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BRAND OF THE YEAR
Easy Picking $870,000 in scholarships given to footwear families, each year. Application Opens Dec. 1st Higher Education • Footwear Design • Footwear Warriors Scholarship • NSRA Scholarship • NST Scholarship
www.twoten.org/scholarships • TwoTen@applyists.com • 855.670.ISTS
Come And Experience Earth At These Upcoming Shows: November 30 - December 2, FFANY, Warwick Hotel, Suite 2121 January 10 - 12, Outdoor Retailer, Salt Palace Convention Center February 11 - 13, Atlanta Shoe Market, Cobb Galleria Centre February 21 - 23, FN Platform, Las Vegas Convention Center Style Featured: Earth Virgo
D E C E M B E R
2 0 1 6
Caroline Diaco Publisher Greg Dutter Editorial Director Nancy Campbell Trevett McCandliss Creative Directors EDITORIAL Ann Loynd Fashion Editor Emily Beckman Associate Editor Kathy Passero Editor at Large Melodie Jeng Contributing Photographer
D E P A R T M E N T S 8 Editor’s Note 10 This Just In 12 Scene & Heard 14 A Note to My Younger Self 30 What’s Selling 34 Trend Spotting 46 Shoe Salon 48 Comfort 52 Last Word
Judy Leand Contributing Editor ADVERTISING/ PRODUCTION Jennifer Craig Associate Publisher Katie Belloff Associate Art Director Production Manager Allison Kastner Operations Manager Bruce Sprague Circulation Director Mike Hoff Digital Director
On the cover: Embroidered heels by Chinese Laundry. PA G E
Photography by Bill Phelps/We Are Casey Agency. Fashion Editor: Ann Loynd; hair and makeup: Angelia Guthrie; model: Mattea B./Ignite Models; retouching: Hunny Digital. This page: Dee Keller gold metallic block heel.
F E A T U R E S
16 Smart Money How the Two Ten Footwear Foundation Scholarship Program is providing support, opprtunity and hope across the industry spectrum. By Greg Duttter 20 Change Agent Philippe Meynard, CEO and president of Earth Shoes, on the changes being implemented company wide and why the needs of independent retailers are a focus. By Greg Dutter
24 Star Power
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FOOTWEAR PLUS ™ (ISSN#1054-898X) The fashion magazine of the footwear industry is published monthly (except for bimonthly April/May and October/November editions) by 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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E D I TO R ’S N OT E Roads to Success
HEAVE-HO THE STATUS QUO UNPRECEDENTED. BEFUDDLING. TERRIFYING. Stunning. Disruptive. Ugly. Revolutionary. Deplorable. Unpredictable. Bat crap crazy… No, I’m not rehashing reactions to the presidential election. (Politics have no place in public columns these days, unless alienating 50 percent of your audience seems like a smart decision.) These adjectives, rather, are just some of the colorful, blunt and fitfor-print assessments I’ve heard about life in the retail trenches over the past year. Newsflash: Business has been really tough, unforgiving and incredibly unpredictable. Flat is the new up. Bankruptcy is the new black. And the new normal is abnormal. This year may go down as one of the most challenging and transformative ones in memory—that is until we see what next year brings. Did this very bad year really kick into gear last fall when a Godzilla-like El Niño turned much of December into a remake of Endless Summer, the retail horror version? Some say all that hot air blowing across the country was the tipping point for the great retail shakeout of 2016. Others dismiss that theory is a bunch of hot air—or a smokescreen. They believe much deeper fundamental problems finally shook many brick-and-mortar retailers to their core. The endless election. A (too) slow-growth economy. A scared, angry and depressed consumer base (thanks, in part, to that negative and divisive election). Fears of terrorism and terrorist acts in malls. Racial unrest. Rising fixed costs (notably healthcare insurance). An ongoing Millennial-led macro shift to e-commerce. Too many stores and, for far too long, an unsustainable growth model, which was bound to become a collapsing house of cards. Those are several root causes that pundits have cited—and that have gathered into a perfect storm. Surely, there are other factors—like changing weather patterns. How many warm falls in a row does it take to rethink a seasonal buying plan? At the very least, a shift toward smaller and perhaps staggered deliveries seems like a safer strategy as consumers increasingly buy when they need and not in advance. Rolling out sweaters, gloves, scarves, boots, etc. in August and
then marking the (now stale) merchandise in another warm October and November… Why not squeeze the most out of the season outside rather than try to force the issue? (Think Halloween displays the day after Labor Day.) It contributes to premature seasonal affective disorder. Why not embrace the season you spent months preparing for and maximize margins as best you can? Besides, if the Internet has conditioned consumers to do anything, it’s to buy when they need something—and have it shipped overnight for free. Social media’s influence on fashion trends is another factor shaking things up this year. The lightning speed at which trends go viral—and often disappear—is causing supply chain management practices to be reimagined. It was only last February when the biggest buzz coming out of New York Fashion Week wasn’t the styles featured on the runways but the fact that several designers made their collections immediately available to consumers, turning “buy now/wear now” and “direct-to-consumer” into industry touchstones. It was also an early warning sign that 2016 was going to be no ordinary year. The status quo was being put on notice. (Side note: When the hype surrounding New York Fashion Week was more about how goods were being introduced to the market than about the actual goods, it was a bad sign for the year ahead.) Surely 2016 will be remembered as the year many big-name retailers went down for the count. Equally memorable will be how many other stores finally admitted that business as usual was no longer an option. This is the year the status quo got the heave-ho—and that applies to politics, sports (think Chicago Cubs), retail, social norms, fashion… the list goes on. Around the world, people have headed toward the exit, seemingly tired of the roads they have been traveling for too long. No one knows if these detours will lead to more dead ends or promised lands. That can seem befuddling, terrifying and unpredictable. But embarking on a new path also generates a sense of optimism. The ability of our industry, specifically, to change course and find a new way forward has always been our greatest asset and our secret to surviving. The road ahead will surely have twists, potholes, traffic jams, wrecks and casualties, but heading in a new direction sure beats driving in endless circles.
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THIS JUST IN
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East meets West in Georgia’s capital city crossroads, where sporty, punk and chic looks prove style barriers are wide open. Photography by Melodie Jeng 10 footwearplusmagazine.com • december 2016
SCENE & HEARD
Earlier OR dates: Yay or Nay? OUTDOOR RETAILER (OR ) show announced, beginning in 2018, that its biannual Winter and Summer markets held in Salt Lake City, UT, will shift from January and August to November and June, respectively. The decision is intended to better time with buyers’ ordering schedules as well as align with the specialty outdoor show, Grassroots Outdoor Alliance, that will be held a few days prior to the OR markets in nearby Sandy, UT. “The overall consensus was that Outdoor Retailer, the national show for the outdoor industry, needed to be at the beginning of the buy/sell cycle in order to provide retailers an opportunity to see the entire breadth of what the industry had to offer, allowing them to be informed as they approach their buying decisions,” says Marisa Nicholson, OR’s vice president and show director. Nicholson reports that decision followed extensive industry discussions with key specialty retailers, reps, execs from cornerstone exhibitors and advisory panels. “We also worked with a research firm to talk to retailers, exhibitors and reps who’ve attended Outdoor Retailer between 2013 and 2016,” she says. As for whether footwear exhibitors were surveyed and, more importantly, if the earlier dates are okay, it depends which ones you ask. The outdoor performance brands are likely to be on board with the shift in dates. The further a brand sits on the lifestyle spectrum, the less pleased they are. “It will impact our ability to get the samples as far along as we’d like, but we’ll be able to accommodate the date change,” says Christian Mason, sales manager for Oboz. That said, Mason believes the shift will be good for OR and thus good for Oboz. “OR had become more of a marketing-oriented show,” he says. “By moving the dates earlier, OR will become the show.” Bryan Owen, sales manager for Astral, is also pro earlier dates. “It’ll be good for selling because OR will probably become more of an ‘order writing show’ than it’s been in the past,” he says. “It also helps us a great deal as we can plan our production earlier than we have in the past.” For other brands, however, it’s just too early—particularly the November time frame—to meet production schedules. Many such lifestyle and comfort brands are pressed to make the FFANY shows in the beginning of December and June when they introduce their collections to major retailers. “It’s not good for us,” says David Kahan, CEO of Birkenstock Americas. “We will have to use FN Platform as more of a showcase and hope that show can help deliver more outdoor lifestyle retailers whose buy- >51
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AMERICAN DREAM Joe Ouaknine, CEO of Titan Industries, reflects on a fast-paced career and the wonderful people and amazing places he has encountered along the way.
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WHO WOULD HAVE thought you’d ever visit the USA? As a child growing up in Casablanca, Morocco, this was unthinkable. Becoming a U.S. citizen? No way! Becoming a business owner in the USA? Impossible!! How does it all happen? How do you end up in the shoe business—this amazing industry where you meet so many wonderful friends? Well, you discover it yourself. After moving from Morocco to Montreal to attend high school, you are not yet very familiar with the English language. So your aunt Régine, head pedicure of the Bata flagship store, suggests you get a part-time job there to earn a little money and improve your English. The first sale you ever make earns you a $2 tip. You quickly learn, however, that this is not the norm—that tip is a one-time occurrence. You soon discover that the shoe business is your destiny. But first you pursue your dream of becoming a professional athlete. After graduating college, you change your name from Jojo to Joe and move to Los Angeles to start your soccer career as a goalkeeper. That doesn’t last long. The league folds. All you know is the shoe business. So here you come. After a short stint working in retail, you meet Charles Amar at a Christmas dinner in Montreal, of all places, and he introduces you to his father-in-law, Dave Malka, co-owner of Charles David. You join the company’s sales team, and things really pick up when Guess becomes a part of the portfolio. You thank your lucky stars, act as honorably as a man can and help grow the businesses, eventually becoming the company’s first vice president of sales. Over 13 years, you help build both into worldwide brands. Your good reputation takes you a long way. In 1996, with the industry talents and connections you have made, you launch your own company. Two years later, you become co-founder of Titan Industries, a fashion house of primarily women’s brands—the first of which is Bebe. Over the ensuing decades, you introduce an array of licensed fashion
brands to the marketplace. Your business philosophy is simple. Punctuality is important. If someone is late to a meeting, it’s canceled. No exceptions. If someone flakes on anything, you lose respect for them. You also hate contracts. A handshake is more important to you. People who know you will attest: If you give your word, consider it done. That is what you are most proud of. You are also blessed to have a beautiful family and enjoy a great life. The game of golf, in particular, opens many new horizons. You meet so many people and discover many wonderful places. You also help a lot of people. You are introduced to the Two Ten Footwear Foundation and meet more amazing, charitable people. Your taste for philanthropy expands. You are even honored by the organization (with the A.A. Bloom Award in recognition of individuals who provided tremendous support to the non-profit) in 2013, and you learn how it feels to be popular. People from many countries come to the event in support of you. Good opportunities multiply and continue to come your way. Despite working tirelessly, traveling around the world endlessly and keeping up with the crazy pace of the shoe business, you somehow always feel young. But the arrival of your grandson [James] gives you a reality check. Time is fleeting, and spending it with family is precious. Still, your life is just starting. You have so many more things to accomplish and so many more wonderful people to meet and places to discover. There are still so many business opportunities. Don’t slow down, Joe. Your hectic pace is what drives you. Those sleepless nights are a part of you. The constant laughs should always be with you, too. Out of each hour, five minutes of seriousness is all you need. Enjoy the other 55 minutes. Get ready, because you will need to allocate time to spend with James soon. Soccer practices are just around the corner. Time goes by so fast. But, please, don’t ever slow down.
C A L L I G R A P H Y B Y K AT I E B E L L O F F
A N O T E T O M Y YO U N G E R S E L F
SMART MONEY Dedicated to doing the right thing, the Two Ten Footwear Foundation Scholarship Program provides financial as well as intellectual assistance to industry members and their families seeking higher education. By Greg Dutter
VER THE PAST decades, the Two Ten Footwear Foundation Scholarship Program has awarded millions of dollars to thousands of industry members and their families in need of financial assistance for higher education. Many of those recipients—often the first in their families to attend college—went on to complete their degrees and embark on productive careers in their chosen fields. In their cases, the scholarship program proved a resounding success. But what about the recipients who, for one reason or another, failed to complete their education? Could protocols have been put in place to provide financial and/or intellectual support that would have helped them finish school? After all, awarding scholarship funds is only half the battle. The real ROI comes from college diplomas. Such is the premise guiding Two Ten Footwear Foundation President Neal Newman of late when it comes to scholarship efforts. The approach marks a sharp contrast to the organization’s past method. “Over the last couple of years, we’ve discovered that it has to be more than just raising money and providing scholarships,” Newman says. “We don’t want it to be just about giving a check. We are now viewing the scholarship program’s success as: Do they finish their degree?” Before Newman’s arrival in 2012, Two Ten had never explored the reasons students dropped out. When they did, they found that one negative event often prompted a scholar to leave school. “It was usually one bad class, bad experience at home or bad problem at work that caused our students to stop going to school, especially those who were attending part-time,” Newman notes. “So, while we have to keep raising more money, on the other side of the ledger; we have to provide more personalized support and services to our
16 footwearplusmagazine.com • december 2016
Two Ten President Neal Newman
Two Ten Education Committee Chairperson Debbie Ferrée
applicants and scholars so that they remain in school.” To help with that effort, Two Ten has enlisted childcare services provider Bright Horizons, purchasing its College Coach program, which provides advice to families on how to structure a financial plan. (The service is available to non-applicants as well.) It also offers personalized support for students trying to piece together work-study programs designed to make college affordable. “We’ll be using College Coach to run webinars for parents who are starting to explore the possibility of college for their children,” Newman says. “They might be parents of sophomores or juniors facing this financial morass for the first time, and this will assist them in developing a plan.” Newman adds that Liz Watson, scholarship program manager, will serve as Two Ten’s point person to develop relationships with award recipients, especially first-year students, to ensure that they are transitioning well to college. “College is a completely new environment, and many don’t have role models within their households, so we are
going to connect them with mentors,” Newman explains. “Liz is on hand to support them through the first year.” GOOD GRADES Two Ten’s efforts to help scholarship recipients stay in school are already paying strong dividends, Newman reports. This year, of the 300 who were awarded scholarships, 208 were renewals. That marks an increase from last year’s 168 renewals. Of course, it also means that competition for the remaining spots is tougher than ever. “Applicants are through the roof,” Newman says, noting that approximately 1,500 people started the application process, and of the 315 finalists, 92 were selected. “That is the largest number of applicants we’ve had since I arrived,” he says. “It’s becoming highly competitive to get a Two Ten scholarship.” Two Ten makes every effort to choose those recipients whose need for financial assistance is most dire, Newman says. In fact, 70 percent of each award is weighted toward financial need, also known as Effective Family Contribution (EFC). The remainder is equally divided between academic performance and the narrative applicants write about what they aspire to achieve in life. “We’re trying to make sure that every applicant who reaches the final stage with a zero EFC score—meaning that the family can’t contribute a dollar to their tuition—earns a scholarship,” Newman says, noting that determination is based on the same financial metrics many colleges use. “We’ve achieved that goal the last couple of years,” he adds. Specifically, 40 percent of Two Ten’s scholarship recipients have a zero EFC rating and another 20 percent have EFCs of under $3,000. “That means 60 percent of our scholarship winners’ families were able to contribute $3,000 or less to their child’s tuition,” Newman says. “These are people who desperately need the financial support.” The need for financial assistance is expected to increase in the coming years—just like the cost of tuition. It’s one of the reasons Two Ten is hoping to raise its annual award from $3,000 to $3,500 per student beginning next year. “If our scholarship budget grows to $1 million, we hope to be able to make that increase,” Newman reports. “While we’re probably never going to trend higher than the inflation increases to college costs, it’s a meaningful amount that we are comfortable giving,” he adds. Newman credits Debbie Ferrée, chairwoman of Two Ten’s Education Committee and chief merchandising officer of DSW, for leading the charge to raise the program’s profile and number of contributions. The scholarship budget this year was $870,000, which represents a growth of $140,000 from 2013. “Debbie’s been quite keen to grow the profile of scholarships within Two Ten, and she’s done a brilliant job over the last couple of years,” Newman says. “Through her magnetism, a number of individuals have made financial contributions as well as intellectual ones.” Ferrée, who once considered teaching as a profession, is passionate about education. “Statistically, it’s proven that a college degree results in higher employment rates and better compensation,” she says. But Ferrée is also acutely aware that the opportunity is becoming increasingly difficult because state and federal funding is not increasing at the same rate as tuition, so financial aid packages aren’t providing the support students need. This is especially true in shoe retailing, where, Ferrée notes, there are periodic struggles between lower sales and shortened hours. “Our community needs the opportunity
STAR STUDENTS M e e t t h e 2 0 1 6 Tw o Te n F o o t w e a r F o u n d a t i o n / Fo o t w e a r P l u s I n d e p e n d e n t R e t a i l e r S c h o l a r s h i p recipients. —G.D.
Victoria McFarland, 18, Lakeland, FL Attends: University of Central Florida Major: Biology Victoria McFarland, who aims to become a physician’s assistant after completing her undergraduate and graduate studies, is honored to be a Two Ten/Footwear Plus scholarship recipient. Her family—third generation independent shoe retailers— own and operate McFarland’s Shoe Repair in Lakeland, FL. “My parents are self-employed and, as the child of small business owners, this scholarship will be a huge help to my family,” McFarland says. She credits watching her parents’ dedication to keeping the business thriving as having prepared her well for college and beyond. “My parents’ example has shown me that no matter what I am going through to always strive to be the best at whatever I do in life,” she says. Case in point: In 2004, her hometown was hit by three storms wielding hurricane-force winds. One of the storms caused a tree to crash through the roof of the family’s home, also causing part of the shopping center that was home to McFarland’s Shoe Repair to fall into a sinkhole. “Our store was closed for a couple of weeks,” McFarland recalls. “The loss of income and the expense of home repairs put a huge strain on our family’s finances.” But the footwear industry rallied to help. “Soon after, my father started receiving checks from people all over the country,” she says. “We were so thankful to the shoe repair community who had heard of our situation and banded together to help!” Likewise, McFarland is thankful of the support of Two Ten in helping her earn her degree and pursue her career dreams. “This would not be possible without the generous support from scholarship sponsors like Two Ten,” she says. “Thank you so much for giving me this opportunity!”
Elizabeth Ardovino, 21, Hoover, AL Attends: University of Alabama at Birmingham Major: Healthcare Administration Once Elizabeth Ardovino completes her bachelor’s degree in Healthcare Management, she plans to immediately start working in the field. “I am very excited about the path I have chosen,” she says. “Healthcare management is advancing more rapidly than almost any field, and there are so many different settings one can choose with this major.” Ardovino’s plan is to start working in either marketing and public affairs, medical staff relations or material management. “I hope to gain a great amount of experience in these areas and then go back to UAB to receive my Master’s degree, hopefully advancing to higher positions in physician’s practices or healthcare associations,” she says. Ardovino, whose father works for Upsidedown Shoe Repair in Homewood, AL, is grateful to Two Ten for the assistance it is providing her toward completing her degree. “Being in the footwear community has impacted my life in many ways,” she says. “Growing up, I have watched my father and how dedicated he is to his job. It has inspired me to be just as dedicated in my work.”
2016 december • footwearplusmagazine.com 17
to attain a degree,” she says. “The Two Ten Scholarship Program helps fill the gap that financial aid no longer covers, allowing our community to further their education. We are helping fellow shoepeople succeed in a world where a college degree is necessary.”
many of them are actually working in the industry and potentially in need of financial assistance. “They are most vulnerable to a potential loss of hours or a health issue and, before they know it, school books have to be bought, transportation costs must be met, and soon they are one paycheck away from MOM-AND-POP SCHOLARS having to drop out of school,” he explains. The effort to spread the word about Two “These are the folks we really want to try and Ten’s Scholarship Program includes a focus focus on.” So far, so good: 25 percent of the on independent retailers—many of which past three years’ scholarship recipients have are small businesses and most vulnerable to been footwear industry employees. the changing tides of the economy, accordNewman plans to expand additional special ing to Newman. Many of these employees stakeholder scholarships as well. One is the are struggling to make ends meet and in Footwear Warriors scholarship for military need of financial assistance when it comes veterans. “We’ve capitalized that fund at to higher education costs. It’s a key reason almost $500,000, and we want to increase why Two Ten has once again partnered with it considerably because a large number of Footwear Plus on sponsoring veterans have returned to its Independent Retailer footwear jobs from active Scholarship Awards. “We service,” he says. There are “Having an think Footwear Plus is a to five Footwear Warrior independent retailer up wonderful conduit to let scholarship recipients partnership those retailers know that annually and Newman this scholarship opportu- (with Footwear Plus) hopes to double in the next nity is available to them,” couple of years. Similarly, is a key way to Newman says. Progress has he plans to expand design provide scholarship school–specific scholaralready been made. “Two years ago, two percent of our money to everyone ships aimed at students scholarship winners came attending traditional in the industry.” from the independent tier. four-year programs like —Debbie Ferrée Now we’re at 10 percent, at the Fashion Institute and I would like to see it of Technology (FIT) and churn up to 20 percent Savannah College of Art soon.” That goal, Newman and Design as well as adds, is a reflection of the tier’s 20 percent shorter-length programs offered by Pensole portion of overall industry sales. Footwear Design Academy and Arsutoria Beyond that, Newman believes that for School. Last but not least, Newman says too long independent retailers have been Two Ten has created an emergency pop-up underrepresented in Two Ten. “We want to program—the Text Book Fund—designed to make sure independent retailers know that help recipients stay in school. “If something Two Ten is as available to them as we are to unexpected happens—say, a student’s car the Wolverines of our world,” he says. “We needs to go into the shop or they’ve lost are here to serve truck drivers, retail staffs, their part-time job—we can give them up to distribution center employees…you name $200 of additional funding that goes toward it.” Similarly, this year’s four independent paying for books,” he says. retailer scholarship recipients (see side bar) Two Ten’s commitment to helping members have been selected from across the country, of the footwear industry stems from the belief reflecting a push by Newman to expand Two that higher education benefits not just the Ten beyond its Northeast roots. individual and their family, but the footwear “Two Ten supports the entire footwear industry as a whole because it helps upgrade industry,” Ferrée concurs. “Having an inde- and retain talent. “We want to create a climate pendent retailer partnership is a key way to where folks consider footwear as a career and, provide our scholarship money to everyone with that, there are opportunities to go back in the industry, and knowing we were able to school and grow their educational profile,” to help four families in need is the reason Newman says. “It’s about planting a seed and why the program exists.” encouraging higher education, both from Newman believes independent retailers are individual and macro-industry levels. That a good fit for the scholarship program because strengthens everybody’s profile.” •
Casey Ells, 19, Spofford, NH Attends: NHTI-Concord’s Community College Major: Dental Hygienist Casey Ells is already a seasoned veteran of the footwear industry, having gotten her start during her freshman year of high school in her hometown’s Howard’s Leather Store. The first day on the job she admits to being terrified. “I had never had a job before, and I was younger than the other employees by a few years,” she recalls. “I got a tour from the owner and became even more nervous, knowing there were so many things to memorize—which jackets run a little larger, which shoes are better for people with foot problems—the list went on and on.” Ells eventually overcame her fear of being asked a question by a customer that she didn’t know the answer to by putting to memory many footwear specifics. Equally important, she learned that it was ok not to be an expert on everything and ask questions to find the answers. “I learned to love my job,” Ells says. “I looked forward to coming in and interacting with customers, as well as answering the questions which used to cause me stress.” Ells shoe store experience also sparked her desire to work in a field that involves interaction with lots of people and making them happy. Thus her decision to become a dental hygienist that makes people feel good about smiling. “Knowing what I want to do with my life made planning for my future so much easier,” she says. “I know this thanks to being a member of the footwear community.”
Kaylee Croft, 19, Houston, TX Attends: University of Kansas Major: Pharmacy Kaylee Croft, who plans to enter the pharmaceuticals profession after graduation, is another shoe industry veteran. She grew up in the business, pitching in when needed at her parents’ For Your Toes & Feet business, a two-store comfort specialty operation. “I worked with my parents many times when extra help was needed in their store,” she says. “I was able to learn how to interact with customers, how to deal with vendors and how to manage a business.” Croft believes having been able to learn these skills at such a young age will definitely prepare her for her future career in the pharmaceuticals field. “It has provided me with excellent general life skills, too,” she says.
18 footwearplusmagazine.com • december 2016
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Change Agent Philippe Meynard, CEO and president of Earth Shoes, is ushering in a slew of changes in an effort to adapt the company amid a retail shakeout for the ages. BY GREG DUTTER
T’S BEEN A year of epic changes in the worlds of retail, sports and politics. The closure of hundreds of brick-and-mortar stores as consumers increasingly shift to e-commerce represents transformative change. The Chicago Cubs breaking a 108-year curse to win the World Series was a miraculous change. And the election of Donald J. Trump as president of the United States was nothing short of a stunning change in the nation’s political direction. The past year for Earth Shoes was also marked by expected and unexpected change, which got rolling last December when the company moved into state-of-the-art headquarters in Waltham, MA. In addition to the new digs, the company changed its name from Earth Brands to the more familiar Earth Shoes, closed its e-commerce site PlanetShoes.com, saw Gary Champion (company president for the past six years) depart in February, went through two replacements before finding the right fit in-house with Jeff Herrick (as vice president of sales and merchandising), launched a new Canadian subsidiary and opened a state-ofthe-art samples room in its China offices. At the same time, Meynard and his partners—executive vice president Angelo Romero and COO Celso Kiefer—utilized their collective 100-plus years of industry experience to begin implementing a series of fundamental changes in how the company runs. The changes, by and large, have been positive— even the unexpected ones, according to Meynard, who grew up in the family’s shoe business where, as a kid, many of his basement “toys” were shoes. “The unexpected change at the top allowed us to really get into the guts of the company and restructure so that we can continue on our strong growth curve,” he says. The management team,
shoes experience between the three of us. We know what we’re doing.” he says. He also takes great comfort in the experience of his team, which includes veteran Beth Bartholomew as senior director of sales development and recent hires Matt Itzkowitz to lead the company’s second-tier Earth Origins division as well as Marc Lambert, former VP of sales of Clarks’ $100 million subsidiary in Canada, to assume similar responsibilities at Earth Shoes. “We have an amazing team in place and we keep building upon it,” Meynard says, noting that several people have recently joined the design department, which will enable the company to better individualize looks between the brands. In addition, the PlanetShoes team—much of it Millennial-aged and highly e-commerce experienced—has assumed responsibility for the soon-to-be revamped Earth Shoes e-commerce site.
for example, is now set up to divide and conquer. Meynard, specifically, is more involved in overall operations, while Romero and Kiefer have stepped up their respective roles. Romero, in particular, is a highly regarded designer. “Angelo’s track record has been stellar over the years,” Meynard confirms. “We certainly attribute much of our company’s growth to his dedication, consistency and work ethic.” Earth Shoes has all the talent it needs for continued success in-house, Meynard adds. “We had to remind ourselves that there’s over 100 years of
CHANGE IS (REALLY) GOOD Amid all these changes, Earth Shoes reported record sales growth and is on pace to blow those figures out of the water in 2017. Meynard says sales are already up 40 percent for next year, and 100 percent in the independent channel. Not too shabby in a year when flat is considered the new up and many companies have struggled to survive during one of the greatest retail shakeouts in recent history. “We can certainly brag,” Meynard confirms. “Our company is on a very nice growth curve. It’s been absolutely a wonderful year.” Did Meynard envision a year of such dramatic change last December, when employees were settling into new offices during unseasonably balmy temperatures? The short answer: “I did.” But his foresight didn’t include executive-level
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departures or a rash of store closings that would follow the record warm fall. What Meynard saw coming, rather, had been written on his wall since 2014, when he first wanted to close PlanetShoes. (The passing of his father, company founder Michel Meynard, in the fall of 2013 had put it on the back burner.) “I realized then that our business model was not sustainable,” he says. “We couldn’t get discounts from the brands that the big e-commerce players did. We couldn’t get brands to sell us exclusives. We carried the same shoes as many other big retailers. And we couldn’t get shipping companies to give us the same discounts. How could we win?” Meynard saw this dilemma as a microcosm of an industry-wide epidemic. Namely, the over duplication of merchandise sold online. Likening the Internet to a massive Main Street, he says brands have made a mistake by eschewing a local Main Street approach of selling a variety of styles to different retailers. The result is massive sameness, with low prices governing buying decisions. “I’ve come to the conclusion that brands have been a large factor in this 2016 retail shakeout because of the over duplication online,” he says, noting that rising fixed overhead costs have also contributed to the rash of store closings. “The warm fall might have been a tiny piece that tipped some over the edge, but this was something that has been coming around the corner long before that.” Meynard believes this has to change—before it’s too late. Independents, in particular, are feeling the negative effects. “They have been just getting destroyed by what’s happening,” he says. And even though the tier accounts for only a small portion of overall sales, he believes its demise would have far-reaching negative consequences for the entire industry. “If we let the independents die off, we are going to end up making the same shoes for the same behemoths at the same prices,” he warns. “Eventually, it’s just going to be whoever has the deepest pockets survives. I think, as an industry, we have to take a very close look at trying to avoid that possible outcome.” INDEPENDENTS’ DAY So what’s a shoe executive to do? Let e-commerce take its natural scorched earth course and hope to survive? Earth Shoes has taken the opposite approach, doubling down on supporting its independent retailer base. It starts with the company working on developing exclusive goods for those retailers to help them compete with large online players. “They have to have some kind of exclusivity so that when customers go into one of those stores and discover a great shoe, they then can’t immediately look online and find the same exact shoe,” Meynard explains, “unless they find it on that store’s site, not on Amazon.” Earth Shoes’ website is also being revamped to promote its
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independent retail partners by directing customer traffic to them. In addition to exclusive products, Meynard says its independent base is getting extra attention across the board—including regular in-store visits by its sales team as well as devoting 60 percent of its overall resources to build stronger relationships. In the short term, he believes it will help them weather the shakeout and, longer term, make these stores lifestyle destinations where selection and service is unmatched. “We want to make sure independent retailers come first because those guys are the future of the industry,” he says. While such efforts make Earth Shoes a pioneer, Meynard is encouraged by other brands’ recent decisions to clean up their online distribution, too. “I think people are awakening to the need,” he says. He shrugs off fears about potential pushback Earth’s Daylily laser-cut wedge booties raise the bar on comfort with style.
from larger retailers, noting that Earthies, Earth and Earth Origins divisions are already tiered from high end to independent to mass distribution, respectively. Beyond that, he believes supporting experienced buyers in an e-commerce age where many just buy the entire line is a skill worth trying to preserve. “Real shoe knowledge is disappearing, and if independents go away entirely it’s going to become like selling toilet paper—about the price and little else,” he says. FUTURE TENSE Despite consolidation fears, Meynard remains optimistic about the future of Earth Shoes and the industry as a whole. He believes the shakeout that kicked into high gear this year is a wake-up call. We may be at the abyss, but we haven’t fallen in yet. “I think 2016 has been the tipping point and some brands are finally awakening to it,” he says. “I’m extremely optimistic. I think we are going to see meaningful change because we need to think about our future. And the future of any brand is retail. If we don’t think about proper retailing, we
are just digging our own graves.” In the immediate future, however, Meynard expects business to remain challenging. The presidential election is finally over, but he believes the shakeout of stores will continue. “It’s a big ship to steer and not something that happens overnight,” he says. “There will be more of a shakeout before it gets better in the retail environment.” But once the industry works through it, he predicts the environment will “absolutely” be healthier. The brave new world that awaits will involve advancements in lead times, shipping and manufacturing capabilities, Meynard forecasts. As trends hit the market with increasing speeds and shorter lifespans, the need to keep pace will be even more critical. “You have to be able to react fast,” he says. Fortunately, Earth Shoes is well prepared with a solid infrastructure in place. “We set up our overseas offices over 25 years ago and have built a manufacturing powerhouse with over 180 employees working in sample development, product development, quality control, etc.,” he says. All Earth Shoes’ sample development is done in-house—no outside factories, third parties or agents. It’s a huge advantage, as many brands struggle with those aspects. “We can literally send a sample request to our overseas facility on a Friday and have that sample sitting in our office on Monday in Waltham,” Meynard states. “We can get product designed extremely efficiently and rapidly.” Such capabilities are right in step with the buy now/wear now movement at retail that’s causing a dramatic shift in how goods are delivered to market. Think smaller quantities and more frequent deliveries. “The days of shipping everything at once are coming to an end,” Meynard says. Further down the road, Meynard envisions an industry where artificial intelligence and robotics will gain importance. While they won’t replace human intelligence and talent, he believes the ability to crunch numbers will go beyond P&L statements and actually enhance merchandising abilities that improve distribution. Robotics, in particular, will usher in another great era of change. “It will allow us to do smaller quantities of production and make exclusives for smallersized retailers,” he says, noting it will also involve improved 3D printing capabilities that will enable brands to make 1,000 bottoms for a customer, whereas today’s minimums are far greater. Above all, Meynard is excited by what the future holds for Earth Shoes and the industry. In the meantime, the ability to change, adapt and “always be prepared for the unknown” will serve the company’s guiding philosophy. “There’s real excitement here with all of our recent changes and the ones yet to come,” he says. “We are looking forward to what can be best described as a renaissance.” •
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A D I DA S S U P E R STA R
They don’t call it the Superstar for nothing: The iconic Adidas trainer continually cycles back into fashion, finding prominence among ’70s-era NBA players, ’80s b-boys, ’90s skaters and, most recently, A-list fashionistas. By Ann Loynd
The original Adidas Superstar.
THIRTY YEARS BEFORE the term “athleisure” had ever been uttered, rap group RunDMC released the single “My Adidas” as an ode to their shoe of choice: the shell-toed Adidas Superstar, which the trio rocked sans laces and tongues puffed out in ultimate hip-hop flash and attitude. It marked the Superstar’s second turn in the spotlight, having been the choice of more than 75 percent of NBA players during the previous decade following its launch in 1969. Back then, Kareem Abdul-Jabbar heralded the Superstar for its more durable leather construction (compared to flimsy canvas alternatives of the era) as well as its comfort aspects. The shoe—the brainchild of Adidas founder Adi Dassler—featured a host of design breakthroughs at the time, including Achilles padding, non-marking white 24 footwearplusmagazine.com • december 2016
herringbone rubber outsoles and a rubber “shell toe” to protect players’ feet. Like most iconic sneakers, the Superstar’s original design was for performance and, as often is the case, became a lifestyle staple in its off-court life. The Superstar has been adopted by skaters, thrashers and sneakerheads since its Run-DMC star turn. And now it’s starring again as A-list fashionistas sport its clean and classic aesthetic in a world gone athleisure crazy. Supermodel Gigi Hadid, in particular, got the ball rolling when she began sporting the original white with black stripes Superstars last year. Soon after, reality star Kendell Jenner was trotting around town in her latest athleisure ensembles anchored by classic Superstars, and legions of Millennial-aged women have been doing the same ever since. And
unlike the shoe’s previous popular runs that were decidedly male-dominated cultures, the Superstar’s current front row turn is part of a much bigger fashion scene. Women, as everyone in the shoe business knows, buy more shoes than men—a lot more. “A lot of women who don’t know too much about sneakers in the first place are wearing them,” confirms Vince Sirico, a contributor to the sneaker blog, Modern Notoriety. “It’s become a part of fast fashion,” he adds. Sirico says in addition to the style’s clean aesthetics, its price point is pretty attractive, retailing for only $80. Torben Schumacher, vice president product for Adidas Originals, concurs that the Superstar has “reached new prominence in the fashion industry and is especially popular among a new generation of women.” Schumacher believes that the
shoe’s sporting heritage gives it a credible voice in street style. “The Superstar sneaker is an icon of the street because of its constant influence on culture,” he says. “Its aesthetic makes a bold statement, and it is continuously reinventing itself.”
WALK THIS WAY That’s exactly what Run-DMC did when it adopted Superstars as part of the group uniform along with bucket hats, gold chains and track suits. What had been a gym shoe instantly represented a whole new lifestyle born on the streets of Queens, NY. The band’s music and fashion influence quickly took the world by storm and, by the mid-’80s, the Superstar—with and without laces—became a staple of b-boy culture. At a 1986 sold-out concert in Madison Square Garden, Run-DMC asked fans to hold up their Superstars as they performed the hit, “My Adidas,” off their bestselling album, Raising Hell. Many sneaker experts consider that very moment to be the birth of sneaker culture. “Run-DMC elevated the already-original model into the hall-of-fame status it earned early on in sneaker history,” says Oliver Mak, co-owner of Boston sneaker boutique, Bodega, quoting that famous song: “My Adidas do the illest things; we like to stomp out pimps with diamond rings.” The song was in response to an anti-sneaker rap song, “Felon Sneakers.” Run-DMC’s ode to its Adidas Superstars was an an attempt to flip the bad-boy stereotype of b-boys. Adidas embraced the Superstar’s pedestal in hip-hop culture. The company went on to collaborate with the group to create the Ultrastar, complete with an oversized Trefoil logo and elastic straps that celebrated the group’s lace-free preference. For the style’s 35th anniversary, Adidas introduced a special Run-DMC style complete with the group’s logo and the year “1986” emblazoned on the heel. “Run-DMC helped people realize sneakers are not just for sport but also for style,” says Yu-Ming Wu, founder of the blogs Freshness Mag and Sneaker News. “That’s what Run-DMC did for the Superstar.” Run-DMC collaborations spawned additional Superstar design partnerships over the years. Many became must-haves of sneakerheads and collectors the world over. Wu, for example, recalls traveling to San Francisco in 2003 with a business partner when they got wind that the much-anticipated Superstar collaboration with A Bathing Ape would go on sale at a store nearby. They snagged pairs after waiting only 15 minutes—a nanosecond by most sneaker drop standards. “People
waited outside for 72 hours at the Adidas Originals store in SoHo for that shoe,” Wu recalls. “We lucked out.” The Superstar, Wu adds, has been a driving force behind sneaker culture for years. “I love its historical aspect, and obviously it’s a great looking shoe,” he says. As for that A Bathing Ape collab he bought, it’s a memory that Wu holds onto—literally—to this day. “Every once in a while I wear those Superstars,” he says. “It brings back some really good memories.” The same can be said for millions of Gen-Xers who grew up listening to grunge music, playing alternative sports and wearing Superstars. Back in the ’90s, the shoe had once again been reinvented, having been adopted by skateboarders who discovered that its outsoles were ideal for helping perform flip tricks. Adidas dubbed it the “flip trick evolution.” Superstars quickly became a staple in skateboarding videos, and the company was again quick to get on board, signing pro skater Mark Gonzales to its Adidas skate team. Around this time, Superstars were also being worn by heavy metal fans, becoming part of the ensemble that included oversized pants, wallet chains and Mohawks. Mak attests to the shoe’s popularity in the ’90s hardcore scene, remembering, “You saw a lot of Superstars in the pit.” As the new century dawned, the rise of classic athletic styling enabled the Superstar to retain its relevance. Retro athletic has become as important a category as performance. Generations of consumers who grew up wearing Superstars re-up on their fave regularly while younger consumers discover the shoe for the first time thanks, in part, to a steady stream of collabs with leading sneaker boutiques as well as musicians like Pharrell Williams (Supercolor and Supershell collections) and Rita Ora’s pop art–inspired collection.
MONEY IN THE BANK Such brand extensions and reinventions have made the Superstar a retail gold mine, particularly of late. Adidas has yet to release figures for 2016, but the company reports sales of the >32
From top: Pharrell Williams and his Supercolor Superstar collab; Run-DMC sporting Superstars; Rita Ora’s collab.
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VA S Q U E S U N D OW N E R
The Sundowner Also Rises
Over the past three decades, Vasque’s Sundowner boot has achieved legendary status among avid hikers and weekend warriors alike for its timeless styling, unfailing durability and reliable versatility. By Ann Loynd
HIKING ENTHUSIASTS ARE a loyal bunch. Whenever they discover a boot, a backpack or an energy bar that performs up to snuff, they stick with it season after season. Design elements involving reliability, comfort, protection and durability usually trump aesthetics because style means squat if you happen to be miles into a hike and your feet are blistering. But it’s those rare occasions when such performance boots also deliver the goods on style. The Sundowner by Vasque is one such boot. Millions of wearers have hiked all over the national parks and back in their trusted Sundowners since the lightweight, all-leather, Italian-designed boots first appeared on store shelves more than 30 years ago. The Sundowner went on to become an outdoor specialty store staple as well as a benchmark for what a hiking boot should look and feel like. Specifically, when it launched in 1984, outdoor enthusiasts embraced the boot’s lightweight qualities (weighing in around two pounds compared to the six-pound beasts of the era) and waterproof 26 footwearplusmagazine.com • december 2016
technology. “The Sundowner was considered very lightweight and was one of the first products to incorporate Gore-Tex linings into footwear,” says Brian Hall, director of product development for Vasque. “It also had a molded insole/outsole that was glued, not stitched, onto the boot.” Hall says it was met with instant success despite being radically different in design and feel. “People may have had some trepidation, but [soon realized] it was a greatly built product,” he says. So great, that many consumers have resoled their Sundowners two to three times over the boots’ lifespans until the uppers finally wore out. Kevin Montayne, longtime buyer for Paramus, NJ, specialty store Campmor, can attest to the style’s popularity right out of the gate. “In 1984, when the Sundowner was launched, boots were either heavier or much lighter, almost sneaker-like,” he explains. “The Sundowner was a great compromise of support in a lighter package. Originally made in Italy, where building excellent footwear
is a tradition, the fit was very well-received by many folks.” Montayne says that along with the waterproof benefits of Gore-Tex which, he notes, allowed consumers to slack off on maintenance, a sweet price point just below what others were selling made it a hit at retail.
COLLEGE ROCK The Sundowner struck a vein on college campuses in the 1990s, exploding in popularity. The green revolution was in full swing, and Grunge fashion’s love of logger boots played a role. “It was a culture that was all about getting outside, kind of what we’re seeing now, with a revitalization of hiking and camping,” Hall recalls. “It became part of the uniform on college campuses in the early ’90s, and we had really strong sales through the decade.” With over three million pairs sold to date, the Sundowner has been pivotal in Vasque’s overall success and led to the development of more lightweight boots such as the Skywalk hiker (also still
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From top: Vasque Sundowner ads circa 1992 and 1988; the 1984 Sundowner.
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in production today). Despite the development of new technologies and styles, however, many customers keep coming back to the Sundowner. Why? “It’s the simplicity,” Hall says. “The boot has a one-piece leather upper. It’s a really clean silhouette that fits well. It breaks into your foot like a nice leather glove.” Sam Hardy, head editor/tester in chief for Alloutdoorsguide.com, who has worn his fair share of hiking boots, is a big fan of the Sundowner. “For me, it comes down to a timeless style matched with reliable functionality,” he says. “You know what you are going to get with Vasque, and the Sundowner is a classic in the hiking world.” Following the Sundowner’s run in the ’90s, the boot’s sales remained consistent with several peaks, especially among urban/hip-hop culture last decade. Sales dipped amid the sneaker boom, and some consumers were disappointed when production shifted to Asia in 2000. While Hardy says he didn’t notice a change in quality, he acknowledges that many longtime wearers weren’t happy with the “made in China” tag. Hall heard the outcry, however, and has been instrumental in returning the Sundowner’s production to Italy with its original last and all-leather construction, beginning in fall 2015. “It’s been really well received by our customers who have had the boot before,” he says of Italian-made revival, noting a particular popularity among Millennial-aged hikers and their strong preference for authentic design. “They see it as the epitome of the hiking boot,” he says. The nostalgia factor definitely plays a role, along with the classic alpine hiking boot look that has been trending strongly in fashion over the past year or so. Plus, the Sundowner has proven features to back up its retro aesthetic. “Quality of materials counts—they’re particularly susceptible to durability concerns by consumers,” Hardy explains. “Not only do customers want their boots to perform; they also want something stylish. I think the Sundowner bridges that gap of form and function nicely.” He adds that while the boot might not be best suited for multi-day back-country treks, the Sundowner is ideal for weekend hikes as well as tooling around town. Hall believes such versatility in performance and looks is what resonates with consumers. “The beautiful thing about the Sundowner is that while stylistically they have nostalgia, it’s a great functional product,” he says. “You’re not buying a boot just for the look. You’ll have it
for years. You can resole them multiple times.” He adds that long-term quality is particularly appreciated among Millennials who prefer premium materials and want the added bang for their buck. “That’s an idea that’s come back into favor,” he notes. “People want something they can invest in. It’s still that kind of product that will always have a place in our line.”
A TOP SELLER That combination of form and function is backed by the Sundowner’s 32-year-record at retail. Stores have rarely moved on. Campmor, for example, has been selling Sundowners since 1986. “I’ve sold or bought this boot, in one iteration or another, for 22 of Campmor’s 30 years,” Montanye says. “For years it was the most popular boot, the one everything else was compared against.” He adds, “It became a classic and the standard for which that year’s more popular models would be measured against.” Montanye estimates the store has “easily” sold tens of thousands of Sundowners over the decades and ranks the style in the topfive all-time footwear styles. “Certainly it would receive an all-star award for longevity,” he says. Travis Gneiting, who likens his website Gearchase.com to the Kayak.com of the outdoor industry, reports the Sundowner has been great for business. While the website doesn’t actually sell product, Gneiting says it gets a lot of traffic from consumers searching, “Vasque Sundowner on sale.” “We are typically in the top three Google search rankings for the term, so we drive sales to our affiliates for the boots all year long,” he says, adding, “The Vasque Sundowner is such an iconic boot.” Hall says that the Sundowner remains a core style for Vasque amid today’s resurgence in long hikes and weekend camping. “People are picking up our boot and using it as a daily piece,” he says, just like when it first hit the market. “When you look at that consumer then and now, I don’t think it’s all that different.” The consistency, Hardy believes, is due to the Sundowner’s simple design matched with modern enhancements. “The Sundowner under promises and over delivers,” he says. Campmor’s Montayne agrees, noting that the style will always have a place in the store. “Many footwear trends have come and gone over the years,” he says. “What keeps the Sundowner an essential part of the conversation is that it continues to satisfy the timeless desire of folks for good support in a lightweight boot while providing a great fit to a lot of people.” •
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W H AT ’S S E L L I N G
What brands have performed best this year? We’ve done extremely well with AGL. Jon Josef has also done really well. In accessories, we just received fabulous handbags from Elk, which are well-priced out of Australia. Also, Lily and Lola, the handbag brand based in Los Angeles, has been strong. Any new footwear brands added to the mix of late? Grey City. The designers hail from Seattle, and the brand is an excellent price point with great styling. We’ve also added Firenze Studio, made by a local designer and manufactured in Italy. Fall is their first delivery. I expect them to do well. How was business overall this year? Really soft at the beginning. Election years are typically tough because people are distracted. But as we got down to the final stretch, they started to loosen up.
Z E L DA’ S S H O E B A R
Po r t l a n d , O R
HAT’S AN ECCENTRIC fashion boutique to do when athleisure reigns? Stock a few athletic styles, of course. And Libby Hartung, owner of Zelda’s Shoe Bar, did just that this year. But she had reservations—would people prefer to shop traditional athletic brands in sportier stores? Not necessarily, as Hartung reports that Zelda’s most rapidly expanding category this year has been, “Tennis shoes!” Specifically, Isle Jacobsen’s Tulip slip-on tennie and sporty looks by J/Slides, Closed, Blackstone and Camper. A veteran of the shoe business for nearly 23 years, Hartung has always kept her finger on the pulse of the latest trends in order to pull styles that her loyal clientele (age 30 to 75) loves. Her secret is understanding the niche desires of Zelda’s target customer—independent women. “They don’t have to take it home to show their husband, or have you hold their hand and tell them how to wear it,” she says. “These women just love fabulous shoes.” From plush carpet to a glimmering chandelier as its centerpiece, the 900-square-foot boutique is nestled in the up-and-coming downtown area populated with other trendy boutiques. Zelda’s eclectic brand mix includes Arche, Frye, Camper, Vera Wang, Korkease and Old Gringo. And while neutral Barbour jackets and metallic Chelsea boots remain go-to staples for her clientele, Hartung is always on the lookout for what’s next and how she can apply her twist in order to stand out from the competition. “I like collections that incorporate lots of texture, materials and color,” she says. “People often comment on our variety of casual, dress and fashion styles. We all have lots of facets to our personality, and I think we have shoes that represent lots of those different facets.” Above all, Hartung attributes her success to one reliable philosophy: “Women buy out of passion, not out of need. Men are too practical.” —Emily Beckman
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How might a Trump presidency affect your business? It’s difficult to say what effect Trump will have. We’ve experienced 18 inconsistent months as people have been uncertain and react differently to change. I guess I don’t have to stock up on pantsuits [laughs]. Although, I don’t think Hillary would have been a trendsetter in fashion. She would have been great for women and business, but I didn’t see people focusing on her fashion as they did with Michelle Obama or other first ladies. I just hope people will become more relaxed and back to business-as-usual now that the election is finally over. What’s the biggest challenge facing your business? Keeping fresh product at the right price while balancing fashion and comfort. People pay attention to comfort more than ever, but our aging baby boomer is not settling for past comfort looks. The industry needs to pay attention to the fashion aspect of comfort lines. Likewise, I tell my vendors more padding is necessary in platform styles—or at least decrease the heel height. What is your No. 1 goal for next year? To build our business downtown and increase sales twofold. I just want to get back to where our numbers were before the recession. In order to do that, I’ll maintain a great selection of styles and vary the price points. For example, I carry $175 boots up to $610 styles, but the top end is really eight percent of my buy—it’s just the candy. Finding fashionable shoes that are quality and well-priced is always a challenge, but I think there are more options now. Do you have any plans to sell online? We’ve never felt we had the manpower to keep up with it. But we are in the process of redoing our website and plan on adding that feature. A little late to the game, but better late than never. What’s your most effective way of reaching new customers? Location, location, location! Also word of mouth, social media and local maps. What is the best decision you’ve made recently? Moving downtown. The street that I was on for so many years became more mainstream. Downtown Portland is finally seeing a resurgence—a lot of building and revitalization. Oddly enough, boutiques like mine are downtown now. I feel like I made the move at the perfect time—before rents become astronomical. Is there a greatest shoe of all time? I think that evolves with the times, but I love ankle boots with sleek lines because they can be dressed up or down. I also love embellishment and texture—I’m a sucker for a good python or animal print.
Y E S , T H EY â€™RE B I R KEN STOC K.
OUR BOOTS FEATURE THE ORIGINAL CONTOURED CORK FOOTBED FOR HISTORIC COMFORT AND SUPPORT. birkenstock.com
continued from page 25 Superstar along with its Stan Smith classic trainers shot up 45 percent to 15 boutique’s shelves. “The Superstar is a key part of a balanced collection,” he says, million pairs sold in 2015. adding, “Without it, the Adidas legacy would be less glorious than it is today.” “If you walk into Finish Line, it’s going to be on the front display with a pair As for how many pairs Bodega has sold since opening in 2006, Mak responds, of Adidas track pants,” Sirico says. “It’s instant profit for retailers right now.” “Enough to go to the moon and back.” Jeff Perlstein, owner of Oakland, CA, sneaker Similarly, DJ James, manager at Sneaker Polboutique Solespace nabbed an Adidas Origiitics, the three-store chain based in Louisiana, nals account in the past year, and can attest to ranks the Superstar in its top 10 bestsellers. “Every that fact. “We’ve absolutely seen a boost. Aditime we have a Superstar 80, it sells out within das has quickly become one of our strongest a day or two,” he reports. “It attracts a lot of kids brands,” he reports. Similarly, John McPhetwho are scrambling to post it [on social media]. ers, founder of the New York–based Stadium If you have their size, they don’t care about the Goods, has been selling Superstars since he cost.” James notes that the Superstar is particuopened the consignment shop last year, jumplarly a must-have among older high school and ing onto the style’s latest iterations. “We carry college students, but has been a steady seller more-recent Superstar collaborations between since the first store opened a decade ago. “The Adidas and the Japanese brands like Neighshoe sells so well because it’s so classic—nothborhood and Mastermind,” he says. “And, of ing too flashy,” James says. “You can pair anycourse, we’ve sold both of Pharrell’s first Adithing with it.” das collaborations, the Supercolor and his artSirico agrees that the Superstar’s versatility is —Lester Wasserman, work collection designed by artists like Todd what has given it legs for so many years. “When James and Zaha Hadid.” Run-DMC was wearing them with sweatpants co-owner of Tip Top Shoes and West NYC Lester Wasserman, co-owner of Tip Top and fat laces, it was a bulky look,” he explains. Shoes and the sneaker boutique West NYC “Now, people are wearing them with skinny jeans.” in Manhattan, has been selling the Superstar—thousands of them—for nearly Iconic shoe designs possess the style flexibility to cross barriers and generthree decades. “What makes it legendary is its cross-over appeal,” he says. “From ations. The Superstar is no exception. It’s been adopted and reinterpreted for high school students to guys and girls on their way out to the Hamptons, to doc- decades and shows little signs of becoming played out. “The Superstar blends tors and lawyers to those trying to relive childhood memories…I’ve sold Super- authenticity with creativity and self-expression like no other sneaker,” Schumstars to all and everyone in between.” acher says. “Our customers are creators, and the Superstar offers itself as a blank Mak confirms that the silhouette is a must-have on any credible sneaker canvas for all of those who have adopted it since it first debuted.” •
“From high school students to guys and girls on their way out to the Hamptons, to doctors and lawyers to those trying to relive childhood memories… I’ve sold Superstars to all and everyone in between.”
T R E N D S P OT T I N G
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D E S I G N E R C H AT
AS MANY NEW YORKERS know, one of the toughest parts of “making it here” is covering the rent. And in 1980, that is exactly what Adam Derrick was aiming to do when he started working in his husband’s Western boot store, To Boot, on weekends to help supplement his entrylevel salary at CBS News. But he soon realized his weekend job was a lot more fun than his nine-to-five. “I loved working with customers and in fashion, and I had a lot of ideas about product,” Derrick recalls of his time working at the Upper West Side store. So later that year, Derrick switched to full-time at To Boot, eventually becoming a business partner and, more notably, lead designer who transformed the store into a wholesale brand beginning in 1984. Over the ensuing decades, To Boot has evolved into a luxury lifestyle line for men spanning sneakers and sandals to dress shoes and, of course, plenty of boots. Within in that broad range, Derrick has built a design reputation around making shoes that, pardon the pun, have sole. “I like designing shoes that you can tell before even picking them up that people have touched them while they were being made,” he says, noting it involves a love of rich, hand-burnished leathers that have depth of tone. “I feel like the shoe is not only the most important thing a guy if wearing but it defines the outfit,” he adds. “Guys make or break their look with shoes, and I believe my shoes look important in a subtle, understated way.” Derrick says this design ethos has contributed to To Boot’s broad appeal—a trait that was verified at a recent truck show where he was assisting a father and his 13-year-old son pick out shoes for a Bar Mitzvah. “They each bought pair and while I was talking to them, the grandfather came over. Next thing I knew, we had three generations of men wearing To Boot!” he laughs, adding, “I’m not about pigeonholing who we are and who our brand is. Taste and style transcend age.” —Ann Loynd Tell me about your Spring ’17 collection. It’s very, very easy and comfortable while still being really spiffy. A lot of the styles are so glove-soft and comfy that they can be worn without socks. Ironically, 46 footwearplusmagazine.com • december 2016
we just launched a sock collection as well. Sneakers are also becoming more and more important for us, along with comfortable moccasins and penny loafers on flexible bottoms. I also updated classic styles people look to To Boot for. For example, I put our Chelsea boots on a full, wedge bottom this season so they look fresh. How is the athleisure trend affecting the luxury market? It’s turning it upside down. If you’re in fashion, you have to embrace new. For younger customers, they don’t see any point in wearing something that isn’t as comfortable as their sneakers. That becomes technical with dress shoes, but since I manufacture in Italy, we have access to the best leathers. We’re incorporating that feel-good stuff into a dress shoe.
Are men becoming more fashionforward? You see certain aspects, like men wearing makeup or Jaden Smith in an ad wearing a skirt, but this isn’t stuff that’s really translating to people on the street. I wouldn’t say men are more fashion-forward, but they’re mixing things up more—maybe nice track pants with a jacket and sweater. Where do you look for inspiration? I’m so fortunate to live in the West Chelsea section of New York. I walk out of my door and, bam! There’s the Highline and Hudson River Park and Greenwich Village nearby. All you have to do is keep your eyes open to find inspiration. Who is your fashion icon? I really admire Tom Ford. He’s multi-talented, always stylish.
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Ryan Dardano Dardano’s Shoes
Meet Feetz Custom-fit and designed 3D printed shoes for the masses.
PERHAPS IT’S FITTING that a mathematician, Lucy Beard, is the brainchild behind Feetz, a company that manufactures custom fit, sustainably made, 3D printed shoes. The concept, launched in 2013, is all about the numbers, such as custom sizing to the millimeter, greatly reduced shipping costs and impressive sustainability stats. Beard, a former Silicon Valley exec, believes Feetz represents a disruptive industry model whose time is now. “Silicon Valley teaches you there are no limits,” she says. “When you look at the world through those eyes, the opportunities are endless.” That mindset is what triggered Beard’s Feetz epiphany, which occurred after an unsuccessful shoe shopping excursion. Beard had gone to lick her wounds at a Starbucks, ordering a “grande mocha light with two pumps,” when it occurred to her that standard shoe sizing doesn’t meet individual needs for fit and comfort. Many equations later, Beard’s team created the SizeMe system that uses a mobile scanner to capture 5,000 data points and 22 dimensions that produce a customized 3D printed shoe in less than two weeks. “I began this company to resolve my own need of finding shoes that actually fit,” she says. In an effort to bring Feetz to the masses, the company partnered with DSW this fall by opening two pop-up shops in the chain’s New York and San Francisco flagships. Shoppers can see the 3D printers in action, designing their own flats or slip-on sneakers. DSW is running a limited time offer of $175 and $125 for men’s and women’s styles, respectively. (Retail pricing for men’s is normally $249 and $199 for women’s.) Beard hopes to extend this pop-up concept to additional DSW stores as well as other retailers going forward. “Starbucks, Barnes & Noble, Apple, airports—the options are endless and beyond footwear stores because Feetz is experiential,” she says. Beard believes the Feetz concept is also in step with the buy now/wear now movement. “Consumers consume social media in an instant, and the industry needs to be able to react to those trends,” she says. “Feetz enables you to react a lot faster. And by making product on demand, you react to just what’s needed.” That efficiency translates into Feetz’s sustainability premise that begins with its San Diego manufacturing base. “It avoids manufacturing from 3,000 miles away, and we only use what what is ordered,” Beard says. “There’s no water process used either, so the combination equals 60 percent less waste.” In addition, Feetz microfiber is 100-percent recycled and its core NoogaFlex material blend is recyclable up to 20 times of use. Beard believes the future of Feetz is bright, noting that once a customer’s size is captured ordering additional styles is seamless. “We know your [exact] size, and it’ll be about picking a style to match with our digital cobbler,” she says, adding, “Our mission is to see that you never have to try on a pair of shoes again.” —Greg Dutter 48 footwearplusmagazine.com • december 2016
RYAN DARDANO, BUYER and manager of Dardano’s Shoes in Denver, CO, was 14 years old when he joined his father in the family’s shoe repair business. The store, first opened in 1938 by Dardano’s grandfather as a repair shop, went through several relocations, and ultimately evolved during the ’80s into a full-service specialty comfort destination around the time Dr. Martens and Birkenstock pushed their way to fashion’s forefront. Dardano evolved as well, transitioning into the role of buyer while also managing a 12,000-square-foot store stocked with more than 60 leading comfort brands. Savvy in both shoe construction and style, Dardano uses his well-rounded background to select brands and styles that adhere to the store’s nearly 80-year-old keystone: comfort. “The definition of comfort is subjective,” Dardano offers. “What works for one person may not be ideal for someone else, but ultimately comfort is knowing that your feet will feel good in a pair of shoes, and the rest of your day will benefit from it.” Key brands at Dardano’s include Birkenstock, Earth, Ugg, Taos, Naot and Ecco. Dardano’s brother and sister, Dillon and Brittany, also are part of the buying team. All three are rooted in very different senses of style that, Dardano believes, make for a great balance to round out each season. “I love trying the unknown and seeing how it will perform,” he says. “It’s like a giant puzzle of just getting everything to fit and work right to achieve a cohesive story throughout our store.” —Emily Beckman What has sold well this fall? Samuel Hubbard has been doing well, and we just introduced women’s, which has taken off quite a bit for us. We also carry Aetrex, and it has been performing really well in men’s and women’s. Unfortunately, it has been a little warm here so our boot sales haven’t quite kicked in. What are some key trends for Spring ’17? For women, we’ve noticed a lot more elegant comfort, brands like Pikolinos, that give a cleaner look. They have a slight heel so you get the dressier look with the same comfort features. For men, our demographic has been changing a lot. We’ve always had a strong outdoor following, and we’re seeing it shift toward Red Wing and Frye—that classic boot type. A lot of guys are drawn to durable quality instead of more-disposable shoes. If they see a welted construction or that they can resole to extend the life, guys are gravitating toward it. Why? A few years ago, we were in much more of a disposable economy. Now, people are realizing that if they spend a little more on a shoe, they’ll have it longer and actually end up saving money in the long run. What’s the best buying decision you’ve ever made? Within every brand and in every season you have victories and shortfalls. But we really listen to our employees to see what’s moving best to try and minimize any mistakes. We also curtail our selection to cover as many feet as possible. Meaning, we carry some bigger brands that offer a wider selection so we can satisfy more feet across several categories in one brand. Such as? Dansko is a big player for us. Ecco is revolutionizing some of its offerings, and Mephisto has a wide range of shoes people can select from.
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Lost in the flood: Many South Carolinians are in need of footwear and clothing donations.
continued from page 12 ers previously attended OR.â€? In addition, Kahan says its rep force will be on the road even more to meet with many of these retailers in their stores. â€œThereâ€™s no question that the shift puts undo pressure on our operations and product development teams,â€? says Kitty Bolinger, vice president of sales for Dansko. â€œ[November] is very early and also when we schedule our sales meeting, plus itâ€™s the week before Thanksgiving,â€? she adds. â€œI also have concerns, quite frankly, whether retailers will want to leave their stores and make such a trek. This is when they start to see green ink and, as beautiful as a setting Salt Lake City is, it isnâ€™t easy to get into.â€? As for the summer show dates, Bolinger says, â€œJune is doable.â€? Larry Schwartz, CEO of Aetrex Worldwide, agrees that the November dates, in particular, are an issue. â€œFor our footwear business, it wonâ€™t be possible to be ready in November. But the changes will not impact our technology and orthotics businesses,â€? he says. The June dates are when the company holds it sales meetings, but Schwartz says it will adjust as best it can. David Helter, sport sales director for Ecco USA, describes the new dates as a â€œmajor shiftâ€? that presents a timing issue that will cause the product development team to alter their schedule. As to whether Ecco will be able to meet the earlier deadlines, Helter says, itâ€™s â€œtoo early to say with certainty.â€? To the brands not pleased with the earlier dates, Nicholson says OR did its best to accommodate the majority of exhibitors. â€œWe recognize that change is difficult and that making this shift wasnâ€™t going to work for everyone, but we knew we needed to evolve to continue to serve the majority of the industry,â€? she says, adding that this decision was not taken lightly. Itâ€™s one of the reasons organizers announced the South Carolina is a high SOLES4SOULS (S4S) IS move well in advance. â€œWe wanted to give the industry an 18-month priority for us.â€? answering a call for help in lead time,â€? she says. â€œThere are many contracts in place that require Tiffany Johnson, S4S outSouth Carolina after catastrophchanges to secure the venue, ensure adequate service staff, vendor reach coordinator, takes this ic flooding ravaged the state support and that hotel blocks are available.â€? relief effort personally. She recently. Record rainfallâ€”more Nicholson says OR is aslo open to suggestions that might assist was raised in one of the hardthan 25 inchesâ€”forced thoufootwear exhibitors. â€œWe welcome feedback from footwear brands est hit areas and her mother sands from their homes and and retailers in an effort to support their needs,â€? she says. One such still lives there. â€œAs soon as we 20 counties have been declared example is the establishment of a Winter Market show slated for realized the scope of this, I was federal disasters. While 17 peoJanuary 2019. That show is designed specifically to accommodate on the phone talking with variple lost their lives, tens of thouvendors and retailers who have later production and buying schedules. ous agencies in South Carolina sands more are without power And while it may not be on the scale of the Novermber OR show, itâ€™s about how and when we could and water, and many others lost not expected to be small, either. â€œItâ€™s not a mini market, and that show help,â€? she says, noting one of all of their belongings. will continue to be an opportunity to serve those market segments her motherâ€™s co-workers lost In response, S4S is issuing a and categories that need a show in this timeframe,â€? she says. everything. â€œMy mother asked plea to footwear retailers and Count Dansko in: â€œWe would absolutely go,â€? Bolinger says. â€œWe if we could put together a few manufactures to assist in a have a fab rep team based in Salt Lake City.â€? If the traffic is there, then pairs of shoes for her co-worker, relief mission. The non-profit is Dansko will continue to attend. If not, then it will pull out. Likewise, partnering with local emergency so I sent casual, dress and tenDansko will continue to exhibit at the earlier OR show dates for the nis shoes,â€? Johnson says, adding responders in order to provide foreseeable future. â€œWeâ€™ve been attending for 20 years so it would that such a small, but meaningshoes and clothing to those in be unthinkable that Dankso would not have a presence at OR,â€? she ful gesture, had an enormous need. â€œWe are asking any and says. â€œBut how it manifests, we have yet to see. It might be more of impact. â€œMy mom brought the all retailers or manufactura preview show than an order-taking show.â€? box of shoes to work and her ers to donate boots, athletic Schwartz says Aetrex will also continue to exhibit at OR, for now. co-worker was overcome with and childrenâ€™s footwear,â€? says â€œWeâ€™ll continue to support the show because, overall, theyâ€™ve done emotion,â€? she says. Brian Granfors, creative direca nice job bringing in strong retailers,â€? he says. â€œIf that continues, tor of S4S. Adds CEO Buddy To donate shoes and clothing weâ€™ll continue to be there.â€? Teaster: â€œResponding to natural for Carolinatoflood victims Helter says Ecco is also planningSouth to continue attend OR. disasters has been part of the or make a monetary donation â€œSupporting the OR show and the outdoor industry is essential to to Soles4Souls mission from the contact PattieisGraben at 615having successin the specialty tradeS4S, channel, which an important very beginning and helping area of growth for Ecco,â€? he says. 541-7007 or pattieg@soles4souls. people get back on their feet in org. â€”Laurie Cone
Soles4Souls Rallying Call to Aid South Carolina Flood Victims
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My Pretty Shoes
A Smithsonian conservator analyzes the composition of Dorothy’s ruby slipper.
SAVING DOROTHY’S SOLES A Kickstarter campaign to preserve a pair of magical slippers has a very happy ending. By Emily Beckman THESE AREN’T JUST any red pumps. These are the ultimate, magical “ruby slippers” worn by Dorothy Gale as played by Judy Garland in the 1939 classic, The Wizard of Oz. They are a national treasure befitting of a permanent pedestal in the Smithsonian Institution National Museum of American History, which is exactly where a rare pair— one of six known in existence from the movie’s wardrobe closet—has been on display for nearly 40 years. But the passage of time, air and bright lights have taken their toll on the iconic shoes. The sparkle of those tiny red sequins, in particular, is losing its luster due to discoloration and flaking. If something short of a Glinda the Good Witch renewal spell doesn’t occur soon, the shoes will continue to deteriorate and very well may cease being the museum’s most requested object at the visitor desk. And while that would surely make the Wicked Witch of the West cackle in delight, it would be bad business for the Smithsonian as well as a loss of something near and dear to millions of film lovers. Unfortunately, saving Dorothy’s soles involves no quick or affordable preservation plan—museum conservators pegged the price tag at a hefty $300,000 to restore the shoes as well as house them in a climate-controlled and protective case. Museum officials needed financial assistance. (Unsubstantiated rumors of staff members clicking their heels apparently didn’t do the trick.) Enter the museum’s Kickstarter crowdfunding campaign launched last month. “To conserve the ruby slippers, we could have sought grants or financial assistance from wealthy people and corporations,” explains Ryan Lintelman, entertainment curator at the Smithsonian. “Instead, Kickstarter gave us the opportunity to talk to ordinary people directly, explain what we do here at the museum and allow them to feel a bit of ownership of these treasured objects by making a contribution.” 52 footwearplusmagazine.com • december 2016
The magic of social media proved to be a street paved with gold as officials were overwhelmed by the outpouring of support. The campaign’s tiered incentives also played a key role in enticing the public, which ranged from small rewards like a digital poster or tote to grand prizes like replica ruby slippers or a personal museum tour. “We always hoped we’d reach our goal,” Lintelman says. “But we didn’t know we’d reach it in just seven days and with 5,000 people contributing!” The fact is, these shoes represent much more than movie memorabilia, according to Lintelman. He suggests the hyper-reality created by the film’s fantasy landscapes and costumes captivated millions of Americans who, at the time, were suffering through the Great Depression. “It was a form of escapism,” he says. “People were looking for a fantasy world that could take their minds off their problems for a little while and, in that sense, these slippers helped do that.” Over the ensuing decades, Lintelman adds, the sparkly aesthetic of the shoes reminded people of old Hollywood glamour. Meghan Cleary, shoe expert and author of Shoeareyou.com, agrees that Dorothy’s shoes serve as a cultural beacon. “They are shiny, sparkly and represented Dorothy getting through a dark time—something people could relate to during the Great Depression,” she says, noting the “not very high and a bit blocky heel” became an icon of femininity. “That sort of heel has become timeless and even women in power, depending on how they spin it, can look feminine wearing them,” she adds. The restoration of Dorothy’s slippers will commence next year and be reintroduced in 2018 as part of a new exhibit that teaches Smithsonian visitors about American history through the lens of popular culture. A gala is also planned for the day the exhibit opens that’s part celebration and part showing gratitude. “Our backers are incredibly generous and thoughtful,” Lintelman says. “We want to thank donors for their civic-minded contributions in helping to save this national treasure.”
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Published on Nov 28, 2016
Published on Nov 28, 2016
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