When you’re an insecure teenager at a new school, blending in tends to take top priority. But taking a sartorially shy approach never worked well for Australian-born designer Rachel Beagley: “The only year I was popular in school,” she insists, “was when I had this one pair of red Reebok high tops. I was the coolest kid in school, and I swear it was only because of those.” Those bold red kicks, combined with a childhood spent moving cities, inspired the name of her footwear and clothing brand: New Kid.
Fast forward several years later and she’s still building her reputation on fanciful (if not fancy) footwear. Made-in-Italy men’s and women’s label New Kid has been headquartered in Florence since 2009, but only recently opened its first brick-and-mortar store, Shoes and More, a small outfit adding new snazz to via del Ghirlandaio.
The reigning aesthetic is one that evades easy definition: Rachel and her business partner Letizia Ciappi prefer not to place their shoes in boxes, so to speak. They’re often androgynous, but not stodgy; occasionally understated, but never basic. Even the more classic-looking clogs, loafers or boots have distinctive detailing—perhaps a fabric dyed an unusual shade, a peculiar texture or an embossed patch of leather. Plus, the pair have introduced an ever-expanding line of vegan shoes as well as limited-edition pieces every month. Some toe the line between whimsical and wacky, but “trendy” doesn’t quite fit. These are shoes (and clothes) for the style-conscious, but fun, ease and affordability are prioritized over fashion.
Still, there’s no corner-cutting in terms of quality. While the final result is hardly traditional, the process is rooted in an artisanal attitude and practice, with made-to-order items always on the menu. New Kid shoes and garments are all produced in and around Santa Croce sull’Arno (Pisa), through 10 small, family-run factories. Rachel and Letizia are well-acquainted with all the workers, and even teamed up with a photographer friend to produce a handmade zine spotlighting them.
Since opening Shoes and More, the pair has seen a range of customers—neighborhood nonne, international creative types, students—people drawn to the quirk on an otherwise quiet street. (Designated “doggie-in-the-window” Reggie, Rachel’s Scottish terrier and unofficial store mascot, also helps).
Rachel appreciates the passion and pride she sees in her Italian producers, but takes issue with one cultural concept: the cambio di stagione, or dramatic wardrobe changeover with the turn of the seasons. “I wear the same things year-round!”, she exclaims, with Letizia nodding knowingly. The shop reflects its founder’s tendencies, stocking garments, accessories and shoes fit for long-term, year-round wear (with strategic layering, of course).
The duo stays busy: they run an active, international e-commerce, follow the production process, source fabrics and generally “run around trying to keep up with everything. The guys we work with definitely think we’re a couple of weirdos,” Rachel laughs, “but we’d all rather be where we are than slaving away at some big brand. There’s much more passion this way.”
Shoes & More. Via del Ghirlandaio 18, Florence