JANUARY 2021 VOL 31 • ISSUE 1 • $10
THE BOOT ISSUE Fall ’21 Preview: Cool Colors, Stylish Silos & Top Textures
GUYS GET GRITTY LEOPARD PRINT ON THE PROWL CURRY ON THE MENU RG BARRY BETTING BIG ON SLIPPERS
THE EVOLUTION OF COMFORT No one will know it's a slipper
Check out our NEW Sport Lounge Collection on Dearfoams.com
JA N UA RY 2 0 2 1 F E AT U R E S 8 Zoom Times Robert Mullaney, CEO of RG Barry Brands, makers of Dearfoams, on how the company is meeting the needs of a rapidly growing slippers market. By Greg Dutter
Caroline Diaco President/Group Publisher Greg Dutter Editorial Director Nancy Campbell Trevett McCandliss Creative Directors EDITORIAL
14 Trend Spotting: Fall ’21 Boots A preview of key colors, materials and silhouettes for the upcoming season. By Aleda Stam 26 Rough Boys Classic chukka and work boots in go-to shades of black and brown give off a gritty city vibe. By Aleda Stam 28 High Grunge Thrift store chic: a layered, loud and sturdy Seattle-meets-Gucci mashup that rocks. By Nancy Campbell
D E PA RT M E N T S 4 Editor’s Note 6 This Just In 24 A Note to My Younger Self 38 Upclose: Athletic 39 Upclose: Western 40 Last Shot
Emily Beckman Associate Editor Kathy Passero Editor at Large Aleda Stam Contributing Editor Melodie Jeng Marcy Swingle Momo Angela Contributing Photographers ADVERTISING/ PRODUCTION Jennifer Craig Associate Publisher Laurie Guptil Production Manager Kathy Wenzler Circulation Director Catherine Rosario Office Manager Mike Hoff Digital Director WAINSCOT MEDIA Carroll Dowden Chairman Mark Dowden President & CEO Steven J. Resnick Vice President & CFO OFFICES
PA G E
On cover: Spring Step platform combat boot with EVA outsoles and welt stitching; leather Chelsea sneaker boot by Geox. This page: High-heeled leather combat boots with inset zipper by Seychelles. Photography by Trevett McCandliss; model: Trinidad De La Noi/Supreme Model Mgmt; styling by Nancy Campbell; fashion editor: Aleda Stam.
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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, One Maynard Drive, Park Ridge, NJ, 07656. The publishers of this magazine do not accept responsibility for statements made by their advertisers in business competition. Periodicals postage is paid in Park Ridge, NJ, and additional mailing offices. Subscription price for one year: $48 in the U.S. Rates outside the U.S. are available upon request. Single copy price: $10. POSTMASTER: Send address changes to FOOTWEAR PLUS, P.O. Box 8548, Lowell, MA 01853-8548. Publisher not responsible for unsolicited articles or photos. Any photographs, artwork, manuscripts, editorial samples or merchandise sent for editorial consideration are sent at the sole risk of the sender. Wainscot Media will assume no responsibility for loss or damage. No portion of this issue may be reproduced without the written permission of the publisher. ©2008 by Wainscot Media. Printed in the United States.
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ED ITOR’S NOTE
Walk of Life
These Boots (Really ) are Made for Walking LAST JANUARY I wrote a column that embraced the onset of a new decade with the hope that better days lay ahead—a new era that would move us on from the political divide engulfing our country and a wish that the “retail apocalypse” would cease. Well, can we get a take two, a mulligan or, as we say in our biz, a make good? I mean, seriously! There are bad years and then there’s the raging dumpster fire that was 2020, the new benchmark for all things bad. On an industry scale, the virus-induced new normal exploded into a perfect storm of nationwide lockdowns, record-breaking layoffs and pandemic pivots—like curbside pickups, contactless payments and obtaining essential business status to stay open. Everyone was thrust into an unknown where the government’s safety net, the Payment Protection Program, had mixed results at best and gross fraud occurred at worst. For most, the pandemic meant adapt on the fly, or die. Sadly, too many died, and those who didn’t capsize during the first wave have been hanging on for dear life amid the second surge. In our April/May issue, we published a feature called “The Virus Diaries,” a collection or retailers and wholesalers offering accounts of how they were riding out the storm. It was the most compelling, informative, brutally honest, sad, at times funny (gallows humor), insightful and downright scary content we’ve featured in our 31-year history. But the underlying theme there, and in the issues that have followed, is to never quit. The stories of resilience and reinvention are true sources of inspiration. I’d be lying if I said they didn’t help me to keep going this year. The 300,000-plus Americans whose lives the virus has claimed are far more than a grim statistic. The passing of my father in-law in early April due to Covid-19 brought this fact (literally) home. The fact that he asked my family to come from New York to stay in Connecticut—where it would be safer—only makes it more horrible. I’d be lying (again) if I didn’t admit that there were days when I would have walked away from it all if I could.
But I did walk—a lot this past year. Over 1,000 miles in rain, heat and snow and across trails and streets as a way to clear my head, look at pretty things and feel rejuvenated on some level. With me on every step of those journeys has been a trusty pair of hiking boots that I was gifted last winter. Little did I know then how important they would become to my physical and mental well-being. Incredibly comfortable from the first step, the boots have held up in a range of conditions—to the point that they might well be indestructible. They’ve become like a second skin. On my many walks I’ve spotted deer, osprey, cranes, a fisher cat, dogs, rats and pigeons (NYC wildlife), giant spiders and even a Northern Black Racer snake that slithered across my regular path—twice! I watched flocks of colorful birds taking baths in fresh rain puddles, chirping and flapping like it was a grand pool party. A deer shadowed me on a desolate trail in southern New Jersey as a sonorous wind rushed through the pines—a sound I’ll never forget. Nor will I forget when that deer sprang more than six feet into the air and just disappeared. I took in rainbows, magnificent sunsets and ominous thunder clouds. I saw people in masks walk by, our eyes often meeting in a brief exchange as if to say, “Hopefully this too shall pass.” The road of life is rough and unpredictable. All you can do is try to keep walking. I highly recommend a trusty pair of boots to help traverse the ups and downs. Or maybe running shoes to decompress and slippers to snuggle on the couch while binge-watching your favorite shows. Along those lines, Robert Mullaney, CEO of RG Barry, makers of Dearfoams slippers and the subject of our Q&A (p. 8), recalls numerous occasions this past year when people (mainly via Zoom) lifted their feet and gushed about how the brand’s slippers have become essential wear. Nothing is more rewarding or affirming, Mullaney says. Our industry may have been upended by this pandemic, but it is by no means less relevant. Just wait until the world gets back to working fully, when we can travel and come together again. I believe the desire to buy shoes will be unprecedented. We deserve a little good fortune. Here’s to a happier New Year!
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Highlights of my walk through 2020 and the trusty boots I wore every step of the way.
2020 PLUS AWARDS
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BRAND OF THE YEAR
c V&A Bootery,
c Dr. Martens
COMPANY OF THE YEAR
c Deckers Brands
c Timberland Pro
c VF Corporation
c Keen Utility
c Burch’s Shoes,
Eugene, OR c Beck’s Shoes,
San Jose, CA c Michelson’s Shoes,
Lexington, MA WOMEN’S COMFORT
c Twisted X
c Lori’s Shoes,
c Dr. Martens
c Zappos c Foot Locker
Chicago, IL c Market Street Shoes,
Seattle, WA c Main & Taylor,
Raleigh, NC ATHLETIC
c Hoka One One
c Pratt’s Shoe Salon,
THIS JUST IN
Boots and the City Stylish New Yorkers shift into (often high) boots mode as temperatures go low. Photography by Marcy Swingle
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Q&A BY GREG
R o b e r t M u l l a n e y, C E O o f R G B a r r y B r a n d s , m a k e r s o f D e a r f o a m s , o n h o w t h e company is meeting the needs of a rapidly growing slippers nation.
IT’S NO SECRET that slipper brands have been one of the few industry bright spots amid this devastatingly dark pandemic, and Dearfoams, the 74-year-old market leader, is no exception. Business in 2020 was good. Real good. Sales increases were well into the double digits, reports Robert Mullaney, CEO of RG Barry Brands, makers also of Baggallini bags. And while the exec is the first to admit that the growth was aided by the pandemic that saw the planet shift to working and attending school from home basically overnight, the brand had been experiencing solid growth in the two years leading up to the worldaltering event. Mullaney attributes Dearfoams’ recent growth to keying in on several macro consumer trends that have been fueling a demand for slippers—ones that he only sees increasing in popularity in the years ahead. Those trends revolve around the home as a place of work, study, recreation, gathering and solace. The growing popularity, for example, of patio fire pits and tricked out sheds that serve as the new home office and/or family living rooms, plus an ongoing shift to hardwood and tile floors, have contributed to the category’s strong overall growth. In addition, there’s the increasing popularity of sandals, soccer slides, Crocs and flip-flops—all of which are frequently worn as slippers—blurring the lines of the category’s full potential. There’s also the new national pastime of binge-watching on streaming services. Pool all these trends together and it’s easy to see the ballooning desire for an array of slipper options that span indoor/outdoor constructions durable enough for a quick trip to Starbuck’s to sock-like styles ideal for snuggling on the couch while binging The Queen’s Gambit. “The slipper is now an essential part of the consumers’ wardrobe,” Mullaney confirms. But don’t just take his word for it—do the math as a data analytics disciple like Mullaney always does. In 2010, he notes an estimated 3.5 million Americans were reportedly working from home. That number rose to 5 million in 2018, and pre-pandemic forecasts were for it to hit 10 million by 2025. Now it just so happens the pandemic caused that figure to zoom to 50 million in 2020. Even post-vaccine, Mullaney is 8 footwearplusmagazine.com • january 2021
Q&A confident that the world has entered a new normal— one where slippers will remain an essential piece of the wardrobe. The numbers back his sentiments up. “How many of those 50 million are going back to 40-hour work weeks in an office, and how many will be working at least a one, two or three days a week from home?” Mullaney asks. He believes the answer is north of 20 million who will never go back to such a life-work imbalance. Those days, he says, are long gone, which is due to technology (think Zoom) more than any lingering virus fears. Even if half do go back to working in offices, that would still be about 15 million more people than what was previously projected by 2025. It’s why RG Barry is betting big on slippers. Real big. “I’m a huge proponent of the category’s potential going forward,” Mullaney says. “I think slippers could become 10 percent of the overall footwear market (current industry estimates peg it at 3.5 percent) in the next three years.” That’s millions of pairs more on top of a reliable base. Slippers aren’t a fad like, say, barefoot constructions. If the enduring popularity of Ugg has proven anything, the category is well beyond any “moment” status. Plus, the projected growth in sales, unlike a lot of shoe categories, won’t be mostly a market share battle. New slipper segments are taking hold, fueled by consumers who span all ages and both genders. It presents an attractive opportunity for brands and retailers across all channels. “This is no blip,” Mullaney affirms. “Slippers are no longer just a sleepy, old lady’s shoe. They’ve become a much more accepted and understandable type of footwear—like Crocs.” A main task for Mullaney is making sure Dearfoams seizes upon the tremendous opportunity while continuing its evolution into a home-based lifestyle brand. Since taking the helm of RG Barry in late 2017, those efforts have included the launch of the Fireside Shearling collection (2019), the Dearfoams At Home licensed collection of pillows, wearable blankets and bedding (2020) and, debuting this spring, a collection of women’s athleisure and flats comfort footwear. “It’s an online launch, and we’re really excited about it,” Mullaney says of the latter. “We think the possibilities are great as we believe that comfort footwear can continue to be redefined.” The way Mullaney sees it, these extensions (and ones in incubation) are no brainers for a brand that, for starters, knocks it out of the park on consumer surveys. For example, one that asked what the Dearfoams logo represented revealed, in order of popularity: comfort, inclusive, high quality, a gift they would be proud to give or receive, distinctive style and good value. “There’s so much good runway for Dearfoams,” he says. “The extensions are spot-on for the brand, and the reasons we’re doing them is because the customer told us to.” Going forward, Mullaney’s other main task 10 footwearplusmagazine.com • january 2021
OFF TH E CU FF What are you reading? I just finished The Alchemist by Paulo Coelho and Stamped by Jason Reynolds and Ibram Kendi, and my next is Racism by Albert Memmi. What were the last shows you streamed? For Life and The Good Doctor. In what way has the pandemic changed your life most? Zoom has become an everyday word. What might people be surprised to know about you? A guilty pleasure during the pandemic has been watching America’s Got Talent Golden Buzzer episodes.
What did you want to be when you grew up? Aside from a pro basketball or baseball player, a teacher.
continue to selflessly and fearlessly care for those with Covid-19 day in and day out with resilience.
Who is you most coveted dinner guest? Robin Williams has always been on my top five list—and still is, if he could.
What are you most proud of? My family and my friendships.
What’s the best advice you’ve received? Recently, it was Angela Lee Duckworth’s Ted Talks on grit. As she noted, it’s one characteristic that emerges as a significant predictor of success. You want people who have passion and perseverance versus just IQ. People who have a growth mindset and a desire to learn, and who don’t look at failure as a permanent condition. I’m fascinated by that trait in people, which has become especially key this past year. What person do you most admire? The healthcare heroes, which includes my sister, who
is adding to the RG Barry portfolio, either by new launches or acquisitions. He believes the management team, its established channels of distribution and solid backroom operations are more than capable of handling additions without losing sight of current responsibilities. “Our first obligation is taking care of our current business by maintaining strong growth and servicing our customers beyond their expectations,” he says. “But our company is strong enough to add brands in a complimentary space that leverage our resources and expertise.” Mullaney says any additions would be helped by RG Barry’s strong private equity ownership in Mill Road Capital and Blackstone. Not only do the firms possess financial muscle, he says there’s a willingness to flex it, which historically hasn’t been the case in footwear. “These guys are about tapping potential growth, be it organic or acquisitions, and utilizing our expertise,” Mullaney says. “It’s a great partnership as there’s confidence that our team is heading down the right path.”
What is inspiring you right now? Aside from 10-minute breathing apps on Peloton, I’m memorized by consumer behavior right now—specifically what will it look like on the other side of the pandemic. I’m also memorized by the fact that younger people today have no problem paying $10 for a Chipotle delivery that’s less than five miles away but are resistant to spend $10 shipping to get a pair of $100 sneakers sent across the country. It’s a huge disconnect.
Heading into a new year, Mullaney is bullish on slippers as well as RG Barry’s overall potential despite the massive industry reset brought on by the pandemic. It’s not easy, but when has it ever been? He cites strong ownership, talent, fortuitous brand alignments and grit as key ingredients to the company’s recipe for continued success. “I’m really proud of the team, because the customer likes what we’ve been doing,” he says. “We were operating really well before this pandemic, and we’ve continued to shine as our products and our range get better and better. Our outlook is very strong.” New product launches, brand extensions, potential acquisitions…it’ all so very un-pandemic. What gives? For starters, Dearfoams has great runway because the customer loves us for comfort, home, quality and accessibility. Those are all terrific brand attributes to build off of. There are also a lot of other wearing occasions for slippers and shoes, and with our
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Q&A areas of our expertise, there’s more room for a brand or brands to service his or her other needs, and I emphasize his. Overall, I think there’s a big runway for slippers for other consumers and categories, whether its sandals or lounge footwear. But it may depend on how you define slippers. For example, we have collections of slipper/sandals and sneaker/slippers coming out this year. If you started pulling together all the styles being worn as slippers, it’s a much larger segment than was ever considered before. That’s one of the main reasons I believe the segment is poised for major growth. And that has most definitely been the case, especially since the pandemic. No question. Industry reports in Q2 revealed that slipper sales were up over 100 percent, and this last quarter they were up over 85 percent. But reports also showed that slipper sales were up in the 12 months prior to Covid-19. It was one of the few categories that was up, in fact. Why is that? Consumer trend. People have been spending more time at home as well as working from home. Those were trends before the pandemic and they’ve only exploded since.
on trends. For example, we have a new indoor/outdoor collection, Alpine by Dearfoams, where “outdoor comfort meets cushioned arch support.” It features our new Colorado outsole made from harvested algae that addresses another important trend in sustainability. Overall, it’s about positioning different segments of slippers and making sure we are hitting on all the right needs. Shifting gears, you branched out with a Dearfoams comfort footwear collection for this spring. Why is now the right time to make that brand extension? With the lines between slippers, sandals and athletic blurring it provides good runway for Dearfoams to make the jump. We’re also sourcing it out of a footwear factory as opposed to a slipper one, which I think is very important. The collection features more substantial athletic EVA bottoms suitable for longer wearing occasions than any of our slippers. They also feature great knitted uppers that are reminiscent of slippers but are straight up comfort shoes. We went up a notch in price at $45 to $60 retail that reflects that. Our initial launch partners are QVC and Amazon in addition to Dearfoams.com. We see it expanding out from there in the seasons ahead. It’s a big deal for us.
We’re talking potentially millions of pairs And the Dearfoams at Home collection that more sold annually going forward, correct? debuted this past fall has also been received well? People are going to need slippers for their stone Out collection of throw pillows, wearable blankets patios, fire pits and sheds as they are spending and bedding is doing exceedingly well, and that more money on their homes than ever before and tells you the overall strength of the brand and subsequently more time in and around them. how it’s so connected to the home. Along those The new outdoor living room presents a huge lines, we’ll be introducing a Dearfoams at Home opportunity for a new kind of slipper, and we now pajamas collection this fall. offer more constructed styles than ever before. The ’burbs are also back and people living there What about potential collabs for Dearfoams? want something versatile to walk to their stone Stepping up: the Dearfoams women‘s comfort footwear collection will debut online this spring. Without question, so long as they are unique patio, or make a quick Starbuck’s run. We also and fit with our brand. We have an advantage think there will be multiple wearing occasions for because we have access to a broad range of channels. It allows a collab partner slippers inside the house, and that’s nationwide and a year-round purchase. to access an audience they might not otherwise be able to reach. Hopefully, People are amazed how much product we sell in all regions of the country we’ll introduce one for Fall ’21, because collabs are also just a fun part of this and not just in colder areas. So, there have been a number of trends leading business where you might strike a chord by looking at things differently. You to an overall growth in slippers sales prior to Covid-19 that have since been can be inspired by other brands. There’s a lot of good work being done, like massively accelerated. what Concepts has done in the sneaker boutique space. Whoever thought their Maine lobster pot theme sneaker (Nike Dunk Low SB) would become The expansion of what qualifies as a slipper mirrors the athletic category. one of the best collabs in history? Who would have imagined KFC x Crocs Yes. There’s also a wellness aspect. Consumers, before the pandemic, were clog being such a successful collab? It doesn’t even have to be commercial; it taking their shoes off upon entering the house to switch into a house slipper to can just get people talking about both brands. You might still buy the black avoid tracking God knows what inside. Plus, slippers are more washable than Crocs, but that collab is a brilliant move. It’s fun. other types of footwear. We also see a lot more loungewear slippers coming into play where people are pairing it with their Public Rec or Lululemon pants. Are you optimistic about 2021 from a broader industry perspective, That’s a huge opportunity that butts up against the athleisure trend. And think specifically that business will improve if the vaccine is successful? about sandals, there are a lot of Adidas soccer slides, Crocs and flip-flops sold I think consumers are dying to travel. The minute the clearance comes, I as slippers. The definition of slippers is being redefined right before our eyes. expect leisure travel will erupt and that could benefit shoe sales in general. But I think business travel will come back more slowly because companies Are slippers the new sneakers? will be more discerning about whether it’s a necessary expense. It’s part of the Well, we are launching Sport Lounge this spring, a sneaker/slipper collection new normal, the same way I think the suburbs will continue to be important. that takes you wherever you need to go all day with the best underfoot comfort People aren’t going to give up on that extra space too easily. in great slipper materials. But I’d say slippers are the new comfort. It’s why we launched our Fireside Shearling collection in 2019. RG Barry wouldn’t go into What about trade shows post-pandemic? that space before, but our consumer research drove that decision. We just saw While there’s a strong desire to get to our sourcing bases, meeting with retailers too much shearling product being sold by the likes of L.L. Bean to ignore it. in their offices or at trade shows seems unlikely for at least the first half of It’s a fast-growing business, and it’s been a big success so far. The truth is, we the year. I was on a recent FDRA call and the retailers said they might think were late to the party on shearling. So now we’re trying to be ahead of the party 12 footwearplusmagazine.com • january 2021
about attending a show in August, and if they did it would be selective. That’s part of the new normal as we’ve all gotten pretty good at virtual meetings. And that can be a real positive in terms of people’s lifestyles, not to mention companies’ bottom lines. While I believe there’s still a need for the industry to get together, maybe it it’ll be a minimum of two to four times a year. I know we’re not going back to five days a week in the office—ever. Do you envision consumers heading back into stores like before once they feel safe? I do, but I think the retailers who are going to win are the ones who realize that the consumer is doing a lot of shopping before they get to the store. And the better that they understand that ecommerce doesn’t always have to be the transaction point but also a way to bring customers in—like though in-store pick-up and returns—will come out ahead. That’s where the real power lies going forward. Because, for starters, consumers who come for a pick-up often pop in a to buy a few other items. I think that will lead to better traffic for those retailers. In addition, the levels of convenience and value will continue to increase in importance, along with carrying great brands and offering unique experiences. I expect it’ll be a bit of a novelty to shop in stores at first, which presents an opportunity for retailers to welcome them back with great service and selection. But if the inconveniences about shopping in stores before the pandemic aren’t addressed, then they’ll likely lose them—again. I agree. You better be prepared for it. That said, I think many of us are all dreaming of getting outside again. Who wouldn’t love to take a trip to Bal Harbour, Florida, right now and do a little shopping?
Even though the past year as a whole has been pretty horrible, there’s plenty to be optimistic about RG Barry from where you’re sitting. I’m very optimistic, and it’s because of the work that we’ve been doing these last few years. We’ve been working hard on our brands and product as well as all of our distribution channels. Everything that we’ve done regarding communication, marketing, design, etc. is all done with one thing in mind: the consumer. We want to stand for something, to be trusted and make people’s lives better. Fortunately, we’ve weathered this storm ok. We did all the work that we possibly could do to mitigate any risk in Q2 of last year. Now that’s not to say that there aren’t plenty of new challenges ahead, because there are—starting with supply chain issues. Finding enough containers, vessels, drivers, etc. is a really big issue right now. We’re navigating that now. It’s always something, right? That’s why getting overly confidant is a big mistake. We need to always run our business with humility and understand that there’s a lot of work to be done. What do you love most about your job? I love the challenge, but I also love it when someone genuinely loves our product—that we made a difference and made them happy. For example, there’s been nothing more satisfying amid this depressing and stressful pandemic when I’m on a Zoom call and someone lifts up their slippers from under their desk and says, “I can’t live without these.” That defines success for us. I also love the fact that many people have a strong connection with their slippers. Meaning, when they put them on it gives them warmth and comfort, and it’s a moment that they look forward to in their day. Those are good memories being made, and we are right there with them. •
T R E N D SSPPOT OTTTIINNGG
ALL THE TRIMMINGS Fa u x f u r a d d s a c o z y f l a i r. 1. Aetrex 2. Patrizia 3. Geox 4. Western Chief 5. Easy Street 6. Earth Origins 7. Minnetonka 8. Bearpaw 9. Cougar 10. Enjoiya
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PRIME ALPINE Haute hikers rise to the occasion. 1. Thierry Rabotin 2. Taos 3. Cougar 4. Bernardo 5. Patrizia 6. Rieker
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WARM FRONT Heat up the color palette with rich shades of red. 1. Bearpaw 2. Lafayette 148 3. All Black 4. On Foot
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MOUNTAIN DOS Sporty hikers built to do anything, anywhere. 1. Twisted X 2. Tecnica 3. Rocky 4. Merrell 5. Oboz 6. Wolverine
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GREEN, THUMB’S UP! Fresh looks sprout for fall.
1. Cougar 2. Spring Step 3. On Foot 4. Bernardo 5. Birkenstock 6. Rieker
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THEY ’RE SNOOTS! Transition into cooler weather with sneaker boots. 1. Chooka 2. Geox 3. Aetrex 4. Ara 5. Oboz 6. Bella-Vita
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WEST POINTERS Take these cues on country style. 1. Seychelles 2. Earth Origins 3. Ron White 4. Black Star
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T R E N D S P OT T I N G
GET SHORTY Booties packed with details make a big statement. 1. Earth Origins 2. Toni Pons 3. Taos 4. Traq 5. Biza
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BETWEEN THE BUCKLES Buckles rock as a fashionable and functional combo. 1. Gabor 2. L’Artiste 3. Birkenstock 4. Chooka 5. Rieker 6. Black Star
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A N OT E T O M Y Y OU N G E R S E L F
A H E A LT H Y O U T L O O K D i a n e B u t r u s , C O O o f D i b a I m p o r t s L P, m a k e r s o f D i b a Tr u e a n d Te s t o s t e r o n e brands, cycles through what is really important in life.
DEAR DIANE, Today, your future is reaching back and touching you on the shoulder. I know you like computers, sports and outdoor adventures but, surprisingly, you end up working in the fashion shoe biz! I know it seems like an unlikely future, but it couldn’t have turned out any better. Working for your Dad (Joe Butrus) is way better than you thought it would be! Remember when Mom always said you could do anything? It’s true. Feel free to try different things in business as you go along, because some will be epic and some will be a disaster! But you need both experiences. Really, you need both. The outcome is not as important as enjoying the process. You are always up for the challenge and you will find a way to make it work. You actually can’t find the epic opportunities without tripping over the disasters. Your Dad is going to be your biggest champion in business, and you will be so proud to be working with him. He has so much experience and is so well respected in the shoe industry. Do you remember how he always said to do the right thing? I know you took that to heart, and it’s worth it! Appreciate every story, theory and bold idea he has. You will never meet anyone with as much passion. He always put your sisters and you first, and you will put your family first too. It will make you really happy! The family you create at work will be as important to you as your family at home. Select people who are smart, loyal and likable. They are the ones who stay, anyway. It’s ok to love them like sisters and brothers—they appreciate it more than they say. And don’t be embarrassed to ask every person you interview what size shoe they wear. Nobody thinks it’s weird—except you. Here are 10 hot life tips that won’t make sense now, but will make a difference. 1. After you take the Landmark Forum all those quotes that you studied in school that you didn’t understand will make sense. 2. They keep changing the rules of the game, just keep playing. 3. It is more important for someone to produce the results than it is to do it like
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you would do it. 4. Take care of your employees and they will take care of your customers. (Richard Branson will teach you this.) 5. Keep feeding your brain. Lots of times in your life you’ll think you know enough, but never stop trying to learn. 6. Keep training your body. You will ask a lot of your physical body and it will support you if you are fit and healthy. 7. Put others first. If they are taken care of, you will be taken care of. 8. Take traditional family vacations and create your own adventures—your work will be there when you get back. (And, no, you don’t have to retire to travel and have fun. You will do that along the way.) 9. Get the free iced tea refills—it always makes you giddy. 10. You are going to love sushi! Not the first, second or third time…but keep trying, you will love it eventually. While everyone else wants a house and kids, you are fine with a condo and a fancy car. And you will drive lots of great cars, but you’ll eventually settle on an electric model. (Yes, they are a thing.) It will be called a Tesla and it will have more friends than you do! You will also love to ski, hike and ride your bike with lots of fun people. Your athletic pursuits will evolve over time and end up with a passion for cycling. You will raise money by riding long distances—like 100 miles (yes, in one day) for charity! You will ride thousands of miles. It will be hard to ask for donations at first, but you will get really, really good at it, and it will end up being lots of fun and for some really great causes. Over the years, your love for baseball will only continue to grow. You will attend lots of games, watching your beloved St. Louis Cardinals. You even watch them win a World Series! Or maybe it’s more than one—you’ll have to wait and see! You will sit in many different seats in the stadium, but it isn’t about where you sit or whether they win, it’s always about who you go with. Enjoy the ride! Diane
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Patent leather hikers by Gabor; Opposite page, clockwise from top left: Black Star harness boot with stud inlays; block-heeled Chelsea boot by Thierry Rabotin; Cougar patent leather boot; rain boot with lace-up detail by Chooka.
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U P C L O S E AT H L E T I C
and camps and training 2,500 coaches,” Drew says. “By 2025, we aim to create 20 safe spaces to play, support and invest in 125 programs and camps and train 15,000 coaches. As we develop our impact model and build our portfolio of partners, we’re committed to impact over 100,000 youth by 2025.” Drew adds, “Curry Brand aims to change the game for good. We’ve collaborated with Stephen for many years, and through this relationship, we’ve realized that, together, we have an opportunity to push forward our vision for a better world, especially for young people.” Like any authentic performance athletic brand worth its salt, Curry Brand also features a game-changing technology: Under Armour’s Flow, a proprietary foam compound that provides lightweight cushioning and supreme traction that has now been adapted specifically for basketball in the debut Curry Flow 8. “We obsoleted rubber for basketball shoes,” says Tom Luedecke, director of footwear design for Under Armour. “The Curry Flow 8 effectively disrupts the Stephen Curry test design of a traditional basketball shoe, bringing unparaldrives the Curry 8 leled traction, lightweight performance ground-contact “Feel Good Flow,” the brand’s first collab. cushioning and grippy on-court feel.” Fred Dojan, Under Armour’s vice president of Footwear Development, notes the Curry Flow 8 was three years in the making—a collaborative effort between Dow and multiple Under Armour R&D teams. Creating a shoe that offers optimal traction, cushioning and stability for agility and responsiveness, i.e. the needs of a point guard, required some outside the box thinking. “Our Innovation team Why Under Armour added a namesake brand reversed the engineering process and designed UA Flow from flexibility to stability, bucking traditional industry for its flagship athlete. standards,” he says, adding that the single material breaks the mold as other brands combine foam and rubber. “We then added a stability plate to ultimately create a holistic system around the STEPHEN CURRY’S TIME has come. The superstar guard for the Golden foot of the basketball player.” State Warriors, who has attained household name status over his 11-year Of course, the shoes have to look as good as they perform. Luedecke believes career, is ready to take the next step in his storied career: eponymous the Curry Flow 8 hits that mark serendipitously because form, function and brand. It’s rarified air, as there is only one other in existence, named after innovation are so closely intertwined with style. “The design of the Curry another pretty good point guard who won six NBA championships with the Flow 8 achieves a balance of complexity and simplicity,” he says, noting that, Chicago Bulls. (Maybe you’ve heard of him?) Being a three-time NBA champion, on the one hand, the complexity of engineering a dynamic, soft and flexible two-time league MVP and a six-time all-star, Curry, the long-time Under Armour shoe that performs excellent on-court is achieved. “Yet the design is executed endorser, has gained the respect on and off the court (his jersey is consistently at a level of refinement that betrays the engineering prowess inside.” Plus, the a top seller year after year) to carry his own brand, and that’s exactly what the funky, singular material sole just looks cool. parent company is endorsing with its launch last month. Looking ahead, Drew says the Curry Brand will introduces new colorways Ryan Drew, general manager of the Curry Brand, believes that, like Michael and branch out int golf and apparel categories this year and, in the seasons Jordan, Curry possesses the rare combination of athletic talents, philanthropic ahead, add running and women’s. “Participating in a wide range of sports was passion and magnetic charisma to make it happen. “What makes him worthy a big part of Stephen’s athletic and personal development, so Curry Brand of the distinction is that he, and the brand by default, are completely purposewill embrace that as well,” Drew says, adding that collabs are also important driven,” he says. “It’s not about him or the game, it’s bigger. The Curry Brand part of that recipe, so long as they’re “organic.” The first of which dropped is driven by purpose—it’s about doing good in everything that we do, and last month: the Curry 8 “Feel Good flow,” a collaboration with local Oakland that’s something that both Stephen and Under Armour believe people can artist Allison “Hueman” Torneros. “This local community tie built into its get behind, now more than ever before.” design becomes the first creative expression of the brand’s ethos—performance The doing good aspect entwined within the Curry Brand is driven by a powering purpose,” Drew says. mission to ensure everyone has equitable access to sport. Drew cites studies Looking even further into the future, Drew says the goal for the Curry Brand that show less than 30 percent of youth ages 6 to 18 growing up in low-income is to stick to the game plan of changing the game for good—just on a much households participate in organized sports, and those kids are six times more broader scale. Think more breakthrough products and a relentless drive to likely to quit sports because of financial costs. And as many sports programs give back. “We’re doing business differently by using a community approach,” impose increased fees and logistical hurdles in response to the pandemic, the exec says, noting that a minimum of 1 percent of yearly revenue will be experts anticipate participation will only decrease, heightening the disparities reserved to Curry Brand community investments. “Of course, more revenue even more. The Curry Brand aims to reverse that trend. “We’ll begin (this year) means more dollars flow back into the community.” —Greg Dutter by creating three safe spaces to play, supporting and investing in 25 programs The Curry Flow 8 features a breakthrough sole construction.
Curry Added to the Menu
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Black Star is Reborn Twisted X adds fashion-forward label to its growing stable of brands. ON THE HEELS of its license deal with Wrangler to produce men’s, women’s and kids’ western, casual and work footwear for the mainstream, Twisted X has acquired Black Star, an upscale western boots brand handcrafted in Leon, Mexico, aimed at fashion-forward women who seek a unique western flair. The collection (SRP: $264.95$434.95) features supple leathers, rich colors and sophisticated underlays adorned with distinctive hardware and stitching details. The boots have also gotten a comfort upgrade with the addition of Twisted X’s CellSole footbeds that cradle the heel and ball of the foot for all-day comfort. Twisted X CEO Prasad Reddy liked what he saw in Black Star and believes with the added design, sourcing and marketing muscle of the parent company Handcrafted in Leon, Mexico, Black Star is all about the finer things.
the brand will shine even brighter. Plus, an acquisition is just easier. “It’s much harder to launch a new brand from scratch,” he says. “Whereas, Black Star is an established brand and, even though their distribution was limited, we liked the overall esthetic and our research showed there’s good brand recognition among target consumers.” Those consumers, Reddy describes, are trendsetters, but won’t suffer for their style. “She cares about comfort just as much as style,” he says. “She maintains an effortlessly on-trend look but she’s not afraid to stand out, and she’s an expert at spotting top-notch quality without the astronomical price.” Black Star’s recent holiday collection of only 11 styles was by design, Reddy says. “We kept the initial offering tight so we can garner feedback and adapt the line moving forward,” he says, noting that it included a mix of previous styles and a few new looks. “Moving forward, we’ll take our learnings and adapt it to the line so we can offer a collection that delivers what she wants and has to have.” That will include sustainable design aspects whenever possible—like the current footbed covers that are made of Twisted X’s ecoTweed material, a fabric spun from recycled water bottles. “We are in the midst of sourcing vegan leathers and we’re always ideating and sourcing new materials that leverage natural as well as sustainable elements,” Reddy adds. Looking ahead, Reddy envisions Black Star as a beacon for the upscale western market. It will take some buffing, but he says the team is already hard at work on making that a reality. “We will continue to perfect the line until we are solidified as the leader in high-fashion western wear,” he says. And similar to the way Twisted X has lassoed double-digit sales increases for more than a decade running, Reddy believes there’s plenty of growth opportunities with Black Star. Even better, it’s add-on growth for Twisted X. “Long-term, we expect Black Star will integrate a new group of consumers to the Twisted X global brands family, introducing them to the wide variety of product ranges we offer,” Reddy says. —G.D.
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