Willow Shoes is a classic start-up story that evolved from very small beginnings in a rented flat in Wellington in 2000. Georgie Falloon realised she was not the only woman with long feet looking desperately for shoes to fit her feet. Finding shoes was like searching for a needle in a hay stack and always a challenge for her self esteem in some not so kind shops. Back then it could take hours and days to find anything at all to fit, let alone something you could love. The looks from shop assistants and the despair of being sent to the men's department for lace ups. Things needed to change...women with long feet needed feminine fashionable shoes too.
And so Willow Shoes was created to specialise in longer size women's shoes only. The most challenging which took years, was to encourage shoe makers to get interested in actually making their shoes in bigger sizes but eventually they listened. Willow Shoes is now considered to have the best selection of shoes anywhere in the world for women with long feet. At first, Willow Shoes was a one woman entity selling shoes via paper catalogue and by appointment from a rented flat. Then word grew via the well loved 'Shoe Tour' which involved travelling the length of New Zealand twice a year hosting pop up shops and meeting the growing list of Willow Shoes customers.
The first Willow store opened in Auckland in 2003 and three more followed. The biggest challenge was always around trying to convince shoe makers to produce longer sizes. Back then, many struggled to get their heads around believing women with longer feet wanted fashion and style just like everyone else. Georgie didn't give up and is still leading the way getting new brands into this market today. Willow Shoes now has a collection of loyal shoe makers who really care about this niche market and each season produce a new range of exciting styles for Willow. Our range is vast and we have something for almost anyone with long feet. We're often told by our well travelled customers that nothing exists anywhere in the world as good as Willow Shoes.
A lot of change has happened in 20 years. We began with printed catalogues hand stuffed into envelopes and a fax machine! We've expanded to four retail stores across NZ and now ship shoes to Australia for free. We endured our store in Christchurch falling to the ground in the earthquakes and rebuilt again. We've adopted lots of exciting digital changes and now we're positively navigating COVID19.
Staying focussed on what matters is how we approach every challenge. For us, that is making every woman who shops with us love their shoes and feel fabulous. All our staff have long feet and this brings a genuine understanding and excitement to your experience with us. There is a special feeling when you visit our stores. It can be disbelief the first time at seeing so many shoe choices in one place. There is a feeling you can stand up straighter, and look everyone in the eye, it's so comfortable and exciting.
As we emerge with a renewed view of the world from COVID19 we also know it's more important than ever to think about how we can do more to make the world a better place and this is framing how we look to our next 20 years.
We're proud of our story for this first 20 years and want to feel just the same pride in 20 years time. The love for Willow Shoes is something we value and nurture. We'll continue to curate the best selection of shoes anywhere in the world and focus on quality shoes that last, comfort that's good for your feet and everyday fashion that real women can enjoy and love. We are giving more focus to making long size shoes more accessible to women in our community with new initiatives. We have seen how a pair of shoes can change the way a woman feels. By connecting our stores and customers with organisations that may need our excess or pre-loved shoes we can help others with long feet.
We are all proud to say we are part of Willow Shoes and hope you will stay in our story as we continue in this new and different world.