Footwear Plus | August 2021

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AUGUST 2021 VOL 31 • ISSUE 7 • $10





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2019 Dansko LLC. All Rights Reserved. 1.800.326.7564.

Contact your sales representative to preview our Spring 22 Collection at Outdooor Retailer Booth 46073-UL and Atlanta Shoe Market Booths 1115-1117 and 1214-1216.

DISCOVER THE BØRN COLLECTIONS Every season, we make high-quality shoes that feel as good as they look. With artistic touches, unparalleled craftsmanship, exquisite materials and our patented Opanka hand-stitching technique, we design shoes to satisfy the demands of every lifestyle.

Experience the Børn Collections at FFANY, MAGIC and TASM

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AU G U S T 202 1 F E AT U R E S 10 Foam Home Larry Paparo, president and CEO of Floafers, on the unicorn potential of this foam-based brand. By Greg Dutter



16 Trend Spotting: Spring/Summer ’22 Seven key silhouette, print and material stories of the season. By Anne Loynd Burton

Caroline Diaco President/Group Publisher Greg Dutter Editorial Director Nancy Campbell Trevett McCandliss Creative Directors EDITORIAL Emily Beckman Associate Editor Kathy Passero Editor at Large Ann Loynd Burton Contributing Editor

30 What a Racquet! Men’s classic court styles served up in tennis whites. By Ann Loynd Burton

Melodie Jeng Marcy Swingle Tim Regas Contributing Photographers

32 Beachy Keen Open-back wedge sandals that can be dressed up or down for those blissful summer days. By Ann Loynd Burton

Jennifer Craig Associate Publisher


Laurie Guptill Production Manager Kathleen Wenzler Circulation Director Catherine Rosario Office Manager Mike Hoff Digital Director WAINSCOT MEDIA Carroll Dowden Chairman Mark Dowden President & CEO Steven J. Resnick Vice President & CFO

On cover: Dansko pool float slide. This page: Lightweight platform wedge by Bella Vita. Photography by Trevett McCandliss; model: Mary Crimmins/Supreme Management; hair and makeup: Clelia Bergonzoli/Ray Brown Productions; stylist: Nancy Campbell; fashion editor: Ann Loynd Burton stylist assistant: Noelle Burns. Shot at Ocean Beach, Fire Island, NY.

D E PA RT M E N T S 4 Editor’s Note 6 This Just In 8 Scene & Heard


One Maynard Drive Park Ridge, NJ 07656 Tel: (201) 571-2244 editorialrequests@

42 Shoe Salon 43 A Note to My Younger Self 46 Upclose Comfort 48 Last Shot


One Maynard Drive Park Ridge, NJ 07656 Tel: (201) 571-2244

FOOTWEAR PLUS ™ (ISSN#1054-898X) The fashion magazine of the footwear industry is published monthly (except for bimonthly April/May and October/November editions) by Wainscot Media, One Maynard Drive, Park Ridge, NJ, 07656. The publishers of this magazine do not accept responsibility for statements made by their advertisers in business competition. Periodicals postage paid at Mahwah, NJ, and additional mailing offices. Subscription price for one year: $48 in the U.S. Rates outside the U.S. are available upon request. Single copy price: $10. POSTMASTER: Send address changes to FOOTWEAR PLUS, P.O. Box 8548, Lowell, MA 01853-8548. Publisher not responsible for unsolicited articles or photos. Any photographs, artwork, manuscripts, editorial samples or merchandise sent for editorial consideration are sent at the sole risk of the sender. Wainscot Media will assume no responsibility for loss or damage. No portion of this issue may be reproduced without the written permission of the publisher. ©2008 by Wainscot Media. Printed in the United States.

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Born to Tell

A Salute to the Storytellers BRUCE SPRINGSTEEN IS a master storyteller, as most recently evidenced by his acclaimed autobiographical Broadway performances. The set-ups, build-ups, descriptions, asides, surprises, confessions, revelations, arcs and poignant conclusions about his life were captivating. I swear, as he went into rich detail about growing up in Freehold, NJ, and how the aroma of coffee would regularly waft over the town from the Nescafé factory, for an instant I smelled it. And when he shared a story about how, as a young boy, he would meet his mom at the end of a long day at the office where she worked as a legal secretary, her heels echoing off the tile floors of the lobby they passed through long after everyone else was gone…I heard those “click-clacks.” I crave detail in every story, regardless of whether it’s long, short or even tall. The sounds (“the screen door slams”) and sights (“Mary’s dress sways”) are what make stories memorable. What’s more, they can shed a whole new light on a subject. Case in point: Vincent Van Gogh. I had no idea that when he died, at age 37, he had created 900 paintings but only sold one that, in today’s dollars, would have fetched him a paltry $2,000! I know that now because recently, as I waited to enter the Vincent Van Gogh immersive exhibit, a video screen posted that autobiographical aside. A mere sentence of backstory changed my entire perspective on a painter I previously brushed off as some nut who resided in the South of France and cut off his left ear. It was another reminder to me to try to include details in all the stories I tell in these pages. Fortunately, our industry’s storytellers usually provide me with plenty of great material. They are master storytellers in their own right. For example, take the story of how Larry Paparo, president and CEO of Floafers (p. 10), came to lead the Kickstarter-launched brand

that he now firmly believes possesses unicorn-size growth potential. After 30-plus years working in nearly every facet of this business, including at multi-billion-dollar companies, Paparo is not just blowing smoke. He speaks from experience, and sprinkles in anecdotes about in-store feeding frenzies over Floafers that will make the hair on the back of your neck stand up. It’s a great story, complete with inspiring twists of fate, strong family ties and potential fortune. The career story of Superfeet CEO John Rauvola, as told by him in this issue’s A Note to My Younger Self (p. 43), is another example of a great backstory. Before being named CEO of the Seattle-based insoles maker in 2013, Rauvola made several career stops—some good, some bad and some downright scary. Early on, while working as the night shift manager at a Doritos factory in Texas, a disgruntled employee threatened him with violence. He handed the guy a written warning about poor attendance, and the employee responded by telling him that, for $50, a local biker gang would break his kneecaps. Now that’s an aside I haven’t heard in our business before, and it paints a vivid picture showing that the road to success isn’t always smooth! Read the rest of Rauvola’s note to see how his career unfolds. It’s a great story. Indeed, great stories beg to be told—ones of invention, redemption, quests and rags to riches. Oftentimes all of those powerful elements are wrapped into one epic saga. That’s the fun part of my job: hearing and telling stories with fascinating characters, drama, intrigue and cutthroat battles—instances where fate played a hand, potentially fatal mistakes were narrowly averted, happy accidents changed everything, and unsung heroes saved the day. It’s all part of a broader, ongoing story unfolding continually in our industry. Consider this issue our latest chapter—volume 31, to be exact. The plot thickens, and I can’t wait to tell you what happens next.

Greg Dutter

Editorial Director

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Miami Heat

Women sport their summer fashion A game in South Beach. Photography by Tim Regas

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FOAM MEETS FASHION Make an Appointment MAGIC LV Booth #56508

Atlanta Shoe Market Booth #619-621

Surf Expo Booth #1557


Kodiak Commits to a Sustainable Path KODIAK, THE 110-YEAR-OLD Canadian boot brand based in Cambridge, Ontario, is taking steps to reduce its environmental footprint and improve sustainability through a new multi-year, multifaceted initiative dubbed, Built for What Matters. The effort kicks off with a focus on design and manufacturing, incorporating fewer, more sustainable materials and implementing manufacturing processes that are less impactful to the environment. “It’s important for us to make this commitment because not only will it bring on change in the footwear industry but it’s the right thing to do,” says Karen McSorley, senior Brand Manager. “We all need to do our part, and every little material and component choice and how we build our footwear matters.” The exec adds, “The more we strive to do better the closer we become to making a scalable difference in reducing our environmental impact. I hope that one day this is simply the norm, that all manufactures in all industries do our utmost to build products in the most sustainable way available to us.” To kick off Built for What Matters, Kodiak has partnered with many of its suppliers to incorporate less harmful manuThe Stave waterfacturing practices and proof retro men’s hiker features a 100 more environmentallypercent recycled considered materials into plastic lining and its Fall ’21 product line. For mesh upper and 50 example, Kodiak will be percent recycled plastic laces. the first footwear brand to use PrimaLoft P.U.R.E. insulation, made with 100 percent post-consumer recycled PET plastic using a process that generates 48 percent less carbon than the traditional insulation manufacturing process. In addition, Kodiak has sourced leathers from ISA TanTec tanneries that are rated gold for environmental responsibility by the Leather Working Group. The brand has also partnered with Evoco to create the new Comfortzone Eco footbed featuring a superior performing foam made with 70 percent plant-based biomass. Going forward, Kodiak is committed to: work with partners that offer traceable recycled, organic and renewable materials; source leather from tanneries rated silver, gold or platinum by the Leather Working Group; replace oil-based materials with plant-based alternatives; build for longevity and durability by integrating replaceable and repairable parts; strive for zero waste in owned and partner manufacturing facilities by considering recycling factory surplus and/or using post-consumer waste; limit the number of materials and trims used; and thoughtfully assess each material choice that gives equal weight to environmental impact and intended end-use. So far, Kodiak’s retailers like what they’re hearing and seeing, reports McSorley. “(Feedback) has been very positive, particularly in the outdoor industry where more and more of our customers are looking to make a difference and expect their partners to as well,” she says.

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O2 Monde’s eco-chic pumps feature NUO wood uppers, a sustainable alternative to leather.

Green Light for O2 Monde and Renault GREAT MINDS THINK alike. Or at least minds that are in search of sustainable material alternatives think alike. Such symbiosis is the fuel behind O2 Monde and Renault’s decision to debut their use of sustainable NUO wood—in a pump and an electric car, respectively—at the recent Munich Motor Show. (Floor models wore the shoes while presenting the car.) Nuo is a vegan material made of 100 percent wood harvested from certified ethically managed forests. It’s a biodegradable material that, in replace of leather, reduces CO2 emissions by approximately 60 percent per square meter. It’s also soft and moldable. Perhaps most of all, Micro Soccia, founder and designer of O2 Monde, says it’s a really cool-looking treatment for his luxe, eco-friendly collection of pumps. Renault designers apparently felt the same way—using the material for the interior door paneling and seat shells in its new MeganE electric car. “O2 Monde and Renault are the perfect brands to promote this material because it shows how sustainability can be applied anywhere and everywhere—from fashion to the automotive industry,” Soccia says. “It also highlights that aesthetics and functionality can be combined due to the innovative materials now available, as well as how through two entirely different applications and industries, O2 Monde and Renault can be part of sustainable change in their fields.” Driving forward, Soccia believes the applications for NUO are endless. “This material is truly fascinating due to its unique look and feel,” he says, noting the thin wood is bonded by an eco-friendly adhesive and a laser creates a fine engraving to give the wood surface its flexibility. “The pleasant feel and beauty of the material is truly impressive.” Soccia adds that the same goes for other sustainable materials—ones known and those yet to be discovered. “There are many roads to drive along to a more sustainable tomorrow,” the designer says. “There’s much more to come.”

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L a r r y Pa p a r o , p r e s i d e n t a n d C E O o f F l o a f e r s , i s o n a m i s s i o n t o d i s r u p t t h e e n t i r e f o o t w e a r l a n d s c a p e — o n e r e v o l u t i o n a r y, f o a m - b a s e d s h o e a t a t i m e .

THE CALL CAME out of the blue in early 2018. Larry Paparo, an industry veteran of 30-plus years whose career spanned from senior management positions at start-ups to multi-billion-dollar conglomerates, was consulting for various brands in need of his soup-to-nuts skills. An expert in sourcing, shipping, product development, brand management, marketing, logistics…you name it, Paparo has done it or he’ll quickly figure out how to do it. It’s why Dan Rubertone, cofounder and COO of Floafers, a foam-based brand he introduced a year earlier via a Kickstarter campaign, called. A longtime business associate of Paparo’s had run across Floafers’ booth at The Atlanta Shoe Market and was intrigued but quickly discovered the founders were in desperate need of shoe industry expertise. He gave them Paparo’s contact info. After a few calls, Paparo agreed to meet at a Buffalo Wild Wings near his home office in central New Jersey. Paparo already had plenty on his plate. Plus, he was happy in his new gig, having recently sold his half of LJP Intl., a sourcing firm that had licensing deals with Robert Graham, Mootsies Tootsies and Nine West Kids. Paparo was enjoying being around his family more. Becoming CEO of a startup definitely was not on his short-term agenda. Still, if the founders were willing to fly from Dallas to meet him, he thought there might be something there. “I was really impressed with Dan’s passion and energy,” Paparo recalls of their first meeting. (The two bonded over being fellow native New Yorkers.) “He expressed the concept well, but the shoe that they brought needed a lot of work. It didn’t look or fit right. It wasn’t even made in a shoe factory. The agent wasn’t even a shoe agent.” Paparo pointed out the mistakes and set the partners on the path to fixing them. Now if you’re thinking that’s how he became president and CEO of Floafers and the rest is a story of explosive growth that Paparo believes could have unicorn-size potential…you’d be wrong. Over a few more beers, the founders realized that the more involved services Paparo could offer were too steep for their start-up budget. They parted on good terms, and Paparo promised to pick up the 10 • august 2021


phone if they had any more questions. About a week later, Rubertone called. This time, he was facing a serious production issue that could have doomed the company. “His (now former) partner introduced a production problem that he couldn’t fix,” Paparo recalls. “The brand would have been dead in the water, pun intended.” So Paparo made some calls to the factory and fixed the problem within 24 hours. That’s when Floafers’ investors told the founders: “You’d better hire this guy.” If you’re thinking this is when Paparo became president, CEO and part owner of Floafers, you’d be wrong again. Over the course of 2018 and early into the following year, Paparo served as a full-time consultant. “I was repairing a lot of the mishaps and damage that had been done during the onset of developing this brand,” he explains. “I moved the factory, reengineered the product and fixed their business model. I also built a great team of investors to give the brand the correct foundation.” Indeed, Paparo invested a tremendous amount of sweat equity into getting Floafers off the launch pad. “I had used a lot of my relationship currency, hiring my contact who ran our office at LJP Intl. in China to oversee our factories in Vietnam, and my son, Justin, as VP of sales, who had run LJP’s men’s sales.” Paparo was also attending more and more trade shows, becoming the business face of the brand. Most of all, though, it was the new foam production process that he concocted—his “secret sauce”—that got him in deep with Floafers. By this point, Paparo had a much clearer view of Floafers’ potential—and he liked what he saw. “Consumers were really starting to embrace our brand,” he says, crediting the new foam construction as the difference maker. “We figured out a way to elevate the foam category by creating a sophisticated shoe shape—Floafers look and feel like a real shoe while offering the lightweight, comfortable and versatile appeal of foam.” The investors also liked what they saw, and that’s when, in May of 2019, they made Paparo an offer he couldn’t refuse: an ownership stake to run the business as he saw fit. His timing couldn’t have been more fortuitous because once the pandemic hit, millions of people worldwide changed their daily routines and wardrobes overnight. The slipper and athleisure categories—Crocs, in particular—became go-to shoes in the new remote work/school normal. Sales skyrocketed. Floafers has been no exception. “Our shoes are suitable for leisure, loungewear, work, daytime, nighttime, walking the dog…whatever you want to do,” Paparo says. “It’s a new world and Floafers fits perfectly within it.” The stars aligned for Floafers from a macro perspective, and Paparo believes he’s the right man, 12 • august 2021

OFF THE CU FF What are you reading? I’m reading a lot about red and blue oceans. Red oceans are established industries where the boundaries are defined and companies try to outperform rivals who are selling similar stuff. The competition is cutthroat, hence the red ocean. Blue oceans, where I believe Floafers sails, are industries that are not yet established. It’s open water—unexplored and unattained market space. The opportunities are deep and offer strong growth potential. What are you streaming? I just watched The Founder, the story about how Ray Kroc founded McDonald’s. I can relate to his tremendous passion and determination in launching Floafers. I’m also in the middle of The Kaminsky Method. Michael Douglas’ character as an acting coach is someone I also can relate to, because passing on what you know makes everyone grow. Most people don’t want to teach others what they know because they’re afraid they might lose their jobs. I’ve never been afraid of that.

How has the pandemic changed your life? Working from home has taught me the importance of family and time management. The pandemic has also taught me a lot about relationship currency. What might people be surprised to know about you? I have an identical twin. We’re mirror image twins, which is rarer. I’m righthanded; he’s lefthanded. My beauty mark is on the right side of my face; his is on the left… What did you want to be when you grew up? I grew up on the streets of Brooklyn and before I was bitten by the shoe bug all I wanted to do was outlive the people around me. It was eat or be eaten, which is why I became so competitive. I had to win. So when I started as a stock boy at Lester’s, I quickly worked my way up to store manager and then buyer. And after my son was born, I became a rep because I saw the huge commissions they were making, so I wanted to be that guy. Once I got to know the sales managers, I wanted to be that guy and so on and so forth to becoming president of companies, first at LJP Intl. and now Floafers.

at the right time, to run the brand. In addition to having the broad industry experience that startups require, his previous strong runs included Elefanten, Steve Madden and Kenneth Cole. “I’ve lived in those worlds,” he says. “I know what it’s supposed to look like and I know where the landmines are.” Paparo also knows Floafers’ window of opportunity is wide open—and now is the time to seize it. “I’ve seen it happen over and over: When everything is good, there’s no room for innovation or new ideas,” he says. “But with all this disruption, it’s a perfect time for Floafers to emerge.”

What’s the best piece of advice you ever received? “It’s easier to beg for forgiveness than ask for permission.” One of my mentors, Dick Prout, who worked at Kenneth Cole for many years, told me that. It means don’t wait because you might be waiting forever. Figure out what to do and do it. At his retirement party, I gave him a crystal clock with that quote engraved on it. What are you most proud of? My son, Justin, our VP of sales. He just turned 29. He’s smart, plugged into the Millennial lifestyle, extremely good with numbers, responsible for all our recent growth and is now in the process of hiring a sales team to grow Floafers further. He’s grown up in this business and he’ll definitely go much further than I have. Plus, he already knows how to separate work from family—something he’s teaching me. What is your favorite word? Of late, it’s unicorn. It’s the word that best describes Floafers, which is a magical concept and opportunity. What is your least favorite word? No, can’t, won’t, impossible…if someone says any of those, I will not sleep until I figure it out. There are only solutions, no problems.

All in all, Floafers is a dream job for Paparo. He loves building a brand from scratch that redefines the foam space while disrupting traditional footwear categories. Plus, he’s using his entire skill set and working alongside his son. Paparo is also working from home, embodying the Floafers lifestyle, which includes afternoon dips in the pool. The icing on the cake: assembling a close-knit team of loyal colleagues to make it happen. The cherry on top: introducing a charitable platform that sees Floafers donate $5 for every women’s Posh style sold to the American Cancer Society.

To Paparo, this is much more than just another job; it’s a case of career destiny. “I believe that everything I’ve done before in my career was to get to this point—this is where I’m supposed to be,” he says. “I’ve been a part of many great brand stories, but none as exciting as this one. I’m having the time of my life.” So, the time of your life? Absolutely. First of all, consumers genuinely love our product. We’re also getting tons of editorial coverage and influencers are posting about us for free. That tells me it’s not just another label; Floafers is a genuine brand with legs. The sell-through numbers are like nothing I’ve ever seen before. I compare it to Beanie Babies and Cabbage Patch dolls. And now that we’re on a clear path with the right team, framework and trajectory coming into place, Floafers could become one of the industry’s next big ideas. Just what type of numbers are we talking about? We sold more during the first two weeks of June than in all of 2019. And for June as a whole, we doubled our 2019 sales. It’s the fastest growth Justin Paparo, VP of sales, embodies the I’ve ever seen. It’s a monster Floafers ethos: work hard, look casual. trajectory. And I bought extremely irresponsibly for this season. I looked at what we sold last year and I bought three to four times that for the quarter. That’s definitely not something anyone would normally do because it’s not really plausible. But we just blew out of them. Is the success being driven by a particular channel or region of the country? It’s nationwide: DSW, Macy’s, Nordstrom and Zappos as well as independents. In many cases, customers are walking by other foam brands and asking for our brand. That’s why I associate the unicorn potential with Floafers. This isn’t a me-too product or brand. We’re modernizing and revolutionizing the foam space while disrupting the traditional footwear market. And while a lot of traditional leather-based brands are now Floaferizing some of their hero shoes, they look like puffy boots because they’re inject-and-go constructions, which are nothing like ours. How is Floafers’ foam construction different? Foam is generally not a cooperative material; it wants to expand and morph. It’s like baking a cake where you’re not sure how it’s going to turn out. It’s why you mostly see those styles very blown up. But we’ve found a way to make our foam constructions look more sophisticated—like a regular shoe. That’s our secret sauce and what makes us unique. You put them on in the morning and keep going, no matter where the day takes you. With other foam brands, you really have to change if you want to go to a nice restaurant or bar, whereas ours don’t look like a cartoon shoe. In addition, Floafers feature a built-in arch so there’s no need for orthotics, massage

pods strategically placed in the footbed offer a spa-like feel, ventilation holes and side gills give breathability and water dispersion and, unlike other foam brands, rubber outsoles provide traction and stability. And they’re antimicrobial and easy to wash.

are doing and looking to pour more fuel on the fire every day. How might Crocs’ recent announcement to pare down its account list be impacting Floafers? They’ve literally opened the door for us to countless new accounts. It has majorly impacted our business, and we’re ready and eager to service many of these independents that they’ve abandoned. But by no means are we taking this opportunity for granted. We plan on customizing business plans that work for both of us, and that spans mom-and-pops to national chains. We want to make winning proposals for all of them. And let me add that our independent customers are some of our most cherished partners. That’s where I come from. I lived that life, and I also firmly believe selling to consumers through the independent channel is extremely beneficial for brands.

So, Floafers are not Crocs? While we’ve definitely enjoyed the trickledown effect that they and other foam brands have created in this space, we’re not like Crocs. For starters, our customers prefer to set themselves apart by embracing a brand that’s still under the fashion radar—they want to be different, they want something new, they want something that fits, and they want comfort and versatility so they don’t have to change shoes from one event to the other. Floafers x Robert Stock (cofounder of Robert Graham) They also prefer the iconic loafer silhouette—at is one of several successful collab projects. affordable prices. (SRP: $59.99 for adults and $39.99 for kids.) Before the pandemic, we called How so? them front of the closet shoes. Now they’ve become door shoes. And they’re Independents tell your brand story better than anyone, and you want them to perfect for kids, especially for camps that don’t allow open-toe shoes because do that because those customers then tell their family and friends that story. of safety concerns. Our foam properties and ventilation keep kids’ feet fresh That’s the sit-and-fit environment: they’re fully engaged with the customer. and better protected. Unlike leather or fabrics, mold and bacteria can’t form. It’s the best way to talk to them, and so many brands have forgotten how to Also important in today’s wellness environment, our shoes are handsfree—just talk to consumers. They think they can through an influencer, but that’s only one more reason why I believe we’ve created a unicorn. one way to go about it. There’s no one who can tell your story better than an independent retailer. Maybe someone sitting in their ivory tower doesn’t So Floafers is potentially a $1 billion brand? realize that. At the end of the day, brand building has always been about >44 Yes. We can become that—we have great investors that are loving what we

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Outdoor Retailer Atlanta Shoe Market

Joseph 800-877-6738

• Adjustable Nubuck Upper • Available in Black or Brown • Removable footbed • 8-15 to 5E • Same day shipping • Open Stock





GROWING SEASON Celebrate the season

of renewal in cheery fruit and floral motifs.

1. Taos 2. Dansko 3. Floafers 4. Alegria 5. BC 6. Haflinger 7. Biza 8. Enjoiya 9. L’Artiste 10. Twisted X

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2021 august • 17




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Plush materials that pamper the tootsies. 1. Ron White 2. Lamo 3. Cougar 4. Earth Origins 5. Seychelles

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POOL DADS Fa t h e r k n o w s b e s t o n t h e s e c l a s s i c s a n d a l s i l h o u e tt e s . 1. Ecco 2. Florsheim 3. Quoddy 4. Birkenstock 5. Oboz 6. Skechers 7. Sperry 8. Naot

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LADIES’ NIGHT Raise some heel for a night on the town. 1. All Black 2. Agnes Bethel 3. Musier 4. Ron White 5. Bella Belle 6. Hey Lady 7. Bella Vita

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MOUNTAIN MEN Go off the grid in tricked-out trail runners 1. Ecco 2. Hoka One One 3. Timberland 4. Topo Athletic

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Naturally-Minded Footwear Every non-leather component made using recycled materials from laces to outsoles

Removable insoles made using Eco Ortholite

Only non-toxic water-based glues used

Featured Shoes Top to Bottom: Men’s Dainer, Men’s Cullen, Men’s Aspen

LWG gold rated chrome-free leathers for sustainability

100% Recyclable with the Earth RecycleMeTM Program

F FA N Y 13 70 Ave n ue of t he Am er ica s, 6t h F loo r

MAGIC LAS VEGAS B o ot h 56121

O U T D O O R R E TA I L E R B o ot h 46066- U L

AT L A N TA S H O E M A R K E T B o ot h 1247

e a r t h s h o e s .c o m






CAGE MATCH When a single strap just isn’ t enough of a statement… 1. Vintage Foundry Co. 2. OTBT 3. Alegria 4. Diba True

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MOMCORE Ta c k l e a n y t o d o l i s t i n t h e s e v e r s a t i l e s p o r t s a n d a l s . 1. Earth Origins 2. Taos 3. Chaco 4. Ecco 5. Patrizia 6. Lamo 7. Jambu 8. Acorn

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DEZI Daring Innovation and a Unique Portrait of



Left to right: Saucony, Wolverine.

WHAT A RACQUET! Classic COURT STYLES in TENNIS WHITES serve as a PERFECT doubles team. By Ann Loynd Burton


Clockwise from top: Rieker, Allen Edmonds, Gola. Photography by Nancy Campbell


L’Artiste wedges with floral leather appliqués. 32

Azura leather wedge sandal. Opposite: platform slide with tufted leather upper by Seychelles. 34

Skechers Foamies sport sandals with Max Cushioning. Opposite: Alegria slip-on platform.




Velcro sandals by Patrizia. Opposite: Aetrex cork wedge thong with silver buckle. 39


Lightweight platform wedge by Bella Vita. Opposite: Earth Origins leather wedge slide with EVA midsole. Fashion editor: Ann Loynd Burton; model: Mary Crimmins/Supreme Management; hair and makeup: Clelia Bergonzoli/Ray Brown Productions; stylist assistant: Noelle Burns. Shot at Ocean Beach, Fire Island, NY.

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Vintage Foundry Co.


ALEXIS ISABEL LIKE ANY FOOTWEAR designer worth their salt, Alexis Isabel is all about the shoes. They make the outfit, she says. “People often talk about dressing up or dressing down an outfit, and how’s that done? Exclusively with shoes!” she exclaims. “The opposite doesn’t work. You can’t dress down a pair of glittery flats.” Since debuting her label in 2015, Isabel has built her reputation on being detail-centric with collections for the “shoe connoisseur and shoe lover at heart.” The emphasis is on folded leathers and textures. “Details like double-faced leathers and three-dimensional folds are a couple of my signature design elements,” she says. “I love to combine leathers like suede and kidskin and top it off with jewels.” An example is the label’s signature Alter Ego T-strap pumps, available this season in a combination of rose-colored napa leather, gold lambskin and brilliant crystals. Isabel’ capsule collection for this summer reflects a reawakening of life after a year of figurative darkness. The Italian-made styles take cues from nature, like budding flora, colorful insects and the bumpy skin, round eyes and loopy tails of chameleons. Leathers in rich blues, twinkling metallics and a rosy hue of pink are featured in a collection that Isabel describes as “season-less.” A highlight is the Petra mule in midnight blue calfskin. It features a pleated metallic fan and gold jewel on the vamp made by AMAMI, a collective of Philippine artisanal jewelry makers. “We’re proud to partner with AMAMI and support their initiative of empowering and providing a sustainable livelihood for Philippine artisans while helping to preserve their centuries-old jewelry traditions.” Focusing on the finer details is just the Isabel way. The designer began her career working at Schwartz & Benjamin and Sigerson Morrison before attending the Dormus Academy in Milan, which led to a mentorship with Moreschi. She also has a 2018 CDFA + Elaine Gold Launch Pad award to her credit. Indeed, it’s all about the shoes for Isabel. “Shoes are meant to be a highlight of the wearer’s outfit,” she affirms, adding that her customers have an eye for detail and a whimsical sense of style. “For her, shoes are the standout item of anything that she wears, must be impeccably made and have a one-of-a-kind feeling. Each pair is like a little treasure.” 42 • august 2021


AD ULT S WIM Sleek slides make a subtle splash—unlike their cannonball cousin, sporty pool slides.

Where do you look for inspiration? I don’t seek out inspiration. I allow myself to be inspired by the emotional and tactical appeal of places I visit and everyday experiences. Like magnificent baroque architectural spires or how sunlight reflects off fish scales at an outdoor market. I appreciate the beauty that is not automatically noticeable in both the mundane and the extraordinary.

height can give you more presence when you enter a room. I’m very appreciative of the extra inches! And while high heels are no longer a prerequisite for going out to dinner, they’re definitely here to stay. Even during the height of the pandemic, our top-selling styles were all high heels.

Has the pandemic changed your approach to design? I’m designing smaller collections with several high-impact styles, instead of a large variety of styles just for the sake of a large variety. I’m also listening even more closely to my customers and taking their wants into consideration.

Any designers you admire? Salvatore Ferragamo for his creativity and innovation. Part of his genius was caused by material limitations imposed during the Mussolini era. This led to his innovative use of materials, like inventing the cork wedge and cage heel. I also really like Daniel Roseberry’s direction at Schiaparelli and how he’s able to express irony, elegance and fun absurdity in his collections.

Are high heels part of the so-called new normal? High heels are escapism. After more than a year at home, women want to feel the sensation of getting dressed up to go out and live a little. High heels also change your body’s silhouette—the

What do you love most about designing? I love that shoes are the truest expression of one’s mood and personality. I also love being alongside the shoemaking artisans as they put the final touches on my designs. They make my dreams (shoes) come to life. It’s like magic.




L E A D I N G T H E WAY Jo h n R a u v o l a , C E O o f S u p e r f e e t Wo r l d w i d e , r e f l e c t s o n t h e m a n y leadership lessons learned along the road to success.

Dear John, Let me begin by saying that life will not always be easy. You’ll face adversity numerous times, from losing your parents at an early age to being passed over for a coveted promotion and even being fired. What matters most, however, is how you respond to this adversity. Some of your most significant accomplishments and good fortunes in life will occur in the face of failure. For example, after earning an MBA, you’ll accept the worst job you’ ll ever have at a large accounting and consulting company headquartered in Dallas. Your primary job: mundane filing and photo copying documents—not what a recent MBA graduate expected! But this one-year failed experiment leads to a move to Seattle, where you’ll meet your wife, now going on 30 years! (That just might be the best career move you’ll ever make!) The Emerald City is where you’ll land a job as Operations Manager for K2 Corporation, where you’ll spend 15 years. K2 is a dynamic company filled with smart and creative people. It’s where you’ll continually push yourself out of your comfort zone, taking on leadership roles in manufacturing, product management, marketing and sales, both in the U.S. and abroad. You’ll love working and living on Vashon Island, WA, as well as traveling the world, especially to Japan, Germany and Norway. Your entire K2 experience will make you a more effective future president and CEO—one day soon. Actually, becoming an effective leader is a lifelong mission of yours. You’ll be tested early and often on attaining this personal goal. It won’t be easy—and sometimes it’ll be downright scary. Like, during your first job after undergraduate school as a night shift supervisor managing 23 people at a Doritos factory for Frito-Lay in Lubbock, TX. That’s where your first experience at disciplining an employee is met with a threat of bodily harm. After delivering a written warning to a young man for attendance issues, he responds by asking if you’ve heard of the local motorcycle gang and that, for $50, he could have your kneecaps broken! Fear not, this doesn’t happen. He actually goes on to become a model employee, because this is where you’ll learn the importance of empathy, as well as the fine art of engaging with all employees. You’ll use this key leadership skill throughout your future career endeavors. Leadership is an ongoing learning process where you keep acquiring new skill sets to make you a more effective leader. Like discovering

the power of a positive team that’s aligned and focused on a shared vision. It’s critical to a company’s success. You’ll discover that after becoming Managing Director at Bona U.S., a Swedish family-owned hardwood floors company. The division is losing money and team morale is at an all-time low. You introduce some required reading: The Energy Bus: 10 Rules to Fuel Your Life, Work and Team with Positive Energy by Jon Gordon. Every employee is invited to get on the bus, but with one stipulation: they must have a positive attitude and leave the baggage behind. Some are unwilling and will be asked to get off the bus. But the team that remains will help create a vision for the future and, within five years, sales and profitability increase by over three times! Then, in 2013, you’ ll accept the offer to become CEO and president of Superfeet Worldwide, where you’ll apply your 30-plus years of leadership and management experience to help the organization reach its fullest potential. It’s a dream job and where you’ll discover that making a profit and giving back to the community are not mutually exclusive. Superfeet will be recognized as Washington’s “Philanthropic Company of the Year” in 2018. The power of an engaged and positive team will be on full display when it becomes 100 percent employee-owned in 2020. A year later, employees will craft their shared five-year vision to grow the business and aid in the creation of the type of world they want to live in where all people thrive. The dream of making a positive difference in people’s lives will only be enhanced in 2021 when Superfeet is acquired by Westward Partners, a Seattle-based private equity firm, giving it the financial strength to create even better products and give back more. In parting, the most important lesson you must take to heart is to maintain balance during the journey of life. Because life is a juggling act of five balls: faith, family, friends, health and career. You can easily drop the more important balls when you’re spending an inordinate amount of time focused on career. Understand that life is a journey, not a destination. It’s filled with ups and downs, and you’ll make some wrong turns along the way. But you’ll learn and grow from them, and you’ll always get back on the road to success. Above all, life is good. You’ve been incredibly blessed. Trust me, you won’t want to change a thing. Just remember to enjoy the ride! Sincerely, John

2021 august • 43

continued from page 14 developing long-term partnerships between wholesalers and retailers, and I don’t see that changing.

“We’re also exploring bags, belts, shirts, floats and other categories that move us toward becoming a lifestyle brand.”

Will there be enough independents to help tell your story in a meaningful way going forward? I know there’s a lot of talk about how retail is dying and everyone is going DTC, but retail is very much alive. Recently, I visited several of our independent accounts in Brooklyn, one of which was 14th Avenue Shoes. First off, Floafers was not built with those stores top of mind—our shoes were originally aimed at resort areas, water parks, marinas, etc. Well, the owner tells me that in the last 60 days she has sold almost 1,000 pairs of just our kids’ shoes! During our visit, her phone kept ringing and when I asked why she wouldn’t answer, she said because she knew what it was for. She then told me to answer it. It was a customer asking if the Floafers shipment had come in. I couldn’t believe it; I thought I was being Punk’d. She tells me to answer the next call and it was another request for Floafers. I answered like 12 calls during our visit. The story gets better. The FedEx guy then comes in carting like 30 to 40 boxes of Floafers, and behind him is a bunch of women. Again, I think this must all be a stunt for my birthday or something. But those women tore through the boxes and bought about 20 pairs in the few minutes we were standing there. By the end of that day, the store sold 200 pairs. The hair on my arms and neck stood up

as I was just amazed by what I saw. I thought this can’t be possible. But then we went to a few other stores and it was a similar frenzy. Taking into account recent supply chain issues, are you able to keep pace with such demand? Fortunately, we have big factories producing our lines and can meet our demand. But I’m flying in a couple of thousand pairs here and there to keep some core styles in stock as best as I can because of the container shipping delays. It costs a lot, but my aim is to get our customers at least our core products on a regular basis and then sprinkle in some of the licenses and collabs we are lining up.

Such as? We have collabs with Robert Stock, the founder of Robert Graham, Mossy Oak, Muddy Girl and Lifeguard. We’ve also just signed a deal with Crayola for a kids’ collection that I think will be huge. Our shoes will look and smell like their Silly Scents line. So yellow/pineapple, white/coconut, red/cherry… we’ll even have a holiday-themed style featuring a Christmas lights motif that will smell like pine. And there are more collabs coming as many people want to partner with us. That’s going to help keep up brand momentum and excitement. For example, we just did a test with Baja Llama, a West Coast apparel brand that use a lot of cool animal and floral prints. It’s a good vibe for our brand. There are many others that we can’t talk about just yet.


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As you look out to holiday and Spring ’22, do see any sense of normalcy returning? This is normal. We’re living in it. The world has changed. Consumers are looking for product that is casual, comfortable and versatile—even if they go back to the office. They are used to working from home. That’s the new normal. People want that casual versatility: a suit and tie for the Zoom meeting paired with swim trunks and Floafers. And as the country emerges from the pandemic, I expect that there will be lasting changes in the way we work and play—and what we wear. Loungewear has become the new workwear and playwear. But even diehard slipper lovers will eventually want to step up their look, and that’s where Floafers comes into play. How will you winterize Floafers? I originally thought this would be a six-month-a-year business, but so far we’ve beaten the prior month as we see people wearing our shoes with socks. The vents are a way to show a little fashion pop, and the socks with Birkenstocks trend helps. We’ll also be adding new silhouettes soon, while staying mindful of our loafer-based roots. The brand is called ‘Floafers,’ so I’m going to stay with loafer-like, slip-on constructions. I want to stay in that space because I believe it’s unique, it has a reason for being and the consumer is gravitating to it. I also believe that staying on-brand is critically important. That said, I understand that our loyal consumers want to expand their wardrobe with Floafers. In fact, I have the next three product stories lined up. They’re innovative and imaginative concepts that are, let’s say, loafer-ish. We can’t wait to show our extensions of this new lifestyle. Where do you envision Floafers in three years—a big HQ filled with employees, or more of a flex situation where you are still outsourcing certain aspects of the business? Outsourcing will definitely be a key for us going forward so I can focus on building and selling shoes. That’s what I do best. We also have a golf style

coming out as we’re selling to golf shops and just signed Cabela’s and Bass Pro. We’re also exploring accessories, such as bags, belts, shirts, floats and other categories that move us toward becoming a lifestyle brand that’s sold in sporting goods stores, theme parks, hotels, marinas, traditional shoe stores, etc. That’s what makes Floafers so unique—I’m not just trying to figure out what the next toe or heel shape is going to be. So no plans to add brands? Hell no! We’ve got more than enough growth potential with Floafers. Along those lines, we’re just getting started on our international distribution. The pandemic put a crimp in those plans, but we have distributors for Canada, the Caribbean and Israel, and we expect to sign up to 10 more agreements this month. We’re just scratching the surface there. You’ve had great runs at great companies, but what might make Floafers even more special? I feel like everything that I’ve done in my career was to get to this point, in addition to the fact that I’ve been doing all those jobs at Floafers! But we’re bringing people to our team. We just hired a merchandiser and a bunch of salespeople, including a couple of old friends of mine. Help is on the way. As for what makes Floafers even more special, it’s the most unique brand opportunity that offers the most growth potential. I’ve never seen shoes sell this fast, and I don’t see things slowing down anytime soon. What do you love most about your job? I love everything I do, so it’s not a job to me. I’m just living my dream. I also love that I get work with my son, and I love working from home. I have flexibility that I didn’t have when I was commuting two hours into the city each day. This is really fun, and I believe if you’re passionate about what you do, stay focused and surround yourself with great people then success is inevitable. •


Tread Labs’ Million-Mile Premise Chaco founder’s insole company plays the long game.

MARK PAIGEN ALREADY knocked it out of the park once in the shoe biz as the founder of Chaco. The sport sandal brand, launched in 1989, went on to carve out a successful niche with watersport enthusiasts who swore by its now iconic Z/1 sandal featuring an adjustable pull-through strap design for a customized and secure fit along with a contoured arch footbed for all-day comfort. When Paigen sold the brand to Wolverine Worldwide in 2009 he thought his shoe dog years were behind him. But after some much-needed time off, he decided “even paradise gets boring” and, in 2012, launched Osmium, a U.S.-made men’s clothing line. A couple of years later, after his non-compete agreement in footwear ended, the lure of the shoe industry called again. “The pullback towards footwear surprised me and became irresistible,” Paigen says, who first developed a line of leather boots and shoes to compliment Osmium clothing. “The insoles I came up with for the line were more innovative and compelling than the footwear or the clothing, so I left both behind to develop the insole concept that became Tread Labs.” Paigen is an inventor at heart. That’s what 46 • august 2021

and-fit comfort and outdoor specialty dealers. “The he loved about Chaco: fitting process is not complicated and provides a innovation that created great opportunity for store staff to develop trust utility, and he believed with customers,” Paigen says, adding that it’s a he’s struck gold again with substantial upsell opportunity. “Because Tread Labs Tread Labs insoles that margins start at 60 percent, a sizeable portion of feature a unique two-part that add-on sale goes directly to the bottom line.” molded construction with To reach wholesalers, Paigen says Tread Labs has interchangeable, replacerecently hired the UBER Group as its rep agency able top covers and are and will be launching a new B2B ecommerce website built to last 1 million soon as it would like to see the channel become 15 miles. The molded arch Margins on percent of total sales by year’s end. supports are guaranteed the Ramble As for potential consumers, Paigen says it’s a “forever,” while the top collection diverse audience, but the target is quite specific. “She covers can be replaced (SRP: $55) start at 60 is a 48-year-old trail runner whose athletic pursuits to make insoles like new percent. are as important as her career. She runs four to five again, which is better for times a week and loves being in nature. Plantar the wallet and the planet, fasciitis has sidelined her in the past and keeping Paigen says. Available in her feet healthy is as important to her as covering four arch heights (low, medium, high and extra ground. Distance is her grail, and she knows that high), the entry-level Ramble retails for $55, while Tread Labs can add miles to her day…She’s tried the best-selling Pace is firmer and retails for $65. many brands of insoles and has been fitted with The high-end Dash model (SRP $105) features expensive custom orthotics in the past. She’s not 100 percent carbon fiber arch supports that are afraid to spend on gear if it truly makes a difference uber-light and nearly rigid. “When insoles fit but loves to get value.” precisely, comfort, pain relief and As for the trail ahead for Tread performance are enhanced,” Paigen Labs, Paigen, once a shoemaker, is says. “They offer a level of support always a shoemaker. He’s currently unmatched in over-the-counter in the wear testing phase of a new insole products.” sandal concept—a process delayed Tread Labs launched on April by the pandemic but one that won’t Fool’s Day of 2016. Following a be denied. “I cannot escape the scrappy start, it gained traction in world of sandals,” he says. “I can’t 2018 and, last year, scored a big jump resist the pull to create another in sales that has only picked up in sandal icon. Chaco Z/1 is a strong 2021 as Tread labs is on a pace to seller to this day, and it’s the part double those sales. “We feel pretty of my career that I’m most proud solid about our DTC channel, and Mark Paigen, CEO, Tread Labs of.” The goal is to introduce a new now the challenge is developing our sandal icon that’s different from Chaco yet equally wholesale business,” Paigen says. compelling and attractive. “It’s been a super fun To this end, Tread Labs is targeting specialty puzzle to solve,” Paigen says. “I hope I’ve learned retailers with educated staffs that can tell the brand’s a few things in the 30 years since I developed the story and help customers find the right insole for Chaco Z/1.” —Greg Dutter their needs. Those primarily involve running, sit-


Twisted X Redefines Cowboy Comfort Tech X collection to revolutionize Western boots.

HOW THE WEST is worn? According to Twisted X, a division of Twisted X Global Brands, when it comes to Western boots it’s been worn uncomfortably for far too long. Like since the 1800s, says Monte Nelson, vice president of Western for the Decatur, TX-based company. And like just about every other footwear category that has undergone revolutionary comfort upgrades that consumers have come to expect and demand, it

was high time Western got up to speed. Enter the Tech X collection, featuring Twisted X’s patent-pending CellStretch comfort system with its more than 100 individual pressure points providing comfort, stability and durability—without altering the profile of the boot to preserve the traditional Western silhouette consumers demand. “With every step, comfort cells in the heel and forefoot compress and rebound to provide customized and unparalleled support,” Nelson explains. “This technology is going to permanently change a marketplace that very seldom changes.” Prasad Reddy, CEO of Twisted X Global Brands, says Tech X is another in a line of innovations the company has and will continue to introduce. In fact, the mandate is to introduce a new technology

every six months. “Twisted X is continuously seeking ways to bring innovative concepts and comfort technologies to the footwear industry, and Tech X is exactly that,” Reddy says, adding that this latest innovation also marks a full-circle moment for the company. “We started as a Western brand before growing into our other markets, so this new line is particularly meaningful to Twisted X, as it serves our most loyal consumers and honors our heritage.” Tech X will be available in six rubber sole styles (SRP: $204.95) beginning this November, with many more styles launching over the coming year. “The goal was to make boots that look as good as they are comfortable, and Tech X is the answer to our customer’s calls for comfort, durability and style,” Nelson says. —G.D.

-Lightweight & Breathable -Interchangeable Insole Included

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Full Deck


Earth Vintage Foundry Co.

Twisted X

Boat Show 48 • august 2021

The summer staple of seafarers and landlubbers alike washes ashore in a range of hues and materials.





Featur ing Aetr ex or thotic suppor t and me mor y foam cushioning for supe r ior comfor t