Footwear Plus | February 2020

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F E B RUA RY 202 0 F EATU R ES 12 Do Something! Major issues continue to rankle and stagnate the industry, but are there any solutions? By Lauren Parker 16 Trend Spotting On the hunt for must-have colors, materials and silhouettes for Fall ’20. By Lauren Parker 36 The Biza Blueprint How veteran retailers Dave and Danny Astobiza are breaking into wholesale—one unique step and shoe at a time. By Greg Dutter 42 Made in the Suede Rich shades of brown strike a tactile tone in men’s casuals. By Lauren Parker 48 Jungle Boogie Leopards, tigers, zebras, oh my! Designers answer the call of the wild for fall. By Lauren Parker



48 Cofi Leathers leopard sneakers, blazer by L’Agence, Kim Mesches pants, bag by Alfagear. Opposite: Western bootie by Johnston & Murphy.

6 Editor’s Note 8 This Just In 10 Scene & Heard 40 A Note to My Younger Self 58 Shoe Salon 60 What’s Selling 62 Upclose Comfort 64 Last Shot

Caroline Diaco President/Group Publisher Greg Dutter Editorial Director Nancy Campbell Trevett McCandliss Creative Directors EDITORIAL Lauren Parker Executive Editor Emily Beckman Associate Editor Kathy Passero Editor at Large Kirstin Koba Contributing Editor Melodie Jeng Marcy Swingle Contributing Photographers ADVERTISING/ PRODUCTION Jennifer Craig Associate Publisher Laurie Guptil Production Manager Bruce Sprague Circulation Director Mike Hoff Digital Director WAINSCOT MEDIA Carroll Dowden Chairman Mark Dowden President & CEO Agnes Alves Controller OFFICES ADVERTISING/EDITORIAL

On cover: Cow print clogs by Dansko. Dress by Current/Elliott, L’Agence jacket. Photography by Mark Andrew/The Garden Party; styling by Kim Mesches/ Utopia; hair and makeup by Brett Jackson/Sarah Laird & Good Company; fashion editor: Lauren Parker; model: Izzy Pawline/Supreme Model Mgmt; styling assistance by Bella Peterson; photography assistance by Chris Wert.

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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, 214 W. 39th St., Suite 205., New York, NY, 10018. The publishers of this magazine do not accept responsibility for statements made by their advertisers in business competition. Periodicals postage is paid in New York, NY, and additional mailing offices. Subscription price for one year: $48.00 in the U.S. Rates oustide the U.S. are available upon request. Single copy price: $10.00. 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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Learning Center

Getting Schooled OVER THE PAST year, I have received intensive lessons in selling, marketing, competitive analysis, yield management, risk assessment, data analytics, financial planning and GPS use—all as part of the college search that has taken my family on a whirlwind tour (virtual and reality) of dozens of schools stretching from Boston to Los Angeles. Deciphering the admissions process, not to mention deciding which school is right for our daughter (provided the institution decides first that she is right for them) sometimes feels like it requires a PhD. Completing the 100-plus boxes on the Federal Application for Financial Student Aid From (a.k.a. FAFSA) is equally formidable. No wonder only 60 percent of college students apply for aid annually, despite college costs rising exponentially and millions of Americans drowning in student loan debt. Last year, $2.6 billion in scholarship funding was left on the table! It’s like co-op funds—use them or lose them. The parallels between our industry and the college admissions process are numerous. First, applying to college is a business—a coldhearted one. It’s all about the numbers: GPAs, SATs, ACTs, college rankings…just like minimums, margins, turn rates, etc. The numbers must work, or there’s no chance for a “partnership.” That’s truer than ever in the data analytics age, where statistics are king. Sure, data can aid in decision-making, but if numbers rule, a college might miss out on great students. After all, numbers don’t take a student’s untapped potential or an admissions team’s gut feelings about it into account. The same holds true for styles and brands: Some have potential far beyond what the data suggests. Second, both industries are all selling a product, be that product a school, a student, shoes or stores. If the product doesn’t look great, it’s a non-starter. Third, the pick-me process begins with marketing materials. High school seniors labor over personal essays; craft C.Vs of their accomplishments; upload videotaped performances showcasing their talents; and submit portfolios of their creative work—all in hopes of pleasing college gatekeepers. Colleges, meanwhile, blitz prospective students with mailers, just like brands and retailers send catalogs and circulars. The glossy school brochures are quite enticing: Everyone is smiling, the campuses are majestic and it’s always warm and sunny—even in the recent mailing my daughter got from Syracuse University. (As an alumnus, I know that’s a snow white lie from early November to graduation time!) Sadly, that’s not the only element of deception at play: One new trend among colleges is to cast a net that includes students who have no business applying based on their “numbers” (GPA, standardized test

score, etc.) and will in all likelihood get rejected. Why? The more kids a school rejects, the more selective it’s deemed and the higher it’s rated by the all-mighty rankings organizations. Since selectivity often leads to charging higher tuition rates, greed appears to be the modus operandi. Welcome to yield management 101. And I thought our industry had cutthroat business tactics. College admissions offices would feel right at home in the kill-or-be-killed game of Survivor that dominates today’s retail landscape. Think Nike’s vastly streamlined distribution policy. Retailer partnerships that dated back 30-plus years in some instances—and were integral in getting the thenfledgling startup off to the races—have been unceremoniously scrapped. Call it what you want, Nike’s Consumer Direct Offense, which netted the company $11.7 billion in DTC sales last year, is an epic profit-share grab. Good for Nike and its shareholders, but how good is it for our industry? How good will it be if other brands continue to follow Nike’s lead, and retailers subsequently counterattack by increasing their private label efforts and possibly dropping those brands all together? To paraphrase Abraham Lincoln, an industry divided against itself cannot stand. This issue’s Special Report (p. 12) explores pressing industry challenges (DTC among them) and how brands and retailers might work together toward potential solutions. Finger-pointing solves nothing. I learned that in grammar school. On the other hand, there are schools we’ve toured where a dean’s or a department faculty’s genuine passion for their work shines through. All start with a presentation in a grand, state-of-the-art auditorium. But some go beyond the pitches polished as an apple. Their creativity, vision and diligent effort to build a unique and worthwhile offering is evident. Suddenly you’re envisioning your child as one of those smiling kids in the brochure and you believe it’s worth every penny. Over the years, I’ve had a ringside seat to tremendously talented shoe salespeople with similar gifts and work ethics. These are the deans of the industry. Dave and Danny Astobiza, owners of the Northern California chain, Sole Desire, are perfect examples. Their business is thriving, defying the demise of (too many) other stores. Now comes the wholesale launch of their Biza brand (P. 36). The story behind why, how and what they hope to achieve is as enticing as any of those college pitches. The brothers have done their homework, put together a dream team and come out with a retailerfriendly business plan that is good for them and their partners. They’ve hit the ground running with a soft launch this spring in 100 specialty comfort accounts nationwide. The lesson here: Like colleges that have dorms to fill, shelf space is there for the taking so long as the pitch, price and product are right. I’d give the Astobizas an A so far.

Greg Dutter

Editorial Director

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It’s Showtime! ARE YOU VEGAS or Atlanta Bound? Trade show season is upon us and those attending FN Platform and/or The Atlanta Shoe Market (TASM) can expect an array of new services and features to make their trips profitable and pleasant. First up is FN Platform (Feb. 5-7) at the Mandalay Bay Convention Center. Actually, the festivities kick of the night before with a new Welcome Night Cocktail Event at the Marquee Club in the Cosmo Hotel. Expect great music, cocktails, light bites and other delightful surprises. “We feel it’s important to kick off the show by bringing the buyers and sellers together—setting a fun, collaborative vibe for the show,” says Leslie Gallin, president footwear for organizers Informa Markets, adding that due to a shortened move-in period the show hours have been tweaked to accommodate exhibitors. “On the first day, we’ll open at 10 a.m. and close at 7 p.m. Day two show hours are from 9 a.m. to 6 p.m. and day three opens at 9 a.m. and concludes at 4 p.m.,” she says. Once on the floor, buyers can shop a sold-out show, Gallin reports. Exhibitors span an assortment of leading American brands as well as established European brands ready to do business with U.S. retailers. Clarks, Rockport, Mephisto, Cole Haan, Timberland, Sorel, Frye, Vionic, Marc Nason, Schutz and Camper are just of the brands in attendance. New to the show are Camuzares, 10KA, Zac Posen, Flower Mountain, J/Slides Men’s and Smidt, among others. Helping keep track of it all is the Magic App that enables users to search by brand, category and country. “It’s incredibly easy to find who or what you need in a few short clicks through beautifully editorial imagery,” Gallin says. “The app can also assist in navigating the show itself—think Waze for the show floor. There’s also a real-time live feed, LESLIE GALLIN the WALL, where brands and retailers can post R&R in Las Vegas tip: “The perfect what they are loving as they see it.” The Magic night out in Vegas is a very cold App also enables retailers to set- up appointmartini up followed by a super dinments, access look books and take private notes ner at one of the many amazing that they can refer to after the show. restaurants in the city. An in-room While there’s lots to shop in what Gallin says massage is also a nice treat after a is the largest assortment of footwear displayed long day walking the show floor.” under one roof—not to mention cross shopping trends at the adjacent Magic apparel show—she advises independent store buyers, especially, to look for brands they can grow with over the long term. “While many larger brands are navigating more to DTC (direct-to-consumer), retailers should be replacing (brands) that conflict on pricing and marketing,” she says. “FN Platform offers the best possible opportunity for finding quality brands—there’s nowhere else for retailers to have this type of high-level exposure.” Seeing a lot more continues to be the mantra LAURA CONWELL-O’BRIEN of TASM, held in the Cobb Galleria Centre (Feb. R&R in Atlanta tip: Dining at Canoe 15-17). “With the increased interest in the show and Ray’s on the River. Both are from both exhibitors and buyers, we’ve added located on the Chattahoochee River additional space to accommodate everyone,” within a few miles of the show’s says Laura Conwell-O’Brien, executive director. Cobb Galleria Centre. “Just sitting She reports that the show has been consistently outside with great food and hearing sold out with a waiting list for exhibitors. “The the tranquil river flowing by is worth Atlanta Shoe Market has made a huge impact the experience after a long day at on the shoe industry over the last five >42 the trade show.”

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One Earth Project Teams with Haiti EARTH SHOES’ ONE Earth Project, designed to explore unique cultures around the world and collaborate on fashion and wellness goods, kicked off with a yoga-inspired apparel collection made by designers in India. The fashions were inspired by the colorful city of Mumbai and its origins in yoga and spirituality, which harked back to Earth Shoes’ yoga roots. For the second installment, the company has partnered with a Haitian factory on a collection of slip-on clogs. Employing more than 160 workers, Earth Shoes has also teamed with Germplasm Centers in aiding the reforestation of the country. Earth Shoes will donate all profits from the collection to the reforestation effort. “The Haitian people desperately need work, and are hard workers, so I knew they could be great partners,” says Phil Meynard, CEO of Earth Shoes. “That, combined with the proximity to the U.S., which makes the transportation of the shoes far more sustainable, were both huge incentives. It all came together and feels like a win-win-win for Earth, Haiti and the planet.” The Renmen (Creole for “love”) collection features Ayiti (“Haiti” in Creole) embroidered across the vamp. The shoes also feature breathable, washable wool uppers and Earth’s signature Powerpath footbeds for optimal cushioning and arch support. “It’s a true expression of ‘Love for Haiti,’” says Meynard, noting the shoes are $80 and available exclusively on “It delivers on all the qualities consumers have come to know from the Earth brand.” He adds, “We look forward to future collaborations in Haiti. We’re working on a sandal collection next!”

Tradition since 1774.


DO SOMETHING! As major concerns, challenges and a general air of contrariness rankle retailers and vendors seemingly into a standoff, how can the industry come together to overcome them? How can we c o l l e c t i v e l y d o s o m e t h i n g t o a l l d o b e tt e r ? B y L a u re n Pa r k e r

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and contention be replaced by one of compromise and cooperation? Can we behave the opposite of how Congress does, seeing that as an example in the upmost of futility? Here, we touch on a few hot-button issues and see if any solutions and/or progress can be made. DTC DRAMA On the one side, wholesalers believe they have every right to present their complete collections in one setting on their terms—especially as shelf space becomes as scarce as a progressive at a MAGA rally. Brands want to tell their own stories, connect directly with consumers and collect valuable data, and sell at higher margins. On the other side, retailers claim every DTC sale is lost revenue—it’s “direct” competition from (so-called) partner brands they’ve helped build. It’s bad enough if they are forced to compete on price with a brand’s DTC site, but it’s worse when brands pull best-sellers back in-house for their own financial gain. (Yes, it happens.) The threat is real, according to Mark Jubelirer, owner of Reyers Shoes in Sharon, PA. “These vendors endanger our well-being, and the list of them grows longer every season,” he says. “They get more aggressive as the retail distributors dwindle in number. The vendors say they have no choice but to steal my customers and those of my friends whose doors are still open. I shall always do my best to buy as few pairs from these thieves as possible.” On the flipside, Greg Tunney, president of Hush Puppies, says while his brand sells only at full price, brands are being pushed to DTC because of “overly promotional retailers.” Can there be a happy medium with DTC? Possibly. Some companies, like Twisted X, opt out of the channel entirely, saying they don’t want to compete with their retailers. Others, like Taos, pushes consumers to its retailers first. A banner on its site urges shoppers: “Go into your local retailer, get fit and ask for Taos!” Also, an updated dealer locater pulls Taos partner inventory feeds in real time so consumers can click to see which styles, sizes and colors


THE TENSION HAS been thick and tarlike, and it only seems to be getting more entrenched. The finger-pointing at who is to blame for what ails our beloved industry is barely contained, albeit mostly off the record. Flashpoints like direct-to-consumer (DTC), private label, third-party marketplaces, distribution policies, minimums, markdowns, margins, showrooming, tariffs, labor shortages, traffic declines, sourcing, consolidation…have raised the stress level to an 11. Many retailers and vendors have retreated into their separate corners, licking their wounds, vowing revenge or tapping out all together on any notions of being partners going forward. Welcome to the fallout stage of the so-called Retail Apocalypse. While surviving that initial shock-and-awe was hard enough, it seems we’ve moved onto a new, meaner playing field, one with new rules and cutthroat conditions. Every man for himself appears to be the guiding ethos. But is that sustainable long-term? Can everyone go it alone and expect consumers to follow in a meaningful way? There are growing whispers that DTC brands can’t. Turns out customer acquisition doesn’t come cheap; they need retail distribution to generate meaningful revenue. Same can be said for retailers who think they can turn their backs on the brands that helped build their businesses. Consumers want to be able to shop brands they know and trust, as well as discover new ones. So where do we go from here? Can we overcome our differences and work toward solutions where both sides win or, at the very least, can stomach the terms and conditions? Are we not better off working together—like we have for more than a century—than venturing into an unknown world with no guarantees of success? An informal poll of industry leaders shows that, despite our current War of the Roses state, we can and should. If we put aside petty differences, appreciate each other’s concerns and challenges, and genuinely work together on solving them, we can move forward from this fractured landscape and build a new era of growth and prosperity. A new promise land awaits, they believe. The question begs: Are there enough believers? Can this climate of uncertainty



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mitigate future uncertainty. Earth Shoes, for example, moved are available at local retailers. “Given the choice, consumers “Those brands about 40 percent of its China manufacturing to Vietnam, want to support their local retailer, but if they’re making the that want to Portugal, Brazil and India. “We’re not saving money by movdrive, they want assurance that the style they want is there,” ing to these countries, but we had to tariff-proof our company says Taos COO Bill Langrell, who adds customers can contact do business from future hikes,” says CEO Phil Meynard. the store and put items on hold. “This avoids returns and at wholesale With 436 different classifications on footwear, designing besides, as a comfort footwear company, it’s in our interest prices at the products into lower tariff buckets, or “tariff engineering,” is that people go into a store to try on our shoes.” another tactic, Priest suggests. “This is totally legal, and we’ve Isack Fadlon, founder of Sportie LA, sees a silver lining expense of been guiding our members on this for decades,” he says. “We for retailers in the DTC debate in the form of tighter brand those who host an event in California each year where we encourage relationships with ones who are not as DTC-focused. “That brands to bring in shoes and we look at their construction built their still focus on brick and mortar are seeing more shelf space and and make suggestions. There is incentive—if the designers more storytelling that’s ultimately resonating with customers,” business... think it will work within the brand DNA.” he says. “We’re bringing in brands that we can partner with that’s not an Another potential solution is increasing sales in countries in-store to elevate the customer experience.” that haven’t levied tariffs on Chinese imports. “Some shoeOne way for retailers to respond to DTC has been to ramp equation we makers only focus on the U.S. market, but America is only up their private label efforts, offering both exclusivity and want to be 10 percent of the world GDP,” says Hush Puppies President increased margins. Take DNA Footwear, a seven-store chain Greg Tunney, noting 95 percent of the brand’s sales are done in New York. The stores used to carry 150 brands, but that has part of .” outside the U.S. “Hush Puppies is the number-one brand in since been whacked to 40, while it aggressively grows its own —Gary Weiner, owner, Saxon Shoes 13 countries, and it’s because we started pushing globally way brands. “In addition to being the sole distributor of Verbenas, back in 1959,” he adds. an espadrille line out of Spain, we launched a sustainable DNA Twisted X is also focusing on growing its global presence from its current 10 sneaker line, and with 75 percent margin, we have more wiggle room when we percent to a 25-30 percent share, and just hired former Minnetonka president need to put things on sale,” says CEO Daniel Kahalani. What’s more, DNA is Scott Sessa, as senior vice president of business development with a focus on now offering the brands wholesale. “We understand the pain retailers are going global markets. Still, the Texas company has opted to keep 80 percent of its through,” he says. “We’re able to test our brands in our stores, and we can give production in China, preferring known factory relationships and quality control our retail partners the product data they need to be successful with them.” over the headache and uncertainty of new ones in new countries. Such tight Gary Weiner, owner of Saxon Shoes in Richmond, VA, says he has “no issue” relationships also help existing factories absorb some of the tariff costs, notes with vendors selling DTC—they’ll learn soon enough about the headaches of Twisted X CEO Prasad Reddy. “Our factories are definitely helping us offset returns. But, in the meantime, he has a big issue with how they go about it, some costs, which will help in not passing costs on to retailers,” he says. namely the unpredictability of the pricing. “Some vendors are using DTC to If there’s a silver lining to the dark clouds of this trade war, perhaps it’s a promote at a price without letting us know what’s coming and then forcing us more educated consumer. “Where before you might have gone five years and not to match or not,” he says. “That’s not good because if we match, we’re giving up heard the “T” word at all, just look at how often tariffs have been talked about margins.” What’s more, Weiner says a handful of vendors are sending emails in the news,” says Priest. “At least consumers understand that brands or retailfive times a week with different promotions—sometimes large, site-wide disers are increasing prices because they have to, not for their own selfish profits.” counts—that he had no idea were coming. Those are the brands Saxon Shoes is looking to not buy from in the future. “We’re looking to do away with any PRICING PRESSURES brands that are not maintaining their brand integrity,” he says, adding, “Those MAP policing, markdowns policies, maintaining and/or increasing margins… brands that want to do business at wholesale prices at the expense of those who the price is never really right for all parties. Coming to terms on what works built their business...that’s not an equation we want to be part of.” best is like herding feral cats—you can’t. But you can at least try to hold the NPD’s Senior Industry Advisor Matt Powell sees no let-up on the athletic line where stated. footwear front when it comes to expanding DTC efforts. He expects the channel Take MAP pricing, for example. Oris Intelligence states the typical consumer will continue to “bleed sales and margin” from retailers. The results, he predicts, brand has more than 77 domains selling its products, with 23 percent of products are no real winners as DTC will be very promotional and not result in organic in pricing violations and the average discount is 17 percent below MAP. The growth. It’s a “share grab” from retailers, Powell says. “More generally speakcompany advises weeding out small rogue sellers before the big guys, stating, ing, athletic footwear brands will find mid-tier department stores and shoe “If you think keeping track of the major online sites and marketplaces is sufchains to be a fertile area for growth, as there is a much more equitable brand ficient to monitor MAP policy, know that sites like Amazon are nearly always scenario here,” he adds. “I also wouldn’t be surprised if some brands expand price-matching a lower price found elsewhere.” their product offerings within the mass merchants.” Indeed, the internet opened a Pandora’s box on how prices can be compared instantly. If a consumer finds an item priced lower, many retailers (rightfully) feel TARIFF TROUBLES obligated to match, eroding their margin and possibly violating the MAP, which can The hot tariff war between China and the U.S. cooled with the countries coming lead to brand erosion. And while many brands claim to vigorously enforce MAP to an agreement last month and rolling back some of the increases. However, policies, the violators pop up like mushrooms. Steve Lax, CEO of Naot, describes some argue the damage has already been done—consumers have been paying policing its MAP policy like the arcade game, Whack-o-Mole. Dave Astobiza, for increases, wholesalers are scrambling for alternative sourcing partners co-owner of the Sole Desire chain in Northern California, says pricing online and there are still footwear tariffs, on average of 12.2 percent, and up to 67.5 is like the Wild Wild West—it can’t be tamed. Taos Footwear went so far as to percent on select kids’ shoes. “Tariffs raise costs on consumers and shoe tariffs hire private investigators to root out MAP policy violators. “We’re finding that hurt working families the most, which is why FDRA has argued against shoe a lot of brands don’t have a strong MAP policy or say they have one, but don’t tariffs being used as a weapon in the continuing trade war,” says Matt Priest, enforce it,” says Taos President Glen Barad. “And it’s just killing the retailer.” president of the Footwear Distributors and Retailers of America. Barad adds that MAP policing is just a cost of doing business today—one >59 Increasingly, brands have moving manufacturing out of China to, in part, 14 • february 2020

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1. Bella-Vita 2. Naot 3. Salpy 4. Trask 5. White Mountain






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Clockwise from top left: Flower Mountain, Naked Feet, Ugg.

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Clockwise from top: Me Too, Dansko, O2 Monde, Miz Mooz.

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Clockwise from top: Restricted, Naot, Dansko, Aetrex.

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The Biza Blueprint

Led by veteran independent retailers Dave and Danny Astobiza and sourcing expert Brian Jensen, the ne w comfort brand hits on key product, production and distribution touchstones that make it unique among wholesale launches. By Greg Dutter

A PARADE OF new brands march onto the playing field every year. Some are introduced by wide-eyed industry newbies. Others are spun out of conglomerates run by seasoned execs armed with well-oiled backroom machines. Though they all believe their babies are destined for great things, the historic success rate for new brands is grim—and it’s getting tougher to survive amid consolidation (less shelf space) and buyers’ refusing to take risks. Too often newcomers fail because the products are “me too” (at best), the price is wrong and the game plan would make Bill Belichick cringe. 36 • february 2020

The Biza brain trust: Brian Jensen, Dave and Danny Astobiza.

Not so with Biza, say Dave and Danny Astobiza, co-owners of Sole Desire, the Northern California-based chain of 16 women’s comfort stores. The Biza blueprint is not based on whims or wishes; the Astobizas claim to have done their homework and put together a solid plan backed by what they believe is a dream team of partners. Biza falls under a new standalone company, Tribute Group, that includes industry sourcing veteran Brian Jensen as a partner. In addition, Simco Imported Shoes, distributors of Arcopedico, are managing sales and distribution. “It’s a three-part team,” Dave says. “We would only go into the wholesale business if we had great sourcing and distribution partners. Without Brian and Dan, Sydney and Doug Simas (owners of Simco), we’d never be in this position. They are experts at what they do. It takes a big and experienced team to launch a brand successfully.” That launch begins in earnest this fall. (It will follow a soft launch to approximately 100 premium independent dealers this spring.) The Astobizas believe the timing is right and the product is spoton. Biza is built for the long haul. The brothers are not dabbling in wholesale as

$130 to $200, with the bulk running between $139.95 and $160. Biza design elements also stem from the Astobizas having served the end consumer for years. They know what works. “The fit features of a shoe—like an inside zipper even on a lace-up boot, stretch Gore inserts and Velcro adjustments—dramatically help the fit and therefore help make a sale,” Dave says. “We try to incorporate those aspects into as many of our Details like shoes as possible.” SECRET SAUCE embossing It helps that Jensen is up on all the latest The Astobizas’ experience in the retail trenches and etching are manufacturing techniques to bring unique design is a key component of the Biza recipe. It’s a big for Biza. elements to the forefront. “There’s nothing better formula they started working on about 10 years than having a perfectionist making shoes for you,” ago when the brand made its private label debut Dave says. “The amount of design details that within Sole Desire stores. They’ve been tweakyou can add today are amazing—these newer ing and perfecting it ever since. Their sales floor processes give us a distinct look that allow us experience coupled with working in every facet to sit side by side with great brands, where we of running a retail operation gave the brothers have our niche and they have theirs.” a front-row seat to what works and what doesn’t In addition to product features and benefits, with regards to new brand launches. Of course, Biza offers several behind-the-scenes, retailerthat starts with product. “You have to sell the friendly attributes as well. For example, the brand is Euro sizing, making eyes first—the shoes have to look nice, because if they don’t, no one will it 20 percent more profitable, according to Danny. “It’s easier to control,” want to even try them on,” Danny explains. “Then they have to pass the he says. “You don’t get bogged down with all that extra inventory, which touch-and-feel test—we have to sell the hands. And then we have to sell is a huge benefit.” In addition, some styles will be available open-stock, the feet—the shoes have to feel as great as they look.” and a meaningful percentage of the line features removable insoles to Hitting on that sensory trifecta starts with a focus on fit and comfort. address the all-important orthotics and insoles category. “Those $40 to Biza’s European construction (narrower in the heel and wider in the $80 add-on sales might be the difference between a retailer being sucforefoot) is then Americanized with a five-millimeter density memory cessful or not at the end of a year,” Dave says, adding, “It’s just another foam insole layered atop PU, EVA or cork midsoles. Even styles with example of the little things where Biza can help—like starting out at removable footbeds feature the comfort lining. “We don’t want to be an keystone plus 15 to 20 as well as additional pre-season order incentives orthopedic brand, but we want some of those comfort attributes,” Dave to get even better margins.” says. “The DNA of the brand is quality materials and constructions with The price points are designed, in part, to address proper cushioning and instep support. We make the decrease in overall store traffic. A higher good-looking shoes as comfortable as they can average price point helps counter that decline, be.” That includes heel heights up to two inches. Danny says. “Selling a shoe for $5 or $10 more “The comfort and fit is going to have the same could be the difference between making money DNA as our flat styles,” Danny says. “We can go “Every single or not at the end of the year,” he says. It’s another up to 1.5 to 2 inches on heel heights, and that’s independent shoe reason why those design extras are incorporated still more comfortable than comparable product into Biza—to justify the added investment by on the market.” retailer has to figure out consumers. “We’re not trying to take money out Aesthetically, Biza is understandable fashion of the shoes; we’re adding features and value into spiced up by little details and extras. Think a way to survive, and them,” Danny says. “Our industry doesn’t need hand-burnished leathers, embossing, etching another cheap shoe. It needs quality.” and laser cut-outs. In terms of the Fall ’20 colthat starts with offering lection, the Astobizas say short boots are still your customers driving the business, and Biza will feature an ADDRESSING THE ELEPHANT array of styles in burnished leathers, nubucks It’s an open market. Anyone can (try to) launch something unique.” and soft suedes. In addition, a casual sneaker a wholesale brand. But just as there are plenty collection is expected to draw interest. Whiskey of retailers none-too-thrilled about wholesal—dave astobiza tan, blue tones and burgundy are popular color ers expanding their direct-to-consumer (DTC) stories with black still the “meat and potatoes” sales efforts, is Biza encroaching on their turf? of the palette. The suggested retail price range is The Astobizas are straightforward: They have a side gig to their retail empire. They have every intention of Tribute Group becoming a wholesale operation thriving 20 years down the road—the same way they’ve followed in the footsteps of their parents and expanded Sole Desire into the multi-store chain that it is today. “We want to build something that is sustainable to leave to our families,” Danny says. “We’re not looking for the quick hit. It’s just not our mentality.”

2020 february • 37

no choice. As independent retailers, they say survival in the digital shopping age depends on finding new ways to differentiate the merchandise mix as well as new revenue streams. “Every single independent shoe retailer has to figure out a way to survive, and that starts with offering your customers something unique,” Dave says. “A comfortable shoe used to be unique—and we’ve made our living off that premise for years—but today you can basically buy any shoe, at any time, for the lowest price, so it’s up to retailers to find something new and different that won’t be found all over the internet.” Biza’s distribution will focus on premium independent retailers, who currently aren’t allowed to sell the brand on Amazon Marketplace. The distribution plan is clean, less complicated and ultimately designed to be more profitable for both retailers and Biza, Dave says. “When a product is clean online, we sell more of it in our stores. We see that every day,” he says. The Astobizas want to level the playing field for their retail partners. “Independents have to be able to compete,” Dave adds. “Otherwise, it’s like going into a boxing match where the opponent has brass knuckles.” With the internet like the Wild Wild West in terms of pricing, the Astobizas don’t want 100 dealers selling Biza on Amazon, because there’s no way to control it. “Even if you hired someone to police it, you can’t,” he says. “It’s why having a strong MAP policy, fewer distributors online and keeping Amazon at bay are all part of our distribution plan.” What’s more, the Astobizas report that the draw of exclusive product

in stores is increasing of late. There’s been a growing trend, especially in women’s, where Booties are consumers want their in-store shopping expekey for the Fall rience to involve discovery. “Our customer ’20 collection. rewards us for that—they like the fact that they’ve found stuff that they haven’t heard of before,” Danny says. “They want us to be more of a boutique.” The Astobizas believe (most of) their wholesale partners are rooting for their wholesale venture to be a success. Beyond that, it’s just the way of the world today. “It would be crazy for us to complain if one of our vendors sells direct just as it would be crazy for them to complain about a retailer going to Micam to find a private label partner so they can sell something that’s not found everywhere,” Dave says, noting that they haven’t received any backlash from their vendors to date. “Business is hard and, at the end of the day, we all have to put food on the table,” he adds. “Retailers face enormous challenges today and we’re trying to find solutions to some of them. But we also know that independents need to sell all their brands to be successful. That’s why this is not a ‘retailers against wholesalers’ scenario. We’re all in this together and we all need to be successful because we share the same body.” The industry also needs stores like Sole Desire to survive. “With Amazon’s sales up 18 percent this holiday and mobile shopping’s growth, brands need great independent retailers,” Dave says. “We need places where consumers can touch and try on, and we can explain the benefits of premium product.”

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1/15/20 1:24 PM

It’s one of the key reasons why Simco was brought in to manage sales and distribution. Simco has great relations with leading independent retailers nationwide. “Partnering with Simco takes us to a whole other level—that’s how we got 100 accounts in our soft launch,” Danny says. “Our product was well-received, but Simco’s trust factor was also key.” GROWTH NOT GREED

Just what are the growth expectations and goals for Biza? The Astobizas are planning for sustainable, long-term growth, but their team isn’t seeking world domination. Unlike many publicly owned companies, Tribute Group is not under the gun to show year-on-year growth, no matter the consequences. “We’re not answering to a bunch of investors,” Dave says. “It’s not growth at all costs. Besides, just because you do more volume doesn’t necessarily mean you make more money. What’s wrong with having a smaller yet profitable business?” “We believe the There are no hard-set financial benchmarks that independent channel Biza must hit. “The goal is to keep making great products is starving for a and to listen to our partners new brand, but we and figure out ways we can both succeed,” Danny says. must be set up “That’s how we’ve seen it right for years and we to be a lot more than done believe if we do the same, it will come for us too. It’s really just product. not much more complicated Independents today than that.” The Astobizas believe that need strong margins, business will come, in a sustainable form, so long as Biza stock capabilities supports its retailers properly and gives them what they need, and goodwhich goes beyond product. looking shoes.” “We believe the independent channel is starving for —danny astobiza a new brand, but we must be set up to be a lot more than just product,” Danny says. “Independents today need strong margins, stock capabilities and good-looking shoes.” Indeed, the Astobizas believe Biza’s time is now. “We have the fit, design and sourcing down,” Danny says. Dave also cites a collision of fate, experience and desire that has brought the team together. The shoe stars have aligned. The Astobizas first crossed paths with Jensen about 10 years ago, but it wasn’t until they met again about five years later, when Sole Desire’s private label program was more established, that they envisioned greater potential. It wasn’t long after that the Astobizas and Jensen discovered they came from very similar independent retailer backgrounds. (Jensen’s father owned a shoe store.) They also learned that both their fathers had passed away within a year of each other and Jensen’s sourcing company, Tribute, was named in honor of his father. The Astobizas launched Biza in tribute to their father. “We have the same roots, a shoe synergy and we just hit it off,” Dave says, noting that many aspects must come together for a partnership to succeed. “It’s the perfect fit as far as all the factors necessary to make this venture a success.” •

BE BRIGHT. BE BOLD. BE NEW. VIEW THE AUTUMN WINTER 2020 COLLECTION AT FN PLATFORM To book an appointment please contact: E: usa.showroom@∆ T: 646.876.3521 ∆ @∆oulesusa


LIVING THE DREAM C h r i s T. G a l l a g h e r, C E O o f V i o n i c G r o u p , l o o k s b a c k o n h i s r i s e f r o m s t o r e c l e r k t o l e a d e r o f o n e o f t h e w o r l d ’s f a s t e s t - g r o w i n g c o m f o r t b r a n d s . “dad” for a while. That six-month sabbatical is one of the best decisions DEAR CHRIS…When I look at this photo of you as a 16-year-old you’ll ever make. It’s also during this break when you meet two Aussies boy, I get goosebumps thinking about the life-long journey this kid is who become amazing business partners and friends. Together, you about to experience in the shoe industry. This might have been taken build amazing companies around the world with a focus on providing the day you sold your first pair of shoes—men’s dressy leather slip-ons. life-changing footwear. You do look pretty happy with yourself! Your sister, Donna, who works Remember that 1,500-mile relocation? That’s across the street compared weekends at Williams Shoes on the Gold Coast of Australia, told you to the move you make to launch Vionic shoes: Brisbane to San Francisco, about the full-time stockroom/sales floor position. Wear a tie for the 7,000 miles. Don’t let the fact that you have no credit history—which interview; it’ll make you look older and more professional. will make it hard to get a cell phone, let alone buy a house—deter you. Two weeks into your new job, store manager Cathy Grigg invites you You’ll meet amazing people who believe in you and your company’s for coffee. You’re super-nervous, believing she’s going to fire you. But vision. Your Australian accent doesn’t when she asks about your goals, you go hurt—Americans love Australians. Use with your gut and say you’d love to be a this to your advantage! store manager like her one day! The fact Nothing will stop your team from introis you hate school and love the beach, ducing Vionic to millions of Americans. but you also work hard, listen, learn Your dream of contemporary and styland possess a “can-do” attitude. Cathy ish footwear infused with an amazing sees your potential. In just two years’ technology changes people’s lives. You time, you’ll graduate from the chain’s call yourselves “The Three Musketeers,” management trainee program, landing attracting a merry band of co-workers along your first store manager role at only age the way, building what quickly becomes a 18! You take your training to heart. You top 20 brand in the U.S.! Word spreads learn to be accountable for your team and and retailers in Europe and Asia join the its results. You remain humble, learning party. Vionic is growing exponentially. from your wins and losses. You also take Another piece of advice: Read Blueprint heed of a co-worker’s sage advice: “Be to a Billion. It’ll help you create a work nice to people on the way up as you may culture based on personal experiences see them on the way down.” You never and values that recognize what’s best for forget it. That same person teaches you employees professionally and personally. “the sales floor is a stage, and we’re the Along those lines, trust your instincts when actors.” You enjoy every minute working A 16-year-old Chris Gallagher strikes a victorious “first sale” it comes to the people you employ and for Williams Shoes. Within five years, pose—the first of thousands in his shoe industry career. do business with. Remember what your you become the youngest executive in dad taught you: “Your name and reputation in business are everything, the company’s history—and you finally get that company car! Your and treat everyone with the same respect.” mum and dad are so proud. When one of the Musketeers is taken suddenly from this world, You’re happy and successful. So, while an opportunity to relocate it’s one of those setbacks you’d always been warned about. You’re 1,500 miles from your family to take on a larger responsibility within the devastated. You need time to recover. During this mourning period, company is daunting, you again go with your gut. You’re only 25, but feel you must also remain strong to lead your team through a tragedy. ready for the challenge. Sure, more-experienced execs tell people at your Take solace in the many people you love and who love you in return, new gig, “You’ll know Chris when you see him; he’s the one with the big guide and support you through this difficult time. You find strength, learner’s permit on his back.” You don’t let it unnerve you. As always, you wisdom and motivation from it like you’ve never known. You press on work hard and play fair. At the ripe age of 30, you’re named president. and Vionic, now a division of Caleres, continues to grow. The future The doubters now work for you! is bright. You’re a lucky man. You work long hours and travel the world building the business. A parting piece of advice: Coming to America is the biggest leap/ Over the next six years, it grows into Australia’s largest publicly-traded risk in your career, but get on that plane! If you don’t, you’ll miss out footwear and apparel group! You adore the company you’ve worked on an unforgettable adventure, one full of learning, relationships and for since age 16. You’re married and have a 4-year-old son, Joshua, wonderful experiences. You must always be open to opportunities as with another baby on the way—a beautiful girl, Tenielle. Life is grand. they arise, welcome risk and cover your downside. Do this and your But children grow up so fast. That’s when it hits you: spend more time shoes will take you all over the world—literally! with your kids. At age 36, you leave Williams Shoes. It’s time to just be

40 • february 2020

Two Ten Footwear Foundation awards $1 Million in scholarships to footwear employees and their families, each year.


APRIL 1, 202O T W OT E N . O R G / S C H O L A R S H I P S

Higher Education Scholarships • Footwear Design Scholarships • Pensole Scholarship • ARSUTORIA Scholarship

continued from page 10 years. It’s become a ‘must attend’ show for retailers and exhibitors,” Conwell-O’Brien says, adding, “We’ve been working closely with Abicalcados to bring Brazilian companies as well as other European brands to the show to expand their U.S. presence.” Helping get the word out to buyers about all exhibitors is TASM Capture, a photo, video and live casting service, introduced to rave reviews last year. TASM Capture, in partnership with Acuitive Digital, provides a cameraman and host to take professional images as well as create 30- or 60-second video promos describing the company and its products. “Based on the positive response, we’ll be extending the depth of our exhibitor and retailer engagement via short infomercials, live video casts and photo sessions throughout the show at booths, on the floor and at our always popular complimentary Casino Cocktail Party (Feb. 15, 6-9:30 p.m.),” Conwell-O’Brien says, noting the show’s social media engagement levels have never been higher due to posting this unique content. “Our goal is to help attendees reap the benefits of our rich social media library to create unique content for themselves that they can use throughout all social platforms to maximize their investment in our show and extend their own social media reach and engagement post-show to grow their businesses.” Beyond business, there’s plenty to see and do in Atlanta. The Battery Atlanta is nearby with five-star restaurants, shopping, theater and entertainment. “It’s a must see and very convenient,” Conwell-O’Brien says, ticking off The CNN Center, World of Coca-Cola and the Atlanta Aquarium as other worthy stops. “You’ll find Southern hospitality at its best just by walking through the front doors of the convention center— from the $6 hot lunch buffet and the complimentary breakfast each day to the world-class city Atlanta has become.”

Gen Z Says Green is Good NOT ONLY ARE sustainable materials and business practices good for Mother Earth, evidence continues to mount that it’s good for the bottom line as well, especially the younger the demographic. A recent study by First Insight found that 62 percent of Gen Z survey participants prefer to buy from sustainable brands, on par with Millennials, while 54 percent of Gen X and 44 percent of the Silent Generation said the same. Only 39 percent of Baby Boomers agreed. Gen Z is also the most willing to pay more for sustainable products (73 percent) compared to Millennials (68 percent), Gen X (55 percent) and Baby Boomers (42 percent). The majority of Gen Z (54 percent) are also willing to spend an incremental 10 percent or more on sustainable products, versus 50 percent of Millennials, 34 percent of Gen X, 36 percent of the Silent Generation and 23 percent of Baby Boomers. “While Baby Boomers seem to be the holdouts when it comes to expecting more sustainable practices within retail overall, the research shows that with every generation, sustainability is becoming further embedded in purchase decisions,” states Greg Petro, CEO of First Insight. “It’s incredibly important that retailers and brands continue to follow the voices of their customers. With Gen Z on track to becoming the largest generation of consumers this year, retailers and brands must start supercharging sustainability practices now if they are to keep pace with expectations around sustainability for these next-generation consumers, whether it is through consignment, upcycling or even gifting around major holidays.”


Truckin’ with Tamara Melon

On a roll: The mobile Tamara Melon boutique was a must shop stop in select cities across the U.S. last fall. It will hit the road again this spring.

MOBILE COMMERCE GOT literal with the TM Mobile Closet, as luxury brand Tamara Mellon created an IRL way to bring its high-end shoes directly to consumers. The TM Mobile Closet “store on wheels” rolled into 11 cities during its recent run, bringing a mix of sandals, boots, pumps, flats and sneakers for try-ons and digital orders. While roaming retail isn’t a new concept, it is more so in luxury space. (Tamara Mellon shoes retail from $350-$1,695.) The concept was so successful, Tamara Mellon will be hitting the road again this year, with exact locations to be announced soon. The Jimmy Choo co-founder has been growing her eponymous label (a recent $50 million injection boosted total capital to $87 million), and part of the funds are going to creative endeavors to reach her customers wherever they may be. “We’re always looking for new ways to make luxury accessible to more women,” says Mellon of the rolling pop up. “Driving cross-country to meet our customer gives us the unique opportunity to connect with her in person. To better understand our woman and her needs, nothing is more valuable than a face-to-face conversation.” Floor-to-ceiling glass panels served as advertising, while the 24-foot truck was being driven, not to mention static Instagrammable moments when parked. Tamara Melon’s best-selling silhouettes were in the offering, which consumers could try on, pose for photos and order on the spot. The truck passed through Boston, New York, Nashville, Atlanta, Houston, Los Angeles and other stops, and consumers could follow the route on Instagram to plan their shopping visit.




Paul Stuart


S O R R Y E LV I S , B U T




Hound & Hammer


I T ’ S “ B R O W N , B R O W N , B R O W N ” S U E D E S H O E S T H I S FA L L . 45

Johnston & Murphy Allrounder by Mephisto



Clarks Originals

WA R M , TEXTURED T O N E S T H AT LOOK AS GOOD AS THEY FEEL. model: Grayson Stearns/Red Model Mgmt. 47

Leopard platforms with PVC straps by Ritch Erani, Faith Connexion jacket, turtleneck by Shein, Joie shorts. 49

Haircalf tiger and leopard booties by Trask, turtleneck by Shein, L’Agence slip dress. Opposite: Californians platform snow leopard clog, top by Love Moschino. L’Agence pants.


Salt + Umber

O2 Monde

All Black

Flower Mountain

Geox Naot


Haircalf leopard booties by Brunate, cheetah dress by Joie, L’Agence blazer. 53

Boots by 42 Gold, Current/Elliott top, shorts by L’Agence. Opposite: Trainers by Remonte, Pier Antonio Gaspari dress, jacket by BCBG Max Azria.



Clockwise from top left: Haircalf boat shoes by Twisted X, Floerns t-shirt, haircalf cuff by Marlyn Schiff. OTBT cow print platform, leopard haircalf bootie by Naked Feet. Tiger flat by FS/NY, L’Agence blazer. Leopard bootie by Easy Street, tiger print mule by Seven Dials.

Leopard ballet flat by Seecaas, bomber jacket by Floerns, Equipment Femme blouse, pants by L’Agence, Marlyn Schiff haircalf bracelets. Hair and makeup by Brett Jackson/ Sarah Laird & Good Company; fashion editor: Lauren Parker; model: Izzy Pawline/Supreme Model Mgmt.; styling assistance by Bella Peterson; photography assistance by Chris Wert.



Donald Pliner Ninety Union


FOUNDED IN 1998, Stivali takes its inspiration from the sophistication of New York, European design and the pre-Spanish history of Colombia. The shoes are handmade in Colombia, the native country of co-creators, Louis and Lina Guarin, who are now based in New York. In 2016, the married couple took the reins from Louis’ father, Eduardo Guarin, beginning a rebranding process for a larger audience, all while carefully preserving its rich back story. “My father was in the footwear business in Bogota and I literally grew up in the business,” says Louis. “I was always either learning, helping or playing at my family’s atelier, the stores, trade shows, business meetings…there was always someone from the industry happy to share their experience with this curious kid. All though childhood, college and after graduation, I worked and learned the ins and outs of the footwear art from my father and mentor.” Stivali’s Colombian heritage shines throughout the collection. The handcrafted styles incorporate signature design elements and even cultural mythology into the mix. The Stivali moon-shaped logo on all shoes is inspired by the gold jewelry worn by indigenous Colombian tribes, while Stivali’s signature riding boot, the Zipa, ties back to Colombian lore plus Louis’ family’s history working with cattle. “Legend tells of a Muisca king, the Zipa, who would cover himself in gold dust during sacred festivals, an important component of the legend of El Dorado,” note Louis and Lina, who covered models in gold paint in a recent look book. Stivali’s mix of shoes, booties and boots range from classic to modern and retail from $150-$300. Silhouettes include casual sneakers, Chelsea boots, Western booties, riding boots and over-the-knee styles, with many tall boots featuring elastic or adjustable buckles for varied calf widths. Currently in 100 specialty boutiques across the country, Stivali is expanding into Canada and was recently awarded a spot in the mini-MBA FIT Designer Entrepreneur competition, along with 25 designers and brands from around the world. The young couple, however, cites its most meaningful accomplishment as the opportunity to support families in Colombia with its factory. “We are living our life with purpose,” say the Guarins. —Lauren Parker What makes Stivali unique? Love! Love for what we do, love for making handcrafted shoes, love for the families of our employees that we help in Colombia every day, love for our families, love for our traditions, love for our country…there’s a beautiful love story behind Stivali and it shows in our brand. We believe that love transcends to each detail of our shoes too, and our clients feel that. 58 • february 2020

Chinese Laundry

GET IN SHA PE Sculptural heels rise to an art form.

What are the highlights of the Fall ’20 collection? The collection is called Global Citizen. We believe in a world without frontiers, and New York is the perfect example of how everyone can live and share together, regardless of religion, political thoughts, gender, etc. The colors, like bone white, black and brown, are inspired by such multiculturalism. Styles are a mix of ideas, such as tall-shaft boots with loaferstyled hardware, two-tone color-blocked booties, and style pops like croco heels or gold studs around the top and base of our signature riding boot. Why an Italian name (Stivali means “boots” in Italian) for a Colombian label? When my father conceived the brand, he named it Stivali to link his reference point for design (Italy) with the footwear craftsmanship of Colombia. When we rebranded, we increased the emphasis on our Colombian roots. We handcraft all our shoes in our atelier in Bogota, so Colombia is on every

detail of our shoes. The cow leather and supplies are all from Colombia. What’s it like working together as a married couple? We are not just a married couple. We’re also a team and, most importantly, best friends. It’s important to have fun and enjoy the journey of creativity. Any designers who inspire you? First, we must give a shout out to Colombian designer Sebastian Grey, who won Project Runway last year. We’re also inspired by Colombian designers Estaban Cortazar, Andres Pajon and Silvia Tcherassi. We also love Olivier Rousteing, Donatella Versace, Miuccia Prada, Nicolas Ghesquiere and Stuart Weitzman. Any favorite shopping haunts? We love to find unique, handcrafted artisan pieces. In New York, we enjoy visiting Soho and Williamsburg boutiques. There’s also a little town full of treasures in Colombia called Villa de Leyva. It’s a truly magical paradise.




CONSTRUCTIVE CONVERSATIONS Every industry has its share of challenging issues. The challenge is how to overcome them. It starts with open lines of communication. If each side knows what the other side is complaining about, it opens the door to a possible solution. Leslie Gallin, President, Footwear for Informa Markets, operators of |

TRAFFIC BUILDERS Amazon is the (massive) elephant in the room. The online behemoth, if left unchecked, is projected to garner 50 percent of all retail ecommerce globally by 2021. The shift to online shopping overall has triggered a huge decline in brick-and-mortar traffic. But physical retailers can still compete, starting with the human touch—personalized service. For example, Philadelphia’s Bus Stop Boutique calls customers when new styles come in that they might like, and encourages consumers to bring in items they’re wearing to a special event so salespeople can help pick perfect shoes for them. “Customers love our styling tips,” says Elena Brennan, owner. “They DM us on Instagram to ask what shoes to wear, then send us photos of how happy they are with their purchases.” Internet dealers have forced brick-and-mortar retailers to take a long look at their niche. “You have to stand for something, and make your place a destination,” says Lester Wasserman, co-owner of Tip Top Shoes, Tip Top Kids and sneaker boutique West NYC in Manhattan. “In store, we have the opportunity to interface and fit customers and sell them multiple pairs, if not now then later.” Wasserman contrasts this with Amazon, where shoppers have a pointed purchase trajectory, buying two or more pairs of shoes only to keep one and return the rest. Retailers who build community will also be frequented more often, Wasserman adds. Tip Top amped up its events both inside and outside the store—from an Octoberfest party with Birkenstock (bratwurst and polka band included) to a weekly Wednesday night running club in Central Park. Throw in philanthropy for that feel-good factor, too, like Wisconsin retailer ShoShoo. “We work with several non-profits in the area, with multiple shopping events during the year, giving a percentage of sales back to the non-profit,” says Manager/Buyer Angela Carlson. Treating staff like family with exceptional perks also goes a long way to keeping employees happy, which then trickles down to happier and more fruitful customer interactions. “I used to offer my staff shoes with a discount, but now I gift them several pairs of free shoes throughout the year as a thank you,” says Brennan. “We also regularly do fun events together where I treat the staff to facials, dinners at swanky restaurants, cocktails, the theater, concerts, etc. They really appreciate it.” If all else fails to maintain or increase foot traffic, changing location might be the way to go. It’s not an easy decision, nor cheap. But sometimes the handwriting is on the wall—even if it’s after decades in the same town, like Reyers Shoes. “Downtown Youngstown (20 minutes west) is booming compared to downtown Sharon,” Jubelirer says, noting the store’s demographic continues to age and it’s difficult to draw younger consumers to the area. So, Reyers is considering a change in venue. “We’re full of due diligence in this regard, even though it will mean that all of us have to work harder to make it happen, and it requires large expenditures into the unknowable,” he says. “It’ll be another gamble—and a much bigger bet than we ever laid down. It’ll be exhilarating if we do it, but we shall be holding our breath all along the way.” In the meantime, Jubelirer remains ever the retailer: eternally optimistic. “We’ve changed our calendar of promotions for 2020 and have also employed a senior citizen discount as a way to bolster weekday business,” he says. “We have other new ideas as well—one of which is so good, that it shall remain nameless. It’s proprietary and fabulous.”

FN Platform and Sole Commerce, believes shows are ideal settings to get those conversations started. “People like to do business with those they like and trust, and nothing replaces someone walking a new customer over to meet you in your booth or over drinks—you make a business contact that never would have happened if you stayed in your showroom,” she says. “Shows enable you to mingle with other retailers, as well as see what the common thread is in the industry for the season. Each side of the aisle benefits from having the opportunity to share ideas and build strategies.” Beyond that, Gallin believes the shoe industry, historically, works together and she is optimistic that the current slate of challenges and discord can be overcome. “It’s important to remember that the footwear industry has always had each other’s backs,” she says. “We need to keep camaraderie top-of-mind and at the top of our to-do list.” Kevin Bosco, president of Bos. & Co. Footwear (Bos. & Co., Fly London, Asportuguese, Softinos), is a firm believer in extending a helping hand to its (primarily) independent retailer customer base. For example, this fall the company rolled out a program to help retailers promote its weekend trunk shows. “For 15 days leading up to the event, we provide the retailer with creative for a Facebook campaign within a 15-mile radius of the store,” Bosco says, noting social media programs are involved processes and for some it’s a new road. “This is one of the ways we are trying to partner with our retailers, because these people are the ones who built our business and we refuse to walk away from them.” Hush Puppies’ Tunney also advises the industry to look outside itself for a fresh perspective and potential solutions. “Wolverine is over 100 years old and we’re great shoe manufacturers, but we’re learning new things,” he says. “Our Google search is up 11 percent because we’re bringing in talent from the packaged goods industry. The old Shoe Dogs with their ‘have a hunch and buy a bunch’ motto just won’t cut it anymore—not at retail nor wholesale.” •

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continued from page 14 he’d rather invest back into the shoes and/or co-op programs. “While we could sell more shoes by breaking price early, we choose to allow our retailers to get a large return on their investment with us,” he says. “We’ve been grabbing more market share on retailers’ shelves thanks to partner-friendly efforts like these.”

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Comfort Specialty

D AV I D PA R K E R S H O E S Franklin, TN

monthly newsletter and e-mails when necessary on what`s new and exciting ITH ROOTS AS a men’s store dating back to 1992 to help generate foot traffic. in the Cool Springs Galleria Mall in Franklin, TN, David Parker Shoes has evolved and adapted over the What have you added recently and what’s been selling well? The only new years to remain relevant. In 1998, for example, Owner brand added to the mix last year was Taos. The popularity of Hoka was our David Parker opened a complementary women’s locabiggest surprise of the year, especially since we’re not known as an athletic tion five doors down and across the hall. Parker handled footwear store. People come to us for comfort. Overall, top brands in 2019 men’s while his wife, Jayme, managed the women’s were Hoka, Dansko, Birkenstock and Aetrex, with Dansko and Hoka leading store. Five years later, the two stores combined and, to this day, the Parkers the way in doctor referrals. In silhouettes, clogs are trending well. work side by side managing what has become a sit-and-fit destination store. The Parkers’ recipe for success is comfortable, fashionable and “good-for-you” What’s the smartest business decision you’ve made recently? Definitely shoes with an icing of fit expertise, after-market custom orthotics and a too picking up the Puppy Love shirt brand. It was a top seller this past year, and cute factor. (More on the latter in a bit.) the company donates 10 percent of its profits to animal shelters. Our ‘dog Leading brands at David Parker Shoes include Birkenstock, Naot, Mephisto, factor’ has grown so much, and the shirts were a new twist to our mix. I never Dansko and Ecco. The mix is Americanized with the likes of Aetrex, Sperry, really focused too much on accessories outside the basics, such as belts, shoe Hoka and Samuel Hubbard, among others. Prices range from $100 to $300, trees, polish, laces, socks, inserts, insoles, shoe horns, etc. I’d also done some with a sweet spot at approximately $150. The store has carved out a niche wrist bands for Chaco sandals and with its top-notch service, helptote bags that match for them as ing those with foot-related issues. well, but the shirts were a whole “Many doctors and professionals new thing and a big hit. of all kinds send people to us,” says David Parker. “Doctor referrals are How has the general mood of a really good part of our business. I your customers been lately? also generate new business by doing Okay. Spending is not really an some off-site sales at hospitals and issue here. The only moody thing fitness centers. This makes us a about our customers would be their destination place for sure!” frame of mind during the (hectic) In addition to service and selecholidays. They know us and our tion, the Parkers employ three secret brand, which we have cultivated weapons to help generate repeat over the years. They know we’re business: their Havanese dogs, in it for the long haul. Boo Boo, Roo and Buttercup. The three sales pooches greet customWhat’s your biggest concern? ers almost daily and are regularly With vendors, it’s without quesfeatured on the store’s social media Jayme Parker with the store’s three mascots: Boo Boo, Roo and Buttercup. tion their push for more directfeeds. “The ‘dog thing’ has been really to-consumer (DTC) selling. DTC good for business,” Parker affirms. creates a dynamic that many consumers don’t understand. The vendors don’t “People come to the mall just to see if the dogs are here!” —Lauren Parker think about the fact that we represent them! It sends mixed messages to our customers about special orders and inventory issues. I feel that if you repreHow’s business? Business was just a little off in 2019. We’ve had double-digit sent a vendor with a shop and are fully committed to that brand, there has percentage increases every year since 2015, with 2018 our best year ever in the to be a channel for online transactions that are filtered via email to that shop 26 years we’ve been in business! We feel that 2019 was off due largely to the first—before that pair is pulled from their own inventory. We are committed never-ending rain we had last January, February and March. Holiday business to our vendors, but they’re not always committed to us. has also become an enormous challenge due to ever-increasing online shopping, not to mention customers who avoid the mall at all costs during the holiday What has been your most effective way to reach customers? We still rely on rush. Actually, mall traffic is getting lighter as a whole. the old, time-honored tradition of a personal telephone call when something of great importance is coming down the pike. That and email. We’ll also do Have you considered ecommerce to address the decrease in mall traffic? the occasional trunk show to let customers get more up close and personal For us, it’s not been cost effective. We had a site years ago and tried on at least with our brands. three occasions to make ecommerce work, but never really got it going. With the freight issues and low price expectations of consumers, it just wasn’t a What are your goals for this year? Focusing on doctor referrals and the good fit for us. But we have our niche. And I really believe that we may start to relationships that I will forge with key physicians. The medical community is see a slight shift, at least in the shoe industry, back towards brick and mortar. what really keeps us going and growing. This is so important for us in sustainCustomers still have to see, feel, touch and get the proper fit. That said, the ing our business. • younger generation is a great challenge when it comes to this issue. We do a

60 • february 2020


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Powerful Portfolio

The Bos. & Co. stable spans the deep freeze to green scene. KEVIN BOSCO, PRESIDENT of Bos. & Co., is bullish on the upcoming Fall ’20 season for its stable of brands: Bos. & Co., Fly London, Asportuguese and Softinos. It helps that the Canadian company has been on a solid run of late—its retail partners reporting success with each of the brands despite industry-wide headwinds. “All things considered, our branded business is doing quite well,” Bosco affirms. “We’ve enjoyed great sell-throughs, even though a lot of our customer base is still heavy with inventory. We’re getting our piece of the pie.” Bosco credits much of the success to the brands zeroing in on their respective niches and delivering spot-on designs. That continues for Fall ’20, starting with Bos. & Co.’s latest array of waterproof boots ($180 to $280 SRP). Made in Portugal, the range spans booties to over-the-knee silhouettes able to withstand temperatures from 5°F to -25°F, depending on the insulation. “The mantra of the brand is fashion functional winter boots,” Bosco says. “The collection has an urban feel to it—we use light-lined microfiber materials that don’t need to have snow on the ground to be functional and, for the cooler climate, we have Merino wool-lined styles that can withstand very cold temperatures.” The Fall ’20 palette for Bos & Co. boots spans perennial black to projected popular hues forest green, deep red wine and navy. As for silhouettes, Bosco says the brand will introduce something that’s been largely absent of late. “The last few seasons have been focused on low and mid-calf boots and that’s still an important commodity, but we think that there’s a lot of consumers whose closets are full of that type of product and we see potential for just-below-the-knee and even a few over-the-knee styles.” Materials-wise, Bosco cites rustics in the crazy horse family, patent in black and burgundy and boiled wool as prevalent in the collection. In addition, faux furs, cheetah prints and puffy nylons à la an updated Moon boot make a showing. “It’s very much that retro Lake Placid ski style,” he says of the latter. As for Fly London, also made in Portugal, Bosco says the color palette is somewhat similar, particularly forest green and wine shades, as well as smooth leathers in the brown family. “Snake is also still an important part of the Fly London collection as well as zebra and leopard prints,” he says, adding that 1.5- to 2-inch wedges are expected to be a strong trend again next fall. 62 • february 2020

“Platform wedges and an athletic silhouette with fashion overtones are also expected to be important,” Bosco says. Next up: Asportugeusa ($135 to $185 SRP). Built entirely around a sustainability story, the casual brand features cork outsoles mixed with latex rubber and boiled wool uppers. For Fall ’20, Bosco says the eco-friendly efforts are kicked up a notch with the introduction of styles featuring uppers made of recycled plastic bottles (PETs) and LEDs—100 percent recycled textile fibers. If this past fall is any indication, Bosco expects big things from Asportuguesa. “We had an absolutely fantastic season,” he says. “We underestimated the reaction and ended up having to go back to the well four times to fly in product from Portugal to satisfy demand.” The beauty of sourcing in Portugal, Bosco adds, is the turnaround time for in-season fill-ins can be done anywhere from 21 to 35 days. Bosco reports that sales in the Midwest region were especially strong, which he attributes to that consumers’ strong affinity for casual attire. “The fact that the shoes are made in Portugal is a great asset—less of a carbon footprint to get product to North America, for starters,” he adds. “It’s a great sustainable brand story backed up by global recycled standards, but also has a fashion and elegance aspect to it. We like to call it ego-friendly.” Bosco expects Asportuguesa’s rapid growth to continue, led by the recycled uppers and a handful of new silhouettes, including a boat shoe. “We see nothing but growth in this brand,” he says, citing a similar potential in spring/summer collections featuring flip-flops and slip-ons made of recycled textile uppers that can be made into stretch knit fabrics. “There’s great things to be done with this brand,” Bosco says. Last but not least, Softinos represents everything its name says: soft leather and neoprene uppers, elasticized lacing, lightweight and easy-on/off slip-on styles. A highlight for Fall ’20 is a new Sienna outsole, according to Bosco. “It’s a high wall construction, and we’re using colored bottoms like a brick sole on a navy upper and a blue sole on gray upper,” he says, citing cheetah print uppers as another on-trend addition. Also new for next season is a “silky’ leather. “It’s the reverse side of the hide and we’ve skived it down to make it very silky—just like the name says,” Bosco says. “The shoes are athletic-inspired and look really cute.” —Greg Dutter

Fly London

Bos. & Co.



Functionable Fashion

Propét ups the ante on style and innovation for this fall. Northwest roots,” says Brookings, adding that most items are priced under $100 retail, with athleisure styles starting under $60 for a value proposition. Propét’s medical line has also been broadened. It now includes safety toe work boots, dress, casual, outdoor, athletic, slippers and sandal styles. “Diabetic-approved styles have been coded for Medicare reimbursement under the Therapeutic Shoes for persons Diabetes Benefit,” says Jennifer Sokso, director of marketing. The disease affects all demographics, but the Propét team believes none of them should have to compromise on style. To that end, the company has expanded its popular Stability Walker from a single style in black or white leather to an entire collection featuring mesh or mixed material uppers in a range of colors—all with the same wider forefoot and heel base last for optimal stability as well as a PU insole that features a heel pad and cushioning ridges for superior comfort. Propet’s expansion efforts are paying strong dividends—at the register and in terms of its attracting a broader customer demographic. “As we have focused on making fantastic-looking footwear that meets needs, we’ve seen the end-user age come down,” Brookings says. He also credits the company’s open-stock, no minimums and drop-ship programs as additional factors helping its steady year-on-year sales growth. Still, there’s overriding tenet to Propet’s recent and any continued success. “What’s most important is that we focus on the needs of our customers,” Brookings says. —Lauren Parker

PROPÉT USA HAS spent 35 years in business providing “need-based footwear” and is now growing its platform with a broader selection of fashion, fit and comfort styles. Addressing its niche of hard-to-fit feet, Propét recently added men’s size 18 to its already broad mix of full and half sizes. All of Fall ’20’s new styles come in a minimum of three widths up to XX-wide, with many active and athleisure styles offered in five widths. “Every year there are more people left out of the industry’s core sizes and widths,” says Jon Brookings, Propét’s vice president of sales. “And every year there are more consumers with special needs and adjustments, as well as more people requiring footwear that meets medical standards, but does not look medical.” Case in point: The new DuroCloud midsole, rolling out for men this fall and next spring for women. The lightweight ETPU material provides wearers the feel and performance of an athletic shoe in a casual style. “Propet’s DNA lives inside the shoe,” Brookings says. “We provide shoes that meet a need but are shoes you love to be seen in.” He credits designer Chris Doolittle for creating fashion comfort without compromise. For Fall ’20, that functionable fashion comes in the form of mixed material dress/casual styles and hybrid sneaker boots for men. In women’s, casual and Western inspiration can be found in its latest collection of booties. In addition, a range of hikers look good—in good and bad weather. “It speaks to our Pacific

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