Notabene is one of Denmark’s leading shoe brands. The recipe behind it is perfected craftsmanship, proud shoe traditions, and an insistence on an extraordinary customer experience that cannot be recreated online. Notabene has established a flagship store in inner Copenhagen, spanning three floors, offering a shop, studio, and shoe bar.

Notabene has over 27 years of experience and has persistently insisted on the personal in-store experience and women’s shoes created with a principle of excellent craftsmanship and stylish design traditions. As a result, Notabene today stands as one of Denmark’s foremost shoe brands, firmly believing in its design skills and quality. The store in Møntergade in central Copenhagen was taken over three years ago and underwent a renovation where everything was thoughtfully designed down to the smallest detail. The store exudes Scandinavian and Japanese minimalism, with oak as the recurring material. The tactile elements emphasize a homely atmosphere, with all furniture produced by a Japanese furniture company. Even the scent in the store is custom designed in Florence, with notes of leather, cedarwood, coffee, roses, and freesia. Every detail has been meticulously considered and decided by a perfectionist to the core: Martin Friis, owner and creative director of Notabene.

Martin Friis grew up in a family that has been designing and selling shoes since 1936. He is the third generation in the shoe company Fransi, but at the age of 24, he chose to go his own way and opened the Notabene store in central Copenhagen. His brother, Carsten Friis, owns and runs the shoe brand Billi Bi, thus representing two different Danish shoe brands. Around the dining table in their childhood home, they heard many of their father’s stories about women’s shoes over the years and often accompanied him to the factory, which was then located on Rentemestervej in Copenhagen’s northwest district. Similarly, they attended both Danish and international fairs to sell and showcase shoes:

“There was no pressure from our father for us to follow in his and our grandparents’ footsteps. But just as many fathers teach their children to play football, our father taught us about the craftsmanship behind women’s shoes, about lasts and soles, and gave us business understanding served along with dinner,” says Martin Friis.

Notabene is the sum of Martin Friis’ upbringing in a shoe-dedicated family, a rare passion and understanding of design and details, many years of hard work, and a desire for anything but mainstream and fast fashion.


Quality that lasts

For Martin Friis, sustainability means buying fewer but better products. Therefore, Notabene’s shoes are made from materials such as Italian leather and suede with the purpose that they should last for several seasons – ideally many years. The shoes are exclusively produced at family-owned factories in Italy, with whom Martin Friis has worked closely for over 20 years and visits several times a year.

The newest initiative in the store is only one month old: a new recycling concept under the sister brand Revive by Notabene. It aims to restore and sell used Notabene shoes. The shoes are primarily collected through Notabene’s ‘buy back’ concept but Revive also features shoes used in photo shoots and shoes from older collections that have been tried on so much that their condition can no longer be classified as new. At Notabene, they have the know-how to repair the shoes, which still have utility value, and at the same time, bring circular economy more into play:

“Our new concept underscores our dedication to craftsmanship and maintenance – for me, that is true sustainability. We help our customers and ourselves by dealing with shoes that are no longer used but are still perfectly usable. We find that many people avoid the hassle of selling used items themselves. Here, Revive by Notabene takes care of the work of restoring and reselling the items to new owners,” says Martin Friis.

The Notabene store spans three floors at the address in Møntergade. On the ground floor, you enter the shop where the latest collection is for sale. Climbing the handmade oak staircase, you enter the open office where the creative design process takes place, and where the upcoming collection is lined up. Nothing is for sale, but all shoes can be closely examined. It is anything but a polished showroom:

“I want immediate feedback from both customers and retailers. I actively use it in my design work. It is intentional that we have opened up our design process to everyone on the first floor. I want people to feel like they are entering the core of the brand,” explains Martin Friis.

In the basement, you will find a carefully curated selection of Notabene’s men’s shoes, launched a year ago. It is all arranged like a luxury men’s den with whiskey available and a leather chair to lounge in. The basement also houses the shoe bar, which is exactly as it sounds: a bar where you can enjoy hand-brewed drip coffee or a glass of cool wine while waiting for your shoes to be maintained and cared for. With everything from hand tools, steam, to special cleaning machines, favorite shoes get a spa treatment and are cleaned, polished, and cared for while you are offered a pair of soft slippers if you have time to wait.

“We offer free service on all our shoes for the first six months, and you can come as many times as you like to the shoe bar. It is a new way of approaching shoe craftsmanship. We stand by our craftsmanship and quality, but it also requires us to teach our customers that shoes need care and maintenance. We have made it easy for them by launching the shoe bar,” explains the director.


Notabene 2.0

Martin Friis is aware of his strengths – and weaknesses. He knows that it is in the physical sphere that the brand succeeds and excels. In the virtual world, he quickly loses interest as ‘an analog person.’ He further points out that the biggest bump in Notabene’s history occurred in line with the boom of online sales and online shops, which took over much of the physical shopping experience. He cherishes the extraordinary customer experience, the level of detail, and the craftsmanship. That is why he is now facing a new task for the first time in 27 years: He wants to find a partner who is strong in e-commerce and communication, with whom he can develop the brand:

“It has to be someone who can do everything I can’t – especially the online part. I need someone who can transform what we do physically in the store into online success. I need a sparring partner who can see the enormous untapped potential in the brand and who is interested in investing in the company and getting hands-on with me. The vision is to find the recipe together to make Notabene an international success that is still here in 27 years and hopefully many more years to come.”