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the science of st yle








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7/19/16 10:14 AM

Passion issue the


THE TEAM Publisher: Edward Hertzman Editorial Director: Angela Velasquez Assistant Editor: Cleo Levin Assistant Editor: Matt Vitone Designer: Celena Tang Sales: Eric Hertzman

CONTACT Hertzman Media Group 545 8th Ave. Suite 530 New York, NY 10018 212.967.3065

Cover,below: Ivy Kirzhner



y own passion for shoes was sparked early on by my mom and nan, Jean and Jean—the best shopping partners in crime—who never saw the value of buying a basic and who continue to entertain my own taste for eccentricities.

Angela Velasquez Editorial Director of Vamp

My enablers, as I call them, are the reason why I prefer leather Chuck Taylors over canvas; why in college I bought the same satin flats from Payless ShoeSource in both pink and purple (BOGO!) so I could wear a different color on each foot; why my fondest travel memories mainly consist of shoe stores and why I just spent two months searching for the perfect “VAMP pink” shoe. I had to catch my breath when I finally found it—a satin SJP pump on order from Bloomingdale’s. The shoe is a major upgrade from my BOGO days. It was also my mom and grandma who purchased the denim boots in this photo (left). I don’t recall that particular shopping excursion, or if denim boots were even a thing in 1989, but I can bet that we passed up a number of basic brown and black boots before zeroing in on the jeans style. About nine shoe sizes and 27 years later, I can tell you with complete certainty that denim foot-

wear has cycled back and is trending for Spring ’17. Check out the season’s best denim and denim-inspired footwear shot at the BPD Washhouse in New Jersey in our main fashion story on pg. 58. Despite the long hours and “impassioned” conversations about how the team envisioned VAMP as a printed publication, it still feels unreal that I am writing an editor’s letter for print. VAMP has gone from “clicks to bricks” in 18 quick months thanks to the widespread support and interest from the footwear community. If you like what you see in the magazine, please subscribe to our weekly newsletters chock-full of trends, news and insight. There’s a popular meme on social media that reads, “Do it with passion or don’t do it at all.” It’s a motto that resonates with the VAMP staff and one that represents the footwear business as well.

the passion alive. While footwear is in the blood for some, like Skechers President Michael Greenberg (pg. 28) and Samuel Hubbard Founder Bruce Katz (pg. 21), others have been motivated by simple gestures that have made a lasting impression, like the $2 tip Joe Ouaknine of Titan Industries received as a sales person back in 1974 (pg. 21). However, through hits and misses, fame and flops, each person said it is “shoe people” that keep them enthralled in footwear season after season. We have to agree. Simply put, you, the footwear industry, are a good bunch. You have generously given your time and invaluable advice on what you would like to see from VAMP, offering recommendations, interviews, meetings, samples and a place at your shows. The phone calls and e-mails you return are our $2 tip. Most of all, your passion for the industry you serve is contagious and for that, we thank you. Enjoy!

We decided to call VAMP’s inaugural issue “The Passion Issue,” interviewing a series of footwear designers, retailers and brand executives— some fresh-faced, others industry icons—to find out how they’ve kept






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f you want to find the best place to eat, ask a local. It’s a tried-and-true travel trip and it applies to the footwear industry’s twice-yearly journey to Las Vegas for MAGIC. Vamp caught up with three Zappos employees based at the e-tailer’s Downtown Las Vegas headquaters, who know the ins and outs of Sin City better than Yelp. Best place to eat on the Strip. Natalie, ZapposU: It is pretty casual, but I love Holsteins at The Cosmopolitian. I’ve never had anything from their menu that I didn’t like, their boozy milkshakes are life changing and it’s fun to grab a drink before and/ or after at The Chandelier bar. Amy, Fashion Footwear Buyer: Bouchon at The Venetian. It has been around for years, but is still consistently amazing for breakfast, pastries or dinner. Bill, Merchandising: Holsteins. It’s casual, affordable, great comfort food and it’s a great place to eat with friends before a night out. Best place to eat off the Strip. Natalie: Pot Liquor CAS at Town Square. This barbeque is out of control! Best in Vegas—hands down—and the service is always spot on. Amy: Lotus of Siam. It’s the best Thai food in Vegas, hands down. When you can find a James Beard-winning chef in a strip mall, you should probably take advantage. Bill: Egg Works for breakfast, Weiss Restaurant Deli & Bakery for lunch and any place in Chinatown for dinner because restaurants stay open late. Best pool scene. Natalie: I love the M Resort pool—great cabana service, great atmosphere and almost no one is wearing 6-inch platform heels with their swim attire, and the water is always safe to swim in. Amy: Liquid at Aria. It’s not as crazy as some of the other day clubs. What is your guaranteed fun night out? Natalie: I love wandering around the Miracle Mile Shops at Planet Hollywood. Stores stay open until 10 p.m. or later, there are a million bars and



restaurants to duck into for sustenance and the people watching is killer. Plus, parking is super easy there, and if you don’t find yourself having fun, it’s pretty centrally located on the Strip and easy to move onto the next place. Amy: I’ve never not had a good time at The Golden Tiki. Bill: Start at Frankie’s Tiki Room with two drinks and you’ll have fun no matter where you go after. Shoe people need good pedicures. Where’s the best place to go without spending a fortune?

Natalie: Pretty much any place off the Strip. I go to Serenity Nails & Skincare on Marks Street in Henderson. Their massage chairs are always broken, but those pedicures last me for more than a month if I need it. Amy: Lex’s Lounge on Town Center is the best. Best cocktail. Natalie: Frankie’s Tiki Room. It is a dark and mysterious lounge, open 24 hours. Amy: Pretty much any cocktail at Herbs & Rye, especially the Vieux Carré or French 75. Velveteen Rabbit always has really fun and inventive cocktails too. Bill: The Zombie at Frankie’s Tiki Room. You only need one. Best “off the beaten path” attraction. Natalie: I could spend days at The Mob Museum in Downtown Vegas—so much interesting history.

Amy: Not necessarily an attraction, but the hot springs hikes around Lake Mead (Goldstrike Hot Springs and Arizona Hot Springs) are really unexpected and fun—just not in the summer! Bill: Pinball Hall of Fame. It’s a fun place to play some classic video games and tilt a couple pinball machines. It’s a couple blocks from the Crown & Anchor so you can grab a cold one after. Best guilty pleasure. Natalie: Any rinky-dink bar that serves those frozen drinks out of the “washing machine” type things on the wall. Mostly only tourists drink them—and you will never catch me drinking a yard worth—but on these hot summer days and nights in Vegas, it can just hit the spot. Amy: The Fireside Lounge at the Peppermill—you know you love it too. Bill: M&M Soul Food Café’s fried chicken and Kool-Aid, and the indoor amusement park at Circus Circus. Best place to cool off. Natalie: Las Vegas is up-and-coming on the craft beer scene, and I love cooling off with a beer! Downtown has Banger Brewing and Tenaya Creek Brewery, and if you feel like taking a Lyft a little bit south, Bad Beat Brewing, CraftHaus Brewery and Lovelady Brewing are all within a mile of each other in Henderson. Amy: Mount Charleston. Bill: Mount Charleston. It’s 30-degrees cooler and only 45 minutes from downtown. You miss your flight and you have an extra 24 hours in Las Vegas. How should you spend it? Natalie: Go get a Bloody Mary at The Coffee Cup in Boulder City, and then just walking around their little Main Street area, full of interesting shops to duck in and out of, and a beautiful park to just relax and get some fresh air. Amy: High tea and a spa day at the Mandarin Oriental. Bill: Check into the Hard Rock, hit up Frankie’s Tiki Lounge and end it all at the craps table in the Hard Rock. Wake up, grab your luggage and have a Bloody Mary with your English breakfast at the Crown & Anchor. The restaurant is four minutes from the airport so you can always make your flight in time. • VAMPFOOTWEAR.COM / AUG 2016






f you are one of the hundreds of shoe brands having a successful run with all-white leather sneakers, send a thank you note to this man, Stanley Roger “Stan” Smith. Adidas created a stir out of thin air at the end of 2011 by pulling the Stan Smith sneaker—a simple, all-white leather lace-up with a tennis green tab on the heel and an image of Smith on the tongue—out of stores, only to re-introduce the shoe in 2014 to a consumer base hungry for classic, heritage and authentic footwear. The Stan Smith returned in sharp-looking green and white packaging and with a note about its namesake’s tennis roots. Meanwhile, a team of social media influencers amplified the sneaker’s place in the market, just as Normcore fashion was trending. The shoe outlasted the fad and has since spurred a mass of copycats at both designer and discount levels. At times, Smith, a former world No. 1 American tennis player and two-time Grand Slam singles champion, sounds more like a shoe dog than a tennis icon. “Nike is a bad word in my vocabulary, but I was reading [Nike Founder] Phil Knight’s memoir, “Shoe Dog,” and realized what it means to be one. A shoe dog is interested in creating, wearing and manufacturing shoes—I can relate to that,” he said. Stan Smith—the man, not the shoe—is living a life that only Chuck Taylor, Jack Purcell and Jane Birkin can attest to. “It’s pretty unusual—the majority of people around the world really know my name as a shoe,” he said about the Stan Smith phenomenon. Diehard fans know better. During an appearance at Colette in Paris to promote a limited-edition collaboration with the retailer, Smith met a man who was buying a sneaker obviously not his size. “I asked him why he was buying them and he said he’s a collector and had about 5,000 sneakers and 50-60 were mine,” Smith said. Smith is amused by the attention he’s received from sneakerheads. “I’m meeting some interesting people along the way. I was just speaking with a GQ editor in Tokyo who told me he wore my shoe everyday for 13 years—same pants, shirt, shoes. Very unique people are drawn to the shoe,” Smith said. “The Wall Street Journal just had an article about how to keep them clean,” he laughed.



Adidas is rolling out new Stan Smith collections and collaborations with high-caliber celebrity tastemakers, including Pharrell Williams and Kanye West faster than Smith can approve them. “I have pretty good trust in what they are doing,” he quipped. Still, Smith believes the shoe sells itself. “It is just a very simple shoe—pure white, very comfortable and you can wear it with anything that you have. And it is a good price point,” he said. That was the original plan in the 1960s when Adidas first began to consider tennis. Building off its momentum in the soccer and track and field categories, Germany-based Adidas set its eyes on tennis, releasing its first leather tennis shoe in 1965. It was designed in France by Horst Dassler, the son of Adidas Founder Adi Dassler, and French tennis star Robert Haillet. Haillet, whose name the shoe bore, was the top-ranked tennis player in France at the time. However, in order to grow its tennis footprint in the U.S., Adidas ached for an American player to endorse the shoe. Enter Smith, who was ranked the No. 1 player in the world. In 1971, he began to wear the white leather sneaker with Hailett’s name on the side and his own face on the shoe’s tongue. A year later, Smith’s name was on the shoe. The original model proved to be spot on. “There was absolutely no changes in the shoes—just a little more support in the heel to support the Achilles tendon and a tab in the middle of the shoe to keep it from moving,” Smith said. The latest revival has brought with it better materials. “[Adidas] used a better, softer leather than before that has made it more comfortable and therefore something you can wear anytime,” he said. Smith’s personal favorites are a blue suede sneaker with a red tab and a black pair with a maroon tab. “Simplicity is the key word. It’s a very simple shoe—there’s no bells and whistles,” he said. Smith, speaking like a true shoe dog, says he sees the masses of copycats in the sneaker market. “[Brands] are getting closer and closer to the look of the original Stan Smith. We’ll have to see if it hurts—it might actually help. I think the main things are that people are wearing the shoe and are enjoying it. It will be interesting to see what kind of effect it will have on the shoe industry.” •

E X P E R I E N C E K H O M B U AT P L AT F O R M L A S V E GA S C O N V E N T I O N C E N T E R B o o th 84 000, South Hall • Augus t 15th- 17 th




magine Dubai. Imagine miles of luxury shopping real estate, high-rise buildings that continue into the sky, all sprawling outwards into the endless heat trap of the Arabian Desert. Now contrast this stereotypical picture of the Emirate city with that of a frigid afternoon in the town of Cambridge, Mass. Soon, these two seemingly disparate worlds will hold one thing in common—Concepts. The wind is blustering through town on the day Vamp interviews Deon Point, general manager and buyer for Concepts, one of the true OG sneaker retail brands which, since 1996, has sat in the heart of Harvard Square in Cambridge. Once only a shop-within-a-shop at The Tannery, a Boston institution in and of itself, Concepts has recently re-branded as Concepts International with the hope of becoming a global hub for sneaker enthusiasts. Last month, the company announced the appointment of Tre Lucas as president, who plans to take Concepts “from a local retailer to a standalone global brand.” The cornerstone of this expansion will be a new flagship store in Dubai. Challenges have pushed the tentative store opening from spring to September of this year, but according to Point, Concepts is a brand that takes its time with everything it does. “Nothing we do is ever spur of the moment, it’s very much calculated, so we’ve wanted to do this for a while,” he said. “With Concepts International, we wanted to get away from just being Concepts and wanted to show people where we were expanding to.” The Dubai store will be the third Concepts flagship location, following the company’s original Boston


shop and its new Manhattan store, which opened last year on Hudson Street on the border of SoHo and Tribeca. Having been with the company for over a decade, Point has helped assure the rise of Concepts in a luxury footwear space that is almost entirely dominated by big players. As the market has become increasingly crowded in recent years, he’s continued to push for unique offerings and unexpected collaborations with major brands that have kept the small, independent shop one step ahead of its imitators. Part of this means taking risks. In 2008, Concepts invested over $75,000 of its own money into a bizarrely named Nike collaboration dubbed “the Blue Lobster Dunk.” That might not seem like much, but as Point puts it, Concepts at that time was still just “small fish.” “Back then neither the sneaker industry nor the collaboration market were anywhere near as big as they are today, so we would knock and knock and knock until finally someone would answer.” But the shoe was a hit, helping to lay the foundation for collaborations in both the athletic shoe market and with more unexpected brands. On the docket this year? What Point calls a “big, major” project with Adidas, as well as a new collaboration with Mephisto, an Italian maker of men’s business and comfort shoes. Not Concepts’ usual customer, but for Point, it’s all about finding connections where others fail to. “It’s definitely not what our consumer is used to, but I think we’ll be able to educate our consumer about it. It’s all made in Italy. It’s really nice stuff.”

retailers offering similar assortments has been in large part its loyalty to its Boston roots. While others were busy chasing an L.A. or New York aesthetic, Concepts was carrying Arc’teryx and Sorel on its shelves, bridging the gap between modern streetwear and a certain, very New England-centric outdoors vibe. Recalling how his bosses tried to entice Burton to sell snowboards in the shop in the early years of Concepts, Point explains, “When Burton came in, they looked around and walked out. So [my boss] chases them down the street and asks them ‘hey, where are you going?’ and they were like ‘the f**k is this? We came here to open an account and this is a shoe store!’ And so the guys who were there at the time were able to make them come to an understanding, and so we started selling snowboards. That’s where we started to bridge the gap. It was out of the ordinary for the time.” By the time Point joined Concepts full-time in 2004, he wanted to start making his own imprint on the brand. An affinity for luxury gave him the idea to bring Gucci into the store—not an easy proposition for a small shop from Cambridge. “We went to Gucci maybe two or three times and got shot down,” he said. “But then finally we came to an understanding, and that’s eventually what helped us get Lanvin, Balenciaga and Margiela. So even prior to Barneys catching onto the sneaker wave, we were literally the first store in the world to combine Nike and consortium Adidas alongside the luxury brands.” As the specialty sneaker market continued to grow, Point tried to think of ways to differentiate Concepts from its competition that was becoming increasingly familiar.

From its early days with The Tannery in the ’90s, what’s set Concepts apart from other streetwear



“I think when we first started it was really exciting. Now all of the major department stores have followed suit, they all carry high-end brands and an assortment from Nike, Adidas, Puma, etc., so it’s become watered-down. For us though, we have an insatiable appetite, so we’re never really complacent in one spot. As we noticed other stores catching on, that’s when we started looking towards New York, because we knew we wanted to be there.” Laying the groundwork for the permanent location that would eventually follow, Concepts debuted a pop-up shop in Manhattan. Part of the challenge was how to offer the New York customer a unique experience. “How do we make it right, how do we make it meaningful, and if we’ve waited this long already, let’s wait until it’s perfect, and that’s how the idea of those pop-up shops came about. And again, others followed suit, but at the time when we were doing it, only major corporations were doing it. There were almost no independent companies that really wanted to invest into themselves to the same level we did.” Following a good reception in Manhattan, Concepts has continued to latch onto opportunities—but carefully. Late last year the brand had a limited popup in Costa Meca, Calif., but Point says that the brand is mindful of becoming overexposed. Sneakers are a game of perceived value, after all. “I think stores in general tend to grow too fast. A lot of businesses want to generate income and they want to grow and become this overnight monster, and they lose sight of what got them there in the first place, so we’re very conscious of that,” he said.

In much the same manner as New York’s Supreme—another streetwear shopturned-global brand—has slowly and methodically rolled out across the world, expansion to Concepts isn’t a matter of global domination, but rather an opportunity to add value to the communities the stores inhabit. “When we wanted to take on New York, it was years worth of research and work in order to fit in, and obviously we wanted to be humble being that we’re from Boston,” Point said. “We’ve gotten opportunities to do Chicago, Miami and L.A., but we just really wanted to do something different, and I think Dubai kind of encompasses not just who we are, but where we want to go.” With much painstaking attention being paid to Dubai, the brand is also trying to grow its own range of branded apparel, which it says will get a major push later in the year for back-to-school season. Point says the focus will be on classic, timeless pieces, adding that Concepts is not looking to chase trends. Given that Point works with a core team of just four people, the scale of what Concepts has accomplished thus far is certainly impressive, and perhaps even a bit menacing to its competitors. But even from as far away as Dubai, Point says the core values of Concepts are never far from his mind. “We’ve always done what we wanted to do, and you know it’s great having such a small team. Obviously it sucks when it comes to work time, because we’re ripping our hair out trying to get things done in a timely fashion, but the flip side to that is, being that it’s so small, we are all in agreeance that what got us here is a formula that works. I think we’re in a great space and have a lot of opportunity to grow. I think that the sky is the limit.” •

What keeps you passionate about the sneaker business? Point: Honestly, the desire to create. The sneaker business—while booming—has plateaued. It has become commercialized while getting eaten alive by corporations much in the same way hip-hop once did. At the end of the day, we are creating something that will outlive the bubble. That is still exciting to me. What is it about sneakers that makes collectors so passionate? Point: Sneakers are the new baseball card. They are the stock market of the youth. The unpredictability of it draws people closer to it. At that age, what else is there? It’s something the culture invited with open arms and it’s too late to close the door. I wouldn’t say it’s passion, but more so an adrenaline rush. The majority of those resellers barely break even. There are those that are still passionate about sneakers but have been pushed aside by the dominating factor which is the reseller market.

Deon Point


How far do people’s passion for sneakers go? Point: I think traveling in search of particular shoes is excessive but happens frequently. The search for the ‘holy grail’ that lasts years while checking eBay, forums, and sneaker conventions in search of the sneaker that has eluded you time and time again. All of this to get your hands on the pair you’ve wanted more than life—only to go do it again. I’ve seen kids wait in line over six days in June. It’s just mind-blowing the level of commitment these kids are willing to give to attain shoes week-in and week-out.

FN Platform / Las Vegas August 15-17 Booth # 83249 Atlanta Shoe Market August 20-22 Booth #1802-1804 877-596-2474




total of 35,000 pairs of shoes were packed into the wrong boxes. The date is June 23. By July 13, every last pair of these shoes will need to be repackaged—by hand. When it comes to fixing blunders like this, those in the footwear industry all have the same number in their contacts list—NuShoe. The San Diego-based company owns the world’s largest shoe repair factory, fixing issues with defective or damaged stock before it hits store shelves—or the landfill. If NuShoe doesn’t sound familiar, that’s partially intentional. NuShoe’s clients include well-known national and international brands who want defective stock dealt with out of sight. Discretion is the name of the game. Aside from dealing with problem stock, NuShoe handles inventory grading and sorting. Brands that offer repair services to their customers also do all of this through NuShoe. But it’s not all backroom secrecy. Founded in 1994, NuShoe was the vision of a fresh-faced, 23-year-old college graduate named Eric Neuner, who bought a San Diego-based chain of cobbler shops and set up a central facility to process shoe repairs, not unlike a laundry operation. As consumer tastes changed, so too did the shoe repair business. People were wearing sneakers more, traditional, leather-soled shoes less. They were buying more shoes more often as well, which



meant people cared less if their old pairs wore down—they would buy a replacement. “We became much more of a disposable society,” Neuner said. Of the 40,000 shoe repairs in the United States 20 years ago, Neuner estimates less than 4,000 remain today. “When I started on a Saturday morning we would have a line out the door and around the corner of ladies with bags of heels. That’s all gone now, but even in the shoe repair industry, which is getting smaller, there are still great opportunities.” Neuner closed the last of his repair shops over 10 years ago, but NuShoe is doing better than ever, having shifted focus to working with brands. NuShoe currently employs over 100 people, working on projects that range in size from 10,000 shoes into the hundreds of thousands. According to James Musial, NuShoe director of business development, the biggest issue is mold, which affected “hundreds of thousands of pairs last year.” Kept in improper conditions, shoes are a magnet for mold. Simply being stored in a room that is too humid, or being transported in a container that has a hole in it, can trigger an outbreak of spores. “It’s been rampant, we’ve really seen [mold] raise its head over the last couple years,” said Musial, who for many years worked as Wolverine’s quality director. “I’ve been working on a mold prevention

program with several brands. It really comes down to keeping things clean and dry.”

duces, and that companies generally do a good job of preventing issues.

As footwear manufacturing has moved almost entirely overseas in the last two decades, Musial says issues with mold are on the rise, especially in hot and humid Asian countries like India, China and Vietnam.

“[The footwear industry] has broadened the base of its supply chain so that you’re not just sourcing locally, but from all over the world,” he explained.

For footwear companies, a moldy shipment can have dire consequences. NuShoe not only saves the shoes, but has often prevented brands from losing accounts worth millions of dollars. “I’ve heard people say, ‘If we don’t get the shoes out in the next three weeks we’re going to lose the quarter,’” Neuner said. “These days your factories are thousands and thousands of miles away, and months away from something being produced and getting to you, so basically we allow brands to have a sort of mini-factory in the U.S.” Mold isn’t the only common issue though. The factory also works collaboratively with brands to come up with solutions for defective product. “Recently a sandal brand came out with new sandals with straps, but found it needed some sort of Velcro, so we sourced with the factory and they cut and produced the Velcro and shipped it all to us. That was 20,000 pairs.” Still, despite the size of these numbers, Musial says the mistakes represent only a fraction of the total number of shoes the footwear industry pro-

“Despite how large the industry’s supply chain is though, it’s amazing how few mistakes make it through to NuShoe. Some big brands who make 10 million pairs—only 10,000 may be defective.” Aside from working directly with brands, in recent years NuShoe has “dramatically” increased its client base with factories, developing a presence and awareness among the Asian factories in particular. “They know who we are now and they know they can call us if things go wrong,” said Musial, who spearheads the efforts to get more factories on board. As sustainability continues to become an industry-wide trend, NuShoe is in part positioning itself as a green company, helping to prevent B-grade shoes—shoes that don’t meet brand’s standards of quality—from ending up in landfills.

we believe in giving them to people who need them,” Neuner added. “We want to maximize value to the brand, through return to stock or in helping them find the most socially and fiscally responsible route possible.” Aside from growing donations, NuShoe is also starting to receive requests for handbags and other accessories. Neuner said he sees apparel and handbags as natural “next steps” in terms of growing the business. But NuShoe hasn’t totally forgotten its roots either. The company is still in the consumer repair business, but like everything else, they’ve moved online. For under $100, customers can now mail their worn-out hoofs to NuShoes for repair. Neuner said his responsibility for his employees is what keeps him passionate about the shoe repair business, “There are families that depend on me waking up every morning and doing what I do.” •

“I’ve seen firsthand in shoe factories that brands don’t know what to do with them. No one wants to buy them because they’re old styles, so to close that sustainability gap is something I’m really excited about,” said Musial. “We don’t believe in filling trash dumps with shoes, VAMPFOOTWEAR.COM / AUG 2016





avid Kahan, the CEO of Birkenstock USA, has been in footwear and apparel his entire adult life. A part-time sales gig at a Staten Island Macy’s during college led to an opportunity in the retailer’s Executive Training program, where he was brought up in the footwear division and eventually became the first athletic footwear buyer. “I like to say I went from working 14 hours a week in the industry to 14 hours a day,” Kahan said. Kahan had his chance to escape—at Macy’s, employees can become general merchants and gain experience across categories switching from footwear to cosmetics to housewares—but the footwear life was the life for him. “I just had such a great connection with the people I met in footwear at such a young age,” he said. “I was 24 years old and the people who were in leadership positions provided tremendous guidance and support.” For the last three years, Kahan has been at the helm of Birkenstock as it has entered a new chapter in its history, living parallel lives in both comfort independents and in Barneys. Under Kahan’s guidance, the 240-year-old brand has remained true to its core, maintaining its comfort, heritage, quality and price as many around it have succumbed to lower-grade materials and deep discounts. VAMP: You’ve proven what so many retailers and brands claim is impossible—selling footwear at full price. How did you make this happen? Kahan: Birkenstock is a brand with tremendous consumer equity. In a time when the majority of purchases are disposable by nature, Birkenstock represents quality. And, frankly, at $95-$150, purchasing a timeless style with handmade quality is a tremendous value. We manage our market distribution so that the retail partners who share this vision, now share in the amazing results. Anyone who, three years ago when we started this process, did not share this vision, are no longer with us as partners. It’s that simple. VAMP: How do you regulate this with so many variables?

Kahan: We strictly manage the supply vs. demand in the market. Mainly it’s due to constraints in our manufacturing. We are largely a handmade, high-quality, made in Germany product, thus we can only produce so many units. This in and of itself ensures that supply will never quite catch up with demand, and as we know, this in turn generates even greater demand. Still, we manage this in a very nuanced manner. We are not a sell-in focused organization. We are a sell-through focused organization and all we do is ensure that the products we allocate are sold in so that they have almost certainty of sell-through by certain dates. VAMP: Have retailers come to understand or value Birkenstock’s strategy? Kahan: Smart retailers know that there are few brands that do in fact maintain this discipline and it’s in the retailers’ best interest to support the strategy. Why sell products that can’t yield strong margins? It’s a losing game. It’s a retail death spiral. Far better to support brands that maintain powerful consumer demand and maintain full brand pricing equity. When a consumer buys a pair of Birkenstocks, I would bet they never feel “taken” or that they “paid too much.” It is quite the opposite—they know they won’t see it cheaper in a week, or get it on a coupon deal the next weekend or see it discounted on a flash site or in the racks at a discount chain. It’s actually retail and branding 101. Make a great product and distribute it at a fair price with the best retail partners. To me, it can’t be any simpler. VAMP: What do you say to retailers or other brands that argue against your strategy? Kahan: Some brands are “transactional” and some are “emotional.” Its two universes. If a footwear brand is transactional by nature then sure—sell in as much as you can, discount like crazy and figure out at the end of the season how the retailer is made “whole” and you, as a supplier, can survive. That’s how the majority of footwear vendors operate. It’s O.K. for them, so be it—I am not judging. But, when you have a brand like Birkenstock—a brand with a 240year history, a brand that represents quality, represents comfort and

a brand that has such a strong emotional relationship with our consumer—frankly we owe it to our consumers to not disrespect them by mishandling a brand they love. We are one of the only consumer brands that gets fan mail. People write us every day telling us how much they love what we do. Any retailer who hasn’t shared this vision, as I said, is no longer a partner. Those retailers who believed in me three years ago, and in our team, and helped us create the success and momentum we now have, share in the success. We are very protective of our retail partners and want nothing more than them to succeed. This is the focus in all we do and why we are so disciplined in our approach. VAMP: In terms of business strategy, are there other industries you look to for inspiration or guidance? Kahan: I live by a mantra to benchmark the best. If you benchmark mediocrity then you may think you are doing well but really falling far short of how great things can be. I am sorry to say, not many brands across most industries meet the standard to which we hold ourselves. Within footwear, a few of our models have been how Uggs was managed over an eight-plus year period, also Converse. It’s incredible they have grown from $200 million to $2 billion with a strong iconic style that they never compromise. I love how [Vans and VF Action Sports President] Kevin Bailey is able to capture a broad consumer base yet remain fiercely loyal and connected to their core demographic. Obviously Nike is best of the best in brand management. Look at Under Armour—they have exercised extreme discipline in their distribution.

qualities to have in order to succeed in the footwear industry? Kahan: It definitely takes a passion for people, for product and a true commitment to do the right thing. I have also learned through the years to be a better listener. Great ideas are out there somewhere, and if you have an open mind, you can find them and adapt them to your own business. As a leader, it’s all about providing an environment where each person can actualize his or her own potential. When each person’s individual mission aligns with the company mission, that is when magic happens. It’s what we are creating here at Birkenstock. and we have a very big vision for the future. We have so much “runway” ahead, the brand is just now starting to develop closed toe shoes, legwear and bags—key categories that will help us meet the desires of the millions of consumers that have come to love our sandals. And, of course we will always continue to innovate and update our sandals to excite the consumer who loves to see new seasonal and limited-edition introductions. VAMP: How have you remained passionate about footwear? Kahan: Our mission is simple. We sell footwear that brings people happiness and satisfaction. That, and the incredible team we have created here and in Germany is what makes me so passionate about what we are doing. •

Overall, it would be Apple. People standing outside three hours waiting for a new introduction says something about how they have connected with their consumer in a way few brands have been able. And lastly, we model the luxury brands. No one walks into Chanel and asks when this handbag is going on sale. When? Never. It’s brand management in its purest sense and it is respecting the brand and the consumer. We like to say in the “ocean of chaos” we want Birkenstock to be “an island of sanity.” This is what we strive for. VAMP: What are some important VAMPFOOTWEAR.COM / AUG 2016





ven Rockport Co-Founder Bruce Katz understands what it means to have shoe separation anxiety.

“When I left Rockport, I had a favorite shoe, and it was such a favorite that I figured one day they wouldn’t make the shoe anymore, so I took 24 pairs with me and kept them carefully guarded in the attic,” he said. “About once a year I would take out a new pair and was very happy that I could continue to wear a shoe that I designed and loved. I began to run out of these shoes and wondered what I would do.” Rekindling his grandfather Samuel’s footwear business, Hubbard Shoe Company, to produce more of his favorite shoes was the obvious solution to this true shoe dog. He floated the idea past his father and business partner, Saul, before he passed away in 2012 at the age of 95. Two years later, Katz launched Samuel Hubbard, a line of men’s comfort footwear made using topof-the-line leathers in both traditional and fashion colors. The brand plans to do a soft launch in the summer with women’s styles. Hubbard Shoe Company was a place where, as a child, Katz grew up and as a teenager he worked in the summer. It was also a place where his father worked for nearly 40 years. A family-owned business founded in 1930, the factory produced children’s footwear in the heart of New England’s shoe country until it closed its doors in 1973 when the industry moved offshore. However Samuel Katz’ passion for shoes had already inspired his son Saul and grandson Bruce to pursue careers in footwear. Their experiences at the factory, coupled with insight gleaned from travels to factories around the world, served as the launching pad for The Rockport Company, the global comfort footwear brand that has since passed through the hands of footwear’s most influential companies, including Reebok, Adidas and most recently to New Balance and Berkshire Partners. After Rockport, Katz had no intention of returning to the shoe business, but the shoe gene was already passed on to his only child. “At the age of six, she came to the breakfast table saying, ‘Dad, you and I should design shoes together.’ I had no idea she knew that I had ever even been in the shoe business. I guess she must have heard it from her grandfather,” he said. “After that I decided I would go back and start in some modest way a small group of shoes. I worked for about a year and a half to make the first shoe. That one shoe became four models—a plain toe, chukka boot, an oxford and a slip-on. Those four shoes became Samuel Hubbard.”

VAMP: In what ways has the comfort footwear category changed for the better or worse since selling Rockport in 1986? Katz: I think for the better, we have a lot better material and constructions, but, for the worst, I think the consumer has less choices. Also, I’ve seen a movement since I’ve been away that as businesses have become more global, a number of companies have gone to European sizing, which is not the norm in the U.S. When we started the Rockport Shoe Company in 1972, there were really only a handful of shoes that people called ‘casual’ and casual shoes for many were just an old pair of shoes. What really caused a revolution was how [the company] was making very comfortable shoes using heavy crepe sole bottoms. We quickly realized that everything was going towards lighter weights for running shoes, and we also saw the beginning of heel-cups and various kinds of linings and arch supports, and Rockport was the first to bring these components into traditional shoemaking. What is starting to be lost is that many shoes made today are made with unit bottoms, which are made in expensive molds, and because of the high cost of molds, people don’t make many shoes in wide and narrow fit anymore. They tend to fake it by making the uppers a little bit bigger, but it really means that the foot is hanging over the edge of the sole or squeezed in some strange way into a shape that the foot wasn’t meant to be positioned. What we’ve been able to do with Samuel Hubbard constructions is use a trimmed sole cut from a blocker that we can adjust, meaning the foot is standing inside the shoe and that the bottom of the foot actually fits inside and is not being squeezed. VAMP: What are some of the brand’s defining comfort features? Katz: Our shoes are made using very soft, top-of-the-line leathers, cow hide lining that we hang in the shoe, and we don’t glue it together so the shoe can breathe. The shoe’s lining can adjust to your foot, and triple density insoles use vegetable tan leather at the top. And we use Poron to build the insole and Vibram bottoms. VAMP: So much has been said about the popularity of sneakers and athleisure footwear; has the casual footwear market forgotten the need for the reliable everyday shoe? Katz: Absolutely, athletic shoe companies have completely taken over. I think men’s shoes have become traditional and boring, and Samuel Hubbard is making shoes that are light and comfortable so they can match athletic

PEOPLE shoes on a parity in terms of comfort, but offer unique and fresh style. With the quality leather, and the vibrant colors, this really puts excitement back into the men’s shoe market. Consumers now have the possibility to wear new types of casual footwear that are shoes and not sneakers.

had. What’s really shocking to me coming back was realizing how decimated the American shoe retail business had become. Rockport had about 5,500 doors, and I don’t think you could ever repeat that again because shoe stores don’t exist like they used to.

VAMP: You go as far as calling Samuel Hubbard the “Un-Sneaker.” What does that mean to you? Katz: Basically everybody’s been so focused on sneakers, and we wanted to highlight the fact that this is not a sneaker. This is actually a shoe and also looks a bit better when you go out. We want to provide a comfortable shoe that is exciting to wear. Feet deserve to look good and feel good.

Independent retailers have suffered from huge discounters. They also ran into trouble when business went from downtown areas to malls, and the mall operators required them to be open seven days a week until 9 p.m., and those costs made it difficult for the independent shoe retailer to survive.

VAMP: There’s some great flashes of color in the Hubbard Free Limited segment of the line. Katz: We wanted to offer Hubbard Free Limited using high-quality leathers from Lineapelle in great colors. We feel these shoes offer consumers the opportunity to showcase their great style and remain comfortable.

Today at Samuel Hubbard, we are both retailers and wholesalers, and have a strong presence on the Internet to explain our product, and directly reaching consumers is a key part of what we do. It’s a combination, and the retail and the wholesale business seem to support each other nicely, and having a strong retail business enables us to be a major direct-to-consumer marketer and advertiser.

VAMP: Who is your customer? Katz: Our consumers are men—and women buying for men—who are 25-35 years old who feel the shoe is cool or retro looking. Our older customers believe that we’re making a comfortable classic shoe, and will buy them in more subdued colors. No one single demographic is stronger than the other, both are important.

“When you’re wearing shoes that are delightfully comfortable, you can go about your day much easier, and that is what I want our customers to experience.”

VAMP: Which casual styles have had the most success? Katz: One of our best-selling shoes is the plain toe oxford, The Founder. We have seen great success with The Founder, and the slip-ons, The Frequent Traveler and The Get Away, along with the chukkas, The Boot Up. VAMP: Is there traction in other categories? Katz: The second collection we did we called Go-To-Work, a style to dress up for the office or an evening out. It’s made with a narrow toe. We extended the toe in order to achieve comfort you normally wouldn’t get in a dress shoe. We feel it has a similar finish of a $600 shoe in a more affordable price range. Going into fall, we will start delivering our first winter shoes and “walk in the park” shoes with Vibram lug soles. These soles are a good, non-skid option for heavy winters. Also, we’ve started developing our first women’s shoe, and look to replicate the quality and fashion in the shoes we’ve made for men. VAMP: How is running a shoe business different from when you launched Rockport in the ’70s? Katz: The big deal today is the effect that the World Wide Web and sales on the Internet have

VAMP: You advertise in The New York Times— something you don’t see much of these days from footwear brands. Katz: In order to build a brand from nothing, one has to create an impression. You need to create something memorable about the brand whether it’s with an ad campaign that’s clever or with lifestyle branding. We are operating on all fronts with marketing; partnering in different ways to get our message and our products to resonate. VAMP: The brand also has some pretty great online reviews. Katz: The online reviews on our site have been unbelievable. One of the things we’re doing to create more context for the brand is putting out mail order catalogs, which gives us a chance to tell the story and add to the lifestyle. Just another way we can add another dimension to the game instead of being solely online. VAMP: What do you love most about your job? Katz: When you make a product that you really love, that’s the satisfying part. The calls, the letters, the reviews, people coming up to me to tell me how much they love our shoes, it’s very gratifying. When you’re wearing shoes that are delightfully comfortable, you can go about your day much easier, and that is what I want our customers to experience. •






ou can learn a lot about Ivy Kirzhner through the designs in her eponymous women’s collection. She is bright, eccentric and creative. She is fearless and witty. She is a performer with attitude—but the good kind. “Every risk with the right attitude is an opportunity,” Kirzhner quipped. It is that particular brand of Ivy Kirzhner attitude that is leading the designer to experiment and succeed with experimental marketing, like turning her SoHo studio/showroom into a gallery-like space chock-full of curiosities. This fall, she’ll reinterpret her unique aesthetic for retail with her first flagship store in Manhattan’s West Village. “We wanted to not only give our customer a greater and more complete experience of what the line has to offer, but also give our brand a permanent home,” Kirzhner said. “At the same time, we hope to push the brand into a retail-cum-gallery—a curated experience of shoes and art.” VAMP: Many designers are afraid to try something new, but you’ve been doing a lot of firsts lately, exhibiting your shoes alongside art, introducing handbags for the fall. Kirzhner: We are definitely taking the line to the next level, refreshing the brand codes and doing more outside-the-box, experimental marketing initiatives. We know what styles put us on the map, now we want to expand the Ivy Kirzhner world and see what else our girl would love. Art is a big part of my personal life and such an inspiration to everything I do. So it made absolute sense to closely tie art and my shoes together, which is why my husband, Alex, myself, and a few partners founded the Crane & Antler Gallery. VAMP: You’re also a musician. How has your personal experience as a musician inspired your designs? Kirzhner: Would you believe that I actually used to play, write, and perform in a metal band for many years? Playing and making music are both an artistic and cerebral process. I do carry a lot of the same process when I design a collection. There’s a balance of loud complexities and delicate subtleties combined to create harmony. The designs also have to be different, unique and catchy. Musical genres have also always played a big part in the storytelling of my designs. Sometimes I look to specific artists—like the legendary David Bowie for FW ’16—or simply take inspiration from a certain musical era. On a more personal level, performing gives one a boost of confidence and a sense of courage, something that I’ve carried over to footwear. I believe that my shoes resonate with brave tastemakers because my designs strike an

emotional chord. VAMP: Do you see any similarities between the footwear and music industries? Kirzhner: There are a lot of similarities in the disciplines behind creating music and designing shoes, both can be very technical, both have to be progressive, both have to challenge the market and push the envelope, both have to consistently bring something new and fresh to the table. And most importantly, both demand hard work, passion, dedication, collaborative efforts, and mash-ups of ideas. That’s the only way to make hits. VAMP: Kesha will be bringing some of your styles on tour, and you already have a strong musician and celebrity following. When you’re designing shoes, are you designing with the red carpet in mind? Kirzhner: Our celebrity following is really organic, either the stars themselves have bought the shoes or their stylists have reached out to us. There is definitely a “show stopper” quality that resonates with them; maybe it’s my penchant for designing one-of-a-kind hardware. I don’t necessarily design with the stage or the red carpet in mind, but our shoes bring out the inner rock star in women. VAMP: Which musicians do you find inspiring? Kirzhner: Joan Jett, Siouxsie Sioux, Debbie Harry definitely stand out for their decade-defining style. There’s bravery to the way they approach style and music, which I really admire. It’s about finding your own voice, not just in music but also in your look and image. I think FKA Twigs and Ellie Goulding have a great look and sound. I admire Kesha for her strength—standing her ground and making her voice heard for all women in the music industry. And of course, the queen, Beyoncé, who is ever-evolving, ever-progressing and who I view as a true artist. VAMP: Do you want to build your brand beyond accessories? Kirzhner: I think every designer brand wants to make the transition into becoming a lifestyle brand. Shoes, accessories, fashion, home goods, they’re all avenues for a designer’s self-expression. Yet ultimately, it is not product extensions we are after just for the sake of expansion. What we are after is a meaningful relationship with our audience and followers—offering beyond just product and hoping to bring a new type of experience, all created outside of basic paradigms. After all, we just want to do cool things, break rules and always dare to be first. VAMP: What’s trending for Spring ’17? Kirzhner: One trend that I love, and is well-represented this season, is the block heel. I wanted something that was sculptural and stood out as a design feature in itself. We also dipped our heels in metal plating for a subtle disco effect. There is also something more celebratory in the choice of colors—soft gold, electro plum, and, my personal favorite, menthol. We also introduced a new “city sandal” heel in our Lexy and Lovesong styles. They give some height but are low enough to walk in all day. We have always stood out for our signature hardware, plated in 18k gold. For this collection I designed a sculpted metal heart that is sprinkled throughout the collection, from our slip-on bedroom mule, Heartbeat, to the ankle strapped chunky block heel, J’adore.

VAMP: What was your first job in the footwear business? Kirzhner: I’ve been in the footwear business for 16 years and I actually had a very humble start in the commercial tier. I first started as a young design intern at Kenneth Cole before I landed my first job at Steve Madden. I was an assistant buyer for their retail division at first, shortly before they discovered that I could actually sketch, design shoes and build assortments. I am very lucky to have been trained young and early by some of the very best and most tenacious in the industry, who are still the pulse of the business even to this very day. I already knew how to design and be creative, but I had no idea how to harness the ideas and how it could all apply in the market. A lot of my business acumen stems from those early years of experience. VAMP: Was there a moment when you knew that you would be involved in footwear for the long haul? Kirzhner: The moment I designed my first “good” shoe—meaning, it was a hit and was a huge best-seller. I remember thinking I can do it again, and again, and again. VAMP: Why are you passionate about footwear? Kirzhner: Footwear is one of the most challenging things to build— both as a design discipline and as a business, demanding a lot of cerebral thinking, problem-solving and a lot of groundbreaking creative expression. A designer has to be both creatively and technically strong, possessing strong intuition. The design aspect is part architecture, part engineering, part fashion, part fine art. Every day is a challenge, and it really forces an individual to grow, to learn something new, develop principles and to constantly evolve. Footwear has become my sport. VAMP: What are some important qualities to have in order to succeed in the footwear industry? Kirzhner: Talent will definitely get you noticed, but it’s perseverance and the ability to greet failure and success with the same can-do attitude that will decide if you go the distance. A vision of where you want the business to go, a clear understanding of what your brand is about, how to communicate to your audience, and how you want it to evolve is something that every designer needs to be conscious of. Also being resilient and a combination of having thick skin and fire in your veins. VAMP: What’s the best part of your job? Kirzhner: The creative process, the ability to tell a story through footwear and seeing that there is an actual demand for creative original ideas is what makes the industry exciting. Yes, as a business person it’s easy to fall into a place where you try to fill “buckets” and make what you think customers want. But, the art of footwear is really about executing beautiful ideas onto a shoe and providing people with shoes that inspire. Finding new ways to reinvent a classic style or to put my own spin on a tried-and-tested silhouette is challenging, but it is a wonderful creative exercise that, when all the elements line up, is so satisfying. One of the best parts of the process is breathing life into your ideas-- executing them for a pencil sketch to actual samples that you can hold, try on, kiss and embrace! That part is like Christmas. •




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oston-based Rockport earned its stripes long before it was ever a product of Adidas, setting the standard for comfort footwear nearly 45 years ago. Last year, New Balance and Berkshire Partners LLC acquired the brand, a move that placed Rockport and New Balance-owned brands Cobb Hill, Aravon and Dunham, all under the newly-minted comfort conglomerate called The Rockport Group. Bob Infantino, the comfort shoe veteran with more than 30 years of experience, was the obvious person to lead the charge. As The Rockport Group CEO, Infantino has the unique opportunity to reboot the brands both individually and as a family. “As a stand-alone company, we are no longer in the shadow of an athletic shoe parent. We are fully responsible for our own successes and failures, our corporate culture and our reputation in the industry,” said Infantino. “This is both a challenge and an opportunity, but one that everyone on our team has wholeheartedly embraced.” VAMP: What’s the status of comfort footwear for Spring ‘17? Infantino: More than ever, style and trend relevance is critical. Consumers around the globe are picking up on trends earlier and demanding that their comfort footwear follow suit. So we’re seeing lots of block heels and open-toed or perfed booties for women. In the men’s arena, the athleisure trend certainly isn’t slowing down so we are seeing more and more patterns, including dress, on athletic outsoles. VAMP: What are some challenges in running a comfort shoe conglomerate? Infantino: Like any company with multiple brands in its portfolio, the biggest challenge is creating a unique value proposition so that each brand can live alongside each other. A little competition is healthy but we have to be careful that the Aravon, Dunham and Rockport brands each have their rightful place out on the retail floor. VAMP: What does it mean to be a Boston brand? Infantino: Here in Boston we are surrounded by people who literally grew up

in the shoe industry. We have employees who grew up in their parents’ shoe stores or who work in the shoe factories when the area was full of them. That history of shoemaking really makes a difference in our culture and in our dedication to the art of shoemaking. VAMP: What was your first job in footwear? Infantino: I started in footwear back in 1971 when I was an assistant buyer at Altier Shoes, a small chain in upstate New York. I loved the hustle and the relationships with my co-workers and customers. VAMP: Who do you admire the most in the footwear industry? Infantino: The small independent retailer. In today’s digital marketplace, their challenges are real but they are committed to a unique set of values that harken back to a different era. They’re creating jobs, launching brands, offering unmatched customer service and oftentimes are pillars of their community. VAMP: What are some important qualities to have in order to succeed in the footwear industry? Infantino: You need to be humble enough to know you don’t have all the answers and you can get those answers by listening to your team, your retail partners and most importantly your consumers. VAMP: Was there a moment when you knew that you would be involved in footwear for the long haul? Infantino: When I first met Bruce Katz back in 1973. He and his father had created a new brand called Rockport and they had found a way to make everyday casual shoes feel like athletic shoes. No one had done that before. I was a buyer for a small chain of shoe stores and bought 4,400 pairs on the spot. They were a huge hit and the rest is history. VAMP: What is your favorite part of your job? Infantino: That’s easy. Bringing people together to achieve a common goal and enjoying every step of that journey. •






unning a trade show is a lot like running a retail business. “It’s all about the consumer. If you produce a quality-rich, stylish product, the customers will respond. Just about every shoe brand I have ever seen has a passionate story to tell. It’s all right there—they just need to put it out there,” said Leslie Gallin, president footwear, UBM, which owns FN Platform, WSA@MAGIC and Sole Commerce. Gallin’s career began running the apparel divisions for Geoffrey Beene, Louis Feraud, Escada and ABS by Allen Schwartz, followed by serving as the director of the collections at World Shoe Association (WSA) and Sole Commerce before launching FN Platform in 2010. The show has since become a bi-annual shoe event drawing buyers, retailers and brands from around the world. Pre-registration numbers for the Aug. 15-17 edition of FN Platform in Las Vegas are coming in strong, Gallin reported. Highlights include an opening night concert by Wilson Phillips, an exhibition by shoe artist Chris Francis and top-notch seminars featuring NSRA, FDRA, AAFA and more. To keep the show fresh, Gallin keeps her ears close to the ground speaking to retailers and brands, and examining other pockets of the industry. “All industries play a proving ground for new ideas and lessons of what don’t work,” she said. VAMP: What are some brands to watch? Gallin: Hammitt, John White, Alice & Whittles, 5yMedio, Trask, and Klik. VAMP: Do people expect more from trade shows than just product? Gallin: I believe it’s the takeaway. When people leave they think, ‘Did I find something new? Did I learn something? Make a new connection and have some fun?’ These are the reasons I like to think people go anywhere. VAMP: How important is creating experiences? Gallin: Shopping is an experience. Retailers are like art dealers showing off the latest creations. Think about the passion from the makers whose creations are on the shelf for sale. People are attracted to eye-appealing installations. I suppose that you can consider the installation, or display, an experience. VAMP: What’s the biggest challenge? Gallin: Not having enough time to do all that you want or need to do. VAMP: How do you stay motivated show after show? Gallin: By loving what I do. There is very little downtime, going from one event into another. Learning and evolving to provide the best possible marketplaces for our customers are what I think about all the time. VAMP: What is your most memorable trade show moment? Gallin: There was a thunderstorm during an August show, which sparked a blackout. All of the overhead lights went out and all that was left on was the beautiful lightbox artwork and the chandeliers in the show lounges. It was so picturesque. VAMP: How have you remained passionate about footwear? Gallin: The footwear industry is contagious. It’s people, the passion for product, design and it’s philanthropy. •



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® •




hile Nike and Adidas duke it out, Skechers has quietly swooped in, selling comfortable and affordable footwear for all, grasping the concept of athleisure footwear early and with gusto. In 2015, the quiet behemoth raked in $3.15 billion in revenue—a 32 percent increase over the previous year. According to Bloomberg, the company is on pace to reach more than $1 billion in performance group sales alone in 2016. Athleisure suits the brand’s relaxed Manhattan Beach, Calif. roots. Founded by LA Gear creator Robert Greenberg in 1992—the same year he and his son Michael left LA Gear—Skechers has successfully built out a series of casual and performance product lines, including Relaxed Fit, Go Walk and Go Run. The lines have been further amplified by a roster of celebrities and sports icons spanning New York Yankees hero Mariano Rivera to Ringo Starr. Celebrity endorsements and offices in plum locations aside, Skechers President Michael Greenberg says he continues to love the footwear industry because, at the heart of it, it is a people business. “We have thousands of incredibly talented people working together daily around the world, and we’ve all grown into this great global family,” he said. VAMP: What is the status of athleisure in Spring ’17? Greenberg: Athleisure is more than a trend. Consumers have come to expect comfort in their footwear and athleisure provides it—and with the numerous styles available, it’s now trendy and acceptable. Even if the fashion-forward want to move on, consumers won’t want to. Skechers is developing a wide range of styles for men, women and kids that focus on style and comfort, knowing they will want fresh looks and new takes on what they have come to love.



VAMP: What other industries do you look to for inspiration? Greenberg: I find inspiration and innovation in a variety of industries. Companies like Tesla are really captivating the world right now; they continue to push the envelope and redefine cars, technology and even transportation’s core infrastructure. Starbucks has had a very aggressive retail store rollout strategy, which is admirable. Alibaba in China has built incredible expertise in web and e-commerce, as has Amazon in the U.S. and a growing number of markets around the world. And of course there’s Google, whose search platform has grown into every domain, from exploring alternative energy to self-driving cars. VAMP: When did you first start to work in footwear? Greenberg: I started out by working for my dad, Robert (Greenberg, CEO of Skechers), at LA Gear in 1985. Since the day I started working for him, he’s been a great source of inspiration—he had already built a number of companies, and LA Gear was a huge cultural milestone. I learned the incredible attention and endurance that you need to take an innovative product and turn it into a billion-dollar success story–and how to steer through the growing pains, peaks and valleys of any business. VAMP: Was there a moment when you knew that you would be involved in footwear for the long haul? Greenberg: LA Gear was an exciting, dynamic business—it suited my ambitions well at the time, and I knew that footwear was an industry that I really loved. So much so, that the moment I left, I called my dad asking what footwear business we were going to start next. In a matter of days, that company became Skechers. And Skechers was an even better experience for me because this time, I had the opportunity to start it with him and build the brand from the ground up. VAMP: How have you remained passionate about footwear? Greenberg: Footwear is an incredible, dynamic industry. At Skechers, literally no year is like the next—and no season is like the previous. Everyone needs shoes; there’s always a new trend waiting to be discovered. Skechers is able to provide product in every space—all kinds of designs, all over the world. And with globalization, the opportunities are greater than ever to have billions wearing the same trends—from the Americas to Europe, Asia, Africa and beyond. It’s an incredible time for our company and the industry. •

COVERING THE INS & OUTS OF ALL THINGS FOOTWEAR Don’t miss our weekly footwear conversations from footwear production to retail trends featuring industry leaders and experts! Learn more about the podcast at



n the early ’80s, Ron Fromm, currently the president and CEO of the Fashion Footwear Association of New York (FFANY), was an accountant. Some work with Brian Cook, one of the original employees at Famous Footwear, opened the door to more opportunities in footwear and 30 years later he retired as Chairman of the Board, President and CEO of Brown Shoe Company. “One thing lead to another, then I was spending full-time in the footwear industry,” Fromm said. He continues to serve as a member of the Brown Shoe Board of Directors. VAMP: What’s the mood like out there among brands for Spring ’17? Fromm: Optimistic. We came off of a very difficult season. It’s one of the beauties of the footwear industry that we can get right back on the horse and there will be another opportunity. As the weather changes and the closet needs to change, people are anxious to work harder. VAMP: Just like retail, trade shows are having to find new ways to keep customers excited. How has FFANY handled this continuous demand for newness? Fromm: Clearly, freshness is important. One of the things that we keep searching for, that gets us back to our roots, is what our membership is seeking: discovery. They have a lot of work to do at the show. As that work continues to grow in terms of the time needed to get their jobs done, there is constantly a need for discovery. What’s new? What’s fresh? What are they missing? We build new vehicles to make that possible. One such vehicle is the Pre-Fall Wall. Our members sent us product that was immediately available for sale. It gives the ability for a retailer to come over and look at all the different product. If there is a product that they are inter-


ested in, they can then make an appointment, call the vendor, or simply take a picture of the wall and share that information with their fellow buyer associates. They can do this all at one time, one place. VAMP: Footwear is full of contradictions. Business can be done online, yet the industry likes to gather in person. Technology is changing the way shoes are sampled and produced, yet the fundamentals are still crucial to comfort, quality and fit… Do you think one side will ever win? Fromm: I don’t think you need one side to win. There’s an old adage: “right shoe, right time, right place.” It has been the holy grail of the industry. How can I get the perfect merchandise distribution? As we get more and more tools that allow us to preview, sort and curate our selections and elements, we get a better opportunity to get closer to that perfect mix. However, as we know, the consumer is king. So, what you thought was the perfect mix when you put the collection together changes. The consumer starts to vote, and it changes your perceptions of where the trend is going. I don’t see that ending. I think that technology is going to continue to eat at it, but there are people who are still going to keep coming back to make a difference. So, I don’t see it ending, I see it evolving and changing. Maybe the timing will change. How things come together may change. But the need for buyer and sellers to get together and to understand, not just the product you’re looking at, but where it stands in the mix and to have those discussions on an ongoing basis with the product right in front of them? That will remain the same. VAMP: Was there a moment when you knew that you would be involved in footwear for the long haul? Fromm: I’m sure there was. The reason you stay for the long haul is that it’s meeting your needs. I think that the challenges of the footwear industry and its continuous opportunity make it interesting. And if you’re fortunate to have the right mentors, the right partnerships, the right friends, it creates a really great atmosphere and you want to stay. VAMP: What are some important qualities to have in order to succeed in the footwear industry? Fromm: Persistence. Resilience. It is a seasonal industry. It has highs and lows. Therefore, there is a premium given to those who have that sort of resilience at their core, those who have a “never give up” attitude. They are constantly aware of the opportunities. Seasons come, seasons go. There’s really good ones, there’s really tough ones. What you do know is that there is going to be another season in just a few weeks. VAMP: Who do you admire in the footwear industry? Fromm: There’s so many people! I admire the business leaders. I had the great fortune to work with Brian Cook who was really the heart and soul of building the Famous Footwear chain. He was a true merchant. He put the customer first. He was tenacious. But, most of all, he loved to empower people. He enjoyed helping people do more, be more and make a difference. You look at people like [Skechers Chairman and CEO] Robert Greenberg and what he’s been able to do time and time again. He helped me throughout my career by challenging me at how much better we could be at serving the customer and at being right on trend. He’s about having passion for growing the business and never being satisfied. I have a great relationship with Sam Edelman. He has a voracious appetite for trend and for doing the hard work to turn over every leaf to find those things that the consumer is passionate about having to have. All three of these people shared this constant quest to serve that customer, to be right. There’s so many terrific people. It’s what makes the industry great. VAMP: Why have you remained passionate about the footwear business? Fromm: The industry has been good to Ron Fromm and Ron Fromm really enjoys being with FFANY and helping others create success for themselves. • VAMPFOOTWEAR.COM / AUG 2016





oe Ouaknine, co-founder of Titan Industries, is the Simon Cowell of fashion footwear. He can identify a brand with global potential. He can spot a celebrity with the style and tenacity necessary to build a “celebrity shoe line” into an edgy and compelling brand with a look all its own. Through Titan, Ouaknine has helped revive labels like Charles Jourdan, grow the footwear business of Badgley Mischka—which, as of March 2016, Titan co-owns—and introduced the likes of Jennifer Lopez, Gwen Stefani and Zendaya to the shoe scene. On the surface level, it may seem like Ouaknine, who began his career as a shoe salesman in the ’70s, and Zendaya, the 19-year-old actress, singer and social media influencer whose career began with Disney, have little in common. However, if you dig a little deeper, they both share a passion and dedication for their careers in footwear. VAMP: Was there a moment when you knew that you would be involved in footwear for the long haul? Ouaknine: Let me tell you how I knew it. While attending college in Montreal, I got this job at the Bata flagship store. I was only working Thursdays and Fridays 6 to 9 p.m. and Saturdays all day. My first sale was to a lady that came with her infant looking for a pair of special occasion shoes. When I took her to the cashier, she gave me a brand new $2 bill as a tip. I went back to the stockroom and asked my co-workers, ‘Wow. I didn’t know we get tips here. How much do we make approximately per day?’ The answer was we never get tips selling shoes. I knew then this was a sign. I never got another tip from a customer again. That was back in 1974. VAMP: Are up-and-coming designers today as passionate about the business as they were when you started?



Ouaknine: I find today’s designers as passionate as ever. Times are different and certainly more challenging than ever. Things are a lot quicker and if you close your eyes for more than an instant, you’re behind the game. It’s a pressured passion but judging by all the designers we employ, the passion is definitely there. VAMP: What are some important qualities to have in order to succeed in the footwear industry? Ouaknine: I can answer instantly without thinking too much. Ethics, honesty and integrity. It’s an industry that requires that—or you are a nomad and only pass through. VAMP: Badgley Mischka has been a long-standing partner for Titan and the company recently co-purchased the trademark from Iconix. Why do you believe in the brand and its co-founders Mark Badgley and James Mischka? Ouaknine: Having been the Badgley Mischka licensee for over 10 years, I know this brand. Founders Mark and James—I know even better. Talented, charming and as polite as could be, they have an envious reputation and they are hard workers. Never do it without a smile. Should I say more? VAMP: You’ve worked with enough celebrities to know who has the style and dedication needed to produce a successful footwear line. What does the newest famous member of the Titan family, Zendaya, have that stands out? Ouaknine: Since the day I met Zendaya about 18 months ago, a lot of things have changed. She had four million followers on Instagram then. Today, she has almost 30 million. She was so mature for her age at 17 then. Now at 19, her maturity has grown ten times over. She cares about her career. Her success has not started yet. Just wait another year or two. She is a superstar. VAMP: There’s so much more that is required to build a brand now—from faster seasons to social media. How has it affected creativity in footwear design? Ouaknine: Social media and all the texting and cameras on all the phones have made the fashion industry a lightning-fast business. It has helped, in the fact shoes have never looked better in the history of the world. I find today’s fashion as sharp as ever, and it is due in part to the phones we use. A beautiful shoe goes viral instantly and other interpretations of that particular shoe hit the market a few weeks later. [Social media] gives the footwear industry a much bigger presence than ever before. VAMP: In terms of business strategy, are there other industries you look to for inspiration or guidance? Ouaknine: I always like companies that focus on one thing only. FedEx was the first one. In-N-Out Burger is another one. They only do burgers. No chicken, no hot dogs, no chili and the smallest menu you can imagine. VAMP: How have you remained passionate about footwear? Ouaknine: It had to do with the kind of ride I had. I was the first salesperson with Charles David in the U.S. Then Guess Inc. and I was on top of the world. The product was unique and selling like hot cakes. It opened up so many doors for me. I made some lifelong friends and it allowed me to go my own way and create Titan. •

14 E. 60TH STREET PH2 NY, NY 10022 (212)355-2390





us Stop Boutique, the store with the quirky windows on Philadelphia’s South 4th Street, has been dressing local trendsetters with brands like Swear, Esska and Blackstone for the past nine years. Elena Brennan opened Bus Stop after coming off a 27-year run in advertising and marketing in the UK handling major accounts like Kellogg’s and The Guardian. “It was like the ’80s version of Mad Men,” she said. However, after moving to the U.S., Brennan said she lost the passion and respect for the industry. “And voilà, that’s when I switch gears to the footwear industry,” she quipped. Brennan’s move to retail wasn’t a total surprise—her parents were in retail— but footwear proved to be an opportunity for her to use both her creative and business mind. Recently, Brennan has been dabbling in design, collaborating with All Black last spring to produce an extensive range of colorful oxfords and four more for Fall ’16. Brennan will also introduce Bus Stop’s first-ever collection of private label handbags, sourced and made in Italy this fall. “Our clients crave the unusual when it comes to footwear. They have come to us for nine years to find styles that you can’t get anywhere else. Now we can truly deliver just that through our own in-house designs and our customers love it,” she explained. VAMP: How do you enhance your customers’ shopping experiences? Brennan: Our customers give us accolades on our customer service and shopping experiences, in the boutique or online, and that’s rare with online shopping. Here, you’re interacting with the person who curated the shelves, who has a deep love and appreciation for everything in the shop. It’s a person-to-person experience, and I think people want that authenticity and back-to-basics approach when shopping for shoes. There’s a story behind every shoe and designer too. We also know how to throw a mean party. Our customers really look forward to our launch parties and celebrating our new collections with us. They know that if they want to own a pair of our limited-edition designs, they need to come early and they do. It’s all about the experience—offering our customers something that’s limited-edition, exclusive, well-made and comfy inside our cozy shop.

VAMP: What’s new for fall? Brennan: I recently returned from a trip to the All Black factory in Taiwan where I was working on designing the third collaboration with All Black, adding four new styles along with everyone’s favorite, the Bus Stop x All Black oxford… We’ve really outdone ourselves this time and are excited to be able to say we’ve launched two footwear capsule collections in one year—a big first for us and we are so proud of what will be adorning the shelves come fall. I’m carrying a Japanese designer for the first time. I found the brand, Yuko Imanishi, when I went to MICAM in February, and I met up with Yuko Imanishi on my recent trip to Japan and visited her showroom. Our mission from the beginning has been to introduce new international designers to Philly. We are obsessed with Japanese designers right now, so stay tuned for even more Japanese designer spotlights in 2016 and 2017. VAMP: What do you wish you’d see more of from brands and designers? Brennan: I wish I could see the designers take more chances and offer styles that stand out—they can be classic but with a twist. I’d like to see more quality control and an emphasis on the handmade, soft leathers, an attention to detail from brands. We treat our shoes like pieces of art on the shelves, so my standards for the level of beauty and quality are high. VAMP: What do you look for in a new brand? Brennan: Unusual details, colors that speak to me, and of course, good quality luxurious leathers. And designers that keep it fresh—I’m always looking for new up-and-coming designers to offer our customers brands that are not saturated in the marketplace in the U.S. or internationally. We like to offer our customers the newest brands and best kept secrets. VAMP: What are the rewarding aspects of being a small business owner? Brennan: The independence, being your own boss, seeing your ideas come to fruition, collaborating with like-minded business people and designers, designing and seeing your creations come to life. VAMP: Why are you passionate about footwear? Brennan: I have a creative and business mind, so having my own shoe boutique and designing my own shoe and handbag collections feeds my passion. •



PEOPLE business for more the 30 years in Israel. He started out making sandals like these in the kibbutz since the early ’90s but it wasn’t something that interested me. Upon our return back home Angela started to get many compliments on her new sandals and many people asked where they could get them. The answer was always: Only in Israel. Angela continued to encourage me to start our own sandals business, and in 2009 we decided to test the market and started selling them on the Venice Beach boardwalk in California. The feedback was overwhelming. So I contacted my father to help me with the production, and he said he knew of a family from the Palestinian side of Hebron that is still using traditional hand techniques with some modern machinery assistance. We contacted them right away and started production.



wning a leather sandal business wasn’t part of Kfir Matalon’s plan. “I’ve done everything from making pizza to waiting tables,” he said. During his travels in Asia he co-founded a T-shirt business that designed, printed and sold event T-shirts to tourists. Most recently he worked as a home theater and home security technician. In 2007, a trip to his native Israel with his wife, Angela, changed Matalon’s course and led to the launch of Jerusalem Sandals, a brand of traditional leather sandals that has since captured the interest of American Apparel, Nordstrom, ASOS and fashion-forward retailers in Italy, Japan and more. In early 2016, the brand opened its first flagship retail store in Los Angeles, Calif. “[The store] allows us to be in direct contact with our customers and to understand exactly what they want,” Matalon said. VAMP: How did Jerusalem Sandals begin? Matalon: I came from a small beach town about 10 minutes outside of Tel Aviv, Israel. After marrying my wife Angela and relocating to Los Angeles, we took our trip to visit Israel together in 2007. Angela was fascinated with the locally handmade biblical-style leather sandals in the small shops in Jerusalem. Growing up in Israel, I took these kinds of sandals for granted and didn’t understand what she saw in them that made them so special. My father has been in the shoe



VAMP: Consumers love brands with a unique story. What is Jerusalem Sandal’s unique story? Matalon: After getting to know our manufacturers, the Zatari family, the vision for our company became clear. Israelis and Palestinians working together to revive the sandals of times before. We immediately adopted our new brand name Jerusalem Sandals. In Hebrew, “Jeru” translates to “teaching” and “Salem” translates to “peace.” Our inspiration is pulled from old biblical imagery and Bible characters, mixing the old with the new. VAMP: What have been some of the more rewarding aspects of owning this company? Matalon: Being able to develop and create a product that I am proud of and that people can enjoy for many years is a very rewarding feeling. VAMP: What have been some surprising challenges? Matalon: I’ve had to learn everything as I go. English is not my first language, so I’ve had to become good at learning to communicate with the customers. VAMP: What do you love the most about your job? Matalon: The flexibility affords me the chance to travel, meet new people and build new relationships along the way. I’m very grateful to have met some amazing colleagues that have been very supportive and encouraging, lending their experience and expertise. VAMP: Who do you admire in the footwear industry? Matalon: My father has been in the footwear industry for decades in Israel and growing up he modeled hard work and dedication and found success for his efforts and sacrifices. Now I follow his example in paving my own way in the footwear industry. VAMP: Why are you passionate about the footwear? Matalon: As long as I can remember I was always surrounded by shoes. I would help my father fill orders, manage inventory and many other things over the summers growing up. I’m excited to follow in his footsteps today with a product that we are confident in and extremely proud of. We are thrilled to have found a footing in the industry. •

Experience the Børn Spring 2017 Collection at FN Platform and at FFANY New York Showroom | 1441 Broadway | 15th Floor | New York, NY

Look the


THE FLAMINGO Pantone’s prevailing Color of the Year, Rose Quartz, is electrified next spring, returning as a lush and playful shade of bright pink. Designers flaunt the Barbie-inspired hue across a scope of silhouettes for all occasions. This means you can literally be Businesswoman Barbie, Beach Barbie, Workout Barbie and Dance Party Barbie all in one season.










LACOSTE summer suede







OPEN FOR BUSINESS Open-toe booties shouldn’t make sense, but what does these days? This plum example of transitional, hybrid, seasonless footwear is hitting its stride in Spring ‘17 by mixing with au courant trends, including perfs, side buckles, cut-outs, tassels and open shanks. The open-toe bootie is the season’s canvas for creativity.







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Has the adult coloring book trend inspired designers to tap into their basic sets of Crayola crayons for style inspiration? The three primary colors—red, blue and yellow—are standing boldly for Spring ’17. Patents and glossy rubber materials add a “wet paint” effect, meanwhile the shades look crayon-like on canvas.







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CUT A RUG Remember in 2014 when this thing we didn’t know whether to call cut-outs, laser cuts, chop-outs or perfs came onto the scene? While we still use the words interchangeably, the airy look has since become a staple in the fashion footwear scene, refreshed each season with new patterns and fresh silos.








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Coming off an Olympic year, footwear designers are giving gold a rest and letting silver shine. This season’s metallic is offered in a myriad of materials, textures and levels of brightness, from mirror-like surfaces and animal prints, to crackled leather and brushed hardware. Stark white outsoles play into silver’s sci-fi roots, or look for block heels to bring a Mod mood.


crackle textures



delicate gladiators KLUB NICO SOREL








INDUSTRY-WIDE GALA Hammerstein Ballroom 7-11 pm

Hammerstein Grand Ballroom 5-8 pm



T. Kenyon Holly Award



A.A. Bloom Award




President, adidas Group North America

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RING SHOPPING These rings won’t cost you one to three months salary, but they will score you major fashion points. The grommet trend, led by Prada’s grommet-happy Resort ’16 collection, has replaced the tired studs Valentino has been pushing for the past several seasons. Unlike rocker studs, the hardware offers two personas—rebellious with multiple tiny grommets, or as classy as a single metal ornament on a sandal.




MARION PARKE crisscross straps




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There isn’t one way to tie the knot anymore. Laces and ankle ties have become essential elements in brands’ designs, adding grace to everything, from comfortable footbed sandals and espadrilles, to sky-high party shoes.




layered outsoles

MIA SHOES d-rings




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Palm fronds are the new pineapple. There’s a touch of retro charm to the season’s tropical prints. Brands are straying from typical warm hues and are embracing cool shades of ocean blue and green.




TURNINGTASSELS Good-bye fringe, hello tassels. The preppy accoutrement ditches the basic loafer this spring to shake and shimmy across trendy mules, slides and stiletto heels. The embellishment is at its best in numbers, cascading down a strappy sandal in a team of sugar sweet pastels.



Look the






The middle child, the middle seat, the middle finger—it is safe to say that the middle gets a bad wrap. However, footwear is changing that this spring with a deep range of mid-height, block heels for all styles and occasions. The easy-to-wear heel goes day to night with grommets, summer suede, cagelike straps and metallic. It looks even better with some more experimental designs, like paint-splattered leather and architectural heels.


mosaic details

LAYER BY LAYER The demand for decorative heels is high, resulting in some seriously chic styles for Spring ’17. Designers are taking design cues from architecture and furniture, melding wood with rubber, pairing shellacked finishes with matte textures and playing with mosaic-inspired patterns. On the tropical side, slivers of leather and metallic make natural materials like jute, raffia and cork pop. VAMPFOOTWEAR.COM / AUG 2016


Look the




Brands are pulling strings and transforming them into little, neat decorative knots for sandal season. Chloé started the trend this past spring with a colorful tangle of cords. For Spring ’17, more brands are toning down the knotted look with all black constructions. On the dressier end, look for knots made with chiffon and scarf prints.


toe rings NAOT ANTIKA





Snake is going au naturel for spring. The neutral print is returning to its original colors—a look that is complementary to the season’s penchant for muted tones of sand and stone. However, sandal brands continue to find creative and subtle ways to elevate the print’s tropical flavor, including touches of turquoise. VAMPFOOTWEAR.COM / AUG 2016


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THE UNCOLOR Hybrid colors are the new hybrid shoe. Brands describe the season’s must-have neutral shade as mud, taupe, stone, cement, sandstorm, beige, ecru, gris and “not sure what to call it.” The family of colors brings a modern, less athletic vibe to slip-on sneakers and sneaker boots. Meanwhile, the neutral is a natural choice for classic cutout and woven leather sandals.





If it’s good enough for Gucci, then it is good enough for us. Last fall the Italian fashion label strutted mullet-like loafer mules swathed in fur. Since then, footwear brands have followed up with cleaner (and more hygienic takes), including a Spring ’17 class chockfull of supple leathers, shimmer and artisan techniques.







Emu Australia



Cat Footwear



Nanette Nanette Lepore


Musse & Cloud






Bernie Mev




Nanette Nanette Lepore

Marion Parke VAMPFOOTWEAR.COM / AUG 2016


Cat Footwear




Corso Como

Special thanks to BPD Washhouse in Jersey City, NJ








arly in my career, I was very fortunate to have some amazing mentors. Having just been given an opportunity as a newly promoted shoe buyer, a legendary shoe buyer took me under his wing. Through him, I succumbed to the fascination of shoes—how they were created, the styling, the design and the people who made and sold them. It was a tutorial that did not come from school but from the sheer passion of someone who absolutely loved what he did. As I advanced in my career, someone who had great industry relationships mentored me and reinforced the importance of being product centric. Trips to Europe were filled with long days of shopping to see every possible shoe and spotting the latest trends. I learned to respect product and the value of new ideas. I also learned the importance of getting to know the people who ran the companies. Meeting people and developing product was powerful and energizing. Always being approachable and curious meant you were welcome to participate and engage in the process. I learned that the footwear industry is a place that responds to you if you respond to them. There is sincerity and determination that exists in the footwear industry based on the commitment and desire to succeed. Part of it comes from the common goals and ideas and the mere fact that people who begin their careers in the footwear business stay in it and continue to evolve. There is a fraternity of sorts that exists and allows for camaraderie between companies as its members move around. Through the years I have crossed the paths of so many legends in the footwear industry. These are people who built and created great companies, developed technologies, designed signature collections and shaped the industry as we know it today. Then there are the road warriors who carried

and sold the product, and who introduced new ideas and the promise of great business. These footwear icons were the personalities that motivated you to think differently, who created new categories you did not own, and let you know what you did not need to buy. The message was always optimistic and the onset of each season was a new beginning. New generations of these companies are now reinventing themselves and today new startups are disrupting the industry as well. What is constant in the footwear industry is the thrill of the hunt, like testing and then exploding a brand like Steve Madden. It is the discovery of a new trend and creating a collection like Sam Edelman, or the launch of a new brand like Coach. Finding and developing great talent and pursuing a vision are what great shoe companies do. It is this intensity that keeps things moving and drives all of us to succeed. It’s Vince Camuto selling one company and beginning again to start another. It is the passage of a company from one generation to the next. The great independents and the great department stores like Nordstrom that became the standards of excellence built the powerful evolution of retail that exists today. It is that heritage that brought inspiring merchandising and new formats. As I was once a mentee, I have now become a mentor who has passed on the tradition and the stories of design, merchandising, and the history of the people and the companies. Like my mentor, it has been due to the sheer passion of loving the shoe business that I share this intelligence that can help lay the foundation for future industry mentors. That is the real emotion that fuels passion. The Two Ten Footwear Foundation is very much driven by the passion of the industry. It is rooted in a history of great personalities that created a foundation, more than75 years ago, to fill a financial need for their workers. It was that dedication and determination much like the footwear industry today, to share and cooperate with a common purpose. The very enthusiasm to recognize the importance of their workers and to maintain its longevity is what makes great companies survive. Through the years our industry has reached out and crossed over competitive lines to foster that original intent: to help shoe people in need. More than 75 years later, the Two Ten Footwear Foundation is even more active and engaged with the footwear industry. The foundation’s board is made up of a diverse group of industry icons and experts who share a common purpose and who are driven by the desire to make a difference in the lives of the population at large. Beyond the board, many members of the community contribute their time and talents to advance the needs of the organization. This is a powerful emotion that connects us all to pursue the goals of the Foundation much like that which inspires us to be in the shoe business. •

Carol Baiocchi’s career in footwear spans 40 years. She recently retired from her post as SVP of Footwear at Kohl’s Department Stores. She currently serves on the Board of Directors for the Two Ten Footwear Foundation and has served as the foundation’s of Chairman and Vice Chairman. Baiocchi is also the co-founder and co-chair of WIFI which is the foundation’s community initiative for women in the footwear industry. VAMPFOOTWEAR.COM / AUG 2016







D Printing for our industry is less about a revolution in manufacturing and more about the development of another important piece to the manufacturing automation puzzle. There are some in the industry who believe 3D printed footwear will be the norm in 10 years or less while others who have worked in the industry for decades think 3D is a flash in the pan. The truth lies somewhere in the middle as athletic companies in particular are using this new technology to continue to push the horizons of innovation.

footwear production growth in Vietnam. While much of the hype is justified, the competition from factories in the Southeast Asian nation are causing a stir among Chinese factories and pushing them to adjust and change. Meanwhile, even as companies move production to Vietnam and continue to look around at other options, China has emerged as the preeminent location to house strategic centers for managing materials, designs and coordination of worldwide sourcing for many footwear companies. Even as China’s shipments to the U.S. grew again to a record last year, China’s share of global footwear shipments to the United States slid to just 62.5% in dollar terms and 76.3% in volume terms, both multi-year lows. And early evidence in 2016 suggests this trend will persist again this year. Its value share of year-to-date U.S. footwear imports is just 57.9% and is on track to recede to the lowest annual share in 18 years. Vietnam, the DR, Cambodia and India again are enjoying double-digit year-over-year growth so far in 2016 and continue to take share from China again this year, an extension of the recent trend. But even as the numbers look negative, companies are finding a sourcing rebirth in China. Over the past several months we have had in-depth conversations with a range of sourcing professionals who have told us factory owners and managers are hungry for orders and are working hard to make their customers happy. They are more willing to adjust prices and work to ensure production times are met. At the same time, others have told us that even as their production goes outside China, China has become important to coordinating material supplies all the way to design. These developments point to China remaining a dominant sourcing center for years to come. Recent Footwear Imports Declining Even as Athletic Booms

Advancements in printing technology have been used to produce certain athletic footwear components from shanks to outsoles to upper materials. For much of the industry, this technology may be more focused on basic components like custom insoles that can reduce cost and add value. However, it remains to be seen how other segments of our industry will use the technology for the overall manufacturing of shoes.

Footwear imports sank on a year-over-year basis for the third straight month in June, off 1.1% in value and 4.6% in volume, marking the fourth-lowest May volume in 13 years. Yet, even as there has been a total decline, athletic shoes are booming once again as this segment continues to dominate. In fact, athletic has overtaken children’s shoes in volume terms for the first time in many years.

No matter what your forecast may be for 3D technology, the continued development of advanced manufacturing—including the use of 3D printing—is here to stay as Nike, Under Armour and Adidas have all announced plans and unveiled technologies that will further advance manufacturing in a variety of different ways. Regional manufacturing hubs close to consumers worldwide will become the norm for athletic companies utilizing a variety of technologies including 3D printing and upper knitting.

Year-to-date shipments are now off 4.8% in value and 5.8% in volume from the first five months of 2015, confirming our April outlook that imports would stall from a robust start to the year. More specifically, Vietnam’s 33.7% advance in rubber/fabric footwear shipments coupled with China’s 12.5% decline caused shipments from the former to surpass shipments from the latter so far this year, an unprecedented event.

Furthermore, the use of 3D printing technology is emerging as a key tool in the overall development process. Cutting down lead times and shortening development is vital to meeting the evolving needs of a diverse and demanding footwear consumer. Companies such as Wolverine are using 3D printing to develop samples much more expeditiously, helping to shorten the entire development process from concept to retail. In the end, democratizing 3D printing for the entire industry will take time as costs come down and broader use of the technology is adopted. Footwear retailers serving working families will continue to be cost conscious in their pursuit of providing high quality shoes at competitive prices. So, for this segment of our industry, 3D printing won’t be the be-all and end-all. But with any innovation, particularly 3D printing, it’s fun to let your imagination run wild and see where the industry’s innovators lead us. China is Changing in Ways That Will Continue Its Production Dominance The buzz around the sourcing water cooler these days has been the huge

Performances in total year-to-date footwear imports are mixed across categories. In dollar terms, children’s year-to-date footwear imports are off 1.9% and boot imports slouched 5.5%, while athletic footwear shipments are up 3.1%. Shipments from Vietnam are up at least 5.5% in all three categories, suggesting it is maturing as it increasingly produces leather footwear in addition to athletic. The import decline this spring could be seen as a result of built-up inventories needing to be liquidated, a point supported by the drop in footwear prices seen across the board in June. Another takeaway is that the athleisure footwear trend shows no signs of slowing. We will continue to monitor these trends as we publish summer data for FDRA members in our monthly import reports. •

This is an op-ed from the FDRA. FDRA is the footwear industry’s voice in Washington. In all, it supports over 130 companies and 250 brands, or over 80 percent of total U.S. footwear sales, making it America’s largest and most respected footwear trade association. VAMPFOOTWEAR.COM / AUG 2016






endaya, the 19-year-old actress, singer and designer, has taken to the shoe industry at a young age. While other famous footwear figures like Jessica Simpson and Sarah Jessica Parker launched their successful brands after the peak of their performing careers, Zendaya is designing as her star ascends. Daya by Zendaya, which premiered with a Spring ’16 collection, is co-designed by Zendaya and her stylist Law Roach and is produced by Titan Industries. The first line was a combination of sleek sneakers, fashion-forward heels and eccentric flats. Looking forward to Spring ’17, Zendaya says she plans to stick to what her fans have been responding to, but in seasons ahead, says she is excited to branch into new styles that haven’t been seen at this price point. VAMP: What has surprisied you the most about the shoe design process? Zendaya: Honestly, what surprised me the most were the details. It’s a lot more than, ‘Oh I want a shoe like this, with this,’ you know? There’s so much detail that’s involved, and I like to be involved in every detail of my shoes, down to what everything looks like, all the color palettes. I’m very, very specific because I want to make the best quality possible that I can. So you know, it’s definitely time-consuming, but it’s worth it. VAMP: What is your favorite part of the job? Zendaya: My favorite part is the fact that I get to do it with Law [Roach]. He’s my stylist and my creative partner and so us together is just a very funny, magical combination.


VAMP: What are some qualities that you think a person needs to be successful in footwear? Zendaya: I would say there’s a lot of business that goes into the whole thing. A lot of the things you just don’t realize or don’t quite understand. I’ve just had to kind of listen. Especially because I wanted to create shoes that were luxurious and quality and VAMPFOOTWEAR.COM / AUG 2016

felt good, but also at a really great price. There’s a lot of effort in that. It’s not easy. You have to sacrifice certain design elements for the price. It’s almost like a negotiation. VAMP: Where and when do you feel the most creative? Zendaya: It’s all about environments. I feel most creative in environments where my creativity is accepted. I’m not one of those types that likes to be put in a box or told what to do. So when it comes to anything in my life—acting, singing, designing, whatever—I have to be in an environment where my creativity is accepted and listened to. Otherwise, if you’re not, you go crazy! VAMP: What is your first footwear memory? Zendaya: I’ve always kind of been obsessed with heels. My mom never really wore heels, that just wasn’t her style, but both my grandmas on both sides always had heels, and I would always go into their closets and just try on their heels and walk around in their heels all day—I was obsessed with high heels! VAMP: Who do you admire in the shoe industry? Zendaya: There’s the Jessica Simpsons of the world who have created a huge, huge brand out of their name. Which is really cool and awesome and everything. So definitely that, but what I think is really cool about this, and what I foresee for the future is no matter how much success I hope that this all has, I want to be involved in a part of it at each step of the way. It’s not something that I ever want to take my hands off of. It’s so personal and every single shoe that goes out is approved and looked over by me and my team. VAMP: Why are you passionate about footwear and footwear design? Zendaya: I love shoes. They’re just the best. They can change your mood, they can change your feel. Who doesn’t love shoes? Anybody who doesn’t love shoes, I worry. •

Vamp: August 2016  

The Passion Issue: Spring 2017 Trends I The Real Stan Smith I Shoe Dogs Share Their Passion For the Biz I Zendaya's World I Denim Footwear R...

Vamp: August 2016  

The Passion Issue: Spring 2017 Trends I The Real Stan Smith I Shoe Dogs Share Their Passion For the Biz I Zendaya's World I Denim Footwear R...