Josefinas Opens First Physical Store

By Janet Groeber

Photo by Scott Norsworthy

From Instagram sensation to bricks-and-mortar beauty, Portuguese footwear brand Josefinas has already stepped up the design of the classic ballet flat and now joins the ranks of e-tailers stepping into physical stores.

With luxury materials (leather, suede, crocodile and lace) plus handmade construction, Josefinas has remade a fashion basic into a wardrobe must-have. There’s fur-lined and velvet slipper styles to loafers and high-top sneakers. Then there’s the “Twiggy” over-the-knee boots, an over-the-top design that definitely helped Josefinas attract 43,000 Instagram followers, not to mention Josefinas-shod celebs—from activist Gloria Steinem to Victoria’s Secret model Sara Sampaio.

Since its 2013 debut, Josefinas’ popularity enabled the leap from online-only sales to a luxurious New York flagship opened last July. Founder and one-time architect Filipa Júlio, who named the company after her grandmother (Júlio’s grandfather was a shoemaker), handed New York-based architect Christian Lahoude the job of translating her brand vision.

Josefinas takes its material and aesthetic cues from Portugal’s rich artisan history, hand crafting each pair in Sao João da Madeira, a small town famous for producing luxury wares. Its 540-sq.-ft. new digs on Elizabeth Street channel a certain femininity and strength in step with the product. “We started with a blank slate, because this is a new brand,” Lahoude explains. “We took our inspiration from the refined nature of the materials, plus the handcrafted nature of the shoes, but kept it simple.”

Concrete flooring covered with carpet grounds the shop’s warm materials palette featuring pearl-encrusted wallcoverings and copper accents. Custom-made velvet sofas and benches create a comfortable lounge space and serve as product displayers, and curved bench seating—inspired by Josefinas’s asymmetrical bow logo—is similarly hand crafted and, therefore, not “perfect.”

Prior to entering the inviting back garden, shoppers pass through the “VIP room” housing Josefinas’ most exclusive styles. At the heart of the store is a dramatic life-size tree, hand crafted from copper by local Portuguese artisan Jorge Direito. “The space symbolizes the path from dream to reality,” Júlio notes. “It’s like a walk in a magical garden, where you can dream wide awake, and walk right into the real thing.”


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