, even with the new overseas stores opening, to avoid bankruptcy the company was forced to close all but one factory in UK.
The brand urgently needed to revitailse itself, so partnered with designers such as Jimmy Choo, Vivienne Westwood, Paul Smith, Japser Conran and Orla Kiely. Each designer reinterpreted and customised the classic 1460 boot design.
Towards the end of the late 00's the brand had regained strength and was increasingly popular with celebrities, musicians and free-thinkers. More recently Dr. Martens partnered with Model Agyness Deyn. The famous model has been photographed numerous times wearing Dr. Martens boots and has also designed her own collection exclusively for Dr. Martens.
Today, the Dr. Martens brand continues to grow in strength and I'm pleased to report that the brand has some ambitious plans for the UK retail market. In 2011 the brand had just four stores in the UK, however over the last few years Dr. Martens has been rapidly expanding it's high street presence. This month I was lucky enough to attend the 14th store opening in the city of Brighton.
The store itself is amazing and although not the largest of retail spaces, it is designed beautifully in a style that perfectly articulates the Dr. Martens brand image. From the Neon Dr. Martens sign hanging on the red brick wall above the shoe molds to the card filing system used to display the children's collection, it was clear that quality design both in the footwear and the store continue to be at the heart of the Dr. Martens brand.
Design is so focal to that brand that the store commissioned a local artist to design art work for the store, Ben Duarri aka 'The Screen Prince' created a unique piece of art combining the famous West Pier with a classic pair of 1460 boots.
As I wondered around the store, I was surprised by the huge range of products the brand had to offer. The store obviously had it's classic boot in various colour's and styles on display but there was also a huge variety of other designs including shoes, sandals and even a range of bags and satchels on display. Colour's were available in abundance from the classic black, bright solid neon's, stunning print patterns and studs, every possible taste was catered for.
I immediately fell in love with the baby and children's ranges; they are absolutely adorable and available for most ages from around 3 months onwards. At the risk of setting my broodiness into overdrive I quickly moved to another part of the store where I was lucky enough to speak with Debbie Morgan, the head of retail operations.
Debbie explained that all the retail stores are owned and operated by Dr. Martens to ensure a consistent customer experience. The Brighton store was the perfect place for a new store due to its diverse and creative atmosphere; Debbie discussed how they'd been looking for quite some time to find a retail space that could accurately portray the Dr. Martens brand.
I was particularly interested to hear that some designs continue to be made in the UK and that the others were made in the far east using machines designed and maintained by DM to ensure consistent product quality. Quality is so important that the 'for life' range of products actually means for life and DM will repair boots that have worn out, even due to natural wear and tare. Apparently some customers had been wearing the same pair of boots for over 20 years, that's impressive!
On the subject of design quality, Debbie showed me round the 100% vegan range of products, a recent introduction to the product portfolio that have been hugely successful. This unique range of products look identical to the other ranges and maintains the same quality as the original boot but without the use of any animal products, even down to the type of glue used.
The retail stores are so successful that I'm pleased to say that plans are already in motion to open more stores soon in Edinburgh, Newcastle, Norwich, Milton Keynes and Portsmouth with the eventual plan to have 25 stores across the UK.
I have to be honest and say that overall I was really impressed by the Brighton store but more impressed by the brand itself. I'd always stereotyped DM for their classic boot but researching for this post and getting closer to brand has opened my eye's to what a wonderful brand Dr. Martens really is. If there is store near you I suggest a visit, I genuinely believe that the diversity and quality of the Dr. Martens products will impress.
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