J A N UA RY 2 0 2 0
A L P I N E and
Lead the C H A R G E for
CEO S T E V E G U N N on Why the Best is Yet to Come
REIMAGINING the Store CONCEPT
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Since 1870 we’ve been a company always on the go, always evolving. It’s been that way since John Blundstone started making ﬁt for purpose footwear that would withstand the cobbled city streets, rugged farmland, dance and factory ﬂoors of Hobart, Tasmania, in the late 1800s. Over the years, our business has evolved just like our island home, but our ethos remains the same. Our commitment to quality and innovation has endured the Great Depression, both world wars, and an ever changing fashion landscape. Made for young and old but mostly the young at heart, the spirit of adventure and ‘can do’ attitude lives and breathes in our boots. 150 years on, our boots have become synonymous with a way of life, worn and loved around the world.
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JA N UA RY 202 0 FEATU R ES 10 Rocking and Rolling Steve Gunn, CEO of Blundstone, on the 150-year-old brand’s record-setting sales streak and why much greater growth is on the horizon. By Greg Dutter 30 Redefining Retail Retailers are reinventing themselves in increasingly creative and thoughtful ways, with an eye on service and social/environmental good. By Lauren Parker 34 Chelsea Cool The go anywhere/go with anything boot silhouette looks to replace sneakers at the front of men’s closets this fall. By Lauren Parker 38 Combat Rocks Camo prints, army hues and chunky marching boots clash powerfully in this military mashup. By Lauren Parker
DEPA RTM ENTS
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
6 Editor’s Note 8 This Just In 52 Shoe Salon 54 Upclose Dress 55 What‘s Selling 56 Last Shot
Carroll Dowden Chairman Mark Dowden President & CEO Agnes Alves Controller OFFICES ADVERTISING/EDITORIAL
PA G E
38 Mia hiker, lace skirt by Sienna Li, vintage jacket.
On cover: All Black platform bootie, brown romper by Postcard, jacket by The Row. Photography by Mark Andrew/The Garden Party; Styling by Kim Mesches/ Utopia; Hair and makeup by Nevio Ragazzini/Next Artists, using makeup by Kevyn Aucoin Beauty @ VivianaMartin and hair product by Living Proof and G3; model: Anna Hagood/Supreme Model Mgmt; styling assistance by Bella Peterson; photography assistance by Stephanie Levy.
214 W. 39th St., Suite 205 New York, NY 10018 Tel: (646) 278-1550 Fax: (646) 278-1553 editorialrequests@ 9Threads.com CIRCULATION
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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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YOU CAN FEEL GOOD ABOUT.
ecoTWX® collection made from 2.5 Million plastic bottles.
Shoe lining made with ecoTWX® material and a 50/50 bamboo charcoal blend.
Renewable and Naturally and biodegradable organically natural fiber uppers tanned leathers made from Merino dyed using sheep wool. vegetable matter.
Invasive algae is harvested from lakes for sustainable midsoles.
Outsoles made from an eco-friendly rice husk blend.
2019 Footwear Plus Awards has nominated Twisted X® for sustainability. We are committed to doing our part to save the planet by creating products from recycled plastic, agricultural waste, and natural resources, while at the same time, aiding in the reforestation of the troubled tree populations in the United States. We pledge to be carbon neutral by 2020, promoting a greener earth. To learn more about all of our sustainability efforts, visit twistedx.com/sustainability.
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E D I TOR’S NOT E
I Will Follow
“TIME IS A train/Makes the future the past” is a couplet in the U2 song “Zoo Station,” the opening track on the band’s 1991 landmark album Achtung Baby. I’ll confess, though, it took me a while to “hear” that poetic nugget regarding time’s endless express train through history—mainly because I was so taken aback by my favorite band’s discordant industrial new sound, which rattled my senses like a steel factory gone haywire at first listen. But that song and all the others on that record quickly grew on me. Personally, it marked an official change in decades—that sound, the band’s new wardrobe, the fact that it was recorded in Berlin, where the wall and Communism had recently crumbled…all signaled that the ’80s were, indeed, kaput. Hair bands were toast. Flannel replaced spandex as Nirvana’s culture-shattering Nevermind—also released in the fall of 1991—ushered in the Grunge era. We count years and bracket them in decades, centuries and millennia, but there really are no sharp cut-off points. The passage of time is not that neat. For example, some say the aughts officially ended when former President Barack Obama announced to the world in May of 2011 that Osama Bin Laden was dead. Others consider the end of the ’60s to be 1973, when American troops pulled out of Vietnam. And the ’80s kicked into gear when Ronald Reagan took office and Iran freed the American hostages in January 1981. Now here we stand collectively at the starting gate of yet another new decade. The last one seems like a blur, a feeling that seems to speed up as one ages. (My daughter was in grade school at the start and by this fall she will be in college. Where did her childhood go?) From a much broader perspective, we entered the decade still licking our wounds from the Global Financial Crisis and are exiting it with the world more divided politically, socially and environmentally than it was 10 years ago. The discord in our country feels like the same old song and dance—one that is played. Enough about warring elected officials refusing to see eye-to-eye on anything, let alone feign a willingness to meet somewhere near the middle for potential solutions rather than standoffs. The majority of Americans, the purple masses, must make their voices heard. Of course, that would be more likely to happen if we had a charismatic leader who could tap what I believe to be a rich vein of pragmatic common sense. Anyone? From a footwear fashion perspective, the past decade frequently traveled back in time, cruising through the’60s and ’70s (repeatedly) and closing out with nostalgic spins through the ’80s and ’90s. (Apparently, one can never get enough neon.) Pundits say this love of nostalgia
provided solace in a world filled with fear and instability. Consumers craved it, even if they didn’t necessarily ask for it. Others argue that, amid epic retail consolidation, no one dared risk attempting something new—mainly because it has a snowball’s chance in a California wildfire of ever getting into stores. Maybe that’s one of the factors fueling the success of heritage brands like Blundstone, Dr. Martens, Birkenstock and Vans, the 2019 Plus Awards “Brand of the Year” nominees. Birkenstock and Blundstone boast a combined history approaching 400 years! That’s some serious heritage consumers are buying into. These brands’ success comes despite the so-called retail apocalypse, which looks to be the biggest industryrelated story of the past decade—far bigger than the dad sneakers craze, which is really an extension of the much bigger Normcore craze that was officially coined in 2013. But I would argue the craving for brands rich in authenticity also stems from the fake news epidemic that’s been sweeping society, thanks in large part to social media platforms that spread rumors and lies faster than (too many) coin-operated influencers can manufacture them. Consumers have never really wanted to buy the hype, and with access to tools that let them do their own vetting and become much better informed, they no longer have to. Blundstone CEO Steve Gunn, the subject of this issue’s Q&A (p. 12), believes better-informed consumers represent a macro shift in shopping behavior that won’t change anytime soon. He recalls his twentysomething wardrobe days—a closet full of fleeting “I thought I needed but didn’t” items; today’s consumer can avoid such sartorial regrets. Gunn says consumers can better research before buying, seeking out the truth about quality and whether a brand is a good steward of sustainability and corporate social responsibility. This bodes well for Blundstone, which is celebrating its 150th anniversary this year, and anyone else walking the walk. Poseurs beware. As I gaze into the rearview mirror of the ’10s, I see plenty of good and bad—just as I have for every decade that preceded this one. None of them have been perfect. For every “Gangnam Style” fad (July 2012), there’s an ice bucket challenge craze (summer of 2014). For every Unite the Right rally like the one in Charlottesville, VA, in August 2018, there was a Women’s March (January 2017) and #Me Too movement that blossomed. Looking ahead, I hope the upcoming ’20s roar—in a good way. I hope the good outweighs the bad and that we find a way to adapt, survive and thrive collectively. In the meantime, I’m hip to what Bono sings in the opening stanza of “Zoo Station”: “I’m ready for what’s next/I’m ready to duck/I’m ready to dive/I’m ready to say/I’m glad to be alive/I’m ready/I’m ready for the push.” Happy New Year!
I L LU ST R AT I O N BY K E V I N B U D N I K
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THIS JUST IN
The Boot Apple New Yorkers bust out a barrage of boot styles to battle Old Man Winter. Photography by Marcy Swingle
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Q&A BY GREG
ROCKING AND ROLLING S t e v e G u n n , C E O o f B l u n d s t o n e , o n t h e 1 5 0 - y e a r - o l d b r a n d ’s r e c o r d - s e t t i n g s a l e s streak and why much greater growth is on the horizon.
THERE ARE LATE bloomers and then there’s Blundstone. How many brands can say they’ve experienced their most successful years more than 140 years into their lifespan? How many can say they’ve never looked better than at the ripe old age of 150? How many can say that their best years still lie ahead of them? Blundstone can. The company is in the midst of what is likely the eighth consecutive year of record sales. Blundstone is super-hot, loved by everyone from Brooklyn hipsters to Hollywood celebrities to twentysomething women in Israel to longtime Aussies and Kiwis to rabid Canadian fans and markets the company is branching into for the first time. Its iconic Chelsea silhouette—the Blundstone 500, introduced 52 years ago—is embraced for its comfort, durability and versatility attributes. Blunnies, as they are affectionately called, are at the forefront of utilitarian footwear fashion, a macro movement that continues to gain popularity in an increasingly casually attired world. But why Blundstone? Why is that arguably nondescript, brown boot leading the charge? Why did it get hot seven years ago and why has it gotten hotter with each passing year? It’s not sexy. It’s just a work boot, really. But therein lies the key to its success: Blunnies “work” on many levels for men and women and, as proof, CEO Steve Gunn, who has been at the helm for 25 years, says once a customer, likely always a customer. Word of the boots and the brand gets passed along and, in the digital age, Gunn says it’s gone viral—and that has “helped our brand immensely.” In addition to internet-fueled word-of-mouth, Gunn points to a major shift, beginning in 2007, when Blundstone began changing its supply chain. “We started manufacturing leather footwear away from Australia and that meant we could be more responsive, trade in U.S. dollars and be closer to the market,” he says. “People became more confident that we could grow the brand.” Along the way, Gunn says Blundstone broadened its product range to target more potential customers, notably women who’ve come to the brand in droves organically. On top of that, the company got its backroom in gear to
position itself as a global brand. “We got a lot of things fixed and we’ve been moving forward steadily since then,” he says, citing breakouts in Israel and then Canada as taking the business to another level. “That opened our eyes and gave us an enormous amount of confidence to keep pushing the brand forward.” Indeed, Blundstone is running full speed ahead with its newfound “it” boot
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Q&A status, branching into new markets, expanding the product range (carefully) and continuing its metamorphosis into a global brand. But Gunn says there’s an overriding caveat to the growth plan: None of it can come at the expense of product. “We want people to want the brand for all the right reasons in terms of comfort, durability and looking great,” he says. “We don’t want to be just an overnight sensation. We’re happy with what we’ve achieved so far, but there’s a lot more to do.” In some markets Blundstone is a mere baby with loads of runway ahead. In more established markets, product extensions are sparking new and renewed interest. You might call it a new old brand with various growth curves ahead by country, region and demographics. But when it comes to potential, Gunn believes the brand is just getting started. “We see ourselves across the world, just at the bottom of a rapid growth phase,” he says. “I’m anticipating that we’ll about double our size in five or six years and then double again in five or six years after that.” Within the U.S., Blundstone currently has good exposure in the Northeast and Northwest regions as well as in California. Elsewhere, it’s still early. “We’re probably at 20 percent of our potential within our current offering and then we’ve got the opportunity to expand that while maintaining the Blundstone handwriting and probably double the business—and that’s still within footwear,” Gunn says. “We see heaps and heaps of opportunity in this market without ever being in discount stores or some major department stores that we don’t see as right for the brand.” Just where is Blundstone seen these days? That involves a delicate balance between longtime partners, select national players and its DTC channel. The goal, Gunn says, is keeping everyone happy, which is no easy task when buyers are banging on the door. “We’ve always been quite selective with retailers, but we’ve been broadening that a bit because we’ve got to be fair to the consumer in that they’ve got to be able to find it,” he says. “We’ve taken on the likes of REI and Nordstrom in recent years and we’re looking at maybe one or two other possibilities to provide us with a reasonable amount of national coverage.” Along the way, keeping loyal to the independents who have carried the brand for years is a primary objective. “We’re one of those quirky businesses that still talks about loyalty and means it,” Gunn says. “We’re much more inclined to work with those who have supported us during the leaner times than to dump them.” That approach involves building out their walls to make the brand more important as well as operating a DTC site that doesn’t undercut on price or offer exclusives. “If it’s on our site, a retailer can buy it from us,” Gunn says. “We also started managing a separate stock this year so we don’t get into a situation of ‘we’ve got them, but you can’t buy them if you are a retailer.’” The overall goal, he says, is to reward its
retail partners. So far, so good. “We’ve been getting positive feedback,” Gunn says. “As we head off to the likes of an Outdoor Retailer show, we see lots of smiles around the booth.” Maintaining the momentum while keeping everyone smiling is the modus operandi at Blundstone going forward. To achieve that, Gunn believes in sticking to the attributes of quality and loyalty that have brought the brand to the dance. It’s taken 140-plus years for this wallflower to get its time in the sun, and the brand has no intention of receding into the shadows. At the same time, Blundstone is keen to avoid abusing its newfound popularity, unlike many pretty brands that have
overcome that sort of behavior,” says Gunn, who will transition to a chairman role at some point this year. “Staying true to our distribution partners, retailers and consumers—those who have helped us get to where we are—is critical to how we go forward. We need to prioritize that over rapid growth. It’s served us well so far.” How did 2019 rate for Blundstone? Our financial year ends in June and that was a record year for us in all sorts of ways. We have every reason to believe this is going to be a record year too. In America, it’s been great so far and we’ve exceeded our expectations. Our goal has been to
O F F T H E CU FF What are you reading? I’m a Lee Child’s fan, so Jack Reacher. I grabbed it off the shelf as I came off the plane. I don’t even know what it’s called, but it’s the latest in the series. What was the last movie you saw? One Upon a Time… In Hollywood. I’m a big Tarantino fan—I enjoy the dialogue and the cinematography. What did you want to be when you grew up? I was on a naval scholarship and went off to do that but suffered a knee injury and was told I would be forever confined to a desk job, so I quickly changed my career intent. It just shows you how differently life can turn out.
What was your first-ever paying job? It was at the equivalent of our Macy’s, a store called Meyers, where I worked in the toy department at Christmas time for about three years. Up to Christmas it was fantastic, but afterwards all the returns came back and it was a disaster. But I learned people skills, which was pretty handy for a 15-year-old. I thought the world revolved around me and suddenly I had to service others. If you could hire anybody, who would it be? This might sound cliché, but I’ve hired many people over the years and I’m happy with what we’ve got, thanks. It’d be insulting to say I was looking for someone else. Who is your most coveted dinner guest? Iggy Pop is a great fan of Blundstone and I reckon he’d be pretty entertaining.
come (and gone) over the years. “We talk about never taking it for granted,” Gunn says. “There’s no complacency. Work hard, never stand still and never make a decision outside of what the brand is all about.” Gunn believes Blundstone can’t afford to act otherwise. (Perhaps humility is one of the perks of being a wallflower for more than a century.) “I don’t know if we have the brand strength to
What might people be surprised to know about you? I’m more irreverent than people give me credit for. I’m not a sit back in a chair and smoke a cigar type. What is your motto? It’s not on a wall behind my desk, but early on my dad used to tell me: Don’t let people crap on you, although he used language that was a little stronger than that. It stuck with me. I’ve done a lot of negotiating throughout my career and never letting anybody bully you around has been a positive. What is your favorite hometown memory? I grew up in Ballarat, which is known for being cold by Australia standards. My favorite memory is walking to school on the iced-over puddles.
keep moving forward there as well as open new markets around the world, which have all been going well. And our traditional markets continue to perform above where they’ve been. Overall, we’re in a good space. It’s an unusual situation for a brand so mature to suddenly have a massive tick up. Now there are two ways of viewing that. One: What a fantastic job we’re doing. The other: What
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Q&A were you doing for the first 140 years? I guess we were positioning ourselves for the right time to strike. (Laughs) Heritage brands like Blundstone, Dr. Martens and Birkenstock are trending strongly. For starters, it’s good company to be in. It is. For us to even be put in the same sentence once upon a time with those brands would have been a dream. It’s great that we’re playing in the big leagues, if you like. But I think we’re a different company. I’m not suggesting for a moment that we’re better, rather we’ll go about being more obvious in the world a little differently. We won’t get to a point of mass marketing the brand and having it be available just about everywhere. We’ll keep it quite guarded and allow people to discover the brand rather than having it forced upon them. It will be interesting to see in 10 or 15 years where we get to in comparison to those sorts of brands. The other aspect to this is we’re likely to stay in the same hands and not destabilize. We’ll have that working for us. There’s a growing hunger for authenticity in pretty much everything, and some heritage brands are benefitting. I agree and, in the digital world, there’s no place to hide: You’re either telling the truth or not. We’ve
been true to ourselves for over 140 years and we don’t have to make it up. We just have to tell our story in a way that’s meaningful. And telling the truth today is far more likely to win and hold consumers then something that’s invented. At the same time, society is dressing in a relaxed way. Brands that hit that mark are more attractive to consumers because they can wear them in more circumstances. Our brand is being worn in all forms of work and play, which is a wonderful position to be in. So the authenticity of our story, the quality, the versatility and the way that we treat people and the environment in the supply chain—all those aspects are being valued more and more by consumers. And consumers today can do their own sleuthing online. Yes. It’s a much smarter consumer. With so much information available to them it enables them to make better decisions. When I was in my twenties, my wardrobe was littered with things I thought I needed that I didn’t. That was the way people consumed, and I think that’s really changed. Our success in Israel, where 17- to 25-year-old women have embraced our brand, bears this out. I was speaking with a sales assistant in a store that didn’t sell shoes who happened to be wearing Blundstones. I asked her how big of an investment it was to buy
them. She said it was three days’ pay. That’s a big investment for an 18 year old to make. But she added it’d been worth it because she’d worn them every day since she bought them. That young person, once upon a time, made a completely different purchase decision. I think it represents more of a permanent shift in consumer behavior, and it’s one we’re certainly happy about. How will Blundstone maintain its momentum? The key is to have consumers to never really want to take them off. So even if the Chelsea silhouette is being driven by fashion right now—and we’ll ride that wave while it’s there—we’re trying to convert people to always wanting to wear our footwear, which we’ve found to be the case, historically. We’ve got something in our makeup that makes people stick with us. Look at Iggy Pop, who was a hipster in the ’70s. He’s never left us. It still works for him. In Canada, which is our largest market, before we came along they’d never really worn gore-sided product. We’ve now got 700,000 units going into that market every year and it’s predominantly goresided, and we’ve got young people saying that they only wear our product. We have this mantra that our brand has got to be great but our product has got to be even better. We’re marketing our way to consumers’ hearts through our product, primarily.
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Canada is one of the ultimate seals of approval when it comes to utilitarian boots, no? Yes. What’s more, many who start wearing them in the winter soon find themselves wearing them year-round—like they do in Australia. The leather breathes, so it’s better for you than a synthetic product. But it’s also the fact that they mold to your foot and everything else doesn’t feel quite right. We hear these stories time and again; we don’t have to make them up. That’s a wonderful trait to have as a brand. It gives us a lot of confidence that we aren’t going to cycle in and out of fashion. We’ve never done that in any other market. The key to it is win consumers over for the right reasons, rather than hoodwink them into buying product. That’s not the kind of consumer relationship we want. We’re far more likely to retain a customer as well as have them tell someone else how great our product is. Word of mouth is still an incredibly important part of how we reach new consumers and, in a digital sense, that now happens at massive warp speed. It helps that Blundstone has tremendous crossover appeal. Yes. We talk about ages 8 to 80 and all demographics. Our broad appeal was reflected during a recent forestry dispute in Tasmania. The protesters and the company employees were wearing our boots, as were the people trying to separate them. Another example is Israel, where not many clothing items sell to both secular and Orthodox Jews. We just
DATE DESCRIPTION SIZE15 20_01_FW_Q&A_07.indd COLOURS
might be a first. What unifies our customers is the comfort, versatility, longevity and value—aspects that any consumer is looking for. Do you plan to expand far beyond your utilitarian boot roots? We have been subtly expanding, but we’re not going to lose the Blundstone handwriting. It’s still going look like a Blundstone and belong in the range. There’s quite a few profiles that we can adopt that are true to the brand. We also think there’s quite a bit we can do within the profiles we currently offer to keep the brand invigorated. Like sneakers, perhaps? Only at the very edge, maybe active-leisure styles. We’ve also had sandals before, so that’s a question mark whether we go back at that category. We’re not going to have it just so we can present a wall of brand. Others do that and we sense they’re losing brand identity a bit. We can’t afford to be one of those brands. What else can Blundstone afford not to do as it navigates this explosive growth curve? There’s lots of evidence of brands burning bridges, like in the supply chain—putting unrealistic expectations on factories, taking orders away at the last moment and being horrible about pricing. We’re taken a different approach: We’re only as good as our factory partners allow us to be and
January 2020 COUGAR Footwear Plus Half Page Horizontal 7.75” X 5” CMYK
we want them to be just as passionate about our brand as we are. Being more sharing in the process makes us attractive to do business with and we might get a better result. Now I’m fortunate to be in a family-owned business, where people have got their eye on being here in 150 years’ time, so it’s all about sustainability than short-termism. Sustainability was arguably the word of 2019. How important is that aspect to Blundstone’s business model? Our brand values require us to be respectful to the earth and people. We’ve been going down that path way before it became mandated by various organizations. It’s been fairly easy to tick a few boxes where we already comply. We’ve also made sure our supply chain is doing what it should in terms of labor, ethics and the environment. I doubt it’ll ever be a ‘done job,’ so we need to be ever vigilant. Beyond that, we’re taking steps to improve our carbon footprint, even though we’ve been getting horrible leadership from politicians on that front. It’s hard to even position policies due to a lack of guidance. In the meantime, we’re just following a commonsense approach to packaging, like getting rid of single-use plastics in the supply chain, and we’ve begun short-haul flying in replace of trucks. Our expanded partnership with REI has been another inspiration in this regard. They’re the most advanced in this space that we do business with and we wouldn’t have been >53
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T R E N D SSPPOT OTTTIINNGG
C ockwise from top: Gabor, Sorel, Seven Dials.
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Clockwise from top: Mia, Nest, Cougar, Ecco.
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1. Chelsea Crew 2. Joules 3. Donald Pliner 4. Quoddy 5. Geox 6. Propet
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4 1. Vasque 2. Forsake 3. Skechers 4. Merell 5. Geox 6. Teva
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1. Easy Street 2. Naot 3. Teva 4. Cougar 5. Merrell 6. Bearpaw 7. Propet
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Clockwise from top left: Muck, Ross & Snow, Quoddy, Sperry.
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Clockwise from top left: Bella-Vita, Chinese Laundry, Gabor, Rialto.
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1. Superlamb 2. Cougar 3. Western Chief 4. Naot 5. Earth 6. Ugg 7. Patrizia 8. Bearpaw
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Clockwise from top left: Band of Gypsies, Twisted X, Donald Pliner, Seychelles.
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Clockwise from top: Ecco, Pikolinos, Rialto, L’Artiste, Chelsea Crew.
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T R E N D S P OT T I N G
Clockwise from top left: Earth, Vionic, Bella-Vita, Aetrex, Joules, Soft Comfort.
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5 1. Dr. Scholl’s 2. Aetrex 3. OTBT 4. Alegria 5. Dirty Laundry 6. Sorel 7. Blowfish Malibu
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S P E C I A L R E P O RT
REDEFINING RETAIL Retailers are reinventing themselves in increasingly creative and thoughtful ways, with an eye on service and s o c i a l /e n v i r o n m e n t a l g o o d . B y L a u r e n Pa r k e r
do good from home, aggregating 150 brands filterFASHION STORES WITH no merchandise? able by various benefits (i.e. Give Back products, Philanthropic pop-ups where you can donate Sustainably Certified products, Recycled Materials, old clothes and buy recycled ones? Wellness etc.). Native Shoes is one such brand, and thinks stores where you can road-test yoga clothes in the program is indicative of a wider societal change. an exercise class? Welcome to retail’s brave new “There is an ever-increasing demand by customers world, where the shopping script is being rewritten looking to shop more conscientiously and seek out daily. Retailers have been steadily reinventing the brands with real purpose,” says Rebecca Boxall, store—both inside and outside its walls—but as Native’s vice president of marketing for channels consumers are seeking deeper, more meaningful and customer experience. As Native has adopted purchases and experiences, that Instagrammable the mission of “Live Lightly” with sustainable shoes flower wall ain’t gonna cut it. It’s retail survival of that are good for people and the planet, she sees the fittest writ large, with out-of-the-box creativthis aligning. “Goods for Good is a great example ity and authentic corporate social responsibility of the ways in which Zappos really thinks about (CSR) emerging as the vital life skills. and understands the wants and needs of their “Retail has been rapidly shifting due to consumer, customer base,” she says. “We’re really excited to economic and community demands, and the increase see how the community engages with this initiain experience-based retail environments is a direct tive going forward.” answer to today’s modern consumer demands,” says Another (outside the shoe box) example is Nicole Leinbach Reyhle, founder of Retail Minded famously philanthropic jewelry designer Kendra and the Independent Retailer Conference, who Scott, whose Kendra Gives Back lets consumers notes that consumers expect to be engaged, enterand local charities host events in its stores, with tained and supported with exceptional customer 20 percent of proceeds funneled to the cause. The care, but that’s no longer enough. “The catch is, stores keep the doors open to draw in passersby they also want this at their convenience and often as well. “The most impactful thing about our with a socially good attachment linked to their community giving program is that we’re able to spending decisions.” DSW and Patagonia both embody socially and support small community organizations that don’t Call it “do-good retail,” where charitable stores environmentally conscious ‘do-good’ retail with their get much corporate support,” says Tom Nolan, earn their angel wings plus a halo effect of boosted respective DSWGives and Worn Wear pop-ups. president of Kendra Scott. “We empower each of sales. According to a 2017 CSR study, 80 percent our local stores to authentically connect with their of consumers said they’d purchase a product community, learn about the causes they support, and engage with those causes because a company advocated for an issue they cared about. It’s also why in a meaningful way.” #GivingTuesday, following Cyber Monday and Black Friday, has been so Community building without philanthropy is also vital. Already known successful. In 2019, $511 million was raised online on #GivingTuesday in for its brand collabs and launch parties, acclaimed Los Angeles sneaker the U.S., according to GivingTuesday.org, a 28 percent increase from 2018, boutique Sportie LA recently turned its parking lot into the experiential helping consumers assuage their guilt about having too much stuff and doing and mural-bedecked #FameYard, where consumers could peruse the latest good in the process. Toms Shoes even closed its stores until 1 p.m. that day in street art and music. “We’re also using the space, and the foot traffic, to to let employees spend the morning volunteering at local organizations, and hopefully inspire change,” says owner Isack Fadlon. “In 2020, we’ll have an Vagabond shoes skipped the Black Friday sale and instead donated 10 perentire panel dedicated to Creative Visions Foundation, which advocates for cent of its receipts (or $26,100) to Humanium Metal by IM, a supply chain numerous causes through art.” using metal from destroyed firearms. “We wanted to give [The Black Friday] Now in its 10th year, Vans’ two House of Vans flagships have thrived as discount to someone else,” says Anna Fahle Björcke, head of Vagabond. “We creative hubs, beyond the Vans brand. “We have a marketplace program at got such positive reactions, not the least from our multi-brand retailers, who all House of Vans that allows local creatives to showcase and sell their own welcome a different message for this weekend. Giving really is the new black.” wares, ranging from original art and zines to vinyl and t-shirts,” says April Zappos’ newly launched digital Goods For Good platform also helps shoppers 30 footwearplusmagazine.com • january 2020
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S P E C I A L R E P O RT
Vitkus, Vans senior director of global brand marketing and strategy. “Our goal is to uplift the community and give the space to them.” Adidas is another company that has expanded past just “selling merch.” In November, at its Paris flagship, the company partnered with augmented reality company Eyecandylab to create an immersive experience right in the store to teach consumers about the environmental impact of plastic usage. “It is important to us to make the innovations of our brand a tangible experience for our customers,” says Florian Fiedler, senior manager innovation and trends at Adidas. In the case of DSWGives Do Good Pop-Up that didn’t even have shoes for purchase, storytelling replaced selling, educating consumers about the benefits of footwear donation instead. “The days of selling product just to sell product are over,” says Amy Stevenson, DSW’s chief marketing officer. “It’s about connecting everything we do with a higher purpose that resonates with our customer.” Stevenson believes the effort will also increase sales in the long run. “These non-product efforts convert customers because you’re showing them that you’re more than a retailer trying to sell them something, you’re a brand that shares the same values,” she says. RECYCLE RETAIL Over the past three years, the secondhand clothing market has grown 21 times faster than the overall apparel industry, according to Thred Up’s Resale Report, and is expected to reach $51 billion by 2023. As Patagonia’s founder, Yvon Chouinard says, “The best jacket for our planet is one that already exists.” That’s why Patagonia exchanges branded merchandise from consumers for store credit, reworks it via its ReCrafted program and resells product on WornWear.com. The outdoor brand took its recycled retail concept a step
further with the opening of its first-ever physical Worn Wear store in Boulder, CO this past fall. The pop-up, which will stay open until next month, is like the brand’s own consignment store that exclusively sells used items as well as its Recrafted Collection, which consists of clothing made from apparel that was beyond repair. The store also hosts repair and upcycling workshops. Patagonia is blazing a trail that others are following. The North Face introduced The North Face Renewed in 2018, which refurbishes old garments and resells them at a discount, and ThredUp has entered partnerships to sell used clothes through Macy’s, JCPenney and Madewell stores. The concepts hit on sustainability, which is a concern that crosses all demographics and age groups. It’s also in step with the Sharing Economy, particularly (too) many Millennials and Gen Zers who are drowning in student loan debt. The affordability angle appeals to their wallets. Beyond do-good retail, there’s feel-good retail. Lululemon has been building local and like-minded healthy communities since its outset, with free in-store yoga classes that let women limber up in their Lulus. New is the brand’s 20,000-square-foot flagship, opened recently in Chicago’s Lincoln Park neighborhood, which supersizes the experiential wellness concept. There are two floors of retail, exercise and meditation studios, plus a restaurant. Studio classes aren’t free but the new concept lets women test drive Lululemon workout gear during a class without purchasing it. On a smaller fitness scale, New York’s Tip Top Kids Shoes teamed recently with Merrell and Hike It Baby for a healthy consumer community trek in Central Park. Merrell designed the invitation, which Tip Top promoted on social media and in-store. “Everyone met at the store, had food, and the kids, aged 3 to 10, got fitted with shoes on loan from Merrell,” says Margot Wasserman, store manager/buyer, who also gave out coloring books for identifying items
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S P E C I A L R E P O RT on the nature hike. “It was such a nice community building event. Even the gift cards Merrell handed out were co-branded,” she adds. SHOP NOW, RECEIVE LATER Back in the day, shoppers went into stores with the objective to walk out with a purchase. These days, not so much. Stores are increasingly serving as showrooms, which cuts down on space needs and inventory costs. At Nordstrom Local hubs, for example, there is no inventory. Shoppers, however, can find tailoring services, get a manicure, receive style advice and shoe repair services. They can also pick up items ordered online and even get them gift wrapped, as well as drop off returns and donate gently used clothing for charity. The overarching idea is service and convenience. “All customers like more selection, and receiving things faster,” noted Erik Nordstrom, co-president, principal
executive officer and director, in a recent earnings call. “Consumers also want to try it on before they take it home. Having that alternative means a lot.” Melissa Gonzalez, founder of pop-up company The Lionesque Group and author of The Pop Up Paradigm, concurs. “There are many aspects that make retailing experiential beyond an Instagrammable moment,” she says. “In Nordstrom Local, meeting with a tailor is experiential because it’s a moment to interact with the brand on a deeper level—a human level and one that genuinely serves a purpose.” “Footwear stores that don’t carry inventory solve a major challenge for brands/retailers,” says Beth Goldstein, accessories and footwear Business Analyst at NPD Group. She cites the Margaux shoe shop in the Bloomingdale’s New York flagship. Every size and color is on display for try-on and customers then receive a made-to-measure service for an exact fit.
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c Ron White
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c Dr. Martens x Dolls Kill
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c Skechers c Mephisto
BOOTS c Ugg
c Mephisto x Concepts
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c Nordstrom c DSW c Journeys c Famous Footwear
BOUTIQUE c Embellish Shoes
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c Dr. Martens
CHILDREN’S c Skechers c Crocs c Vans c Geox
Charleston, SC c Zelda’s Shoe Bar
Portland, OR c The Shoe Hive
With recent studies showing 88 percent of women are wearing the wrong shoe size, the custom fitting is incentive to come into the store and avoid the hassle of returns. M.Gemi , a direct-to-consumer brand, operates similarly at its stores. Researchers from Harvard and Wharton note that the Zero Inventory Store strategy leads to “supercharged” customers who spend more and return less when they do buy. This “offline-online complementarity” leads to a 28 percent reduction in inter-purchase times, buying across 20 percent more products categories and trading-up to more expensive items, and disproportionately lower returns for more expensive items. In addition to zero-inventory stores, there’s the multiple showroom concept, a mix of small-inventory stores where brands rent space. Showfields in New York is one such example, built around the concept of “discovery and engagement” rather than “shopping,” according to co-founder Katie Hunt. For $6,000 a month, brands receive staffing, inventory management, data collection, events, a custom dashboard with live updates and a technology suite. Showfield’s also built out its fourth floor as a community space that’s hosted more than 150 events in the past six months, from panels to yoga classes to private concerts. “We believe that the future of retail is C-Commerce, or Consumer Commerce, and a large part of C-Commerce is community,” Hunt says, noting the average brand stay is currently six months. They say charity starts at home, and there is a strong belief that investing in retail employees is critical as to whether these do-good/feel-good store concepts translate. Rude sales help won’t be overlooked because of a charitable angle. “Make no mistake, bad retail is on trial and the consumer has judged you as guilty by not opening their wallets,” says Bob Phibbs, a retail analyst. In this regard, State Bags, known for its philanthropic Bag Drops of backpacks filled with supplies for the needy, goes out of its way to educate retail partners on its mission so the employees can communicate that message to customers. “We’ve had retailers from Shopbop to Nordstrom bring hundreds of team members to see the fruits of their sales and the giving process,” says Scot Tatelman of State Bags, who stresses the retailers they work with don’t want to be the type of store that just gives away stuff. “And we’ve never left a store where employees haven’t told us, ‘That was the most impactful event we’ve ever done!’” Indeed, the retail times are changing—rapidly. The store as we once knew it is morphing into a brick-and-click blended experience that stre tches be yond buying goods. T he redefining of retail is one that’s more efficient, entertaining and aims to achieve a greater good. More profitable re tailers and happier customers present a win-win scenario. “Retailers will continue to intertwine their IRL (in real life)and URL destinations so that they seamlessly flow into one conversation,” says DSW’s Stevenson. •
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Connecting the raw materials and components suppliers with the apparel, footwear, and accessories maufacturers for 25+ years.
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CHELSEA BOOTS : The go anywhere / go with anything SILHOUETTE LOOKS to replace sneakers at the front of MENâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;S closets this fall. BY
P H OTO G R A P H Y BY
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model: Anna Hagood/Supre
Model: Jace Carstens/Red Model Mgmt. 37
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Lug sole platform boot by UGG. Wrangler button down top, leather shorts by Basile, Danielle Nicole sling bag. 39
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Opposite: Gabor combat boot, jacket by Carhartt, Pier Antonio Gaspari top, G1 Goods pants, Hammitt crossbody bag. This page from top: Dirty Laundry lace-up, platform hiker by Nest, Ecco hiker. On model: OTBT boot, jacket by Tatras, vintage top and pants.
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Opposite: Dr. Martens boots. This page: heeled hiker by Seychelles, coverall by Nili Lotan, Forever 21 bodysuit. 43
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Opposite: Clockwise from top left: Aerosoles boot, ankle boot by Secret Celebrity, Luisa Dâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;Orio lace-up, Sorel combat boots. This page: Merrell work boots, jumpsuit by Vampire 1950. 45
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Opposite, on model: Rieker combat boot, Proenza Schouler jacket, Tatras vest, Carhartt utility pants, bag by Hammitt. From top: Wedge bootie by Pendleton, ankle boot by Trask, Bearpaw hiker. This page: High hikers by Azura, Libertine jacket, sweater by New River, vintage utility belt. Fashion market editor: Lauren Parker; hair and makeup by Nevio Ragazzini/Next Artists, using makeup by Kevyn Aucoin Beauty @ VivianaMartin and hair product by Living Proof and G3; model: Anna Hagood/Supreme Model Mgmt; styling assistance by Bella Peterson; photography assistance by Stephanie Levy.
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S H O W C A S E FAL L ’ 2 0
Comfort starts with fit. For almost 35 years Propét has perfected our product line to offer diverse styles in those hard-to-find widths and sizes. We are an industry leader in evolving comfort and wellness footwear into fashionable footwear. The men’s Kenton offers maximum comfort in four
Giorgio Brutini was founded in New York in
widths and up to size 18. Come see us at Outdoor Retailer, The Atlanta
1969. Since then, Giorgo Brutini has become
Shoe Market, FN Platform and select regional shows.
known for its “confident, authentic, style” of
men’s footwear and finery. This fall, Giorgio Brutini introduces a new fashion casual collection with impeccable details, comfort and style at an incredible value, like our Houston boot (pictured). See us at FFANY, The Atlanta Shoe Market and FN Platform.
The waterproof Hammond boot has it all for adventures in cold, wet and snowy conditions. Made in Portugal, features include a leather/tweed upper, a 100 percent Merino wool moisture-wicking lining for warmth and comfort, a breathable Aquastop waterproof membrane, Primaloft insulation rated to -25F, Thermo Rubber outsole that stays flexible in temperatures below freezing and a Bos. & Co. Trend sole for stability and traction in slippery conditions. See us at Outdoor Retailer, The Atlanta Shoe Market, FN Platform and regional shows. Live life comfortably through every adventure with BEARPAW! Introducing our
Mokelumne snow jogger, the latest in fashionable athletic footwear. With NeverWet technology and a removable Poron Comfort insole, these sporty sneakers are perfect for weekends spent hitting the slopes. See us at Outdoor Retailer, FFANY, FN Platform, The Atlanta Show Market, MICAM and regional shows.
Bella~Vita is an elegant, upscale line of fine footwear. The Stephanie II and Danielle styles offer sleek silhouettes, available in luxurious suedes, leathers and colors, plus come in a large range of sizes and widths (N, M, W & WW; 5-12). In/open-stock available for Fall 2020. Visit us at
Spring Step combines quality, comfort, technology and style to bring you
FFANY, The Atlanta Shoe Market, FN Platform
premium footwear. We have consistently crafted outstanding products and
and regional shows.
deliver wonderful value and service. With higher margins, free POP displays
and simple e-service, we can be your perfect partner. Discover why Spring Step is the winning team! See us at The Atlanta Shoe Market, FN Platform and regional shows. Style shown: Bianka.
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At Naot, we are passionate about creating a better world by making people feel comfortable. Naot’s superbly handmade products demonstrate a response to the compelling need for healthy, comfortable and fashionable footwear. At the same time, Naot’s unfailing commitment to integrity makes quality customer service the very highest priority. Contact us to schedule an appointment. See us at The Atlanta Shoe Market, FN Platform and select regional shows.
Spring Step combines quality, comfort, technology and style to bring you premium footwear. We have consistently crafted outstanding products and deliver wonderful value and service. With higher margins, free POP displays and simple e-service, we can be your perfect partner. Discover why Spring Step is the winning team! See us at The Atlanta Shoe Market, FN Platform and regional shows. Style shown: Brazen.
Birkenstock crafts a range of footwear for women, men and children based on the original Birkenstock contoured footbed. Birkenstock products are made in Germany since 1774, and reflect the brand’s key values of health, wellness, quality and craftsmanship. See us at The Atlanta Shoe Market, Chicago Shoe Market and select regional shows.
The Aerantis collection by Geox, originally designed for the Formula E Geox Dragon racing team, is a simple and elegant walking shoe featuring rounded lines and ton sur ton color combinations, an air circulation system to cool feet and an upper material composed of a recycled polyester yarn derived from 2.5 used plastic bottles. This collection stands out not only in terms of style, comfort and quality but also respect for the environment. Come see us at FFANY, The Atlanta Shoe Market, FN Platform and regional shows.
New Year, New Boots. View the Aetrex AW2020 For over six decades, Ara has been known for crafting shoes that combine attractive design with the perfect fit. A German, family-owned company with
collection at FN Platform.
the highest quality standards and leading-edge designers, Ara combines traditional craftsmanship with innovative technologies to take you through every step of your day and night. Visit us at The Atlanta Shoe Market, FN Platform, BSTA, Toronto Shoe Show and other regional shows.
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S H O W C A S E FAL L ’ 2 0
Cougar’s Fall ’20 collection draws inspiration from around the world to create modern footwear made to function. The Pamela combines a premium suede and leather upper with a sweater knit collar to craft a distinctive cold weather silhouette. Always waterproof construction coupled with a fashion wedge outsole delivers unmatched style and versatility— Patrizia by Spring Step offers fashionable footwear with unbelievable quality
whatever the weather. See the entire
and comfort. We have consistently crafted outstanding products and deliver
new collection at Outdoor Retailer,
wonderful value and service. With higher margins, free POP displays, and
FN Platform, FFANY, The Atlanta
simple e-service, we can be your perfect partner. Discover why Spring Step is
Shoe Market, Toronto Shoe Show and
the winning team! Style Shown: Hilvia.
regional shows across North America.
Known for its indoor/outdoor slippers, Staheekum now brings sustainable product to its lifestyle shoes for men, women, and for the first time ever, kids. Recycled components and responsibly sourced materials, these water-resistant shoes feature comfortable memory foam insoles that make for great everyday wear. Come see us at Outdoor Retailer, FN Platform, The Atlanta
O2 Monde: Italian shoes the way nature
Shoe Market, FFANY and ENK.
intended. Handcrafted in Italy from supple
plant-based skins, our vegan shoes benefit both people and planet. Our name speaks to this transparent ethos. O2 represents pure oxygen, the third most common element in the universe and a building block of life. We think of our shoes as building blocks of a modern, mindful wardrobe that helps you live your best life—and protects our collective future.
EasyWorks by Easy Street is designed for modern professionals with slip- and oil-resistant soles and further enhanced by the exclusive EasyMotion Pro-Comfort System, where the innovaThe Remonte philosophy is to provide not just a better product, but the best
tive fusion of orthotic styling
people can buy. Remonte produces high-quality leisure shoes that not only look
meets anti-fatigue comfort
good, but enhance the wearer’s lifestyle. Famous for their longevity, Remonte
technology. Available in 35
shoes feature technical lightweight interiors, flexible outsoles with shock-
sizes and 3 widths. See us at
absorbing qualities that guarantee tired-free feet and relief with every step.
FFANY, The Atlanta Shoe
Fashion meets comfort and quality right out of the box. See us at The Atlanta
Market, FN Platform and
Shoe Market, Chicago Shoe Market, BSTA and other regional shows.
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ASM1908-FootwearPlus-ShopperPage-FINAL.indd 1 FOP JAN.indd 51
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TRIPLE THREAT Jaclyn Jones puts a feminine spin on her Clover & Cobbler factory and her three labels. WHEN JACLYN JONES tells people she’s not just a designer for three footwear lines, but also owns the factory, people often do a double take. Female owners are a rarity in the shoe making world, but Jones is shaking that up. As the owner of the Clover & Cobbler factory and JJUSA (Jaclyn Jones USA) line, plus co-designer of Salpy and Californians, the exec is bringing a fresh approach to domestic manufacturing and design. Always interested in fashion (she taught herself how to sew at age 13 and never stopped creating), Jones earned degrees in marketing and business to balance her design skills and set out to make luxury shoes women could actually walk in. “I used to save up to buy these ‘luxury’ shoes, then I’d look at them with dread as they sat unworn in my closet, stiff and uncomfortable,” she says. In 2017, Jones set out to create her own luxury comfort line, but when she searched for a Los Angeles factory, all she found was frustration. “I searched tirelessly for six months,” she says. “When I finally found a factory to produce my brand, it felt like I’d broken into an underground industry.” After manufacturing at the International Last factory for a few seasons, owners Salpy and Kevork Kaladjian asked Jones to buy them out. She took the leap. In 2018, she relocated to a new, 20,000-square-foot facility in Van Nuys, CA, and renamed it Clover & Cobbler, aiming to breathe new life into a centuriesold craft. The airy, more “feminine” factory offers zero minimums (“meeting factory minimums is often the biggest hurdle to navigating the overwhelming journey of a new designer”) plus an inviting showroom that has served as client photo shoots. The factory specializes in making hand-carved and
hand-stained wood heels and wedges. “This allows us to make exactly the number of heels needed, rather than ordering thousands of plastic heels at one time,” Jones says. “This means less plastic waste for the environment.” A library with thousands of last models also helps with variety, as well as reducing client costs. Quicker turnaround times are another Clover & Cobbler advantage. “We’re able to quickly make slight adjustments in materials, colors and sometimes even heel-heights,” she explains. Jones stretches artistically as her three lines explore unique style niches, materials and construction techniques. JJUSA ($700 to $2,000 SRP) is rooted in luxurious comfort, with small handcrafted batches up to 18 pairs per style, featuring highquality leathers and materials, custom hardware and 4mm-thick custom insoles. Eel, ostrich and snake will be key Fall ’20’s exotic stories, Jones says. Celebrating its 20th anniversary, Salpy ($250 to $800) is co-designed with the Kaladjians and features Western-inspired designs and artisanal hand-carved, stained wood heels with new shapes slated for this fall. Californians ($99-$225) is the newest brand, co-designed with industry veteran Bill Clark. The brand’s ethos is reminiscent of the Golden State’s laid-back ’70s era. A slightly different construction method allows Californians to reach this lower price point and target a new audience, and the Fall ’20 collection will feature new animal hair prints. For inspiration, Jones cites Sophia Webster and Tory Burch—namely Sophia’s whimsical, feminine spirit and Tory’s class and timelessness—as strong, confident women who paved the way for ambitious young designers like herself to break into a male-
Jaclyn Jones in her Clover & Cobbler factory.
dominated industry. International travel is another huge inspiration, and Jones buys a pair of shoes in every country she visits. “These shoes remind me of the diversity in cultures and designers out there,” she says. “I’ve traveled across all seven continents, so I have quite the collection!” Since 80 percent of Clover & Cobber’s private label designers are female and 95 percent of her factory’s footwear is women’s, Jones sees her gender as a huge advantage. “I understand women’s footwear inside and out, from construction processes to knowing what makes a shoe comfortable,” she says. Opening a female-owned factory wasn’t without challenges, however. “There were days that felt like every turn I was greeted with, ‘That’s not the way it’s done’ or just flat out ‘no’s.’ Was this because I’m a woman in a male-dominated industry and generations younger than them? I’m not sure, but I’d already encountered obstacles when launching JJUSA—challenging the mold of how women’s shoes were created—so I had experience standing my ground until I got that ‘yes.’” What’s more, the designer/manufacturer has a “pocketful of tips and tricks” to overcome any challenges that might come her way. —By Lauren Parker
H Y BR ID H IDE S
Artistic blends of snake, leather and suede create the perfect patchwork.
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Q&A continued from page 15 able to establish a foothold there if we didn’t meet a pretty high standard. What are main goals for 2020? Obviously, marking our 150th anniversary is going to be big part of this year. We’re going to celebrate it with special products and activations, like our first pop-up store in the U.S. that opened (in partnership with DNA Footwear) recently in Brooklyn. We’re 150 years old, but in many markets we’re only a couple of years old and still being discovered. It’s an interesting mix of celebrating the past while relating that to a future. Do you envision more pop-ups or flagship stores going forward? The pop-up level is what we’ll be doing more so in the short term. To the extent we’re still fairly seasonal in the States, that format lends itself to a part-time approach. It also means we can test sites. We can be experimental and learn along the way. We’ve always had pop-ups in our plan, but with Daniel Kahalani (owner of DNA Footwear) coming to us, it pushed the idea forward a couple of years. Daniel knows how to connect with consumers and he’s done great with our brand for years. His store standards are high, his customers get a great experience and, obviously, Brooklyn is high on our target market list. It was a natural to go into partnership with him and it’s been a wonderful collaboration so far. We’re pretty certain we’ll be doing more. Any other big goals for 2020? On a personal level, I’m in in the throes of transitioning to a chairman role and we’ll be seeking a new CEO this year. We’re open to someone from outside the company, but there’s been some nurturing of people inside as well. Whatever we decide, it’ll be done super carefully so we maintain our momentum and set ourselves up for the next 10 or 20 years. The last thing we want is somebody upsetting apple carts. My role will become more strategic. I’ll be able to keep an eye on emerging trends and pass that perspective down to management. The business has grown to the extent where we need to manage the future a lot more than previously. Our business is going to be very busy for the next 10 years, guaranteed. We’d be kidding ourselves to believe that the CEO will have the spare time to do that stuff.
leathers wisely and cutting it properly. We were doing that in several countries but primarily with our initial partner in Thailand, who shifted production about 18 months later to Vietnam. They were pretty much the first manufacturer we met and we fell in love with them, which is a dangerous thing to do in life. But it’s proven to be a fantastic relationship. If anything, the quality went up and we’ve applied that production model to other factories around the world, like in Leon, Mexico. We’ve increased the size of their business many fold and they’re just as passionate about Blundstone as we are. In business, you can work really hard, but somewhere along the way luck has to go your way. This partnership has been our massive slice of luck. What do you love most about your job? Once upon a time I would have answered that no two days are the same. In more recent times, it’s providing stewardship over what’s been a major transitional period and the world opening up to Blundstone. You don’t always get the chance to pause and take it all in, but on the occasions that I do, I appreciate what our team has achieved. So job satisfaction is my answer now. The number of hours spent by a vast array of people…the success wouldn’t have happened if they weren’t super-committed. Most of that has been out of a sense of want, and that’s what makes a smallish team achieve big. We have a fantastic team of people. We’ve found a way to become a brand that now has a supply chain, a relationship with consumers in approximately 70 countries and is viewed by the world very differently. It’s been a massive transformation that happened to occur under my watch and it’s gone well. I guess when they push me off in a few years, that’s what they’ll say about me, and I’m proud of that. I’ve been lucky to inherit this opportunity. It’s been an enormous amount of fun and a rewarding quarter of a century. •
Looking back 25 years, did you ever envision Blundstone’s epic transformation and that one day you’d be transitioning to chairman? We just had our first child, so I was just trying to work out how the heck I was going to get a decent night’s sleep. I didn’t think I’d work for anybody for 25 years, to be honest. But the reason that I have stuck at it is not only because of advancement, it’s that the job has changed so much. Even though I’ve been called the same title, I reckon I’ve done four different jobs because the needs of the business have changed. I could reinvigorate along the way. Which of those four jobs did you enjoy most? All of them have been good in their own way, but it’s the current one. The first three were building blocks and we didn’t know if the work we were throwing ourselves at would pay off. My job now is the rewards of those efforts. Looking back, the hardest job was changing the supply chain. It was the most intense period and we’d only get one chance at it. There was negative press around it in Australia and the global financial crisis came along around the same time. We were learning how to source in other countries while keeping the fires burning at home. We were spread thin and burning the midnight oil regularly. But it gave us an enormous amount of confidence once we completed the transition—there wasn’t anything you could throw at us that we couldn’t overcome. It showed we could rally when we needed to and, for a small- to medium-sized company, that’s a wonderful trait to have. There’s comfort in knowing you can take a few hits in the early rounds and still be standing. When was the transition completed? Fully, by the end of 2008. But we were still in a learning mode for a few years after. We needed to work with our partners to get the product just right—using
It a l i a n Sh oes t h e wa y nature int ended.
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Luisa D’Orio Reborn Italian Shoemakers reintroduces upscale brand for Fall ’20. THE MADE IN ITALY moniker evokes luxurious leather shoes, but 38-yearold family owned Italian Shoemakers has built a thriving volume business on affordable leather styles—all produced in the hills of Tuscany. Now, in response to demand from accounts for more upscale and elaborate product, the company has launched the leather salon brand, Luisa D’Orio. “It would have been too confusing for our existing retailers and consumers who already love the Italian Shoemakers line and its established price point,” says Vice President and Designer Arthur Romanelli, in regards to introducing a standalone brand. “We had to come up with a whole new name.”
Well, sort of. The company dug into its rich history to reintroduce the Luisa D’Orio brand. “We actually had this brand about 17 years ago, but for spring/ summer sandals, so launching Luisa D’Orio with boots and shoes is actually a revival and expansion,” Romanelli says, noting Luisa is the name of his grandmother and D’Orio is the last name of his great grandmother. The Luisa D’Orio launch features shoes, boots, booties and sneakers with a suggested retail price range from about $80-$180. (Future spring/summer sandals will be in the $50-$80 range, roughly a two-thirds increase over the $30-$50 Italian Shoemakers sandals.) Highlights for fall include accents like a double row of silver studs on smooth tall-shaft boots, or diamond bling on combat boots. Faux exotics like croco or snake prints are key material stories, and rich chocolate suede combat boots are streamlined with a stretch sock construction and adorned with tiny metal beads. Navy and charcoal metallics are burnished rather than flashy, and the color palette runs from rich rust and forest green to seasonal staples like black, brown and burgundy. Perhaps the biggest news of the debut collection is the first-ever sneaker collection offered by Italian Shoemakers. Luisa D’Orio’s leather and suede casual styles ($80-$100) are lightweight and flexible. The company is using a new Italian factory for Luisa D’Orio’s smaller production runs, keeping prices down by sourcing everything themselves and cutting out middlemen. “The goal is to offer a Made in Italy comfort product with the same qualities a fashion brand would have,” Romanelli says, noting Luisa D’Orio sources components from the same places as Givenchy, Fendi and Louboutin, but “works on pennies” to keep costs down. “We really optimize the consumption of the materials and components to minimum requirements.” Romanelli travels from Miami to Italy every month or so to meet with the design and production teams. “We really study components and how to add value without price,” he adds. “We’re all about quality, then comfort and then price point.” —Lauren Parker
Quick Change Artist In a Gruv’s interchangeable add-ons offer more bang for the buck. IN-A-GRUV FOOTWEAR wants to be every woman’s “little black dress of shoes,” meaning it’s the shoe that fits any fashion situation, travels well and can be dressed up or down with the right accessories, according to founder Ada Duran. Thanks to a hidden groove on the sole (hence the name) that holds add-on accessories securely, women can switch up the top of their shoes for quick, easy and affordable new looks. “I’m a bargain shopper. I don’t need a hundred pairs of shoes, but I do love fashion and I do want a lot of options,” says Duran, noting the concept also travels well for quick style changes on vacation and business trips. Duran was a schoolteacher when she came up with the concept; she just couldn’t find the right pair of shoes to wear to her graduation party. She envisioned a sandal with a variety of colorful, interchangeable straps that would coordinate with multiple outfits—without having to purchase multiple pairs of shoes. “Basically, women are getting two whole new looks for $20,” Duran says. Currently, there are 12 accessories, yielding a total of 13 looks. Duran says they’re fun to mix and mismatch—think snake on the left foot, leopard on the right—yielding even further configurations. The suggested retail price of $79.50 includes two add-on accessories. Additional accessories sell for $19.95 each, providing an add-on sale opportunity for retailers. “It doesn’t take a lot of space to retail these, as it’s just one style of shoe,” Duran says, noting retailers prefer packages. “Stores pick the accessories add-ons that suit their customer best, or work with us for recommendations, then sell them as a set with the add-ons in a nice mesh bag. Or they’ll put add-on accessories in a big candy bowl so the customer can hunt for the ones they want. It’s an experience.” Current best sellers include cheetah, pom-pom, floral, army fatigue and gemstone. The shoes are currently made in China, but Duran is sourcing manufacturers in Brazil for the next round of production. Right now, the shoe features a mid-size heel of 2 ¾ inches and there’s a T-strap style where accessories connect to the ankle strap for interchangeable looks. Duran is looking to add flats and wedges in the near future. Also in the works is a kids’ line. “So often I hear from women that their daughter wants a pair,” Duran says. “We’re looking to license out the concept for kids’ shoes.” —L.P.
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WHAT’ S SELLING
T H E M O U N TA I N G OAT Ma n c h e s t e r, V T for casual. Half the car mechanics around town have Oboz on their feet, and OTHING GETS RON HOUSER more worked lots of guys use Blundstones as work shoes. We’re on our second round of On up than people wearing shoes that don’t fit running shoes, which run $199. Our customers didn’t know the brand, but we properly. As co-owner of The Mountain Goat, said, ‘Don’t look at the price, just try it.’ We sold out in two weeks. Everyone located just five minutes off the Appalachian said, ‘I never felt a shoe like this before.’ Trail in Manchester, VT, Houser sees his fair share of battered feet (and shoes), most which What about dress shoes? Vermont can’t be all outdoor activities! Fashion he feels could be averted. is a relative term in Vermont, where you can wear a Patagonia dress to a “Why isn’t their footwear holding up? Why does wedding. We’ve been carrying Blundstones for 20 years and suddenly they’re this person have blisters? Why are their ankles, fashion! I’ll direct people to Earth Shoes for dressy, or even some Teva styles. knees, hips and backs in such bad shape?” he Regardless of the type of shoes we sell, a good percentage don’t leave with asks, his voice raising. “I’ll tell you why, because their shoes don’t fit!” Houser, the original insoles. We can eliminate most issues with a good insert. We sell a certified pedorthist, looks at it all as a problem to solve, and his in-store Superfeet footbeds plus five different models of Sole inserts, which are the custom footbeds and orthotics lab is one path toward deliverance. closest to mimicking the shape of the foot. Socks Houser and his wife Anne, both Virginia transare also important for comfort. Darn Tough is a plants, opened The Mountain Goat 32 years ago, Vermont brand, and we sell tons. They’ve gotten and like others who’ve worked in outdoor sports so much more fun since they hired Poppy Gaul their whole careers (Ron was briefly a pro cyclist in as their color person. Smartwool is also great, as Spain, and both had led outdoor educational excurare Sockwell’s diabetic and compression socks. sions), they walk the talk, no matter the vertical. The apparel and gear store features 2,800 square Besides great product, what else are you lookfeet of selling space, including 10 to 14 footwear ing for from your vendors? Product information brands, plus Nordic boot and snowshoe rentals in is valuable but the hang tags do get in the way season. They added the custom orthotics lab 15 of people trying on shoes. It’s up to us to direct years ago after seeing the need from Appalachian people to the best shoe for their usage and feet. Trail hikers, many of whom are attempting to What we need, especially from footwear we sell complete the last 600 or so miles of the 1,600-mile year-round, are ASAP orders. We need to be able trek when they walk (or limp) into town. to come back every two weeks and reorder stock, Word of mouth is strong. Houser cites a healthy so we can do our turns and keep inventory where flow of locals and tourists, i.e. “dairy farmers, facit belongs: on the sales floor, not in the storeroom. tory workers, athletes who play soccer, hockey and Otherwise, we just have too much inventory sitting ski teams, outdoorsy families and older boomers around, which leads to the sales game. who are traveling more.” The Mountain Goat even Ron Houser busy at work in The Mountain Goat’s draws customers from Europe who have heard raison d’etre: its custom footbeds and orthotics lab. How important are sales? We do two clean-house about its fitting expertise. “We know what we’re doing,” Houser says. “Just look at our name: We’re The Mountain Goat!” —Lauren Parker How’s business? After years of double-digit overall growth, 2019 sales flattened a bit, but footwear continues to grow. I remember when selling a hiking boot for $115 was amazing, but now our footwear sells for $125 to $250. Shoes started at just six percent of sales and now comprise a third of our business. How important is the custom orthotics business overall? I’m pedorthist, not a podiatrist, but trust me, lots of podiatrists send their customers to me. For $65, I conduct an hour-plus foot and leg evaluation that goes through a customer’s day on his/her feet from work to home and their body mechanics. Custom orthotics cost $245, but it’s an investment worth every penny. The service definitely boosts business as customers shop while I build the insert, and they’ll buy multiple pairs of shoes so I can fit everything perfectly. What were your top-selling footwear brands of 2019? Scarpa, On, Oboz and Salomon have been big performance sellers, with OluKai and Teva more
sales a year: end of summer and end of winter. We don’t do Black Friday sales and we don’t apologize for our prices. We sell product for a reason and if they want to shop somewhere else, they can. I need to hit my margins to run my business. What is the most effective way to get the word out about your store? Our website doesn’t sell online as we’re so much about fit. But we did post an outdoor photo shoot with The Mountain Goat crew that credited all the apparel and gear in action. We chose slightly bolder fall colors that evoke the excitement of getting outside and having fun. We also run ads on NPR several times a week, and the younger employees have really stepped up our social media. Since Anne and I live the active lifestyle, we publish a flier of our favorite trail hikes, which every single local hotel, motel and Airbnb displays. We don’t pay for that, it’s just our niche. Any big plans in the works? We brought in a young couple, and maybe they’ll be the new “Anne and Ron” to take over as we’re slowly separating ourselves from the business. 2020 january • footwearplusmagazine.com 55
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L A S T S HO T
The Other Off-White
Clockwise from top: Vionic, Pikolinos, Cliffs, Toms, Donald Pliner, Golo.
P H OTO G R A P H Y BY T R E V E T T M CC A N D L I SS
Bone breaks into the Fall/Winter 2020 color palette, offering a subtle alternative to winter white. — L A U R E N P A R K E R
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