July 31, 2013 by Ville Raivio
‘I’d like to keep my age mysterious and keep people guessing! I am the founder and creative director of the Norwegian lifestyle brand SWIMS AS. Being interested in design, I decided to study at Parson’s. Not only to learn about design — but also the business side of the fashion industry. I do not have any kids nor am I married. I come from an entrepreneurial family and have been inspired by both my father and grandfather in starting my own business, therefore I have always had a wholesome backing and approval from my family. I love the alps, I am a passionate hiker and skier.
My interest in shoes began when I stole my grandfather’s overshoes — he was a real old school gentleman. I guess he made me aware of this type of product, but it was not until I moved to Paris and subsequently New York that I saw so many people wore beautifully crafted shoes in the rainy and dirty streets. I eventually realized there was a market for this niche of bringing back the galosh. Most people viewed the galosh as an odd and old-fashioned product, something their grandfathers would wear back in the days! But I firmly believed that by making the design more modern and elegant, adding colors and a sense of ”fun” to the product, the galosh would become modern again. Now you can see SWIMS everywhere, people from 15 to 80 are wearing them. 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. We have even launched a special galosh for sneakers, the SWIMS City Duck — for the sneaker freaks out there! This all ultimately evolved into a passion for reinventing other classics such as the loafer and the brogue.
During my university days I was always fascinated by shoes and often snuck away from classes to go to the sculpture lab, so shoes have always been something I have been very fascinated by. As I began planning and starting the company, I had to do a lot of research. Already being quite familiar and passionate about shoes I felt that overall the most important things for me to research were technical aspects of shoes and material. I already knew a lot about style but needed to familiarize myself with the concept of intelligent shoes which I did through meeting the right people and also through books and the Internet.
When it comes down to the name, I came up with the name SWIMS on a rainy day in New York. I wrote it on a window and quickly found out that you can read the name upside/down and from right to left, etc. It’s a easy and fun name with connotations to water. Initially the idea was to have people feel good about the rain and wet streets — giving them an option to wear their best shoes no matter weather — just slip on a pair of SWIMS. But the name is really great and works perfectly with our DNA and core values. I think its very important to love what you do and believe in it. You need to have a good portion of common sense and stamina is definitely very important.
City Duck model for sneakers
This has kept me going in the creation and the development of the company. So far we have been very well received, we are growing rapidly despite the economic downturn and increasingly more people are becoming aware of our brand, which is very exciting. We have recently opened an Instagram account and are growing everyday alongside our Facebook page with more and more positive and exciting comments coming our way! Lots of customers are posting cool photos of themselves in their SWIMS and they seem to be very happy and proud to be part of it all. It is always fun to see your happy customers want to display what they have bought from you!
I’m very easy going, I don’t like looking too stiff/made up. A comfortable look is what I always end up with. My sense of style comes from my travels (I travel a lot). I would have to say my favorite RTW brand is Prada. I prefer casual footwear but if I am wearing a suit then I go for sleek and classic shoes.
For the #menswear dilettante: camo galoshes
[The reader should choose SWIMS as] the SWIMS rubber overshoe is made with attention to detail. Our “cashmere rubber-blend” is a result of extensive research and development and a bit of luck, too, I suppose. The rubber is snug and smooth and adapts to any shoe shape through great elasticity. Another major part of the SWIMS galosh is our signature lining. Not only does it provide a luxury feel and touch, it also has paramount functionality. First of all, the lining is smooth and gentle for leather shoes, it really removes the friction between the rubber and the leather. Secondly, it makes it easier to slip on and slip off. Thirdly, it absorbs condensation. Finally, it is warm and comfortable on those cold winter days.
The SWIMS galosh stands out not just because of the quality but also because of the design. It comes in two different shapes — the Classic and the Duck — and therefore can appeal to different targets as well as different shoes. We also have different colors, both bright and classic as well as different textures (the Classic Royal is flocked on the outside, giving it a nice velvety effect).
If there is one thing men should know, it’s: do not underestimate the damage rain can do to a good shoe! By using an overshoe/galosh, your favorite leather shoes will have a much longer life. Great shoe manufacturers always say that you can “just resole the shoe” if it’s damaged — but in reality very few people do — it takes a very long time and comes with a price similar to buying a new pair of shoes.
This is one of the reasons I am so passionate about my company because we make lots of cool, practical but also elegant, modernized versions of the classics, but we also make this wonderful galosh that can protect all of my beautiful English leather shoes.’
Pictures: © SWIMS