Footwear Plus | August 2013

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VOL. 23 • ISSUE 7 • AUGUST 2013 • $10



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Caroline Diaco Publisher Greg Dutter Editorial Director Nancy Campbell Trevett McCandliss Creative Directors

12 Contributors 14 Editor’s Note 16 This Just In 56 What’s Selling 60 In the Details 78 Shoe Salon 80 Comfort 88 Last Word

EDITORIAL Angela Velasquez Fashion Editor Lyndsay McGregor Associate Editor Social Media Editor Brittany Leitner Assistant Editor Kathy Passero Editor at Large Melodie Jeng Contributing Photographer Judy Leand Contributing Editor

20 Five Steps to Success Tips on how to boost retail sales this fall. By Lyndsay McGregor

ADVERTISING/ PRODUCTION Jennifer Craig Associate Publisher

24 The Sweet Spot

Capri Crescio Advertising Manager

Jon Caplan, CEO, Genesco Branded Group, discusses how macro trends bode well for its Johnston & Murphy and Trask brands. By Greg Dutter

On the cover: Charles Jourdan block heel pump. From left: Mango dress, R.J. Graziano jewlery; Issa dress, Mango jacket, vintage brooch.

30 Trend Spotting

This page: Vogue Pier Mondrian-inspired sandal.

44 Power Launch

Photography by Jamie Isaia. Styling by Kim Johnson; hair by Adrian Clark, The Wall Group; makeup by Deanna Melluso, The Magnet Agency; models: Kristy and Liv; IMG.



Tim Jones Deputy Art Director Production Manager Alexandra Marinacci Operations Manager Joel Shupp Circulation Manager

Juicy orange, brazen stripes and classic warm weather silhouettes abloom for Spring ’14. By Angela Velasquez

Mike Hoff Digital Director OFFICES Advertising/Editorial 36 Cooper Square, 4th fl. New York, NY 10003 Tel: (646) 278-1550 Fax: (646) 278-1553 editorialrequests@

Four new buzz-worthy brands are ready to break the sales barrier, boosted by the support of seasoned industry stars. By Angela Velasquez

50 Sole Brothers Dave and Danny Astobiza, owners of Sole Desire, reveal their cardinal rules of retailing for the thriving Californiabased women’s comfort chain. By Brittany Leitner

Circulation 26202 Detroit Road, #300 Westlake, OH 44145 Tel: (440) 871-1300

The raw beauty of linen, cork and woven materials. By Angela Velasquez

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68 Mod Mod World

Xen Zapis Chairman

62 The Naturals

Simple as black and white—mod fashion makes a sartorial impact for Spring ’14. By Angela Velasquez

82 Spring Fever Playful materials, cheery colors and fun embellishments capture kids’ carefree spirit. By Angela Velasquez


Lee Zapis President Rich Bongorno Chief Financial Officer Debbie Grim Controller

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 Symphony Publishing NY, LLC, 36 Cooper Square, 4th fl., New York, NY, 10003-7118. 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. Symphony Publishing NY, LLC, 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 Symphony Publishing NY, LLC. Printed in the United States.

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Tuscany easy street by





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contributors i n s i d e t h e c r e at i v e m i n d


JAMIE ISAIA, PHOTOGRAPHER Jamie Isaia evokes mood and atmosphere in a color-saturated, expressive photographic style that suggests dream-like, otherworldly scenarios. Though her images are thoughtfully scripted, they also contain unexpected and spontaneous elements, resulting in a rich photographic style. Isaia has turned to moving pictures as a means of expression in her creative and commercial work. These traits come across beautifully in our fashion story, Mod Mod World (beginning on page 68). Isaia’s photography has also appeared in W, Vogue Italia, Vogue Japan and The Last Magazine. Her advertising clients include Zac Posen, Swarovski Crystal and Loeffler Randall.

KIM JOHNSON, STYLIST New York-based stylist Kim Johnson uses her artistic background to bring a chic yet quirky direction to fashion. Her extensive knowledge of design and composition, combined with her striking ability to take fashion to a more integrative and modern place is reflected in our fashion story, Mod Mod World. “My inspiration for this shoot was the swinging ’60s in New York City,” she says. “Those iconic images of Twiggy, Peggy Moffitt and Edie Sedgwick as well as the geometric shapes, defined not only the fashions of that era, but the design and architecture, too,” Johnson adds. Her editorial work has also appeared in Paper, Dossier Journal, Bullett, Elle Mexico and Bal Harbour. When not styling shoots, she finds time to work on her eponymous dress line, style for leading photographers such as Cliff Watts, Minorui Kaguragi, and Tom Schirmacher, and for celebrity clients, including Alan Cumming, Mélanie Laurent, Pierce Brosnan and model Atlanta de Cadenet.

MELODIE JENG, PHOTOGRAPHER Melodie Jeng began taking photographs of people when she first moved to New York City five years ago. For the past two years, she has been posting her street photography and fashion photos on her blog, Shooting street style and blogging about it is a way for Jeng to keep a journal of what she sees, learn about the latest fashions and continue bettering her portraiture photography. Jeng delivered her regular This Just In segment for Footwear Plus, where dapper gents in brightly colored sneakers and other alluring accessories paraded on the streets of Paris and Milan while ladies incorporated crop tops in a chic and modern way. Jeng’s photography has also appeared on, Refinery29 and

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editor’s note scarpe diem

Story Time OUR JOB IS to report on the ever-changing and exciting business of making and selling shoes. For nearly a quarter of a century, Footwear Plus has showcased the latest styles, brands and trends (beautifully, I might add). We’ve reported on new retail strategies, formats and consumer shopping habits. We’ve updated you on breakthrough innovations in comfort, performance and design; emerging categories; and macro economic and fashion trends as well as their trickle-down effects on the shoe business. Arguably most important of all, we’ve provided an in-depth forum for the insights, inspirations and passions of the talented people who make all the aforementioned coverage possible. It’s why I look forward to writing the Q&A in each issue. Gaining the perspective of executives—many with decades of experience—provides me with invaluable industry insight. I can’t tell you how many articles have arisen from these interviews. Sometimes casual asides are the impetus for much larger features. To a journalist, Q&A interviews are like shaking a story tree of great ideas. Then there’s the people aspect; the discussions are truly enjoyable. Invariably, I fail to stick to the questions I’ve written down ahead of time. It’s a winding discovery path that crosses over hometowns, alma maters and career trajectories and always leads to a glimpse of the future. The biographical information I glean from our Proust-like sidebars never ceases to intrigue me. You can learn a lot about someone from what they’re reading. Are they novel buffs or fans of the latest marketing guru’s bestseller? The answer can often provide important clues about their approach to business. Does the interviewee hail from a small town or a fashion capital? The locale is sometimes a predictor of the pace at which they like to manage their business. What’s their favorite guilty pleasure? (Sweets, generally.) Who’s inspiring them now? (It’s almost always someone from outside our industry.) Who’s their most coveted dinner guest? (Usually someone who will make them laugh.) The answers provide a window to their psyche—to who they are and often to the type of brand they are building. This month’s Q&A (p. 24) with Jon Caplan, CEO of Genesco Branded Group, makers of Johnston & Murphy and the just relaunched Trask—is no exception. The industry veteran hails from the small town of Athens, TN. He received his MBA from Vanderbilt University and is currently reading Big In China. His parents ran

an independent apparel shop back in the day, and Caplan recalls acting as a sort of store mascot growing up. He loved talking with customers, sales reps and employees. That background may well have shaped his perspective on the current state of retail and what the future might hold. Caplan’s take on the dress shoe revival, how Johnston & Murphy is seizing the opportunity and what’s behind the rebirth of Trask (it’s in step with what he describes as an Americana fashion renaissance) are definitely worth the read. This month’s retail profile of Sole Desire (p. 50), the 12-store California comfort chain run by Danny and Dave Astobiza, is another intriguing read. It’s as much about the blocking and tackling involved in successful retailing as it is a great human interest story about how two brothers who never expected to take over the family business are now in deep and loving it. Of particular note is the brothers’ willingness to break with convention while remaining fiercely determined to keep their parents’ legacy alive. It’s business, but it’s also personal for the Astobizas. Our mini retail profiles in What’s Selling (p. 56) are two more terrific examples of the strong family factor that runs though our industry. Just Our Shoes in New Jersey and Birkenstock Midtown in California are true momand-pop operations. Despite daily doom-and-gloom reporting of the tier’s impending extinction, they’re doing what it takes to adapt and survive. Their formula for success? A unique selection, top-notch service and the human touch. It sounds simple enough, but it’s not an easy formula to replicate. That’s because such retailing expertise takes years to hone. These proprietors know their longtime customers by name and curate extensively to offer exactly what they want. They’re also economically and emotionally invested in the towns where their customers reside. In an age of globalization, that’s an impressive—and enviable—level of customer connection. Having reported on the footwear industry for approximately two decades now, I’ve had the pleasure of writing hundreds of these biographies. The insights, histories, triumphs, mistakes and strategies each source shares enlightens and inspires our readers as they write their own career stories. Everybody’s arc is unique, though we are all part of this industry’s broader narrative. Our latest issue offers another fascinating chapter. Enjoy. Greg Dutter

Editorial Director

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Crop It Like It’s Hot Bold prints, moto jackets and fresh shades complete Paris Fashion Week’s must-have uniform: the free-spirited crop top. Photography by Melodie Jeng 16 • august 2013

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Dapper Dons Guys bring their A game with stylish accessories. Photography by Melodie Jeng

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Five Steps to Success Industry experts offer tips on how to boost business as the summer season cools off. By Lyndsay McGregor CONSUMERS’ MODERATE SPENDING in June may be the latest sign the economy is trudging through a weak patch in the middle of the year, but all hope is not lost. Retailers who weathered a tepid first half (blamed largely on a record cold spring) should turn their hopes to back-to-school season. In addition, the University of Michigan Consumer Sentiment Index in May reached its highest level since the beginning of the recession. That coupled with the fact that consumer sentiment does not usually impact retail sales immediately—it takes a few months for that bounce to materialize at cash registers—on top of a record stock market that surely will trickle some of its good fortunes down through the economy and a (slightly) improving job market lends hope that there are ways and means to capitalize on this good macro economic news and finish 2013 on a high note. Here, retail experts discuss key tips on drawing in customers—from refreshing your storefront to turning your store into an active community center—as a means to further capitalize on the macro positives. Your business and, hopefully, your customers will thank you. 1. BACK-TO-SCHOOL RULES ShopperTrak, the world’s largest counter and analyzer of retail foot traffic, estimates that sales during this month’s back-to-school shopping spree will increase by 4.3 percent, reflecting the U.S. economy’s slow but steady gains. In recent years, back-to-school shoppers had focused on stores with the best value, but with this positive consumer sentiment, shoppers may be more willing to browse more stores—not just the value locations—thus adding to

the increased foot traffic and sales. “Back-to-school is the Super Bowl of retail, in a way. There’s a guarded optimism around it, but retailers are excited about it,” confirms Matt Priest, president of the Footwear Retailers and Distributors Association. Marshal Cohen, chief industry analyst of the NPD Group, a consumer market research firm that tracks the footwear industry, says tapping into back-to-school can have its advantages beyond kids’ categories. “As parents start shopping for their kids they start looking at and assessing their own wardrobes,” he offers. “Especially when it comes to footwear, which is such an impulse buy. If consumers see their size and they know it might not be there tomorrow, they’ll buy it.” In order to seize this opportunity, retailers are advised to prepare their marketing and operations to increase their foot traffic and, ultimately, shopper conversion rates. “Retailers need to make sure they have the right product in stock,” says Poonam Goyal, a Bloomberg Industries senior retail analyst. “We had a relatively warm winter and that hurt winter merchandise. Now that we’re entering the back-to-school season, all the summer stock is going to be marked down. Retailers need to have the right mix of summer and fall to make sure they’re not losing the customer at any one end.” 2. STAY FRESH There’s nothing that drags down a store more than old inventory. As Priest says, “Keeping products fresh is big. We’re now in an era where there are more than four seasons. Trends can be in and out very quickly.” As such,

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“You have to create buzz, whether it’s a shoe designer people might be interested in meeting or having a flash sale.” —MATT PRIEST, PRESIDENT, FDRA

Priest advises that whether you’re approaching the end of the summer season or the start of fall it holds true that retailers need to remain focused on product display and carrying brands and styles consumers want. “You need to have the ability to meet customer demand instantaneously,” he says. Cohen agrees: “While you may not have customers thinking about boots at the end of the summer, now is a great opportunity to showcase what colors and trends you have for the upcoming season.” But be careful not to give too much away, warns York Rasmusson, management consultant at New York’s The Parker Avery Group. “Put out enough product to draw customers into the store but not so much that they feel like they can delay their decision to buy and pick it up elsewhere,” he advises, adding, “Retailers need to pay a lot of attention to updating the detail and the presentation of their stores. Customers have a fresh view of what they saw in June and what they will see in the fall. Offer consumers an enhanced view of the store to go along with new product.” Tarek Hassan, co-owner of The Tannery in Boston, recommends a blended approach. “We try to give consumers a taste of what fall and back-toschool is going to look like. It adds energy and excitement to the store—not only among the consumers but also the employees,” he says. “They always get excited about the new products on the floor and it gets them hyped for the upcoming season.” He adds, “For the consumer that’s looking right now it keeps us in the back of their mind so when the time comes they know where to go.” 3. COMMUNITY OUTREACH: MEET AND GREET Buying and selling is moving far beyond a simple choice of online versus brick-and-mortar to a consumer experience that involves in-store, mobile, geolocation, kiosk, social and reward initiatives—all in real time. Customer loyalty and profitability increasingly depend on event-based marketing. Meaning, is your store an active member of the community? Is it in tune with what your target customers do, like and are concerned about? The advice here being: Get to know your audience. Is there a marathon, for example, in your town and do a lot of your customers participate? Do they typically shop for back-to-school merchandise and are they concerned about local school issues? “Events that will soon be top of mind for customers should already be top of mind for retailers,” Rasmusson offers. When it comes to local sponsorship, whether it’s a soup kitchen or a local music festival, he says retailers need to weigh who the other sponsors are and what touch points will be available to you in order to drive the greatest value for your brand. Will you have a booth or is your name only on a poster? “Lots of money is often invested with little ROI in sponsoring social or community events,” he warns. “Those events need to be the right fit with your brand and customer.” Priest says any type of creative buzz that gets people in your store is better than standing in the shadows. “Coupons get people in the stores. And Twitter and Pinterest really drive consumer behavior and can do it very quickly,” Priest remarks. “You have to create buzz, whether it’s a shoe designer people might be interested in meeting or having a flash sale so people have an added incentive to come in. Ask yourself, ‘Can I replicate some of the things I’m seeing online?’” As Cohen sees it: “There are all kinds of things you can do to get customers into your store other than putting everything on sale just because stock isn’t moving. If you can bring them in for an event, there’s a good chance they’ll end up buying.” Hassan is a firm believer in the power of community outreach. “When you host an event for a hot new sneaker and invite an athlete to back up the promotion, it brings in the locals and it also brings in outsiders, which helps promote the store and the brand at the same time,” he offers. Goyal agrees:

“You have to give the consumer a reason to come to your store and promotions help you do that. It’s good to interact with your community.” She adds, “Any marketing, as long as it’s targeted, is good marketing.” 4. APPEAL TO SHARP DRESSERS Men across the country are dressing sharper than ever, and it goes far beyond the likes of actors Eddie Redmayne or Bradley Cooper striking sartorial poses on the red carpet. A tight job market is helping fuel this spiffy revival. Take this sobering bit of data: Over the past 12 years, the U.S. has gone from having the highest share of employed 25- to 34-year-olds among large economies to having among the lowest. And while the American economy has come back more robustly than some of its global rivals in terms of overall production, the recovery has been light on jobs. Thus, many young people are taking their work more seriously and want to present themselves in a more professional way, eschewing the cargo shorts and flip-flops uniform of Generation X in favor of dapper duds and dress shoes. “Dress is up,” confirms Priest, pointing to shoes that marry traditional uppers with a rubber outsole. “It’s a classic look with a modern twist. Retailers need to carry fresh product that meets the needs of the younger workforce that is on trend.” Cohen says the key to marketing to younger consumers, men and women alike, is truth, community and competition. “Tell them exactly what they need to know because they can smell a rat if you’re trying to spin a line,” he quips. And don’t even think of treating them like their elders. “Everybody buys anti-aging skincare but not everybody has the same reason for buying it so you can’t have the same message. The trigger points are different.” Goyal agrees: “Retailers need to relate to that consumer because they know exactly what they’re looking for and if they can’t get it at a brick-andmortar, they can and will get it online,” she says. 5. LIVING SOCIAL According to social media analytics startup Campalyst, 97 percent of the top 250 retailers are actively on Facebook and have an average number of fans ranking close to one million. “You have got to expand your Internet presence and move with the industry,” Goyal states. “Retailers that don’t have an Internet presence are going to lose market share. You need to be always working on it and marketing it appropriately, and driving loyalty back to the site through social media posts on Facebook and Twitter. Make sure the customer you’re targeting knows you exist.” A recent Intuit Small Business Survey found that 27 percent of small business owners wish for more marketing muscle. Cohen believes the Internet is a great way to reach a broader base consumer to tell a story beyond what traditional footwear tells—and to do it for a whole lot less than traditional media rates. “Why not communicate directly with the consumer so they in turn can understand your message, share the message and recognize why they should be buying your product over the competition,” he says. Goyal furthers this sentiment: “Having an online retail presence drives product quickly to someone who’s on the move. It also enables you to reach a lot of the younger customers—most of who are plugged in,” she says. Along these lines, Rasmusson notes that there are IT solutions such as Prism and ShopKeep that help level the playing field against online titans by offering in-store analytics that can create more effective customer loyalty and rewards programs. For smaller retailers not ready to make the technology investment, he recommends simply talking to your customers and watching them closely so you can make informed suggestions. “Know your product intimately and it becomes an experience for your customers,” Rasmusson says. •

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THE SWEET SPOT Jon Caplan, CEO of Genesco Branded Group, makers of Johnston & Murphy and Trask, discusses how the portfolio is sitting pretty amid a burgeoning dress footwear revival and an Americana fashion renaissance. SOMETIMES IT SEEMS like the stars align and the market comes to one’s portfolio. Case in point with Genesco Branded Group and, in particular, its Johnston & Murphy and just re-launched Trask subsidiaries. Both possess rich American histories, the former dating back to 1850 and renowned for making dress shoes for every president since Millard Fillmore. The latter, formerly H.S. Trask, for ushering in a Montanainspired rugged casual aesthetic 20 years ago and the tip of the dress down movement. The rich American heritages of both brands are in step with an ongoing macro Americana fashion movement that shows little signs of losing steam in this country or abroad. Toss in the millennialsdriven dress footwear revival and Johnston & Murphy’s recent extension into women’s on top of the country emerging from a deep recession where consumers are seeking authentic brands and versatile styling, and it’s easy to understand why Jon Caplan believes Johnston & Murphy and Trask are primed for solid growth in the years ahead. “We have legitimate enthusiasm based on what we see,” the CEO says, modestly. Just what one sees in the men’s dress market is a 180-degree flip from only a few seasons ago when many had written the category off for dead amid a deep recession and, for those still lucky enough to still have a job, casual Friday attire had become a week-long dress code. But worldwide recessions have a way of changing things—like the need to make a professional impression as a way to get a job as well as help keep one. There’s also the (long overdue) fact that the casual dress pendulum swung too far into the flip-flops zone and the inevitable swing back may have started. One cannot overlook the enormous demographic factors at play here as well. Millions of millennials are entering the workforce and, like many generations that preceded it, they are looking to make their own fashion statements. To wit, Caplan says many millennials are keen to take style cues from their grandparents. “Respondents in our focus groups loved seeing the footwear wardrobe of their grandfathers,” he says, noting the brand has recently dipped into its archives and reintroduced select styles from the ’40s and ’50s. “They say the styles from that era are ‘cool’ and ‘authentic.’” Caplan adds that the dress revival is coming with a twist: “We are seeing a whole new generation getting into dress footwear but they are not necessarily wearing the rest of the uniform. They are pairing the shoes with denim, with brightly colored socks and sometimes without socks, or brightly colored laces.” Johnston & Murphy has also expanded its color story beyond the standard black and brown hues. “We’re featuring more

colors in traditional dress shoe silhouettes than we have in decades,” he confirms. “It’s a huge emerging opportunity and it’s been great to invite a whole new generation of consumers into our brand.” Few, if any, saw this revival coming. But, as Caplan notes, that’s a fun aspect of this industry: things change. “You have to expect the unexpected,” the industry veteran says. “None of us here possessed a crystal ball, but there are opportunities that arise where, in this particular case, it hits

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O&A the sweet spot of what we do.” Caplan understands that what will separate the winners from the losers is the ability to execute against the opportunity. “We have heritage, expertise and the ability to try new things on our side,” he offers. “It’s been working out well for us so far.” Dress sales, in fact, are up. “This is really the first time we can say that in the last year or two, which is after a long spell of decline,” he adds. Caplan believes the dress revival is not a flash in the pan, starting with the fact that the trend hasn’t been an overnight sensation. “It’s been gradual and it seems to be increasing now at an accelerating rate,” he says. “Generally, fashion trends that accelerate on a more moderate level have more legs than those that accelerate quickly. What are you reading? Big The ones that go up the fastest typicalIn China by Alan Paul. ly come down the fastest, and this one doesn’t feel that way.” What is inspiring you most Caplan has a good feeling as right now? As we expand well about the rebirth of Trask. He internationally I have describes it as another tremendous developed relationships with opportunity to update an “American people whose dedication original.” In fact, one of Caplan’s brand to building the Johnston & management tenets is to always look Murphy brand in parts of forward. “It means you have to be willthe world where it’s not so ing to take some risks and be willing well known. to reinvent yourself,” he says. “And you must do it without losing your core Where in particular? principles, which in our case are great Korea, Vietnam and quality, craftsmanship and value.” Mexico. In some cases, For Trask, Caplan says, it’s using these people didn’t have Genesco’s resources to elevate the the benefits of education or product to the next level. A key aspect affluent families. They just is the brand’s trademark use of Bison persevered through hard leather, which has been upgraded work and a strong vision. by the Horween Leather Company’s Chromoexcel tanning process that What famous person in takes 89 steps and involves 28 working history do you identify days to complete. Caplan says the wait with? As the brand that is more than worth it: “It’s really suphas made shoes for every ple and soft and it has a great patina,” president since Millard he explains. “It’s one of those materials Fillmore, I identify with that gets better with time.” Abraham Lincoln strictly on Trask will debut this fall at select the grounds that we both retailers and, Caplan reports, so far have large, hard-to-fit feet. so good. The name recognition has remained strong and the improved and expanded product line (including women’s for the first time) received a solid response from retailers. “It’s amazing how so many people have terrific memories of what that brand stood for,” Caplan says, noting Trask plays into the Americana trend in a more outdoor and leisure-time oriented way. “By what it was and what we are bringing, Trask is very distinctive,” he says, adding, “You don’t get very many chances to work on a brand like this in your career.” To that end, Caplan feels blessed to be working with brands rich in authenticity and backed by Genesco’s resources to keep them fresh and thriving. Having begun his footwear career in 1982 at Genesco and spending the ensuing decade managing a successful boot division, (he left for 10 years holding management positions at Stride Rite Corporation and Hi-Tec), he’s glad to have settled back at his corporate home. “Like a lot of people who have worked here, it’s like gum on the bottom of your shoe and it’s hard to leave,”

he says. “There’s tremendous amount of stability and integrity, and there are no politics. We are set up almost as a holding company and those of us who operate the businesses get to make operating decisions.” Caplan adds, “As you advance in your career, those are aspects that you appreciate more and more.” What is it about Johnston & Murphy that makes the brand so iconic? Regardless of what people are wearing, there are certain attributes that this brand possesses that never really go out of style: offering great quality, materials and workmanship. All of that gives the consumer really good value for their money. I think brands that reach iconic status have an obsession with quality. They transcend time What is your motto? with a classic feel. Even though you can “It’s all about the fun and reinvent what classic is, you can’t buy camaraderie.” Sometimes we those traits. Johnston & Murphy has have to remind ourselves that a trust that’s been built up over many while we take our business years. I get so many letters that inevseriously, we can’t always take itably start with the line: “I’ve been a ourselves so seriously. Johnston & Murphy customer for X number of years.” It’s usually a doubleMost coveted dinner guest: digit number, which reflects a remarkJerry Seinfeld. able amount of long-term relationships with its customers. Most guilty pleasure: Ice cream. But when you took over the reins in 2002 the situation was not nearly as What was your first-ever promising as it appears today. paying job? One summer When I came back to Genesco the during high school I cut cloth brand had lost its way a bit. The dress for a bookbinding supplier. shoe market was in a decline and we Those days are long gone. needed to broaden our appeal both in end uses and in consumers. The word What sound do you love? reinvention is probably too strong, but Children laughing. certainly a refresh and ability to look at how elastic the brand could be was What is your favorite in order. Fortunately, Johnston & Murhometown memory? I phy had such strong equity. I believe spent the first 12 years of my the core consumer never really lost any life in Athens, TN, where confidence in the brand. It was just that my parents ran an apparel what people wore to work had changed. shop. I was the store mascot I often say any brand that is successful and I loved talking with the today is probably not doing the same workers, reps and customers. things that made it successful many years ago. If you are going to stay relevant then you are going to go through a lot of changes, which is what we set out to do with Johnston & Murphy. For the last 10 years or so we’ve transformed it to multiple end uses. We now have strong casual and dress casual businesses. Casual is 25 to 30 percent of our business and dress casual (rubber bottoms) is 35 to 40 percent and the remainder is dress. We’ve also recently launched women’s. And we are starting to see some really exciting things going on in the dress market.


Men’s dress was left for dead but it seems to be alive and growing again. The turn around the last two years has been really fun to witness. When you look at the demographics of this country there’s a huge emerging opportunity with millennials. Often they are buying dress shoes for the first or second time, so they are discovering the brand as if it’s their own. They’re buying into the quality and authenticity of Johnston & Murphy. And that’s coupled

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with what I believe are a lot of people who are viewing Americana as a long-term aesthetic. Bu we are having some fun with it as well. It doesn’t have to be staid and conservative. It can be colorful and almost whimsical. For example, we are featuring some mixed materials—a wing tip upper in colorful suede and laces and a different color EVA bottom. We are reinventing a classic silhouette in a very modern and fun way.

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How big might this millennials market be for dress? That’s difficult to answer. But it seems to have a lot of legs because people are wearing dress shoes not only for fashion statement purposes, but also a lot of people entering the workforce are wearing them because it remains a very tight market. You have people wanting to feel more confident and are dressing more appropriately. And, like a lot of large trends, you are seeing it span several age groups. That’s always what we look for when a trend looks to be really significant. I can’t overlook the simple fact that too many people took casual office attire to a sloppy extreme. Call it the flip-flops backlash. No doubt. And certainly the recession served as a wakeup call to eschew those overly casual fashion statements in the workplace. How has this renewed interest in dress footwear and, in particular, the tailored trend played into Johnston & Murphy’s entrance into women’s? Actually, we decided to extend into women’s prior to the men’s tailored trend coming on strong. In fact, we had the whole launch strategy in place and when the first product line came to market it was right when the recession hit. The first couple of seasons would have been a challenge, but they were especially difficult given the overall economic environment. But looking back on it, it’s been a learning curve that I wouldn’t trade for anything. I’m glad we didn’t wait until the economy became healthier. We kept it very small in a select number of our stores because we wanted to get the product right, find our voice and get some consumer acceptance before we went out with it to our broader distribution. Spring truly marked the soft launch of Johnston & Murphy women’s line and our fall delivery will be more significant. And… We’ve gotten a great response from consumers. It’s really exceeded our expectations and we believe women’s presents a great opportunity for us going forward. And I will note that we shied away from the men’s tailored trend at first, even though we saw it coming. We didn’t want people to think, “Oh, they only know how to make men’s shoes and are doing them now in small sizes and calling it women’s…” But the trend kept getting stronger and, unlike a lot of brands that try and take advantage of a trend regardless of whether it looks like anything that they’ve ever done before, we have the authenticity, archives and expertise. But we also took it to another level. We didn’t want to just do what people might have expected from us in terms of men’s tailored looks. We were already experimenting with color on the men’s side and women’s gave us the latitude to do so much more in terms of color and materials. We can make it very whimsical. That’s really played well into our wheelhouse.

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Why will women accept Johnston & Murphy beyond being in step with the current men’s tailored trend? First of all, women own a lot more brands than men. If you go into any women’s closet you will find a multitude of brands. Men, for the most part, have a much smaller consideration set and are more likely to go back to the same brand and, if able, to the same style repeatedly. You will rarely find a woman buy the same style two seasons in a row, unless it’s a new color or material update. So we didn’t have that barrier at the start. Then there’s our brand equity. For years women often have asked why we didn’t make shoes like that for them? We’ve heard over and over that they loved the beautiful craftsmanship.

7/22/13 3:01 PM

How do you see the line evolving beyond men’s tailored looks? It already has. At shows this month retailers will see a broad-based collection that features plenty of great colors and materials, lots of flats and lots of comfortable engineering built into the entire product range. It’s very versatile and fits within that dress casual to casual range. It’s product that women wear every day, be it in an office, at night or on weekends. Who, exactly, is the Johnston & Murphy woman? We have great materials and product engineering, so you are not going to see a lot of opening price points. You are going to see bridge product mostly in the $150 to $250 retail range. So you are talking about women who don’t mind some investment spending but also are not the type to spend $500 to $600 on designer labels. There’s a practical nature to our target consumer but an appreciation of quality and fine materials. We are not trendy, but we are trend-right. And, along the lines of the Americana trend, you’ll see a lot of moccasin constructions that look great, are versatile and extremely comfortable. That’s a great trait about Johnston & Murphy, whether it’s men’s or women’s, the product is extremely wearable. That’s always a good place to start. With women accounting for approximately 70 percent of all footwear sales, what do you envision as the gender’s potential share within Johnston & Murphy? We definitely see a significant opportunity. As long as we can continue to offer great options then there’s really no limit to the size of the opportunity. It could be a 50-50 split at some point. There are certainly case studies within the industry where that’s happened. What attracted you to the Trask opportunity? Trask is one of those great brand stories. It was launched by Harrison Trask, who is a larger than life character who had a really great brand vision that captured the imagination of a lot of consumers and people in the trade. What we’ve done is taken those great qualities and vision and, with our resources, elevated the product to the next level. In addition to the premium Bison leather story, we have introduced ram, lamb and elk skins—really wonderful, soft supple leathers—throughout the collection. And we are including latex-based outsoles that have incredible shockabsorbing and soft characteristics. We also introduced a women’s collection. We think it deserves to be a dual gender brand. In fact, I think if Harrison had the resources available to him back in his day he would have done exactly the things we are doing. How has the reaction been by retailers? It’s been tremendous. People who knew the brand were amazed at how we were able to take it to another level. And those who didn’t know the brand fell in love with it because the product is just so unique and wonderful. It falls into that accessible luxury category—a price range that spans $188 to $295 with some boots priced higher. Personally, if you are going to make product in that range it really has to feel expensive, and this does. This is investment footwear that people will keep for years. We use the term heirloom footwear, because it just will get better with time. When compared to other similarly priced items, I believe there’s no combination of materials, comfort and timeless style similar to Trask.

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This goes well beyond the outdoor specialty tier, right? It does. And the difference with a lot of outdoor product is that it is more functionally positioned. This goes beyond function and really gets to what we describe as an emotional connection to the product. It’s a product that you just love to wear. But it’s not for everybody and it’s not going to be available at all retailers. Any guesstimates of Trask’s long-term potential, taking into account that you are basically starting from scratch? It’s really hard to put a dollar sign on it, but if you look at other suc- >86

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Candy-color metallics are in full bloom. 38 • august 2013

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POWER LAUNCH Summit, Monkki, Walk-Over and Flogg prepare for liftoff amid growing expectations that these are not your everyday run-of-the-mill launches. Here’s why these four possess that booster rocket capacity. By Angela Velasquez

AS INDUSTRY VETERAN Kevin Mancuso, CEO of White Mountain, the conglomerate behind the new Summit brand, puts it: There’s no such thing as an easy launch today. No matter the industry, most companies’ budgets are tight, numbers must be met and opinions run rampant on whether a new concept has that little extra something to make it a star amid a sea of other launches. In the footwear industry, where the talent pool runs deep but factories are shared and retailers are cautious about taking a risk on any new brand, the odds at becoming a meaningful launch are all the greater. “It’s always challenging and difficult to launch anything new,” Mancuso says, who has decades of experience launching brands. “However, if you present yourself well and make a case that your

product is needed, it will be accepted,” the exec adds. If it were only that easy. Truth be told, of the countless new brand concepts that arrive amid great fanfare each season only a few, if any, will survive to the next season. And an even scarcer few may ever become a significant player. It takes planning, talent, resources, timing, experience and, perhaps, a little bit of magic for a brand launch to become a megastar. The launches of Summit, Monkki, Walk-Over women’s and Flogg have rumblings that they may just have what it takes. From tried-andtrue silhouettes to fresh takes on summer fashion, the industry execs leading their charges dish on why they believe they’re holding on to lightning in a bottle.

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Golden Girl

Titan Industries’ newest It brand, Flogg, tempts with signature California cool and pillow-like comfort.

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It’s 1758 all over again as Walk-Over, the oldest footwear brand in the U.S., re-launches a women’s collection. Sir Thomas Johnstone Lipton, the creator of Lipton tea, wore the brand in the 1800s. So has Bill Murray in the pages of GQ, not to mention members of British boy band sensation, One Direction as well as members of Maroon 5 and models on the Mercedes-Benz Fashion Week runways. And come Spring ’14, women with a keen eye for tailoring and color will once again have a chance to enjoy the Walk-Over experience. The iconic, American-made brand is set to launch its first women’s collection since last century—the 1980s, to be specific. Walk-Over General Manager James Rowley believes the brand has big, global potential for such an authentic American heritage brand. Following the same game plan as the re-launch of the men’s range in 2010, Rowley reports that the brand is taking an international approach to the women’s debut by tapping into the U.S., Japanese and Italian markets, which he notes are hungry for American-made products. “These markets are very driven by authentic Americana styling,” he explains. “We’ve been asked for women’s styles from our retailers since we re-launched men’s, but now with the continued importance of men’s tailoring for women, coupled with the huge demand for American product, we felt like the timing is perfect.” Since the Walk-Over revival, Tom McClaskie, president and creative director, says it has always been the brand’s intention to bring women’s back into the fold. “We have carefully redesigned these styles to appeal to our female customers, taking time to select the perfect last and detailing,” he says. The collection will bow with the well-known Derby Classic, Saddle Classic and neon Derby 100. Retail prices span $225 to $395. Retailers can also pick from traditional tan buck, white suede and chocolate saddle shoes, as well as ladylike color combinations such as lavender oxfords with bright pink soles and a sky blue saddle shoe with red leather accents to appeal to the fairer sex. Known for bench-made classic footwear with a twist, Rowley notes color is often the deciding factor that sets Walk-Over styles apart from the rest of the sales floor—a brand trademark that translates well in women’s. As the exec explains, “That twist is the color bottoms and the pops of color throughout the line. We know how to use color.” Going forward the brand will explore more natural hues and metallic materials. A fisherman sandal and T-strap will join the mix, and further down the road, the women’s line will be flushed out with more women’s-specific silhouettes. “We’ve kept the ball moving,” Rowley says. “We’ve launched a lot of new men’s constructions since we started to redevelop that line and we are looking to add more sandal opportunities for women, yet remain true to our history.” That history, despite being rooted in the men’s market, is an invaluable asset that Rowley believes will help make Walk-Over a star. “We’re definitely going after a high-end, aspirational customer that is chic, on-trend and appreciates man-tailored styles,” he describes. And thanks to sweeping window displays at Saks Fifth Avenue in New York, frequent editorial placement in leading fashion magazines and shopping for the fashionable men in their lives, he is confident that the target Walk-Over female consumer is already familiar with the brand.

Don’t let the soaring platforms and laidback California vibe fool you. When Joe Ouaknine, CEO of Titan Industries, got a first glimpse of Flogg, a project that former Blonde Ambition, Alegria and Devani designer Carol de Leon had been cooking up in her kitchen (literally), the footwear veteran saw something he’d never seen before. “All I could think of was, ‘It’s so easy. Why didn’t anyone think of this before’,” he says. What lay before Ouaknine was a collection of women’s shoes— some with a 5-inch heel—on a chunky wood base, with trendy materials, playful colors and an EVA cushioned insole that feet literally sank into. “If you see my previous designs, it is evident that I have been experimenting with EVA and wood for a long time,” de Leon explains. “I like these two materials because they can be shaped by hand and layered in different ways to create a very interesting look.” Rather than use a high-density EVA—which she typically used for visual attributes like color blocking—de Leon chose to pair a lower density EVA to create an insole that gave the comfort of a flip-flop with the structure and stability of a wood foundation. The result is a collection of shoes coined Flogg (flip-flop meets clog) inspired by iconic bombshells like Brigitte Bardot and Farrah Fawcett, that the designer believes fills the ever-present void of fashionable, sexy, comfortable shoes. After keeping prototypes under wraps and out of factories (de Leon enlisted only shoe technicians with whom she had long-established relationships), the line had a soft launch late last spring at a time when buyers had most of their budgets spent, but the response to the ’70s-inspired line showed promise. “As a designer creating a product that has never been done before, there are two hurdles that you have to pass before you can breath a sigh of relief: Acceptance from the buyers and, ultimately, sell-through to consumers,” de Leon says. That sigh came in a big way just 10 days after the first delivery at Nordstrom. “[The line] had already achieved a 45-percent sell through, which surprised everyone,” she says. ShopBop, Nasty Gal and Bloomingdale’s have since been added to Flogg’s eclectic roster of retailers and the line is attracting the likes of Barneys and Saks Fifth Avenue with a high-end collection for Spring ’14. Instinct has guided de Leon to stay keyed in on five silhouettes, a concept that she likens to Swatch. “My focus was to have the consumer fall in love with the fit and feel of the Flogg construction and want it many colors,” she explains. For Spring ’14 that includes a punch of parakeet green and vegetable dyed pastel leathers juxtaposed on wood heels left unfinished to let the color shine. Woven bands of tribal print inspired by exotic locations like Peru and Africa spice up the collection. And with retail prices in the affordable $99 to $150 range, de Leon thinks her plan is working, as requests for more are spilling in. Ouaknine calls Flogg his “golden egg.” Having been at the helm of many successful launches—Badgley Mischka, Charles Jourdan and L.A.M.B., to name a few—he believes the brand’s unique recipe of comfort and style will garner a cult-like status among a broad range of consumers and, thanks to its “cute” factor, will be a viable player even in cold weather months. “There’s never a perfect time to launch a brand because you can look at it two ways: business is bad or business is bad and something fresh is needed to liven up the market,” he reasons. “In the end, you have to go with your gut.” 2013 august • 45

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Peak Condition

Having launched White Mountain, Cliffs and Rialto, Kevin Mancuso and his team are reaching new heights—and a higher tier—with Summit. No one could ever accuse Kevin Mancuso, CEO of White Mountain, his Creative Director Jon Cali and division head and co-line builder Kevin Earnest of having a fear of heights. Having conquered the low and mid-tier market with White Mountain, Cliffs by White Mountain and Rialto, the New Englandbased footwear stalwarts have their eyes set on higher ground come Spring ’14. The team will introduce Summit, a new brand of all leather women’s shoes priced from $125 to $175 retail. With a nod to White Mountain’s classic oxford heritage and a heap of Americana styling, Mancuso says the line fills the void of leather-lined, quality footwear. “Where a lot of people have moved onto doing high heels, embellishments and high fashion looks, we see a demand for wearable shoes with a real attention to details and materials,” he explains. Giving Summit a head start: The parent company is sitting on 30-plus year’s worth of archives—styles that are very similar to the footwear (new and old) Earnest sees trending on fashionable streets around the world. “My daughter shops at the cool vintage and resale shops and, every now and then, she comes across an old White Mountain oxford from the ’80s or ’90s,” he shares. “It’s like, hmm, wouldn’t it be great to see if we can get back into that business.” The company is taking that leap with the collection of oxfords, monk straps, spectators and loafers with a tailored yet casual feel. The later spring delivery will bring more open silhouettes, including fisherman sandals and chop-out constructions. “The sandals are a little more complicated and interesting than just a flip-flop,” Earnest offers. Colors will remain neutral—think nude, white and light pink— but details like perforation, color-blocking and exotics will pack a subtle punch. “We want to remain known as a company that makes wearable shoes,” Ernest says, noting the line is clean and doesn’t have a lot of metal or stud pieces. “We see the marketing shifting more towards conservative and classic themes,” he adds. Mancuso has aimed high with Summit, noting it’s the top tier brand for the company thanks to some of the exotic skins like snake and fish sprinkled throughout the collection. Positioned for retailers like Saks Fifth Avenue and Bloomingdale’s, he reports Summit’s early excitement is bringing back fond memories of when White Mountain was first launched and made a huge splash. Key accounts and press got a sneak peek of Summit at the June edition of FFANY. The response: extremely positive. “They thought it was a really fresh way of updating classic Americana styles,” Mancuso says, adding he expects some of the city sandals and oxfords with a block heel to appeal to a younger demographic of consumers. As veteran shoemakers, Mancuso believes the team has a hunger for producing better-grade product. Summit fits the bill, and it starts by getting back to the company’s leather roots. Specifically, Summit styles are made with the same focus on quality materials as White Mountain shoes were in the olden days. “We had the last leather manufacturing in New Hampshire, and everything was leather, leather, leather,” Mancuso says. Earnest adds, “We make a lot of shoes with synthetics but we all have a craving for leather shoes and no substitutions, just an honest and pure leather line that tells our story.”

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Be it Miami or Maui, there’s something about white-hot sand and cool coastlines that beckon even the most fashionably conservative men to take a chance on vibrant colors. Think of how colorful swimsuits have become, Serge Abecassis, CEO of Prodigy Brands, offers. “Men are not afraid of blue, orange, yellow, red swimsuits, but then you get to their sandals and they are still in basic brown or black,” he says. “We want to change that.” And when it comes to beach fashion, the Florida resident and men’s footwear aficionado, knows a thing or two about dressing for the Sun Belt lifestyle and is embarking on a brand new color wave called Monkki for Spring ’14. Based on the premise of living life in a peaceful, fun-loving and carefree way, the line of high-end sandals are available in an extensive selection of colors (15 in all) that Abecassis sees as a way for men to express themselves. Colors span sea foam green (his personal favorite) to sky blue, bright orange and deep red as well as more traditional takes on tan and gray, meaning there’s a Monkki flavor for everyone. “There’s only so much you can do to men’s sandals, but if there’s one thing that can make an impact, it is color,” he reasons, adding that during market research he was shocked to see no other brands offering a range of colors. Abecassis believes it’s, well, a golden opportunity. Classic sandal silhouettes, including a flip-flop, crisscross, slide and toe strap versions, drive the line’s simple and clean look. Leathercovered EVA outsoles coupled with luxurious leather and suede uppers deliver the “aah factor” that Abecassis predicts will appeal to the hip surfer and skater guys, just as well as the 60-year-old men relaxing in their Florida sunroom. Other styles feature tie-dye effects and fabric-like textures embossed onto premium leathers. “It’s very typical to see men in these markets (Hawaii, California, Florida) wear sandals year round on weekends and to work. People dress differently here because it is 90 degrees with high humidity. Sandals are acceptable footwear,” he explains. Monkki’s debut collection is divided into two price categories: 100-percent leather styles will retail around $100 and leather styles combined with a rubber outsole start at $70. “Once the consumer see the shoes, they’ll go crazy for it,” Abecassis predicts. And while pricing a flip-flop at $100 might raise an eyebrow or two, the exec is confident this is a wardrobe staple and worth the added investment. “If it’s going to be part of your everyday wardrobe, why not invest in a shoe that is as comfortable as it is well-made and nice to look at,” he says. The brand hopes to crack Bloomingdale’s, Saks and Nordstrom in its first year and Abecassis is already dreaming up a fall collection which will include booties and more closed-toe options. Abecassis feels the timing to debut a new line is ideal. “The economy has been down for a while, but last season you felt like it was opening up more,” he says. “There’s more optimism.” That life’s a beach attitude is reverberated in the brand’s signature monkey caricature featured on the bottom of the sandals and on all hangtags, which Abecassis says exemplifies Monkki’s desire for its wearers to enjoy the luxuries and comforts the footwear offers as well as the beautiful, natural surroundings where they are hopefully worn. •

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DAVE ASTOBIZA, CO-OWNER of Sole Desire, has a few cardinal retail rules of thumb that he and his co-owner and brother, Danny, live and are thriving by since taking over their parents’ business in 2005. No. 1.: Sole Desire has no plans to ever sell shoes online. Most anyone in retail today would surely ask, why? Or, more aptly, how could you pass up that opportunity in this day and age? While Astobiza admits it’s a “tough call,” he reasons, “In my honest opinion, it’s really hard to make money as an independent selling on the web.” Astobiza believes the Internet retail tier is not a fair playing field as it’s hard to “compete with the big boys.” Once you offer free shipping, which is a must in order to satisfy consumers, you are pretty much losing money, Astobiza explains. Minus the online platform, Astobiza knows he and his brother must work extra hard in every aspect of the business—from ensuring employees are trained, motivated and, above all else, happy, to making sure merchandise appeals to the ever-changing tastes of its ontrend clientele, to establishing meaningful and trusted wholesale partnerships, to making sure Sole Desire stores are conveniently located so that customers feel welcome to shop. That brings us to Sole Desire’s second cardinal retail rule of thumb: Never be afraid to change. “As the world changes, that’s our biggest strength,” offers Astobiza, advising retailers to never get stuck in their old ways. Take Sole Desire’s dramatic action regarding its merchandise mix. “We’ve carried men’s shoes in every single store for 15 years and we recently decided to take them out because they weren’t as profitable as women’s,” he says. “I don’t think my dad would have ever done that,” he adds with a laugh. Since making the change, however, Sole Desire has been able to better carve out a specific customer niche, focus on maximizing sales in that segment and—as an added bonus—have been able to pay their employees more due to the increase in overall sales. Astobiza says price isn’t the main issue for the Sole Desire customer, which generally ranges between 35 to 70 years old, and seeks high-end comfort footwear ranging from $80 to $300 retail. Specifically, Astobiza says 80 percent of them are between the ages of 45 and 60, and they aren’t looking for orthopedic options. These women are looking for on-trend styles first and expect comfort second. Current top-selling brands include Arcopedico, Taos, Spring Step and Reiker. Harkening back to rule No. 1, he adds that customers who see price as the most important buying factor tend to shop online. In contrast, he believes customers willing to pay in the hundreds for footwear are usually looking for the total service package: selection, atmosphere and fit experience. “Putting customers first is one of the main advantages we have over the Internet,” he adds. Another advantage over the Internet: loca-

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customer they receive $5 off a pair of shoes and an tion, location, location. Along those lines, Astoextra $5 on each additional pair sold. Employees biza recently noticed that many women were are paid a flat base and don’t receive commission turned off of the Sole Desire stores located in to ensure every associate has a chance to make large shopping malls. His customers, serious a living. Employees are also about finding the right comfort instructed to push accessoshoe, no longer wanted to deal ries sales, with a 10 percent with the younger crowds floodgain from every sale, which ing shopping malls just to hang Astobiza views as more along out. Sole Desire’s target customer the lines of a reward than a didn’t feel comfortable shopping commission. Employees are in such a setting. “The malls are also given flexible hours and getting younger and scary,” Astomanagers receive full health biza says. “Some of our customers benefits. “That’s where my are afraid to go in them.” brother and I are good at what Even though Astobiza admits we do,” Astobiza says. “We he used to be a huge advocate make money on the back end for shopping malls, he held so we can support our people true to his second retail rule of on the front end.” thumb and closed Sole Desire’s Cardinal retail rule of two shopping mall locations. “If thumb No. 4: Always dazzle they’re not your customer, the customers with selection and amount of traffic doesn’t matter,” service. Similar to reward he says. All 12 Sole Desire stores programs for the staff, Sole are now located in free-standing, lifestyle shopping centers, which In their element: Danny and Dave Astobiza Desire implements incentives for customers to keep are located next to other highthem coming back. For example, for every $500 end boutiques that Astobiza believes benefits Sole a customer spends he or she will receive $30 off Desire, since their ideal customer is already shoptheir next purchased pair; If they spend $1,000, ping those establishments. they will receive $100 off. Sole Desire avoids seasonal sales and, instead, frequently hosts in-store HIRE SMILES events such as shoe parties on weekends or ladies Cardinal retail rule of thumb No. 3: Happy night out socials that include complimentary employees are loyal and good employees. Once wine and cheese as well as a prize wheel that cusAstobiza finds an employee with potential (a key tomers can spin for coupons and deals. “We give trait is their predisposition to smile often), he and them a reason to come back and shop with us,” his brother work hard at keeping them happy and says the savvy owner. motivated. “Most people who work for us stay for To ensure that customers are well attended to, a long time,” he says. He credits Sole Desire’s loyal sales associates are required to bring out at least workforce to the company’s reward systems. If a four pairs for each shopper. Sole Desire also measales associate sells two pairs of shoes to a single

Sole Desire offers a mix of the leading women’s comfort brands.

BY THE NUMBERS Sole Desire has 12 shops in Northern California. The most recent location is a 5,550-square-foot space in Santa Rosa. Currently, all store locations are within 2 hours drive of each other. For 8 years the Astobiza brothers have co-owned Sole Desire and have since opened 9 stores—5 in the last year alone. Astobiza claims he and his brother can open a new store within 30 days. “All of our stores have similar themes, so we’re not starting from scratch,” he says. The brothers also paint and install shelves themselves, which cuts down on opening time. Thanks to a successful business track record, the Astobizas have been able to negotiate the last 5 spaces at low have 5- to 10-year leases. One store’s lease was signed on Nov. 15 and opened by Dec. 1. The rent was cut a hefty 25 percent because the place would have sat vacant otherwise. 2 of a kind: Astobiza says he and his brother “think like twins” although they handle different aspects of the business. Dave handles operations; staff, hiring, etc. while Danny is the head buyer and in charge of finances. The 1 disadvantage of working with family is that you’re always talking about work. A fact compounded by each of their wives being involved in the business, taking care of accounts, marketing and Sole Desire’s growing accessories business, which includes handbags, scarves and insoles. Sales are up 15 percent. With more stores comes more sales, but Astobiza credits the recent sales surge to accessories being added to the mix during the past 2 years. —B.L.

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sures each customer’s foot, something Astobiza says is not widely practiced, even in many independent locations due to cuts in the number of employees and training as well as the itch for a speedy sale. “You have to set a standard of service and be on that like crazy,” he says. He also makes sure all sales associates thank customers extensively for their time, especially if they purchase something. Cardinal retail rule of thumb No. 5: Build solid connections with vendors. “We don’t carry a brand we don’t have a meaningful vendor relationship with,” Astobiza maintains. He adds that the key to strong vendor partnerships is being upfront with them from day one. “Then we can create a plan to make it work for both sides,” he adds. Along those lines, Astobiza looks for vendors who will help enhance Sole Desire’s marketing efforts. For example, key vendors often sponsor the in-store shoe parties, help with sales training techniques and provide in-store displays. At the same time, Astobiza advises retailers not to get too cozy with any one vendor. A friendship must never get in the way of the ability to evolve with the market if a brand is no longer working. “You never know what the next 10 years is going to be like,” he says.


Cardinal retail rule of thumb rule No. 6: Change is a constant. Despite the tremendous success Sole Desire has experienced over the years—the dynamic duo has opened nine stores (five in just the last year) and sales the last two years were the best in the company’s history—Astobiza remains cognizant of an ever-changing industry and retail landscape. “Traffic overall is way down and it’s not coming back,” he says, referring to the market since the financial crisis. “Brick-andmortars have to be special; there’s just no room for error.” Astobiza believes, for example, retailers can no longer rely on a hot brand to sell itself the way they once could. “Even Ugg is getting a little tougher [to sell],” he says. It’s precisely why he believes strongly in being able to continually adapt as a business owner. To that end, Astobiza not only knows what kind of styles and brands his customers are interested in before they even know in many cases, he also understands their unique shopping traits and preferences. “If a customer is 50 she’s dressing like she’s 40,” Astobiza offers. Thus it entails looking out for the latest relevant trends and providing the correct assortment of styles and add-ons for his customers. Cardinal retail rule of thumb No. 7: Parents know best. Astobiza’s parents, David and Mary, opened the first Sole Desire store in Santa Rosa, CA, in 1990 while his mom was the sales manager for Birkenstock and his father had 20 years of wholesale experience with Brown Shoe Company under his belt. Their timing was ideal: Birkenstock was at the precipice of a major revival thanks largely to the onset of the grunge and green movements that swept

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through the ’90s and helped make the hippieera staple fashionable again. The original store did so well, in fact, the Astobizas took the space next door, turning their 1,300-square-foot location into a 3,500-square-foot Euro comfort mecca complete with faux columns and European paintings. Soon after, a second and third store opened in 1994 and 1995, respectively. In addition to learning the importance of a strong selection and enticing décor, the Astobiza brothers adhered to many of their parents’ other retail rules of thumb. No. 1: Provide top-notch customer service. “My parents were always in the stores and treated all their customers like family,” Astobiza says. He also credits them for teaching him and his brother to never be afraid to change and have always been advocates for shopping carefully for new vendors and constantly networking. “They went to a lot of shows and always looked for what was up and coming. I think that’s still important today,” Astobiza says, noting that he and his brother are proud to continue their parent’s retail legacy. It’s a “motivating factor” in honoring the business they created. Full disclosure: Astobiza confesses that neither he nor his brother ever planned to enter the shoe business. Even though growing up, the Astobiza household had shoes everywhere, often stacking on the dinner table at meals, the interest failed to transcend to the sons. It wasn’t until sales took off and the brothers began helping their parents on the sales floor did they realize “what a great business they created.” The brothers loved connecting with customers and discovered that they were good at it. Selling shoes ran in their blood, after all. They were natural salesmen, in fact. The rest is Sole Desire history. That brings us to the last cardinal retail rule of thumb (No. 8): Never say never. Astobiza says they don’t have a set goal of how many stores they may open, but they aren’t looking to expand outside the Golden State—yet. “Finding really good [employees] is hard,” he says. He notes that running a shoe business is the easy part about opening a new store. It’s much more difficult to find good associates and managers who they can trust will help the business grow in the right way and for the long term. More stores also means more responsibilities and being spread that much thinner. Expanding beyond California would be more difficult for the Astobizas to stay on top of things and ensure their signature customer service is maintained. “If I ever think about opening a store, it’s never really so much about the money,” he says. “It’s always about making sure we can get the right people.” To that end Astobiza insists Sole Desire is still open to expansion in California “if opportunities present themselves.” Because, well, the Astobiza brothers say it themselves, “never say never” and “don’t be afraid to change.” “We’re businessmen before shoe people,” Astobiza surmises. •

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Y 1985 MARTY Green and his wife, Wendy, owned two shoe stores in Ridgewood and Westwood, NJ, almost by happenstance. After getting married at age 20, Green, who was a musician at the time, began working at a Shoetown outlet in Long Island as a stock boy to pay the bills. Within a few years, he worked his way up to district manager and then became a buyer at the chain’s corporate headquarters in New Jersey. From there, he was asked to run a store called Just Our Shoes and, within a few years, he and his wife purchased the business so they could run it their way. The two locations have since become a family affair for the Greens. The 2,500-square-foot Ridgewood store is the company’s flagship and one-half of the space exists as a Mephisto concept store. Each day the couple brings their dog Daisy Mae to work and Green says that after 45 years of marriage he and his wife “are basically the same person.” She takes care of their growing e-commerce business with their son Matthew, and he works more on the floor of their two stores. The strong family vibe transcends to its loyal customers. “Most of our customers are like family,” Green confirms. “We know everyone on a first-name basis.” —Brittany Leitner What are your top selling brands? Mephisto, Thierry Rabotin, Arche, Dansko and Naot. What has been the best new brand added to your store’s mix in the past year? Pas De Rouge; the shoes are very fashionable. Today, everyone wants comfort but they also don’t want to give up their fashion. What are your top-selling accessories? Falke socks. They’re high-end and sell for about $25 a pair. Has this season met your sales expectations? We got off to a late start. June was the first good month because the weather prior had been horrendous— nothing but cold and rain made for a challenging spring. And last year was the best year we’d ever had in the 25 years we’ve been in business. We’re up against huge numbers and we’ve just started to see the light again. How would you describe the overall mood of your customers? Customers are holding back a little bit. They used to come in and buy four or five pairs and now they’re buying two or three. The good news is we are making new customers all the time because as people get older they become more and more aware of needing comfortable shoes. What is the biggest challenge facing your business? The Internet. We have to have what customers want when they walk in, otherwise they will buy it online. What’s your take on showrooming? It’s the way of the world today. You have to deal with it. But people buy from people they like. We’ll bring out

From top: Meet store mascot Daisy Mae and a taste of Just Our Shoes’ tempting mix of fashion and comfort from Dansko (middle) and Thierry Rabotin.

the entire stockroom for a customer of we have to. We don’t hold back. We’ll bring out as many shoes as we possibly can before they say, “Enough!” What is the smartest business move you have done recently? Staying out on the salesfloor more and talking to customers and listening to what they’re saying and what they’re looking for. What’s your outlook on sales for this fall? I’m enthusiastic but it’s too early to tell. With the economy being what it is, people are still skeptical and the only thing I’m concerned about is the rising prices of footwear. I think the consumer is going to reach a limit and say, “Enough is enough.” Where do you see your business five years from now? I want to keep doing what we do best: making our customers happy. Hopefully [one day] my son will take over.

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ITH NO RETAIL experience, Toni and Frank Budworth took a chance on the shoe business after they were offered a no-money-down, low-rent deal on store space in Stockton, a city in the Golden State’s Central Valley region. The year was 1986 and the husband and wife duo opened a Birkenstock-only specialty store and, 16 years later, they opened Birkenstock Midtown about an hour’s drive north in the capital city of Sacramento that specializes in customer service and carries more than 20 leading brands such as Finn Comfort, Earthies and, of course, Birkenstock. The Budworths have been working together for 27 of their 32 years of marriage. In fact, they closed their original location in 2005 after realizing they missed working together. Toni, who has a background in real estate, says she’s more involved in the aesthetics of the business. She loves coming up with creative displays and says her husband, who has a background in computer science, can always find a way to enhance her ideas and make them that much more striking. They both participate in the buying process. “We literally are the mom-and-pop store,” Toni laughs. The 1,950-square-foot space serves as a home away from home for the Budworths and their display of family photos in-store and personal touches like sharing bottles of water and baked scones with shoppers allow customers to feel like part of the family, too. “It’s a little corny, but people feel like they know us,” Toni says. —Brittany Leitner What are your top selling brands? Birkenstock is easily number one. Naot had a huge jump this year, and then Dansko, Earthies and Finn Comfort.

What’s your take on showrooming? It feels like they’re stealing my time. I appreciate it if people are candid with me rather than just playing a game. I try to educate people a bit if they’re leaving and I suspect they are going to buy it elsewhere. I say to them, “I hope you choose to support a local business.” Our community is really conscious of supporting independent retailers. We’ve lost enough retailers in the area that many people want to make sure we stay here. What’s the smartest thing, business-wise, that you have done recently? Being able to correct our inventory in-season. We’ve had product that hasn’t moved as well as we hoped and some of our vendors have been willing to trade it out for something that works better. If you could change one thing about this year, what would it be? Right now I’m feeling less connected with my staff because I’ve been out of the store more [to care for a family member]. You’re located on a busy street in Sacramento, what’s your best window display to date? We won a prize from Dansko last year for a display. I had the idea to make it look like a photo shoot, so we printed their lifestyle images as if they were contact prints. My husband thought of hooking up a photo flash so every time someone walked in, a flash would go off on our display. What is your outlook for sales this fall? Any brands or trends you are high on? Naot is on the top of the list. What I love about their line is I see the trends in fashion when I go to the shows and then Naot refines it into a comfort shoe you know is going to be foot friendly. Similarly, a lot of women bought the Earthies flat with perforations. It’s a cute shoe for work with great support. For fall, it’s similar but updated with lots of metallic and luxurious leather. What are your goals for the rest of this year? I want to continue to be in close communication with our customers. And I would hope to see that 15 percent [growth] for fall as well.

What has been the best new brand added to your store’s mix in the past year? Jafa, an Israeli brand. We bought timidly into it because it’s a new brand in the U.S., but it’s had a nice response. We like to sprinkle things that are more unique and are almost boutique-looking. What are your top selling accessories? We do very well with Baggallini; it stands out as our best handbag. We are also one of the only stores in Sacramento that sells Brighton jewelry. Has this past season met your sales expectations? They’ve surpassed them. I think we are up 15 percent this season. Who is the most challenging customer you’ve serviced recently? A woman in her mid-70s who had dramatically different sized feet. She said, “I don’t expect you to have anything that will work for my feet, but if you don’t mind I’ll look around.” Naot ended up working for her as well as Earthies and Jafa. And, to accommodate her, we sold the second pair at half price. She spent $1,000 on five pairs and left ecstatic. She came back about a week later and bought another pair and told me she was so thrilled with being able to have shoes that work well that she had gone back to the gym and planned to travel again.

Down on the corner: Birkenstock Midtown’s location since 2002.

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Two Lips


Cover Girls

Fun and glamorous tropical prints are just too good to relegate to skinny straps or largely hidden insoles. Instead, the retro resort-inspired textiles dazzle on bold wedge heels, serving more as a billboard for the juicy and delectable designs. By Angela Velasquez



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Georgia Boot

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Earthy textures and natural materials enhance spring silhouettes.

Clockwise from top: Cobb Hill wedge sandal, Artola hi-top sneaker, stiletto by Isola, Taos wedge, Two Lips wedge mule.

P H O T O G R A P H Y B Y T R E V E T T M C C A N D L I S S • FA S H I O N E D I T I N G B Y A N G E L A V E L A S Q U E Z

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Clockwise from top left: Sofft slide, Timberland wedge sandal, Obsession Rules wedge with metallic flecks, snake print cork sandal by Born, Aetrex laser cut sandal.


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Clockwise from top left: Ugg skimmer, Sperry Top-Sider espadrille sneaker, lace up by Wolverine 1883, Naot slide. Opposite: moccasin by Minnetonka.


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L.A.M.B. short boot, loafer by Johnston & Murphy. Opposite: French Sole slingback flat, vintage dresses, R.J. Graziano jewelry. 70

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Two Lips flat, Mango dress, R.J. Graziano necklace. Elliot Luca woven heel, vintage dress, stylist's bangles.

Nicole two-piece heel, pump with double ankle straps by Modern Vice. Opposite: Mango dress, R.J. Graziano jewelry. 74

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Shelly London houndstooth Chelsea boot, patent lace up by Very Volatile, Hush Puppies two-tone oxford. Opposite: Restricted wedge, dresses by Camilla & Marc, R.J. Graziano jewelry. Fashion editor: Angela Velasquez; hair: Adrian Clark, The Wall Group; makeup: Deanna Melluso, The Magnet Agency; models: Liv and Kristy, IMG. 77

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Creative Recreation



Now You See Me Sneakers can’t hide from the legion of camouflage prints for Spring ’14.


unexpected and timeless.” Wholesale prices for Marchez Vous span $125 to $285. Smith hopes to add men’s footwear, belts and bags in the future. —Angela Velasquez

are part of our current spring line, but I’m kind of obsessed with them. They are ridiculously comfortable and the colors are so fresh and pretty. I’m wearing them all the time.

Where do you find your design inspiration? Everywhere, but my favorite decades are from 1930 to 1960. I look there first because there are so many enduring silhouettes that have come out of those 30 years.

What is your first shoe memory? I was six years old and I mixed a polka dot dress my mother made with pink and orange striped tights and red shoes topped off with about 30 barrettes and thought, “Oh yeah, this is fashion, people. I know you want to be me.”

When are you at your most creative? I get a lot of ideas in the shower, or while I’m driving. I keep a little notepad with me at all times so I don’t forget.

Which trend do you hope never comes back? The bubble hem. Can we just admit that it doesn’t look good on anyone?

What shoe in your closet is currently getting the most wear? I wore our Luca, Oriane and Delphine boots all winter. I’m 5’3” so I like a little height. That said I never thought I’d love our mid-wedge Anne or flat sandal Eve, which

Which designers do you admire? René Caovilla for his exquisite attention to detail. Ferragamo—classic and timeless. Valentino—so feminine. And Charlotte Olympia for her wit and whimsy.


ACTRESS-TURNED-SHOE designer Yeardley Smith’s best known character, Lisa Simpson, may wear the same red Mary Janes day in and day out, but Smith’s eye for color, trend, comfort and design stretches far beyond the fictional world in Springfield, IL, which she’s helped voice for more than 23 years. “When I launched Marchez Vous, I was told that ‘comfort’ was a bad word in the shoe industry because it denoted something dowdy and unattractive. I thought, ‘Why are women settling for that? Let’s see if we can make a difference,’” Smith says. Without any traditional footwear training, Smith set out to create a collection full of color and versatility for a woman “that feels half her age and has too much to do.” Says Smith, “I believe there’s no faster way to learn something than complete immersion. All my life I’ve sought out the deep end and jumped in head first.” In this case, that meant finding out that footwear is one of the most difficult accessories to make. “There are so many components and everybody’s feet are different… When you make a change to a shoe pattern, you can’t just alter it like a piece of clothing,” she offers. “It has to be completely re-made.” As a result, Smith says Marchez Vous’ first few collections were small—not because she’d run out of ideas, rather she’d run out of time. Three years in Smith and her team believe they have homed in on the brand’s comfort meets beautiful point-of-view—and beat fashion’s ticking clock—with a well-rounded Spring ’14 collection of pumps and sandals featuring cork, raffia and colorful piping, which Smith notes transform an otherwise average shoe into something exquisite. “I’m so proud of the way we’ve continued to evolve the aesthetic of the brand while staying true to the five benchmarks of quality every Marchez Vous shoe must meet,” Smith says. “The shoes have to be comfortable, sexy, witty, 78 • august 2013

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Lucky Soles Aetrex applies its brand of comfort technology to ballet flats.

One Direction Vasyli’s global re-branding fuses its three lines into a single brand: Vionic with Orthaheel Technology. VASYLI, THE PRIVATELY held parent company of Orthaheel, Dr. Andrew Weil Integrated Footwear and Vionic, has rebranded as Vionic Group and merged its three comfort brands into Vionic with Orthaheel Technology. “We conducted extensive consumer research and learned the Orthaheel consumer loves the pain relief and the function that she’s getting from the footwear brand but she doesn’t necessarily love the brand name, and at the moment we have multiple brands that she finds confusing,” explains Chris Gallagher, president and CEO, noting that the California company is now shifting its focus to stylish footwear with podiatrist-designed comfort built in. The line will unveil to buyers at The Atlanta Shoe Market this month and will hit stores next spring. “We’ve updated our core line, but we’ve also introduced a new dress sandal, which is something that hasn’t been in our range before, and our customer has been asking for more height so we’ve found a way to build our technology into a wedge and a platform wedge,” Gallagher shares. Patent and printed pony hair abounds throughout the debut collection, with on-trend

embellishments and trims. He adds, “When we did our research our customer told us she wanted more, more, more. We are looking to fill the spots in her wardrobe.” Beyond next season, Vionic is working on building its Orthaheel technology into high heels that take pressure off the forefoot and can be worn all day. A men’s collection is also launching in the near future, spanning dress and canvas styles to deck shoes and sandals, and targeting the 40-plus market. “Most men’s shoes that have comfort technologies built in are old and orthopedic looking,” Gallagher offers. “Orthaheel technology is our major differentiation—it’s almost like wearing a pair of athletic shoes but in a dress style.” Continuing on Orthaheel’s tripledigit growth since its introduction in 2007, Vionic is projected to experience a healthy 65 percent increase in 2013, according to Gallagher. “Our No. 1 strategy right now is our trade launch, ensuring that retailers understand the transition and can communicate to their customers that it’s the same technology but with a new look,” he says. —Lyndsay McGregor

AT FIRST GLANCE they seem more sensible than skyscraping stilettos but doctors have linked the lack of support in ballet flats to a number of overuse injuries, among them heel pain and plantar fasciitis as well as muscle and tendon strain throughout the leg. This spring, Teaneck, NJ-based Aetrex is stepping up to the plate and adding flats infused with comfort to its lineup of wellness footwear. “It’s traditionally a category of shoes that doesn’t offer anything by way of health and comfort—it’s a very bare bones construction,” says Executive Vice President Matt Schwartz. “The challenge was to make a shoe that offered a healthy choice to the female consumer.” Similar to the brand’s other styles, the streamlined silhouette is built on the company’s Lynco orthotic footbed for support, balance and alignment, while slow-release memory foam allows it to conform to the wearer’s foot and an antimicrobial lining combats fungus. The comfy shoes are available in five colors and wholesale for $99. “When consumers see this shoe sitting out on the table, they will pick it up because it looks good and when they put it on they will feel the difference,” Schwartz predicts. Apart from the comfort aspect, he believes the other key differentiate is the flat’s construction. “Take where the shoe bends, for example: The shoe should bend where the foot bends, which is the widest part of the foot,” he explains. “The way the toe box is constructed doesn’t squeeze your toes together. The way we construct the rear foot versus the forefoot—all of these features make this shoe better for the consumer.” Based on early indications, Schwartz says Aetrex is on pace to exceed last year’s bookings overall, and he believes it’s the company’s potent combination of comfort and style that continues to drive sellthrough year after year. “I see a lot of brands at all different price points trying to incorporate comfort into fashionable footwear, or doing it from the other direction, and I think that trend will continue,” he says. “In our case, what we really believe is you can make shoes that are better or worse for you. It’s not just about comfort. It’s about creating shoes in the key women’s categories that look great and feel great and make the body function better.” —L.M.

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t r o f m o Finn C Gomera

An Italian Job Easy Street by Tuscany, handmade and designed in Italy, to hit shores this spring. HOME TO THE likes of Gucci, Prada and Ferragamo, Tuscany has long been known as the birthplace of exquisite leather goods, with a shoemaking history that stretches as far back as medieval times. And thanks to a clutch of artisans who have kept the tradition alive, a fine pair of handmade Italian shoes is as much a status symbol today as ever. But for women whose feet run a little—or a lot—outside the norm, Italian shoes are nothing but an aspiration. Enter Tuscany by Easy Street, a brand new collection of sandals handmade and designed in Tuscany and launching for Spring ’14. “We’re complementing the Easy Street line with Italian shoes that are focused on sizes and widths,” shares Easy Street President Keith Gossett. “We wanted to bring in something with a different taste level and we feel the Italian workmanship is excellent.” Easy Street has gone the extra mile to ensure the new designs have the quality, durability and comfort necessary to meet its customers’ particularly high standards as well as the high expectations that come along with the Made in Italy tag. “When you offer the styling, the taste level and the finesse that comes with a made-in-Italy product, you don’t usually get sizes and widths. We’re offering a complete range of 43 sizes and four widths,” Gossett says. “That’s the difference.” He adds, “If I just came out with a group of sandals, full sizes only, no one would probably care. We’re not the only guys making shoes in Italy, but we do offer a broad size range.” In addition, Gossett says all patterns are offered in open stock with no case pack requirements. “Retailers can buy what they sell and what they need when they need it,” he says. “This can have a huge impact on their margins.” The debut Tuscany collection comprises sandals in a wide range of patterns and metallic accents, from a classic woven mule to multiple thongs, in four heel heights and on four different bottoms, all lined in padded soft socks from heel to toe. Wholesale prices range from $18 to $22. “These shoes were designed and styled by the Italians using materials sourced in Italy and Spain,” Gossett explains. “They did everything. We didn’t want them to look like an interpretation of an Italian shoe—we wanted to make sure the Italian influence rang clear.” —L.M.

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Finn Comfort footwear provides extraordinary anatomical support and exhilarating natural comfort while promoting good health and well-being. Meticulously handcrafted in Germany and highly recommended by leading foot health specialists worldwide.

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SPRING FEVER After months of being laced, buckled and zipped up in fleece-lined, waterproof winter boots, kids will be eager to let their tiny feet free in the hot hued sandals, sneakers and loafers set to liven up store shelves come Spring ’14. Prints run wild, touching on kid pleasers like peace signs and flowers to tropical and camouflage motifs inspired by the runway. Heels get bigger as girls continue to chase their tween idol style inspirations. And a bit of oh-so-colorful and eclectic ’80s fashion returns with jelly sandals. By Angela Velasquez







Breezy, tropical motifs of paradise coupled with earthy textures and natural materials like jute and linen speak to sophisticated kids who one day may favor private island getaways over themed resorts.

Greens cross over between boys’ and girls’ casual styles. And warm weather fabrications and easy slip-on silhouettes lend themselves to being kicked-off for runs through the sprinkler. Plus, these summer staples can be refreshed with a quick rinse through the wash.

Livie & Luca Chooze



Borrowing style cues from grandpa, today’s fisherman sandals, complete with handy Velcro straps and durable outsoles, make function fashionable and youthful. Standout styles are given a modern touch with buttery leathers and primary colors.

Cute, quirky and part of little girls’ summer fashion memories, jelly shoes are making a comeback. The clear uppers make a perfect canvas for flower, peace sign and polka dot embellishments. Others get a sprinkle of shimmery glitter—a must for any girls pining away for that elusive glass slipper.

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M AR CH ING ON Less incognito than basic beige and brown, and more eyecatching than combat boots, the military trend continues into spring with lightweight canvas iterations and sporty constructions. For girls, the rough and tough look is softened with camouflage prints that skew floral and flourishes like petals, studs and crystals.

JUNGL E F EV ER There’s never a shortage of animal prints, but this season the kingdom is getting even wilder with electric colors, glitter and metallic accents. And for a more luxurious take on the trend, exotic skins like python and alligator are revamped in a new breed of summery colors.

See Kai Run

Kensie Girl


Michael Kors

J U ICE BA R Sweet, refreshing and bursting at the seams with color, the blend of hot pink and bright orange for girls is sure to make a statement on the selling floor. The juicy blend is especially potent on chunky athletic styles suitable for school and camp.

HIGH EX PE C TAT I O N S As if the instant growth spurt wasn’t enough, wedge sandals bring with them a heap of fashion trends from the women’s and junior markets. From flashy metallic materials and fiesta-inspired color stories to natural cork, the statement silhouette has gone from novelty to become an essential in tween-friendly collections.

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continued from page 29 cessful brands in this space they are very significant. I think Trask really hits a sweet spot in the market. For materials like these you would expect to pay $400 and up. By making it in the $200 to $300 range it is accessible to a lot of people. It’s footwear that they will wear regularly and will last a long time. Can Trask be a 50-50 gender split down the road? The best answer I have to that question is to look at Frye. I’m sure someone somewhere asked them the same question a ways back. I got to believe that they are way beyond 50 percent women’s now. As you get more into casual styles, it crosses genders more. Merrell is another example. And there are tons of others. What’s your current take on the market overall? It’s been challenging and I think it will continue to be. But the great thing about our industry is that there are always ways, if you are innovative, to resonate with consumers. When you have strong trends in the marketplace, consumers will respond. But they won’t buy just to buy. Along those lines, I think consumers of late are looking to footwear to not just be an accessory to an outfit but to start there. Men are also adding to their footwear wardrobe and having more fun with it, in general. I read an article recently that referred to men as the new women when it comes to shopping—they are buying things not just for utilitarian purposes but for fun. Colored socks, for example, have become popular. It’s not a huge amount of investment spending and it can be versatile. You are also seeing more guys wearing skinny ties and bow ties. It’s a much different statement because guys are wearing it because they want to whereas guys my age used to wear ties because they had to. What’s your assessment of the independent retail tier? It’s certainly challenging and not getting any easier. But the ones who have survived are generally great business people. They have loyal customers, they

want to carry brands that they can make money on and they really know product. I think that the lessons learned from today’s independents shows they are curators for a customer segment. There’s lots of information available in lot of different ways, but there’s almost too much information. The good independents are able to develop loyal customers by being great curators of interesting products that helps interpret fashion for their customer base and they offer a great shopping experience. They also know how to fit properly. In face of Internet-driven showrooming and price pressures, can they really survive by doing business the way you just described? The Internet is an integrated part of everybody’s life now but it doesn’t take the place of the experience and ability to shop at a place where the merchandise has already been sorted out for you. That’s why these retailers are looking for unique products that their customers are going to enjoy discovering. If you love going out to eat, you can use the Internet to find restaurants, read reviews and look at a menu. But there’s no substitute for the experience of eating at a great restaurant. The same goes for shopping for special types of footwear. What do you love most about your job? I can’t give you a short answer because there’s so much that I love. I’m very fortunate in that I work with talented, hard-working people in a corporation that has really smart leadership and a philosophy of fostering an entrepreneurial spirit and giving us all the resources necessary to pursue growth opportunities. It’s really the best of both worlds. I also love that the market is always changing and there’s always a fresh way to approach it. It never gets old. And then there’s the opportunity to work with three great brands (Genesco owns the Dockers license) that have market-leading positions, great retail partnerships and terrific consumer appeal. •


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With Düsseldorf’s GDS and Milan’s Micam dates so close this September visitors can experience both events with just one trip to Europe.



9:00 10:00 11:00

11 Wed

13 Fri

GDS starts

Visit urban Breakfast at authentic and kidwalk lounge urban fresh area

15 Sun

Arrive in Milan

MICAM starts

Visit upper style area

Upper Style show

Sightseeing in Milan

Appointment at kidwalk and lunch @ kidwalk area


Visit white cubes and lunch @ white cubes lounge


Visit prime²

Trend talk at Speakers Corner

Cocktail in Design Attack area

Visit Design Attack

Shopping on Königsallee, a high-end shopping district like New York’s 5th Avenue

Walk through the modern harbor area with its trendy restaurants and architecture

Boat trip on the Rhine river

Sundowner at the marina

3:00 4:00

14 Sat Short flight to Milan

Arrive in Düsseldorf

12:00 GDS is a leading international business platform for the footwear industry with the latest collections presented by more than 800 exhibitors from around the world, hip fashion shows and a compact ancillary program.

12 Thurs


Lunch in Düsseldorf’s Old Town, home to “the longest bar in the world” with more than 300 bars and restaurants

6:00 7:00 8:00


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1917 Converse Chuck Taylor All Star

1935 Converse Jack Purcell

1950 adidas Samba

1957 Converse All Star Low

1965 adidas Stan Smith

1968 adidas Gazelle

1968 Puma Suede

1969 adidas Superstar/Pro Model

1969 Onitsuka Tiger Corsair

1970 adidas TRX Comp

1972 adidas SL 72

1972 Nike Bruin

1972 Nike Cortez

1973 Puma Clyde

1975 adidas Trimm Trab

1976 Converse Pro Leather

1976 Vans Checkerboard

1977 Wilson by Bata John Wooden

1978 Vans Sk8-Hi

1979 KangaROOS

1980 adidas Rod Laver Super

1981 Converse Carolina Blue

1981 Nike Lava Dome

1981 Saucony Jazz

1982 Nike Air Force 1

1983 Ellessee Marc Sadler

1983 Reebok Ex-O-Fit

1984 adidas Forum

1984 adidas Micropacer

1984 Fila T1

1984 Gucci Tennis 84

1984 New Balance 1300

1985 adidas Kegler Super

1985 Air Jordan 1

1986 adidas Ecstasy

1986 Air Jordan II

1986 Asics GT-II

1986 Converse Weapon

1986 Nike Dunk

1986 Reebok Allen Stomper

1987 adidas Attitude

1987 adidas Campus II

1987 adidas Conductor

1987 adidas Ultrastar Run DMC

1987 Diadora Maverick

1987 Nike Air Max 1

1987 Nike Air Max Safari

1987 Nike Air Trainer 1

1987 Reebok Workout

1988 adidas ZX8000

1988 Air Jordan III

1988 New Balance 576

1988 Nike Air Tech Challenge

1989 Air Jordan IV

1989 Nike Air Carnivore

1989 Reebok The Pump

1990 Air Jordan V

1990 Fila Apollo

1990 Nike Air Pressure

1990 Nike Trainer SC

1990 Reebok Court Victory

1991 Asics Gel Lyte III

1991 Avia Bball 815

1991 Nike Air Hurrache

1991 Nike Air Mowabb

1991 Reebok Battleground Pump

1991 Reebok Pump Omnizone

1992 Dymacel British Knights Coleman

1992 Etonic Stable Air Plus

1992 LA Gear Light Tech Light Strikers

KICKS CHARTER Starting with the original Converse Chuck Taylor All Star from 1917 and culminating with Nike’s 2013 camo-print Kobe 8 System, A Visual Compendium of Sneakers hits sneaker high notes of the past century. “We cobbled together an assortment that not only illustrates the evolution of shoe design and technological advancements, but that also represents some of the most sought after styles in sneaker history,” says Rachel Mansfield, director of marketing for Pop Chart Lab, a Brooklyn-based company that turns cultural data into graphic prints. Mansfield confesses there had to be a cap, lest the chart (24” by 36” and available on popchartlab. com for $32) grew 10-fold. “Early shoe designs were rooted in their utility, especially in terms of their application to a given sport,” she says. “But, over time (especially in the 1950s, when James Dean wore stylish kicks in Rebel Without a Cause), sneaker design became more concerned with how a shoe complemented your outfit and what it said about your personal brand of self-expression.” Today, Mansfield says, sneakers have moved into the realm of collector-ism. “Some sneakerfreakers line their favorites up on shelves as hyper-colored museum pieces,” she says. It sounds perfectly normal to us, of course. —Brittany Leitner

1992 Converse Aero Jam Larry Johnson

1992 Nike Air Force Hi David Robinson

1992 Reebok Shaq Attaq 1

1992 Vans Half Cab

1993 A Bathing Ape BapeSTA

1993 adidas Mutumbo

1993 Puma Disc Blaze

1994 Reebok Insta Pump Fury

1995 Air Jordan XI

1995 Nike Air Flight One

1995 Nike Air Max 95 Neon

1995 Nike Zoom Flight 95

1996 Air Jordan XI Space Jam

1996 Nike Air Max More Uptempo

1996 Reebok Question Mid Allen Iverson

1997 Nike Air Foamposite

1997 Nike Air Max 97

1999 Nike Dunk High Wu-Tang

1999 Air Jordan XIV Indigo

2001 Nike Air Force 1 Low Linen

2002 Air Jordan XVII

2002 Nike Dunk Low Argon

2003 Creative Recreation Cesario Low

2003 Nike SB Dunk High Brown Pack

2003 Nike SB Dunk Low Takashi

2003 Reebok RBK S. Carter

2004 Nike Zoom LeBron II

2005 Air Jordan XX Stealth

2005 UNDFTD x Air Jordan IV

2006 ALIFE x Reebok Court Victory Pump

2006 Air Jordan DMP

2006 Etnies PAS Gratitude Rap Hi

2006 Supreme x Vans Public Enemy

2006 Wu Tang x Fila Cream

2007 ALIFE x Puma 1st Round

2007 Reebok x Audet Pump Omni Lite

2007 UXA x DVS HUF 4 Hi

2007 Yo! MTV Raps x Puma DJ Cash Money

2008 Nike Dunk Low Akron

2008 Nike Hyperdunk Marty McFly

2009 Etnies Fader

2009 Fila Vulc 13

2009 Nike Air Yeezy 1

2010 Air Jordan II Vashtie Kola

2010 Nike Air Max LeBron

2011 Nike Air Max MAG

2011 Nike Air Max 90 Infrared

2011 Puma State

2011 Ronnie Fieg x Asics GEL Lyte III

2012 La MJC x Colette x New Balance 1500

2012 Nike Air Foamposite One Galaxy

2012 Nike Air Yeezy 2

2012 Nike Dunk Low Lazy Ripper

2012 Nike HTM Flyknit Trainer+

2012 Nike Lebron 9 P.S. Elite Miami Vice

2012 Nike Roshe Run

2012 Reebok ATV19+

2012 Supreme x Nike Dunk SB Low

2013 Air Jordan XX8

2013 Air Jordan XX8 Ray Allen PE

2013 Jeremy Scott x adidas Wings 2.0

2013 Nike Air Griffey Max 1 Volt

2013 Nike Kobe 8 SYSTEM

2005 Nike Air Force 1 Low Playstation


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Fashion Inspires Us Value Drives Us

rialto FOP_August2013.indd 93

A Division of White Mountain

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