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Canadian Designer Ron White Expands Further into US with Luxury Retailer Neiman Marcus, Debuts Handbag Collection for AW’21: Interview

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Toronto-based footwear brand Ron White is expanding further into the United States with his handbag line that is already selling well in Canada. Ron White’s bags recently launched at large-format luxury retailer Neiman Marcus as part of White’s continued expansion into the United States which has been critical to the brand’s survival over the past 18 months.

White said in an interview that business has shifted significantly to wholesale in multi-brand retailers in Canada and the United States. The US market now makes up over 75% of White’s customers with footwear distributed in Nordstrom stores across the country as well as selected Von Maur department stores and various independent retailers for Autumn/Winter 2021. Getting into Neiman Marcus was a coup for the brand with product now available on the retailer’s website.

Ron White

Sales for Ron White have also been bolstered with television network-shopping vertical Today’s Shopping Choice (TSC) and on Thursday September 16, White presented the Autumn/Winter 2021 handbag collection with Jeanne Beker, host of Style Matters. During the pandemic, White invested in a home studio and dedicated staff resources to managing the complexity of online television sales.

After seeing early success with handbag capsule collections over the past couple of years, White launched a full handbag collection for Autumn/Winter 2021 that is available in Canada through Ron White’s standalone stores in the Greater Toronto area as well as nationally on TSC and now in the United States at Neiman Marcus.

The journey for the brand has been interesting. Ron White, aka ‘The ShoeRu’, first opened a comfort-focused multi-brand store in Toronto called The Foot Shoppe in 1993. It grew to several locations and in 2006, White rebranded the stores to his own name, targeting a younger, more fashion forward shopper as a result. Soon after, White decided to create his own namesake footwear brand, merging his vision of chic style mixed with comfort. He is recognized for creating the world’s first “All Day Heels®” bringing together striking design, luxurious materials, and unique cutting-edge technology.

Ron White Shoes
Image: Ron White Shoes

In an interview, White explained that he began designing bags as a capsule collection which were first shown on Beker’s Style Matters program on TSC in 2019. The bag collection sold out almost immediately and more were manufactured to address the television program’s monthly cycle.

Materials used in Ron White bags are of a ‘designer caliber’ utilizing the same tanneries and fabrics as brands such as Louis Vuitton and Prada. White said while creating the original designs for the bags, a stronger leather for the bottoms of the bags was required to ensure structure and quality when a bag is full of various items. White explained that he paid particular attention to the design, similar to how he does with his popular footwear for women and men — White began by selling orthopedic shoes and branched off into fashion footwear about 15 years ago.

Selling handbags is different than footwear — he noted that a big difference between footwear and bags is the element of sizing. While shoes come in a variety of sizes, a handbag is ‘one size fits all’, meaning less storage space and stock is required in comparison.

Image: Ron White Shoes

White’s handbag line will continue to see expansion in production and sales. The designer noted that the collection hasn’t yet been presented at handbag trade shows partly due to the pandemic. New designs will be rolled out in seasons to come.

The Ron White brand has made a few changes over the past couple of years, including streamlining its lines to include one collection for women’s footwear, one for men’s footwear and one for bags. In years past, White had a lower priced footwear line as well as a premium line.

Ron White stores are located in and near Toronto including at the Manulife Centre in Bloor-Yorkville, Bayview Village in North York, 1553 Bayview Avenue in Leaside, and at 189 Lakeshore Road East in Oakville.

The brand has earned a loyal celebrity following that includes Hollywood’s A-list, heads of state and royal family members. From the red carpet at the Golden Globe Awards to backstage at the Primetime Emmy® Awards, Ron’s shoes have been a favourite for both presenters and performers.  A few of the celebrities who have walked in his shoes include: Vanessa WilliamsKathy GriffinCeline DionKatie CouricThe Duchess of YorkChristina HendricksPaula AbdulMegan MullallyRob LoweKevin SpaceyMatt Damon and Dennis Quaid.

Article Author

Craig Patterson
Located in Toronto, Craig is the Editor-in-Chief of Retail Insider and President/CEO of Retail Insider Media Ltd. He is also a retail analyst and consultant, Director of Applied Research at the University of Alberta School of Retailing in Edmonton, and consultant to the Retail Council of Canada. He has studied the Canadian retail landscape for over 25 years and he holds Bachelor of Commerce and Bachelor of Laws Degrees.

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