For designer Jackie Streusand of JS Dwellings, a brand’s brick-and-mortar build was close to the heart. Not only was it her first commercial project but it was for Fortress Shoes, a company her husband, Evan, has passionately run for the last decade.
“He bought these boots in Cusco, Peru, and had them for a long time. He’s never been a corporate guy, and while soul-searching in his mid-20s, those boots stuck with him,” says the designer.
Founded in 2011, Fortress, which deems itself a “slow fashion shoe brand,” works with Peruvian designers to sell handmade, responsibly crafted, and fair-trade women’s shoes. Additionally, Huma Bianco, a brand founded by third generation Italian-Peruvian designer, Adriana Crocco, whose collection includes funkier designs with sculptural wooden heels, and Highway Robbery, a line of whimsical robes crafted from deadstock fabric and inspired by the Streusand family’s travels to West Texas, are available to purchase in-store and online.
Over the years, Peruvian designs have evolved, and the shoes are not only highly versatile, but are crafted with natural, long-lasting materials such as leather, rubber, and wood.
While Fortress had its initial storefront in South Austin, its new Hyde Park location, which houses both retail and office space, would have to be ready for move-in in just three months. The circa 1940s building, which was once a laundromat (there’s still an old Coca Cola sign visible on the wall) before it was converted into an office space, had a historic charm which perfectly complements the company’s ethos.
“When it came to the new location, storage was a must,” says the designer. “We needed shoe displays but wanted to keep the cost down. I had used Semihandmade in the past for kitchen renovations, and it seemed like a good fit for this.”
Overall, the build went as smoothly as it could. “The biggest hump was the lead time for the furniture,” she aads. In order to keep the cabinetry sleek and unobtrusive, she chose 15-inch IKEA Sektion based, paired with Semihandmade Tahoe fronts and side panels.
“Tahoe looks great. It’s warm yet still really bright, and it’s the best color for the space,” she says. The fronts and bases were assembled on site, and Fortress staff made an afternoon of it, seeing who could assemble the quickest “Once you do one box, you could do a million. It’s simple. Then, our contractor cut the side panels to fit.”
Today, the small interior has a neutral aesthetic that prioritizes texture over color, letting the shoes shine. “There’s a large central table that feels really good in the space, plus little pops of color and a black metal stool to juxtapose the shoes,” she says.