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THE COLOR OF FALL: RUST

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A COVETED CONSUMER GROUP: YUCCIES

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W H AT ’ S H O T : S N E A K E R B O O T S

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Neutral Ground

Blending the Best of Both Genders





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F E A T U R E S

FEBRUARY 2016

18 Meet the Yuccie Why the latest millennial archetype is a coveted customer. By Lauren Olsen 20 Changing of the Guard Marking Washington Shoe Company’s 125th anniversary, Rob and Karl Moehring reflect on four generations of family ownership. By Greg Dutter 26 Big Blend Theory With muses spanning Don Draper to Justin Bieber to yogis, the Fall ’16 season is awash in variety and versatility. By Ann Loynd 50 The Big Idea With roughly 50,000 pairs in stock, Globe Shoes makes good on a promise to fit every foot. By Jeanne O’Brien Coffey 54 Get a Grip The sneakerboot is gaining traction in a world crazy for kicks. By Lauren Olsen 68 In Rust We Trust Bank on the rich autumnal shade to reign. By Ann Loynd 72 Blurred Lines Robust menswear looks coupled with subtle feminine touches create crossover appeal. By Ann Loynd

D E P A R T M E N T S 10 12 14 30 62 82 84 86 88

PA G E

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Editor’s Note Scene & Heard This Just In Trendspotting What’s Selling Shoe Salon Comfort E-beat Last Word

On the cover: Coolway tasseled loafer, Tibi jacket over Fendi cardigan, Junya Watanabe jeans, earrings, ring and neck piece by Dior, socks by Uniqlo, vintage belt and pin. This page: High heel oxford by Earthies, Soulland jacket, vintage earrings. Photographer: Jamie Isaia; Fashion Editor: Ann Loynd; stylist: Edda Gudmundsdottir; hair and makeup: Sacha Harford/Next Artists; model: Victoria C./ Red Model Management.

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.

Caroline Diaco Publisher Greg Dutter Editorial Director Nancy Campbell Trevett McCandliss Creative Directors EDITORIAL Ann Loynd Senior Editor Lauren Olsen Associate Editor Kathy Passero Editor at Large Melodie Jeng Contributing Photographer 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 OFFICES Advertising/Editorial 36 Cooper Square, 4th fl. New York, NY 10003 Tel: (646) 278-1550 Fax: (646) 278-1553 editorialrequests@ 9Threads.com Circulation 26202 Detroit Road, #300 Westlake, OH 44145 Tel: (440) 871-1300 circulation@9Threads.com Corporate 9Threads 26202 Detroit Road, #300 Westlake, OH 44145 Tel: (440) 871-1300 Xen Zapis Chairman Lee Zapis President Rich Bongorno Chief Financial Officer Debbie Grim Controller


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E D I TO R ’S N OT E The New Normal

GOING TO EXTREMES The record-breaking, once-in-a-lifetime, never-seen-before, to-the-nth-degree nature of events these days is taking its toll.

BIKE RIDING CHRISTMAS day in Connecticut amid record-breaking, 70-degree temps sure was extreme—extremely pleasant. But the fact that trees had been blooming in much of the Northeast during the warmest fall on record (capping off the hottest year on record globally) was disturbing. Maybe all those global warming prognosticators warning that ecological disaster awaits if we don’t cool it on carbon emissions are right. And maybe it’s coming in a matter of seasons, not sometime next century. Needless to say, that would be bad. In the meantime, we are all well aware of how super bad the freaky warmth has been—immediately—for retailers desperate for the slightest chill that might spur consumers to buy scarves, sweaters, boots and the like. Count me as one such unmotivated shopper: Gearing up for a winter nowhere in sight or going for December bike rides in May-like conditions? It was a no-brainer. Experts blamed the record-shattering heat, in part, on the “Godzilla” El Niño. I guess calling it a “super” El Niño isn’t extreme enough this time around. This naturally re-occurring phenomenon seems to dovetail with other recent extremes, involving climate (remember last winter’s polar vortex invasion?), politics, lotteries, stock markets, ponzi schemes, immigration crises, religious acts of fervor and pretty much everything. Of course, this El Niño warranted a mythical fire-breathing monster’s moniker. Extreme, you might say, is the new black. Not too long ago, winning a $1 million lottery prize was deemed a life-altering stroke of good fortune. Talk about chump change in the face of the recent record-obliterating $1.5 billion Powerball jackpot. It is a massive amount of money that eclipes entire nations’ net worth. Equally mind-boggling were the odds of winning: one in 292 million, give or take a few thousand. I’m no math genius, but I think you have have a better chance of being hit by lightning while being eaten by a great white. (Talk about extremely bad luck.) Some argued that the $1.5 billion could have been put to better use spread out over, say, one million Americans who could really use $1,500 most. Perhaps this is an unrealistic line of thought, but is it any less extreme than the top one percent controlling more than half of the world’s wealth? Is this a sustainable divide? Many experts warn that the current haves and have-nots ratio is the biggest house of cards ever. Of course, the notion of sharing on such a massive scale is ludicrous.

Americans seem unable to share in just about anything nowadays. The widening chasm between the left and right politically is more extreme than ever. They refuse to even listen to each other, let alone work together for the greater good of the nation—the basic premise of a democracy. It’s demoralizing and debilitating. Zealots have hijacked our political process. It’s a carnival-like atmosphere in which policy issues on hot topics like immigration, gun control, taxation, civil liberties, healthcare, etc. are aimed at rallying the respective lunatic fringes rather than promoting any meaningful dialogue. While it makes for good debate ratings, it leaves this middle-of-the-road thinker out in the cold. The polarizing sound bites offer no realistic solutions. Our industry is no stranger to extremes. It’s the nature of fashion. The current athleisure trend, for example, has been an extreme boon to athletic footwear makers and a bust for just about anyone else. What the next macro lifestyle fashion movement becomes is anyone’s guess. It will largely depend on whether clothing designers can convince the yoga pants-wearing masses to shed a chic, versatile and comfortable look. My guess is it won’t be easy. Sourcing isn’t getting any simpler, either. In fact, it has become an extreme sport of sorts—a Hunger Games–like fight for efficiency in the farthest corners of the world. Equally dystopian is the fight for survival at retail—starting with whether the shoe store as we now know it will even exist in the not-so-distant future. That seems a tad extreme. But the omninchannel revolution is real. The growth rates of online shopping cannot be denied. Consumer shopping habits have undergone an extreme shift in the last five years. One need only look at the duress many malls are in for evidence of this seismic shift. Then again, is it any real surprise considering that the format hasn’t evolved much in 50 years? The fact is retail has been over-stored for decades. The shakeout that has kicked into a higher gear of late is an inevitable trimming of the fat—not brick-and-mortar retail entering its death throes. At least, that’s my opinion. How extreme it becomes remains to be seen. A tanking stock market would likely have a greater impact. In the meantime, here’s a question that will have far more extreme implications to the retail landscape as we now know it: Will shoppers embrace a direct-to-consumer model? All this extremeness can get overwhelming. Maybe the ostriches are onto something, because trying to stay on an even keel in a world gone wild is not easy. As the song goes, who knows what tomorrow may bring. A stretch of extreme normalcy sounds pretty good to me right now.

Greg Dutter

Editorial Director

10 footwearplusmagazine.com • february 2016


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SCENE & HEARD

SHAPE SHIFTER

Concepts Celebrates 20 Years BOSTON-BASED CONCEPTS is marking its 20th anniversary by doing what it does best: releasing a series of exclusive collaborations with leading athletic brands throughout this year. “We’re really excited to celebrate our anniversary, and we figured there was no better way than to collaborate on exclusive models with our favorite global brands,” says Deon Point, general manager. Fittingly, the sneaker boutique kicked off the series with long-time partner and industry leader, Nike. The Concepts x Nike Free Trainer is a colorful take on retro design inspired by sports science that features a ther-

mal-reactive tongue that changes colors when heated. Additional features include six flex points in the sole to allow the foot to move naturally in any direction, a mesh upper and a heel pull-tab. Concepts logos are emblazoned on the exterior tongue and heel, and the shoes come in a keepsake box. “This is where Concepts is most comfortable: off the beaten path and unique,” says Point of the collab. “Working on a silhouette such as the Nike Free Trainer is something new and unpredictable. We wanted to create something that wasn’t just another retro shoe in another colorway.”

Digital Step NEW BALANCE HAS —quite literally—stepped outside of the box. The company announced its launch of Digital Sport, an innovative high-tech division that will be in partnership with the likes of Intel, Google, Strava and Zepp to create a digital ecosystem of wearable technologies and interactive experiences that aim to push athletes to the limits of their potential. “Digital Sport will invent products that empower humans better than any human can,” explains Chris Ladd, executive vice president direct to consumer. Digital Sport will concentrate on three categories: devices (first up: a digital tracking and musical smartwatch expected to hit stores this holiday season); embedded technology (think footwear and apparel with intelligent built-in sensors); and performance sport (to include sports equipment microfob that can sense, analyze and provide feedback.) Physical and digital experiences will also be a focus, and the first will be the New Balance Run Club powered by Strava. Run Club users will connect with one another both on and offline in a number of ways, from classes based in New Balance stores to users digitally 12 footwearplusmagazine.com • february 2016

tracking their performance and sharing preferred routes. These savvy athletes will be able to participate virtually in group and individual training as well as in competition events. The first Run Club launched in Boulder, CO early this year, with others launching in the U.S., Asia and Europe throughout 2016. As to who the Digital Sport expected consumer is? “In short—everyone,” says Ladd. With elite athletes, New Balance has been able to bring data-driven results to customized footwear and apparel, but through Digital Sport, the company hopes to make that practice available to all. “Bringing that technology to every athlete is very important and it is something we are excited to do,” he explains. “Pinnacle performance is important to athletes all around the world at every level.” Ladd acknowledges that the digital tech space moves at an extremely fast pace, and his team is determined to not just keep up with that pace, but lead it. “New Balance wants to continue to be a brand on the forefront of innovation,” he says, “Innovation runs through everything that we do.”

HOW MANY SHOES does a busy woman really need to take her through an average day? Well, there’s flats for commuting, sensible heels for work, sneakers for the gym, stilettos for a night out…That’s a lot of shoe baggage, and what about wellies if it rains or snows? Designers have made several stabs at creating an adaptable shoe to meet a variety of occasions, including telescopic heels to fold-up flats that easily stash in one’s purse. They have been met with varying degrees of success—and failure. Shoe designer Tanya Heath has another

Tanya Heath: one shoe, five interchangeable heels.

solution: interchangeable heels that easily click into pumps, sandals and boots. Unlike foldable flats, which Heath sees as “emergency shoes” that are similar to a throwaway umbrella, her shoes are designed to play an everyday role in a woman’s wardrobe. “Our shoes are much more of a fashion statement, and we have a complete range of looks from pumps to low boots, high boots to sandals,” she says. The eponymous line ranges from $500 for pumps and sandals up to $900 for select boots. Individual heels (block, kitten and stiletto) range from $45 to $100. While the collection is priced at the higher end, Heath believes her customer spans a wide range of age and income level. “If you had asked me one year ago, I would have said: She is sophisticated, very well off and fashion conscious,” Heath says. “Now I would say she is cross-generational. Younger girls—many still living at home—love the concept because they are attracted by the technology, and the heel display in the store looks like a candy counter.” Tanya Heath is currently available at tanyaheath.com and in Heath’s Los Angeles boutique. The designer is also looking to expand into retail distribution.


LOOKING FORWARD TO SEEING YOU P L AT F O R M B O O T H 8 2 3 2 1 AT L A N TA B O O T H 1 3 0 5 - 1 3 0 7


THIS JUST IN

HOT... Miamians show some skin in day-to-night looks that mix sporty staples with punches of pattern. Photography by Nicole Comeau 14 footwearplusmagazine.com • february 2016



THIS JUST IN

...AND COLD Knits, furs and boots, oh my! Shivering masses battle the elements in tundra-like Toronto. Photography by Nicole Comeau 16 footwearplusmagazine.com • february 2016


Uniting the Industry

Together We Are Better

You’re elected to attend the 22nd Annual USRA May Event, May 1-3, 2016 at The Wigwam in Litchfield Park, AZ. Footwear delegates will be united to plan for a bigger and brighter future. You’ll learn from industry leaders how to become more popular with your customers, how to increase your constituents and earn their loyalty votes. The USRA May Event – a group of the people, for the people, by the people. Let’s work together – to become connected, informed and educated. Retailers, Sales Reps & Vendors working together to unite the footwear community. The USRA May Event ’16 agenda includes: « Leadership Caucus. Guidance by business pros with proven strategies for your success. « CPEDs earn education points. « Golf Tournament. It’s practically presidential! Our fairway deals are historic. « The Inner Circle Party where your voice will be heard! « Fun-Raising dinners, lunches, cocktails, “party” games! « Ballot of Brands. Leading manufacturers will attend to earn your favor with special sales incentives. In 2016, USRA offers a unique combination of elements that proves we are all stronger working together rather than apart. The 2016 USRA May Event provides networks of partnerships working together to grow and improve the footwear community.

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Call or email the USRA office for Membership info or a May Event package Phone: (818) 703-6062 Email: Linda@USRAonline.org www.usraonline.org

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SPECIAL REPORT

Meet the Yuccie

V

The latest millennial archetype is a major trend-setter seeking meaningful brand relationships. By Lauren Olsen

ISUALIZE A MALE hipster. Now shave the beard in favor of smooth skin, lop off that man bun, exchange raggy plaids for clean lines, swap the cigarette with a Breville-made kale smoothie, make him tech- and media-savvy, and let him be ambitious and entrepreneurial—all while allowing him to retain his love of artistic freedom and fundamentally creative spirit. What do you end up with? The Yuccie, which is an acronym for Young Urban Creative—the latest millennial-aged moniker that marketers say is a group on the rise in both size and influence. The term Yuccie went viral following a Mashable article written by David Infante this last summer. “What do we call me?” the author mused, “I’m a 26-year-old writer who lives in a gentrifying neighborhood in Brooklyn. I’m a straight white man with a single-speed bike and a mustache. I studied liberal arts in college, and I have ideas about stuff, you guys. Millennial? Hipster? Yuppie? All of these, or none?” Unsatisfied with those labels, Infante came up with Yuccie. The response to his “The Hipster is Dead, and You Might Not Like Who Comes Next,” missive was tremendous—within days media outlets like CNN, Time, and Business Insider had picked up on the story. A list of “99 Things All Yuccies Love” popped up on BuzzFeed and the web became riddled with “Are you a Yuccie?”–type personality quizzes. Since then, talk of the hipster is no longer hip. And that Young Urban Professional (Yuppie) no longer seems quite so young. The new and shiny hipster-Yuppie hybrid, like its literal and cultural predecessors, has got its share of haters. Infante was the first to poke fun at the group (and himself), mocking the Yuccie’s “creative entitlement,” self-centered cynicism and unabashed privilege. “Yuckies —Carys Williams, think are yucky,” he stated. A Complex article followed up with a post titled, “Enter the Yuccie: The Latest Thing to Ruin Your City.” Much of the disdain for this group centers around what appears to be the perceived unfairness and disconnect between the Yuccie’s desire to reap the benefits of an artistic lifestyle with one hand, while grabbing for the gold with the other. “Getting rich and being creative while doing it is the Yuccie dream,” reports Carys Williams, think tank editor at trend forecasting and analysis company WGSN. Whether that desire is an admirable or delusional trait is a matter of debate, but the Yuccie looks to be much more than a whitewashed hipster decked out in business-casual attire. Might the critics overlook what the Yuccie-asentrepreneur brings to the table? Daily Mail, for example, cites Facebook

founder Mark Zuckerberg as an example of a star Yuccie—quite an influential, trend-setting guy, if there ever was one. At the very least, David Kahan, CEO of Birkenstock Americas, says the Yuccie is “educated, aware and upwardly mobile.” And when it comes to shopping, what he describes as an informed and knowledgeable group that values sincerity and experience are actually positive demographic traits. Williams also believes that Yuccies are an attractive audience for retailers. “Design, good design, really appeals to them,” she says. “And they’re willing to pay for it.” That being said, the flashy logos once coveted by the Yuppie do not hold the same appeal for the Yuccie. According to Jacqueline Van Dine, co-founder and vice president of Ahnu Footwear, a division of Deckers Brands, a high-low mix is what you would find in the typical Yuccie’s wardrobe. They can enjoy pricier, unique items, and she adds with a laugh, while they have a particular penchant for the specialty boutique experience, “they’re not shy to shop at Trader Joe’s.” (To wit: No. 64 on the list of 99 things that BuzzFeed lists as things all Yuccies love: Being complimented on their furniture and saying, “It’s Ikea.”) Van Dine sees highly personalized curation as being essential to the Yuccie wardrobe. “They want to curate their closets from head-to-toe,” she says. What’s the perfect shoe for a Yuccie? “Something versatile that could look great with jeans or dressed up a bit. Above all, a shoe that’s very clean with some technology underfoot,” Van Dine says. Carl Blakeslee, co-founder and creative director of Portland Product Werks, makers of Woolrich Footwear, concurs on the simple-yet-versatile design ethos. High-quality materials are sought after by this group, he notes, but the aesthetic that this millennial gravitates toward, overall, is much more subtle than what a Yuppie might favor. He describes the Yuccie’s personal style as being minimalist and tank editor, WGSN simple with unexpected elements that give an otherwise classic look a provocative twist. (Think: brightly colored socks with a fun print peering out of the ankle of an otherwise traditional ensemble.) Blakeslee agrees with some media reports that suggest Yuccies like to focus on items that have specific details, which make the respective brand worn obvious to only those in the know. “This is the real difference between the Yuppie and the Yuccie,” he says. “The Yuppie was all about exclusive membership to the club, while the Yuccie creates his/her own club inviting all to join who are worthy of extrapolating the backstory.” To the Yuccie, that backstory is paramount. “Yuccies want to pick the brain of the salesman in order to collect the story behind the desired product,” Blakeslee says. “It’s all about authenticity.” Williams agrees: “Creating a lifestyle around the product and around the brand is crucial to winning >66

“DESIGN, GOOD DESIGN, REALLY APPEALS TO [YUCCIES].

AND THEY’RE WILLING TO PAY FOR IT.”

18 footwearplusmagazine.com • feruary 2016



CHANGING OF THE GUARD M a r k i n g Wa s h i n g t o n S h o e C o m p a n y ’s 1 2 5 t h a n n i v e r s a r y, K a r l a n d R o b Mo e h r i n g , C E O a n d c h a i r m a n r e s p e c t i v e l y, r e f l e c t o n f o u r g e n e r a t i o n s of family ownership and the exciting road ahead.

T JUST DOESN’T happen that often—companies launched in the late 19th century still existing today. Even more rare: 125-year-old companies actively repositioning themselves for future growth as opposed to running on a legacy or, worse, fumes. Even more unparalleled: 100-plus-year-old companies still owned and operated by the same family. But Washington Shoe Company—makers of Chooka, Western Chief and Staheekum brands—is all of the above. The Moehring family has owned their Kent, WA–based business for the past 106 years and is now passing the leadership baton to a fourth generation, recently naming Karl Moehring CEO. Rob Moehring, former CEO and principal owner since 1991, is shifting into a chairman/emeritus role that will let him focus on the matters he holds most dear— product design and innovation. Meanwhile, Karl, who has risen through the company ranks since joining in 2002 (he most recently served as CFO and COO), continues to position Washington Shoe Company for its next phase of growth during the rapidly evolving omnichannel revolution. “We are a family business, and we are always looking at the transition of moving from one generation to the next,” Rob says. “Karl’s skillset of management and finance is best suited to the next stage of the development of our company.” The timing for such a changeover is ideal. Each possesses the abilities to serve the company’s current needs. Rob has always been a product visionary. It was his decision to shift from the fast-fashion, junior’s-based business model his father and uncle developed to rain boots in the early ’90s. That proved a tremendously lucrative move. The category was in 20 footwearplusmagazine.com • february 2016

stride with a utilitarian fashion movement and soon exploded in popularity, thanks to the advent of printing capabilities that turned rubber boots into art canvases as well as 3D molding that transformed kid’s styles into adorable, lifelike creatures such as frogs and lady bugs. The Chooka and Western Chief brands became leaders in their respective rain boot niches, and Washington Shoe Company enjoyed the strongest growth in its history. The goal now is to extend both Chooka and Western Chief into other


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O&A categories and become more complete lifestyle brands. Rob believes such extensions are more attainable than trying to launch additional brands from scratch. The company learned that lesson the hard way when it tried—and eventually gave up on—launching a handful of brands over the past decade. “Having 12 brands just divides your resources into 12 pieces, and a company our size really can’t do that,” he explains. “We had nearly that many at one time, and now we are down to three.” Rob compares the process Washington Shoe Company is undergoing to the transformation Ralph Lauren made, albeit theirs is on a much smaller scale. “He went from being a very creative person designing suits and ties, basically, to managing a gigantic corporation,” he explains. “His vision had to be delegated to manage that expansion and further his vision.” Washington Shoe What are you reading? Rob: Company, too, needs to operate on a Car Guys vs. Bean Counters: The more sophisticated level to reach the Battle for the Soul of American next stage of success, says Rob. “We Business. It’s about the U.S. auto need to put metrics and descriptions industry in the early ’50s when on every job within the company to the big three automakers had ensure that our vision for where we separation of the business and want to go next can be achieved,” he design sides. The cars were great, says, adding that his son has been perand business was phenomenal. forming many of those tasks already. Then the bean counters got Rob also draws parallels to involved and that was the start of Nordstrom, a company he holds in the decline. Karl: I’m a newspahigh regard. “They are one of the best per guy. I read The Washington examples of a successful family busiPost every day on my Kindle. ness,” he states. “Three members of the same family serving as co-presWhat is inspiring you right idents—that’s very unusual, but it’s now? Rob: Patterns and prints, really great to see.” which we are known for, are These days cooperation is a pritrending again. This is excitority at Washington Shoe Company, ing news for us. Karl: People. but that wasn’t always the case. The Every day I deal with all sorts of Moehring family freely admits they’ve people around the world, be they done their share of head butting over accountants, buyers, sales reps or the years. “There are a lot of chalsourcing agents. lenges in a family business. You go through stretches where personal and What sound do you love? business lives intersect, and someRob: Oh, it’s the pitter-patter of times it can be really complicated and become your worst nightmare,” Rob explains. For starters, it’s hard to leave work at the office. Rob’s wife, Val, recently retired from the company, and his eldest son, Mark, is vice president in charge of outside sales and human resources. Rob’s self-confessed hardheaded nature made him wary of outside input, but after the family brought in an industrial psychologist to mediate difficulties and help them work through various impasses, the lines of communication opened. The process helped the Moehrings see the big picture: Keeping the business within the family far outweighed personal issues. “Once we came to understand what really drives each of us, it made a huge difference in our relationships,” Rob says. “There were some real epiphanies for me, and I’m grateful for having gone through the process.” Karl concurs that the outside counseling (the family still meets with the psychologist on a quarterly basis and conducts conference calls to help foster communication) saved the business. “It was definitely a turning point for our company and our family,” he says. “It brought us back together, reen-

ergized us and got us all recommitted to the business.” The Moehrings are focused now on writing the company’s next chapters. They are also taking time to commemorate this year’s notable anniversary. Original logos have been brought back into circulation, updates of classic styles will be introduced, and social media campaigns are in the works. The company also launched the Wear a Big Smile charitable foundation that will donate rain boots, coats and umbrellas to children in need. “We want to give back to the community, and Wear a Big Smile is our show of thanks for helping us get to where we are today,” Karl offers. The initial plan is to give away $125,000 worth of rain gear during the first year. “We will start locally and then spread out from there,” Rob adds. “We’ll start with homeless shelters, child-related charities and anyraindrops falling. Karl: He stole where kids are in need of such products. my answer. Rain is the sound of Eventually we would like it to reach money. across the country.” Washington Shoe Company has Who would be your most covcome a long way from its roots as a eted dinner guest? Rob: Steve logger boot supplier to the area’s mills. Jobs. He was the master of innoNot unlike Seattle, which evolved from vation and creation. Karl: Jeff a logging outpost into a software- and Bezos. He understands the future tech-mecca, the company has underof e-commerce like no one else. gone several format transformations to adapt to changes in fashion and What is your current state of retailing. It has weathered its share mind? Rob: I’m embracing the of ups and downs and, through it all, challenge of moving into my the Moehring family has found ways new position as emeritus, which to adapt and survive. Their proudest is exciting and definitely a chalachievement? Remaining a familylenge. Karl: Energized. owned business, which is increasingly rare in the conglomerate age. Perhaps What might people be surit’s ironic that the company is based a prised to know about you? stone’s throw from one of the world’s Rob: That I have a sensitive side. ultimate conglomerates: Amazon. Then [Laughs] Karl: That I relieve again, the Moehrings are firm believstress by gardening. ers that there’s room for both public and family-owned entities. In fact, What one word best describes Washington Shoe Company counts you? Rob: Serendipity. I love livAmazon as one of its key retail parting in the moment. Karl: Driven. ners, and the Moehrings also remember it was boutique stores that first embraced Chooka’s tattoo-printed boots and set the company off to the rain boot races. The Moehring family is still racing forward, and for that they are grateful. “I have the luckiest life because I have two sons and a wife who work with me, and we get along now in an amazing way,” Rob says. “We get to do what we love, and there’s nothing better than that.”

OFF THE CUFF

22 footwearplusmagazine.com • february 2016

So how’s life in your new respective roles? Rob: It’s great. I’ve always been really interested in the product and trying to come up with new ideas. So this allows me to concentrate on the part of the job that I love the most. I’m also focusing on strategic planning, long-term initiatives and networking. This will enable me to look at the big picture and define new opportunities. Karl: I’m really excited by the opportunity. We are focused on our growth plan for the next five years. We are shoring up in particular areas to make sure we hit those goals, which are pretty aggressive. We are adding more firepower,


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O&A for example, behind our sales team to be of better service to our retail partners. It’s mostly a support staff so they are not as burdened with the mundane aspects of the job and can focus on building strong relationships and servicing our accounts. I’m also focused on transitioning my CFO responsibilities to our new hire. We envision the transition to be as seamless as possible. It’s a big year for us. Was it always a plan of yours to join the family business? Karl: Living near Seattle in the late ’90s, I thought I’d go work for Microsoft and be part of the dot-com revolution. But life changes. There was a need in our company. So it kind of just worked out, and I’ve been here ever since. How might your management style differ from your father’s? Karl: I would say we share a lot of similarities. But my father is definitely the more outspoken one. I tend to be a man of few words, but they are calculated. Is this the first round of trade shows where you are officially CEO? Karl: The FFANY show in December was the first. But I look at this transition as a process that’s been going on for a while, and by that I mean years. It’s not like I’m a brand new face within the industry. I’ve been attending shows and meeting with our key customers for years. I work very closely with our supply chain, and that’s not going to change. I guess it’s more about announcing the change officially. Has there ever been a time that you though about selling and retiring? Rob: My wife, who has been retired for about two years now, asks me that on occasion. Let’s see, you get up around 9, you TiVo Good Morning America, you go down to the local postal post office to pick up the mail, you grab a latte

and a bagel…Just buy me a gun [laughs]. I’m sorry, but that’s just how I feel. Why would I retire? I’m doing exactly what I love, and I’m very fortunate to have two sons to head up the other parts of the business that will make our company succeed going forward. What enabled your family to work through its difficulties? Rob: The key is communication and respect, and we are much better in both regards now. If you don’t have that, you absorb anger, and it eats you up inside. It just gets ugly. Being able to work through those difficulties has been the key to keeping us together. So where does the company stand now, and where is it headed? Karl: We started this year with a lot of new management on board. In addition, a few have changed positions within the company. Last year was mainly a lot of repositioning so everyone is on the right seat on the bus. This year we are ready to launch our next growth phase. We have a three-year plan to add more distribution channels, which would also involve opening more international partners. We’re off to the races. Rob: We had a great year in 2015. We’re not a “brown shoe” company and, therefore, not as impacted by current [athleisure] apparel trends. The weather also cooperated—there was plenty of rain, and we don’t need it to be cold or snowy to do well. We also rolled out some new lifestyle product initiatives that were successful. So it was a solid year overall, and we believe we’ll experience similar success in 2016. While it’s an aggressive growth plan, it’s not crazyaggressive. Slow and steady has pretty much been our M.O., which has kept us away from making big mistakes. We’ve had opportunities, for example, to take on an equity partner that wanted to explode the growth, but always have decided against doing that.


And the growth will be achieved through the existing brand portfolio? Karl: Yes, the plan is to do it with the brands we have, only more diversified so we’re not just focused on rubber rain boots. We plan to branch into other waterproof treatments on microfibers and leathers, so it’ll still be relevant to both brands. Exactly how has the athleisure trend impacted your business? Rob: A lot of women are wearing black yoga pants, and they probably have four or five different colored sneakers in her closet to accessorize what has become an everyday look. And, if the weather is bad, they often swap that out for a bright rain boot. So we’ve been finding a lot of success as a result of this trend. It’s also why we believe fun prints and patterns are trending again. They pair very well with this look. We have plenty of prints, patterns and colors as well as lower profile styles. How long do you see the athleisure trend lasting? Rob: Everyone, it seems, is going casual today. A few years ago it manifested itself in what we labeled the “sleep to street” movement where younger, often college-age women who woke up in a pair of sweats, put on their sheepskin slippers or boots, threw their hair in a pony tail and off they’d go about their day. We addressed that trend with our Staheekum sheepskin slipper brand. Now we are seeing a similar casual-based trend where women of all ages are throwing on a pair of black Lululemon yoga pants because they are so comfortable and versatile. The fact is women’s lives are just so busy today. Think back to Steve Jobs and his wardrobe of strictly black turtlenecks and blue jeans. He didn’t have to think about what he was going to wear each day. The athleisure trend, to me, is similar. Women don’t have the time to come up with a different outfit each morning. And they want to be comfortable. Just look at how well Nike, Under Armour and Skechers are doing of late—they are all right on-trend now.

Over 1 billion people have comfortably walked the earth in shoes made with Jones & Vining components.

Karl: Athleisure definitely presents opportunities for us. We already make lower-profile styles that can certainly fill that bright color accessory to pair with the predominantly black attire. And we are working on new products as well. What’s your assessment of the rain boot market now that it has matured? Rob: There has been consolidation, of course. The sheepskin boot category went through a similar phase. There are a handful of players now, probably five or six, still making rain boots. We’ve been able to stay relevant because we know who we are and who our target consumers are. We also spend a lot of time researching trends and developing new products that fit the needs of our demographics, whether it’s the urban fashion woman (Chooka) or the outdoorsy woman (Western Chief ). Karl: We always say the Western Chief woman smiles more. She tends to live in more suburban and rural settings and is more utility-minded and casual. She prefers brighter colors and more whimsical prints. How might your Chooka customer differ from, say, Hunter’s? Rob: She is attracted to our lower price-points as well as our breadth of patterns, prints and embellishments. We have also always offered a more feminine last—one that’s a bit less clunky than traditional rain boot lasts. Overall, we try to be more elegant and sophisticated. For example, our Belmont collection of riding boots for this fall features a range of fabrics, embellishments and silhouettes, be it basic riding boots, ankle-high booties and knee-high versions. It really shows what we are all about. Did either of you ever anticipate how popular a fashion item rain boots would become? Rob: Absolutely not. I never knew what the company might look like in the future, and that probably was an advantage. [Laughs.] I took over from my father and uncle after a bet they made on a trend bombed. I >86

Lasts

At Jones & Vining (J&V), we don’t make lofty promises. Or outrageous claims. Instead, we work closely with footwear designers and developers like you to bring your most inspired ideas to life. For more than 85 years, we’ve delivered quality, made-to-order lasts and components that are proven where it matters. During development. On the production line. And in comfortable shoes worn by more than a billion people.

Find out why. Contact tiredale@jonesandvining.com or 508-232-7470.

Insoles

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With muses spanning Don Draper to Justin Bieber to yoga instructors, the Fall ’16 season promises to awash in color and style versatility.

Big Blend Theory B Y A N N L OY N D

T

HE SPATE OF warm falls the past few years has made planning buys for the traditionally cool season a more daunting challenge. Has autumn become more an extension of summer? Should buyers zero in on transitional styles that are suitable for Indian Summer–like days that may mix in with cool snaps hinting of winter’s pending arrival—at some point in January? It’s difficult to accurately forecast what the weather may be a week in advance, let alone six months. That

GLITZ OVER GRUNGE

The ’90s have been back in a huge way for several seasons now, but the focus this year is more Spice Girls than Pearl Jam. Or, you might say, more happy than miserable. “I think for the consumer, there’s a real sense of fun right now,” says Meghan Cleary, shoe expert and founder of meghansays.com. “We’ll see even more of that in the fall collections. It’s been regulated to the luxury niche so far, but it will start to really trickle down to the mass consumer.” That “anything goes” spirit features an onslaught of color, mixed materials and less-tai-

said, the general industry consensus looks to err on the weather being on the benign side when it comes to planning Fall ’16 buys. So think transitional in general with regards to silhouettes, but there is an array of key trends to choose from that not only blur the line between seasons, but also genders, eras and formalities. Call it the season of the blend or the new blur, if you prefer. Key design touch points like versatility and comfort with crossover style appeal (think the haute hiker blend trend, for example) are making fashion accessories more accessible than ever before.

lored silhouettes. Cleary cites Justin Bieber’s currently popular “Sorry” video as capturing the look. A group of female dancers sport mixand-match outfits in bright colors and whimsical patterns, accented by details like snap-back hats, Hammer pants and scrunchies with bright clunky boots, classic Timberlands and sneakers. Footwear designers are singing this tune for Fall ’16 with plenty of chunky silhouettes in bright iterations. Take Sophia Webster’s Roxy leopardprint lace-up boot, finished with turquoise embellishments, for example. “It’s an urban/street look for footwear,” explains Jaime Cohn Barr,

footwear and accessories editor at the trend forecasting service WGSN, noting that recent runways also saw a new spin on the typical grunge look. “Instead of heavy black, styles were paired with feminine slip dresses,” she notes, adding, “Paul & Joe did a lace-up combat boot, but in a nude color.” Cohn Barr has her money on this trend doing well at retail, and says brands can make these styles as edgy as they want for different demographics by adding details like hits of hardware and high-shine patent. NPD chief industry analyst Marshal Cohen agrees: “Color is going to play a big role.” Drawing from influences like the Spice Girls, ’90s whimsy comes to life in colorful styles, including this LFL by Lust for Life sneaker.

26 footwearplusmagazine.com •february 2016



Mod silhouettes, such as the egg chair and the Mary Jane, get futuristic makeovers: Take this redux by Poetic License.

MODERN LADY

Though the Mad Men finale aired last summer, the popular series’ influence on fashion is still running strong. This time around it’s a futuristic take on ’60s Mod. “It’s Mod, but refreshed with futuristic pops, like metallic silver mixed with sugary pastels,” Cohn Barr says. “The Mary Jane is an important silhouette, but instead of a classic single strap, we’re seeing two or three.” Early adopters include Prada and little-sister brand Miu Miu, whose models wore ladylike tweed mixed with metallics and sheers on the Spring ’16 runway. The mix-and-match concept is a big player here as well. “There’s going to be a lot of frills,” offers shoe designer Laura Stucki. “It’s a feminine look, but with a lot of patterns, whether it’s paisley or retro stripes.” Stucki notes that this new take on Mod pulls in other elements, be it vintage textiles, tapestries or faux fur. “A long time ago, Mod could have been construed as tacky. Now, designers are using a better color palette and mixing it with other influences,” she adds. On the preppier end of the spectrum, the likes of Charlotte Olympia and Lily Pulitzer also borrow retro-glamor inspiration. “Think ’60s Palm Beach,” says Cleary. In this segment, demure silhouettes extend to footwear: Block heels and ballet flats are important, but read a little more fashion than the recent “granny shoe” trend. For example, Cleary’s namesake line for fall includes a square-toed ballet flat. “It takes a chic silhouette and brings fashion to the classic ballet flat,” she explains. “The luxury industry has picked up on this as well. Miu Miu, for example, took a little ballet flat and encrusted the heel with jewels.”

GENDER BENDER

The yin to futuristic Mod’s ladylike yang, updated man-styling looks to be big for Fall ’16. “Menswear influences and tailoring with hits of architectural interest are going to be important,” says Cohn Barr. Whether it stems from recent conversations about gender sparked by Caitlyn Jenner or a widespread desire for a return to quality tailoring, fashion is embracing androgyny. Cohn Barr cites the latest lines from Maison Margiela and Acne Studios, where traditional suit silhouettes come into play with metallic accents, quirky patterns and unique appliques. In Acne’s pre-fall debut, models donned wide-legged metallic trousers with double-breasted blazers, while a gender-neutral model for Maison Margiela wore A-line skirts and blazers accented by studs, lace and organza. This updated tailoring translates to footwear in loafers and oxfords with sculptural elements in the heels and uppers. “You can see the tailored upper, but the vamp is a bit more exaggerated, and the heel is carved out and sculptural,” explains Cohn Barr. “It’s done in a sophisticated way that gives them newness.” Canadian boutique chain and online retailer Gravitypope is banking on this trend for 2016. “There’s a real trend for clunky footwear— masculine styles with a chunky round toe,” says owner Louise Dirks. “We’ll be carrying through on lace-up slip-ons and shoes with kilting.” Stucki is tuning into this aspect of substance in her Fall ’16 line as well: “I’ll probably never do delicate shoes,” she says. “My woman is a power woman.” This new idea of a power woman resists the pressure to identify as female at all. Joseph chose a lanky model with a buzz cut to show its pre Fall ’16 lineup of reinterpreted menswear: Wool suites mixed with frilly collared blouses, structured tops paired with tailored shifts and nubby tweed layered over cozy cashmere blurred the lines between masculine and feminine, proving that the new gender rules are—there are none. Classic men’s tailoring meets sculptural accents. Double Monk oxford by Gravitypope.

THE NEW CASUAL Sport culture goes mainstream in the athleisure revolution. Sneaker by New Balance.

Cue eye roll: Athleisure. Yes, you’ve heard about it, and you’ve definintely seen leggings-as-pants-wearing masses parading the streets like they’re heading to the gym. Perhaps some actually are, but more likely it’s a look with strong legs because it’s really versatile, easy and damn comfortable. In fact, many fashion prognosticators predict the athleisure trend will be even bigger next fall. Lululemon and Nike may have blazed the trail, but designers are increasingly adding their spin on athletic lifestyle. Adidas by Stella McCartney and Tory Burch Sport are two examples. “Everyone’s trying to figure out how to keep these comfort elements in high fashion,” explains Cohn Barr. “Designers are creating diffusion lines, but if you’re one of those luxury labels who isn’t into that, there’s got to be a way to bridge the gap.” Many did just that for pre-fall collections: luxe trackpants by Elizabeth and James, platform sneakers from Sportmax and slip-ons paired with suit pants at Ports 1961, to cite a few. According to NPD’s Cohen, the entire footwear industry has no choice but to get on board. “Athletic is not going away,” he says, cautioning brands to figure out a way

28 footwearplusmagazine.com •february 2016

to translate the sneaker styles that hit for spring into their fall lines. “There was an absence of active influence last fall, but there better not be next year,” Cohen warns. “Footwear makers will do themselves a service by figuring out how to get into the active business.” Many brands have already answered Cohen’s challenge, explains Gravitypope’s Dirks, citing market leaders like Converse, Vans and New Balance who all have jumped on the growing sneakerboot trend. Another breed of sneaker that continues to be hot is luxe. “I’m selling a ton of $500-plus sneakers,” Dirks confirms. “I’m doing repeats on Common Projects monthly. I own four pairs myself!” But Dirks is buying with caution because she has lived through a sport boom/bust cycle. Thus, she is keeping her eye on brands that offer new takes on athleisure. “Back in 2007/2008 sneakers were all the rage, and then it fell hard,” she recalls. “On certain trendier brands we lost our shirts. All the sudden everyone wanted ankle boots.” So along with leaders like Common Projects and Marni, Dirks is buying more niche brands like DMA, Bibliotek and Jill Sander.



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Short & Sweet

Buckle details add a style punch to ankle booties. 1. Bruno Magli 2. OTBT 3. Secret Celebrity 4. Durango 5. Naked Feet 6. Pons Quintana 7. Cougar 8. El Naturalista

30 footwearplusmagazine.com • february 2016



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THE MOD SQUAD

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1. Poetic License 2. Marion Parke 3. Seychelles 4. Summit by White Mountain 5. Blossom 6. Restricted

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Gentleman’s Game Sophisticated oxfords elevate the everyman’s wardrobe. 1. Naot 2. Dansko 3. Pikolinos 4. Aetrex 5. Florsheim

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36 footwearplusmagazine.com • february 2016

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Clog Jam

Artful accents give this classic style a contemporary redux. 1. Jambu 2. OTBT 3. Cat 4. BC 5. Dansko 6. Musse & Cloud 7. Mia

38 footwearplusmagazine.com • february 2016

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Glitzy sneakers more suited for after-work cocktails than working out. 1. Secret Celebrity 2. Blossom 3. OTBT 4. Oysby London 5. Musse & Cloud

40 footwearplusmagazine.com • february 2016

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Singing the Blues The moody hue spans across a range of silhouettes. 1. Joe’s 2. Earthies 3. Cat 4. Sebago 5. Chooka 6. Aetrex 7. Jambu

42 footwearplusmagazine.com • february 2016

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Fast & Furious

Edgy hardware and aggressive soles rev up moto boots. 1. Seven Dials 2. Cat 3. Wolky 4. Cougar 5. Bearpaw 6. Musse & Cloud 7. Sebago

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Baby Got Back

Laces and straps add sass and support from behind. 1. Baffin 2. Sorel 3. Cat

46 footwearplusmagazine.com • february 2016

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Puffer quilting, fur linings and hardware details to weather storms in style. 1. Musse & Cloud 2. Cougar 3. Pons Quintana

48 footwearplusmagazine.com • february 2016

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THE BIG IDEA With roughly 50,000 pairs in stock, Globe Shoes makes good on a promise to fit every foot— in-store and now online. By Jeanne O’Brien Coffey

HERE AREN’T MANY clerks who have fitted a man with a size 20 foot. But of that small universe, there’s a good chance that some of them work at Globe Shoes. Offering men’s sizes ranging from 5 to 20, and 4 to 13 for women (in a full range of widths for both genders) has kept this independent specialty comfort store in business for more than six decades, says owner Bobby Adler. “More and more shoe stores are just buying a basic run that doesn’t include a lot of sizes and widths, because they are trying to manage their inventory to the point where it affects selection,” Adler explains. “In my store, we don’t want people to settle. We want to give people something that they want.” And, most important of all, fits properly. To that end, if a man visits the Paramus, NJ, store looking for a size 15, he won’t be greeted with a blank stare. Instead, he will be seated and given the choice to be fitted from a selection of 50 or even 100 pairs of shoes in his size. “We’re going to continue to give the people a reason to come to us,” says Adler, who has been in the business for 45 years. Not surprisingly, many of Globe’s loyal customers include a fair number of big-footed professional athletes and politicians. (Apparently, big egos equal big feet with regards to 50 footwearplusmagazine.com • february 2016

the latter customer demographic.) With MetLife Stadium (home of the New York Giants and New York Jets) less than 10 miles away, a who’s who of pro football players finds their way into the store. “The staff always remains professional, but sometimes other customers can get pretty excited,” when they recognize someone without their gear, says store manager Anthony Torre, who has worked at Globe for 23 years and admits to being on a first-name basis with several members of local sports teams. “They really can’t go anywhere else,” he says with a laugh. Whether a wealthy athlete or someone shopping for shoes for an elderly


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parent, all customers benefit from Globe’s dedicated sales staff. Adler says that every employee working the floor has extensive experience fitting shoes. Many, in fact, have been working at the store longer than Adler, who purchased Globe eight years ago from the Soud family, who opened the shop in 1953. Others joined Globe after closing their own stores or retiring from shoe manufacturing or distribution jobs. “We have professional sales people who know how to fit,” Adler affirms. “If somebody needs an hour to be fitted, they take the time to do the job properly.” Customers appreciate the attention, not to mention the pain-free benefits of what a proprly fitted shoe can mean on a daily basis. Adler says it isn’t unusual for a sales person to get a hefty tip for great service—he recently saw a woman press $40 into the hands of one of his employees. To ensure that every customer gets that level of service, on a busy Saturday, that could mean 16 people are working the floor—boxes spilling out of the shelves and onto the floor of the stockroom trying to keep up with the demand. It can get pretty hectic on weekends, especially. Keeping that staff busy the rest of the week, however, is a challenge. As a stand-alone location, Adler misses the serendipitous business that came from stores he once owned in malls. “We are a 100-percent destination store,” he says. “People really don’t just walk into our store because they happened to see a shoe store—they have to get off of Rte. 17, get out of their car and come in. We don’t get any of that what I call lucky business—people just walking by your store when they are in a mall.” To combat the lack of “lucky business,” Adler instituted a loyalty program a few years ago. Customers get a punch card and after purchasing 12 pairs, they can get a free pair from anything Globe has in stock. Over that time, Adler has given away a lot of free pairs, but it’s worth it. “It amazes me. Some people are working on their third or fourth punch card,” he says, adding that customers often have an eye on style that is more than they typically spend, and buy to reach that goal.

Adler plans to extend the store’s high level of service to the online realm by assigning a staff member full-time to attend to inquiries as well as post to Facebook, Twitter and Instagram. “We know [social media] can be a lot more powerful than the way we use it now,” Torre says, adding that he will also be ramping up a search engine optimization program. Right now, the store posts once a week or so, and Torre envisions posting more frequently about news like new Uggs arriving in wide widths—anything likely to generate excitement among shoppers. Speaking of which, while many trends may come and go, the staying power of Uggs, in particular, is something that Adler finds remarkable. “In my 45 years, I’ve never seen anything like it,” he says. “They’ve been a gift for the past eight years. No other item has been as hot for as long,” he adds, noting that from November to March, it’s likely the biggest brand in the store.

SURVIVAL SCHOOL Globe’s extensive investment into e-commerce is just one more way to try and grab a bigger piece of the pie. But it’s not easy in a world of increased competition. These days, Adler says competition is coming from everywhere—including several of the brands he carries. Times sure have changed, in that regard. Adler recalls his early days in the business when a consumer might contact a manufacturer about a certain shoe and they would be directed to the nearest store location. “These days, they’ll ask your size and sell it to you themselves,” he says. Indeed, the retail business is changing dramatically and standing pat is not an option. “We’re trying to find ways to offset all things that are different today than they were 10 years ago, whether that be expanding into e-commerce or reacting to all the manufacturers selling online,” Adler says. “They are not only our suppliers, they are our competition. What we are trying to do every day is figure out a way to get more people through the door.” Globe’s ever-changing displays and Owner Bobby Adler in front of just a few of the E-COMMERCE PUSH constant search for new brands are two 50-some brands carried in Globe Shoes. Confident of his repeat business, to entice key ways it keeps customers interested. new customers to stop in, Adler employs an array of marketing strategies In addition to popular comfort brands like SAS and Clarks, Adler has found spanning billboards to direct mail. But his biggest investment of late in great success with Cobb Hill for women and Samuel Hubbard for men. order to reach new customers lies in the virtual world. Adler is boosting While a few new brands are flourishing, overall last year was challenging. email marketing efforts, upping Globe’s social media presence and—bigAdler points to the extreme weather (a super-cold spring and a record-warm gest news of all—launching a redesigned website this month. It features a fall) and continued economic uncertainty as leading reasons. “Last year was modern look, better search capabilities and a back end that is tied directly interesting,” he muses. “I don’t think consumer confidence was high; people to his in-house sales system. The goal, in particular, is to reach customers were watching their dollars. We are hoping that things will loosen up in 2016.” outside of Globe’s local area, which spans about a 60-mile radius. Adler The one item that did fly off the shelves last year? Winter boots. The brutal is confidant the website upgrade will pay off—starting with the fact that winter brought storm after storm—and customers in droves. So many that the old site drew customers from around the country. Proof, at least, that Globe ran out of stock. “We sold more winter boots than we had in years, but there are plenty of people with unique sizes and widths who live outside of I could have sold more if I’d had more inventory,” Adler says. “We usually have New Jersey. “We expect to increase that business,” he says. “We hope to do plenty of inventory, but the winter business went on so long, manufacturers substantial business on the Internet.” couldn’t supply us with any more.” For starters, it should be easier from a technical standpoint to increase So this year Globe stocked up on boots—and no snow through late January. Internet sales. Torre, who is overseeing the website redesign, notes that Globe Adler confirms the obvious: shoppers haven’t been in the mood to buy boots. had been using a separate e-commerce site that needed to be updated manu“I’m sitting here without a drop of snow, but there’s supposed to be a dusting ally when inventory changes. The new system will feature every pair of shoes tomorrow,” he says with a hopeful laugh. “I guess my crystal ball wasn’t workcurrently in stock, integrated in real time. Customers are able to search by ing when I thought we’d get another winter like last year.” size and view styles from every angle. The new site will also enable Globe to While it’s difficult to plan your business around the whims of Mother Nature, capture more data on its customers. Adler believes it’s a sure bet that plenty of people will continue to need unique While Adler is making a substantial investment in Globe’s online presence, sizes and widths. That’s Globe’s bread and butter. “We’re going to be the last it won’t be about competing on price. “We’re not a discounter,” he says. “We one standing,” Adler states. “I know the times are challenging for brick-andare a specialty store with quick service and broad selection.” Along those lines, mortar, but I believe Globe will survive and flourish.” • 52 footwearplusmagazine.com • february 2016



GET A GRIP

The sneakerboot is gaining traction in a world gone mad for sneakers. By Lauren Olsen

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HE SNEAKER IS not just a fashion phenomenon—it’s a social icon. Kanye West’s Adidas Yeezy Boost craze is just the latest example of the power the silhouette holds over millions of people around the world. Everyone pretty much owns a pair these days—or two or three. Sneakers for the gym, for kicking around town and, increasingly, for making a fashion statement for a night out clubbing. But what about when those cold and snowy conditions hit and the sneaker just doesn’t make the cut? That’s where the sneakerboot has come into play to meet the needs of consumers who want to wear their kicks year-round, Mother Nature be damned. The part hiker/part basketball shoe combines the best of both worlds: sporty style and comfort with protection from the elements.

54 footwearplusmagazine.com • february 2016

Creative Recreation

Some industry followers describe this hybrid as a lazy approach to design. Why not just create an actual boot? Others think sneakerboots are just plain ugly—too chunky to be a good-looking sneaker and too loud aesthetically for a hiker. But Nike has reaffirmed the validity of the sneakerboot with its recent collections. A marketing pitch for its Holiday 2015 debut stated: “Sneakerboots redefine cold-weather comfort, merging sneaker style, boot protection and enhanced reflectivity for the season.” And when Nike affirms something, the rest of the industry takes notice. Converse, Vans, Creative Recreation and New Balance as well as more outdoorsy lifestyle brands like Merrell and Timberland have dabbled in the category in the past few seasons, and experts agree that the style seems more substantial than just another passing fad. Customers love their sneakers, and they also love their boots. Why not combine the best of both? And, more so of late, demand is for original designs rather than just reinterpretations of old sneaker styles in winterized forms. Chris Davis, strategic business unit manager for sport style at New Balance, says the company is doing exactly that. For the past five years, he says its sneakerboots have been largely retro throwbacks and now, in addition to these and more evolutionary styles, the brand is focused on creating sneakerboot-specific designs. For Fall ’16, specifically, Davis says some styles are a bit “more sneaker than boot, while others are a little more boot than sneaker.” But, he adds, this is the fun part. “The beauty of the category is that it’s open to interpretation—each company can put its own spin on it,


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“ THE LOOK IS MORE VERSATILE. THE CONSUMER STILL WANTS THE LOOK OF A SNEAKER, BUT WITH ADDED FEATURES THAT SPEAK TO THE ELEMENTS.”

Merrell

Timberland

and that’s why consumers have gravitated toward the trend.” (Davis notes New Balance was an early pioneer of the concept and estimates that its history with this type of shoe runs around 30 years deep.) Indeed, customers are gravitating more to the style. Ashley Ahwah, senior global category manager, classics footwear at Vans, highlights the brand’s All Weather MTE collection launched in the fall of 2014 as a popular seller. “We’ve definitely seen an incredible response from consumers across all of our regions,” she reports. Ahwah believes the sneakerboot trend is “absolutely” growing, and she sees Vans’ expansion to this style as an opportunity to branch out of its canvas heritage. “The customer is looking for newness, and we are seeing success when we add twists to our icons,” she adds. As to why shoppers are opting for sneakerboots rather than traditional boots? “The look is more versatile,” Ahwah explains. “The consumer still wants the look of a sneaker, but with added features that speak to the elements. It adds some freshness to their wardrobe.” Rich Cofinco, co-founder and creative director of Creative Recreation, a division of Rocky Brands, agrees on the versatility attributes. An alternative look and comfort of a sneaker vs. a bulky heavy-duty traditional look that everybody has, is a no brainer, he believes. Creative Recreation Director of Design James Hansen says there are also very practical reasons the sneakerboot seems to be increasingly on people’s radar. “There is less of a break-in period with sneakerboots as well as being relatively lighter weight than traditional leather boots,” he explains. And it seems like sneakerboots are a better economic bet, too. The style, he adds, tends to be “lower-priced than most traditional boots with similar functionality.” Davis points out another reason for the rise in popularity of the category is that it is easy to pair with the modern day wardrobe. The sneakerboot looks good with the tapered clothing that is fashionable now, he explains, because it tends to be slimmer than a more robust hiker or winter boot—and that is what consumers are attracted to these days. “[The sneakerboot is] the cross breed of today’s active lifestyle mixed with the fashion of the streets,’” agrees Cofinco. The lower price comes at a cost, so to speak. Hansen notes that sneakerboots lose the ability to be resoled if the outsole becomes worn. “Ten-year-old, welted hiking boots that have been resoled multiple times will always have an inherent value that, for the most parts, sneakerboots can’t really give you,” he says. Another disadvantage to the style? It may be too fashion-forward for some. Davis says the very high-style look of the product may appeal to a very specific consumer, 56 footwearplusmagazine.com • february 2016

Vans

Creative Recreation



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Hybrid Hikers Men’s sneakerboots fuse sport with style. 1. Twisted X Boots 2. Cat 3. Vans 4. Birkenstock 5. Timberland

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Street Smarts

Women’s sneakerboots: sporty with a little spice. 1. Sporto 2. Keds 3. Timberland 4. Lust For Life 5. Reef 2016 february • footwearplusmagazine.com 59


“Come this fall you’ll see a lot of women adopting this trend.”

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New Balance

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and he describes this as is the style’s greatest downside. He notes that the person buying the sneakerboot is more of a trend-relevant urban consumer rather than a truly mainstream one. “It may not be right for the 40-year-old man out shoveling snow,” he jokes. Yet, sources seem to have different ideas about who is buying the sneakerboot. Ahwah claims Vans’ MTE collection resonates across both genders as well as across many different regions of the country. “We are seeing just as much success on the West Coast as we are on the East Coast,” she says. “The success has also spanned into kids.” Davis, conversely, says his New Balance team calls the sneakerboot customer “the metropolitan explorer.” He describes this explorer as a trendy city-goer or dweller who loves the outdoor lifestyle. He estimates that this character is probably about 18- to 35-years-old and goes hiking on the weekend, or just explores the cityscape. And that could be any city: “Cities all over the world are adopting this trend,” he states. Men, in particular, seem to be at the forefront of the sneakerboot movement. It’s the right double dose of macho—sport and ruggedness—that appeals to guys. But, as often happens with fashion, women are looking towards men’s styles for inspiration. Plus, they want the same lightweight, hybrid versatility such designs offer. Davis notes that the style is unisex-friendly, and that New Balance had noticed last year that smaller sizes of its male sneakerboots were sold extremely well, which leads his team to speculate that more and more women were snapping up pairs. He says New Balance plans to launch more female-oriented sneakerboots in the future. “Come this fall you’ll see a lot of women adopting this trend,” he predicts. To meet the expected growing demand, Timberland, Merrell, Creative Recreation, Vans and New Balance will feature sneakerboot options in their product lineups for Fall ’16. What’s more, a growing array of fashion brands are offering their take on the look, although minus some performance features. But their push into the look is affirmation the category has legs. In fact, sources agree the forecast for the sneakerboot category is a favorable one. “There’s room for growth in this category as the athleisure style continues to become more relevant,” says Hansen. Davis concurs: “It’s occurring everywhere—this trend is going to be around for years to come.” •


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Hanover black

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W H AT ’S S E L L I N G

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their feet and ask for advice. I always thought people were willing to endure some pain for some fashion. But these days work has become so casual—especially in a small-town environment like this—that even younger women are going more toward comfort styles. How would you describe your customer’s overall mood? There’s still a lot of caution about spending. Though I wasn’t in business when the economy was really bad, customers are still hesitant. It’s something I’ve had to adjust to. At first, my higher end styles were in the $275 to $325 range. Now I try not to have anything priced over $200.

r l iO n gE t o nB , VO T UTIQUE J L A U R I E BSuH Ocean Springs, MS LAURIE SHOE BOUTIQUE owner Jan Rideout has always had a passion for fashion, which might seem contrary to her previous career working in the defense industry—the job that transplanted the former New Yorker to Mississippi’s Gulf Coast. After retiring from her position as CIO of Ingalls Shipbuilding in 2013, Rideout fulfilled her longtime dream of opening a women’s shoe boutique in the quaint town of Ocean Springs. “I was driving by as they were rebuilding a popular strip [in town] and saw a ‘for rent’ sign,” Rideout explains. “I took a tour, and the landlord was accommodating enough to change the original plans to include a large stockroom that a shoe store would need.” The 2,000-square-foot boutique’s urban aesthetic (think exposed ceilings, white shelving and a curved, modern sofa) offers a refreshing contrast to the street’s Southern charm and sprawling trees. “It’s different in this town where things are a bit more shabby-chic,” Rideout says. “Our store is a little more SoHo.” Along those lines, Rideout initially offered a mix of fashion and comfort brands, but has since struck a chord with those that satisfy both requirements, including leading sellers like Earthies, Johnston & Murphy, Spring Step and Naot. But even though her customer base is largely 40-plus, and comfort is increasingly a priority for all ages, Rideout adheres to a fashionfirst merchandise mantra: “No ugly comfort.” Her passion will not be completely denied. —Ann Loynd How’s business of late? It’s good, but I can’t say it’s great. I’m going into my third year and I’m still trying to figure out what sells and what doesn’t. It’s a guessing game: How much do I buy without overbuying? Have there been any surprises? I’ve been surprised by how much people like to talk about their foot ailments. Customers will really tell you about 62 footwearplusmagazine.com • february 2016

What are some of your best-selling brands? My best-selling brand is Spring Step, the L’Artiste collection in particular. They do well because they’re so different and very colorful. Customers gravitate to those shoes, and they have a great price point. I draw a lot of tourists from Mississippi, Alabama and Louisiana, and the brand’s colorful nature really attracts people who want something different. Number two would be Naot. They’re a little more expensive, but people who know the brand are often repeat customers. I’ve had some people say, ‘I’m not spending that much money on a pair of shoes,’ but if I can get them to try it on, they often buy because they’re so comfortable.

What’s the best brand you’ve added into the mix in the last year? Fly London, which I added about nine months ago. It’s probably my third bestselling brand. They do a lot with a rubber wedge that’s extremely comfortable. The styles are more edgy and modern. Women in their 20s like it, but I’ve also had women in their 80s who like it. How might Mississippi fashion preferences differ from elsewhere in the country? Southern women are more conservative. It’s hard for them to get into masculine styles like the oxfords or pointy-toe loafers that are popular now in New York. They have a more feminine style. It also takes a little longer for trends to come here. While I’m from New York and I, personally, like edgier looks, that’s not necessarily going to sell here. It’s a challenge. What trends are you high on for this coming fall? Definitely booties again. Last fall, we did really well—people bought them as early as August. Other retailers have had a hard time selling tall boots because it’s been so warm. Any trends you believe are on the way out? Booties with embellishments, like a rope or ornament around the ankle. What is the biggest challenge currently facing your business? Trying to attract more local customers. I’ve been figuring out what advertising works best. I’ve seen results advertising in local magazines. I’ve tried TV in the past and while it works, it’s very expensive. My other big challenge is online competition. While there’s not another store like ours for 60 miles, more and more people are shopping online these days. But there’s a generational difference: Older women still want to try on shoes before they buy them.


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Peak Performance Sporty hikers transition from trail to grocery run. 1. Garmont 2. Ahnu 3. Volcom 4. Vasque

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P H OTO G R A P H Y BY T I M J O N E S

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continued from page 18 a Yuccie’s attention and affection.” Where do Yuccies like to shop? Unsurprisingly, it’s often online. They also spend a healthy dose of time in investigating their purchases online before pulling the trigger. But shopping isn’t strictly virtual for this experientialloving group. Williams says that the physical store is equally important to the Yuccie shopper. To truly appeal to the Yuccie, however, the brick-and-mortar location should be beautifully curated and thoughtful in its aesthetic. “The space needs to be special, and the store needs to stand for something,” she explains. “For the Yuccie, it’s all about the experience, the feeling of buying into a mentality, a way of thinking, a way of living.” This new consumer, she adds, is attracted to highly niche markets and ideas, so the unique element of a product becomes especially important. Social media, even more predictably, is enormously important to the Yuccie. A good way to put the Yuccie’s relationship with social media into perspective is to liken it to the hipster’s affinity for moody music, as suggested in the Irish Independent. “Instead of a devotion to rock music and free love,” the post suggests, “Yuccies are committed to connectivity and worship at the altar of social media.” Williams says Instagram is a favored medium, because this is where the Yuccie can keep up with the latest trends and see what’s new, what’s cool, who’s doing what and where they’re doing it. Many successful bloggers and vloggers are Yuccies themselves. The infatuation with social media is not just key to this group’s identity—it is a core strategy for reaching this audience. According to Van Dine, Yuccies are turned off by traditional advertising that is not curated for them, specifically. They are more influenced by their contacts and friends than by a brand that is conspicuously trying to reach them. Re-tweets, for example appeal to the Yuccie, she says. “We try to utilize content that they are sharing on social

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media,” she explains. “It’s more of a friend approach than an us-talking-atthem approach.” Blakeslee agrees with a less overt marketing strategy. “The Yuccie and many other new consumer segments today do not like to be sold to. They want to make their own decisions, discover your brand and create their own stories to re-tell,” he says. Kahan stresses a brand’s presence via all channels must be consistent—from in-store to digital to editorial. But, as unique as Yuccies may be, he says there are elements of marketing to them that are true for any other target audience. “Insuring your brand is limited in distribution is key,” he says. “It’s what we refer to as ‘relative market scarcity.’ Scarcity creates demand.” According to Kahan, a scarcity strategy “is to genuinely insure that your product holds its premium value, and when someone makes a purchase they feel included in a select group that shares their desire.” Most important of all, Kahan believes, Yuccies are looking for brands they can make an emotional connection with. “It’s about being real,” he says. And, for a millennial who lives and breathes in digital space where it’s hotly debated whether society is more or less connected, it’s perhaps compelling that the Yuccie is yearning for meaningful relationships—even if it comes from just the shoes their cursor might be dragging into a basket. Love, hate or write Yuccies off as the latest in a fleeting line of demographic group catchphrases, for now this group is growing and, more importantly, consists of early and innovative trend adopters. For that reason alone, they shouldn’t be ignored by brands and retailers. Yuccies have strong influence on many other consumer segments. “They set the trend and everyone else tends to follow,” says Courtney Delmore, co-president of sales agency The Bureau LLC, adding that the Yuccie is a consumer group on the rise. “They are the future,” she says. Williams couldn’t agree more: “The Yuccie has serious staying power. Expect things to turn very Yuccie from now on.” •

1/15/16 2:59 PM



in

RUST WE

TRUST


Clockwise from top left: Moc boot by Minnetonka, Restricted bootie, Durango cowboy boot, Bernardo sandal. 69


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Clockwise from top: Clarks desert boot, Taos sneaker. Nina moccasin. Opposite page: Platform sandal by Oysby London. Fashion Editor: Ann Loynd

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Robust menswear looks c o u p l e d w i t h s u b t l e fe m i n i n e to u c h e s cre a te cro ss o v e r a p pe a l . PHOTOGRAPHY BY JAMIE ISAIA • ST YLING BY EDDA GUDMUNDSDOT TIR

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Summit by White Mountain loafer, suit by Yigal AzrouÍl, Jose Duran shirt, hat by Soulland, Laruicci ring, vintage bracelet, model’s own earrings.


Naked Feet oxford, Junya Watanabe jeans, top from Yigal AzrouĂŤl, Tibi jacket, John Brevard ring. Opposite page: wingtip creeper by Pons Quintana, Elizabeth and James jacket, t-shirt from Alexander Wang, Public School joggers, purse from Rebecca Minkoff, ring and earrings by Dior. 74


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Azura hiker, Aritzia beanie, dress by Zara, OV US choker worn as bracelet, Cos socks. Opposite page: H&M glitter sweater, OV US choker.

Seven Dials jagged sole oxford, MaryMe-JimmyPaul jacket over Sonia Rykiel top and Adam Lippes pants, sunglasses from ISLYNYC, Dior earrings. Opposite page, clockwise from top left: Jambu and L’Artiste heeled oxfords. Vintage pins and earrings. Oxford flatform by Geox and Seven Dials (on model). Earthies heeled oxford, vintage earrings.

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Gray oxfords by Naot, Jose Duran suit with Hildur Yeoman shirt, earrings by Laruicci.


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Clockwise from top: Metallic oxford by MIA Shoes, jeweled slip-on by Bruno Magli, Latigo shootie, Musse&Cloud studded flatform. Opposite page: slip-on oxford by Pikolinos, Bernhard Willhelm jacket, Helicopter dress, bodysuit and stockings, Laruicci earrings. Fashion Editor: Ann Loynd; stylist: Edda Gudmundsdottir with assistant Brynja Skjaldardottir; hair and makeup: Sacha Harford/Next Artists; model: Victoria C./Red Model Management. 81


EDITOR’S PICKS

Kristin Cavallari x Chinese Laundry

Badgley Mischka

D E S I G N E R C H AT

DOLLY SINGH

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HOT ROCKS Gl i tz y je we l ed em b el l i shm e n t s s t eal t h e sh o w. Who is your target customer? The ambitious, sexy, stylish, successful woman. We want to solve the pain point for the consumers who care about it most. She’s age 27 to 57 and fashion forward; she cares about her body and her life. We design for the woman who loves herself first. It’s about not accepting the status quo. Is Thesis Couture a revolutionary design breakthrough? Yes. High heels have been made the same way for years because everyone accepted it, but it takes leaders who are willing to shake things up to move forward. To quote George Bernard Shaw: ‘All progress depends on the unreasonable man.’ It requires those unreasonable people to drive innovation forward. Along those lines, women now outpace men in every developed country as far as earning college degrees. That means more women will be kicking butt, and we want them to look great doing so. What are your fashion influences? I’m a child of the Sex and the City genera-

tion. Sarah Jessica Parker is a style icon, and I think Victoria Beckham has the most remarkable style. I also love Jimmy Choo, Manolo Blahnik and Christian Louboutin, but those designers aren’t users of their products. Which celebrities would you to see wearing Thesis Couture? I would love to see women who have played superheroes in our shoes, like Zoe Saldana and Scarlett Johansson. Also, Beyoncé, Nicki Minaj and Serena Williams. In general, women who are busy and active: actresses, athletes and CEOs. What’s been the most rewarding aspect of starting your own shoe company? I love shoes. I love the idea of being able to take the investment I made working 12 years in technology and applying it to a product I’m really into. I’ve worked with super geeks who are really into rockets. I am too, but shoes have always been a side interest. To be able to turn that into a profession is really rewarding.

E D I TO R ’ S P I C K S P H OTO G R A P H Y BY T I M J O N E S

ONE MIGHT SAY that building a stiletto isn’t rocket science, but according to Dolly Singh, designer and founder of Thesis Couture, it should be. Singh spent years clacking around SpaceX’s 500,000-square-foot rocket factory as a talent recruiter in three-to-fourinch heels—a fashion choice that grew more painful as time went on. “Your body changes when you get older, and those shoes became less comfortable for me,” the thirtysomething confesses. “But I didn’t want to sacrifice the style I really loved.” Frustrated with the less-sexy alternatives offered by sensible shoe brands, Singh sought out to build a better stiletto. To fulfill her mission, Singh did what she does best: recruited a dream team of experts that includes an orthopedist, an astronaut and a rocket scientist. In fact, the company name is in reference to the team’s four PhDs—an inside joke that stuck. “A thesis is a defensible theory,” Singh explains. “This is our defensible theory of how a pair of high heels should be made.” That theory is based on the intersection of physics and fashion. Specifically, finding that perfect balance of comfort and style in high heel shoes. Singh says it started with the understanding that a shoe is a “structure you’re walking on all day,” which is why the team first sought structural engineering input. That led to an adjustment in the traditional weight distribution of such shoes. A standard stiletto puts 80 percent of weight on the balls of the feet; whereas Thesis Couture’s design reduces that figure by 50 percent. The team also swapped a traditional steel shank for one made of ballistic-grade polymer—lighter and more flexible. It’s topped off by a platform of aerospacegrade foam for added comfort. Last, Singh says all of her designs involve straps to minimize friction. The result is a stiletto that “feels like a wedge” but looks like a Louboutin, Singh claims. “We stayed true to a sexy shoe,” she adds. “We’re not going for a clunky, retro look.” Inspired by such prominent women in history as Amelia Earhart, Princess Diana and Hua Mulan, Thesis Couture’s Fall ’16 collection will expand to three styles: for day, evening and red carpet. The retail range is $350 to $1,000. Singh is hush about specifics, but hints, “I’m a big fan of metallics, and I love chrome, so I wouldn’t be surprised if we ended up with that.” What else would you expect from a rocket-scientist-recruiterturned-shoe-designer? —Ann Loynd

Högl



UPCLOSE COMFORT

Walk the Runway Wolky ups the fashion on its biggest fall collection to date.

Making Waves RegettaCanoe’s unique boat-like design delivers a smooth ride. FOR STARTERS, THE RegettaCanoe shoe profile really does, in fact, resemble a canoe. Inspired by Osaka, Japan, known as the “City of Water and Commercial,” designer Yasou Takamoto sought out to design a shoe that made walking feel as smooth as possible—like paddling down a quiet stream. Mission accomplished, claims Wilson Hsu, CEO of RegettaCanoe and Ccilu International, its global licensee. “Over the past 300 years, Japanese culture has created some of the most sought-out and influential designs in history,” he says, noting this design also resembles the traditional Japanese Geta clog/flip-flop—only with added comfort features. It starts with the outsole, which is rounded at both ends to help propel wearers forward and avoid stumbling. The width, Hsu explains, ensures the heel lands first, which also reduces pressure on the knee and hip joints. The insole, he says, features plenty of arch support that increases stability, a concave heel cup for improved balance, metatarsal support for a spring-like effect and a finger bar beneath the toes to reduce foot fatigue. The proof is in the sales. To date, the brand is generating plenty—more than five million pairs have been sold in Japan alone over the past three years, and distribution has expanded to 55 countries worldwide. Hsu believes what’s big in Japan will translate well in the United States. So far so good as he reports the brand’s debut at the August FFANY and FN Platform shows received a strong response from buyers attracted to its heritagemeets-technology premise. That and RegettaCanoe’s eye-catching shape, which Hsu says is unlike anything else in the marketplace and why he’s confident in the brand’s potential. “Consumers are eager to own something different, and we are a very different proposal,” he says. Hsu is targeting premium comfort specialty independents and leading department stores like Nordstrom, which he reports is giving the brand a test in select doors this spring (SRP $70 to $120). Along those lines, Hsu reports that the brand is viewed as “high fashion” in Europe—a sentiment that he believes feeds off of Birkenstock’s premium market position. “There are similarities between the two, including technology, design and affordability,” he says, noting that Ccilu’s 50 years of shoemaking expertise is an added asset. “Ccilu is a global leader in compounding/molding technology and is using its Regettacell chemical compound to upgrade comfort benefits while reducing the weight of the shoes,” he adds. “Regettacell is a low-carbon and lightweight material that sports antimicrobial and shockabsorbing properties and is also vegan-friendly. It’s the most cutting-edge molding technology in the industry.” —Ann Loynd 84 footwearplusmagazine.com • february 2016

WOLKY, THE DUTCH-based brand, is an everyday footwear choice in Europe where legions of loyal customers love its seamless blend of comfort features and stylish designs found in a wide range of sandals, boots and shoes. CEO Anthony Diks and his U.S.-based team has been working diligently to develop a similar broad following in the United States. It’s not always easy, however, as there’s a tendency to get categorized as a comfort brand only. But Diks says Wolky is as much a fashion brand as a comfort one. “The American market has pushed us in the comfort direction,” Diks says. “By introducing younger silhouettes and outsoles, we are positioning ourselves closer to the middle.” In an attempt to garner that position, Wolky is introducing its largest fall collection to date, totaling nearly 50 styles. To satisfy existing consumers, a new walking collection borrows technology from the brand’s popular sandal line, while fashion-forward introductions feature such high-end materials as velvet leather and painted suede. New buckled booties, lace-up hikers and stylish oxfords feature low heels, hidden wedges and lug outsoles aimed at appealing to a more youthful dempgraphic. For example, the brand’s classic Nirvana clog has been updated into slip-on and sneaker versions. “I created a very different clog, which has a classic silhouette but is much lighter and more elegant,” says Charles Bergmans, the brand’s long-time designer. Also new for fall is the Journey, available as either a slip-on or lace-up bootie in black, brown or red oiled leather, finished with a waterproof lining. On the edgier end, the Blazer series (available as a shoetie, lace-up bootie and Chelsea boot) sport a zig-zag lug sole. “It has a heavy profile but is very comfortable,” Bergmans says. “It has more of a young appeal that’s been received very well.” The shift toward offering broader fashion appeal, however, won’t come at the expense of comfort. “It’s very clear that people don’t want uncomfortable shoes,” Bergmans says, adding that his approach to shoemaking remains the same as when he first started. “I always start from scratch and develop a new last,” he says. But that’s not to say Bergmans isn’t open to embracing new technologies or design elements. He is currently working on a new footbed design as well as experimenting with 3D printing. “It’s important that if it’s happening, Wolky is at the forefront,” he says. —A.L.


Free Choice

Therafit customizes comfort and charity.

Great Expectations The repositioned Easy Spirit is aimed at the masses. “FALL ’16 IS, in a way, our launch with a new Easy Spirit team,” says newly appointed CEO Jim Salzano. His arrival about six months ago coincides with a push by Easy Spirit to increase product capability backed by an expanded and experienced staff. The new season brings a revamped collection designed to reposition what is one of the original comfort footwear brands into one where comfort is a given and style comes first. “Comfort, at one point, was a choice women had to make,” Salzano offers. “Now, it’s a requirement. Athleisure has reset the expectation that all shoes should feel that way.” With this shift in assumption, Salzano says Easy Spirit has resisted identifying strictly as a comfort brand, but hasn’t eliminated intrinsic feel-good elements in its shoes. The entire Fall ’16 collection is flexible, lightweight and features a comfortable footbed. But, above all, the line is fashionable. “Our consumer doesn’t have to change,” he says. “Comfort is a given—like milk in a grocery store. Let’s move on with the rest of the conversation: How do the shoes look?” Easy Spirit’s aim is to expand into a range of styles suitable for Monday morning through Sunday night. “Easy Spirit has the credibility to go from athleisure to work-wear to contemporary,” Salzano maintains. While staying true to its heritage (recall the ’90s-era TV spot featuring women playing basketball in Easy Sprit pumps), new silhouettes have been slimmed down without losing any comfort benefits. The new Easy collection, for example, consists of five casual and work-wear silhouettes (suggested retail is under $80) featuring an upgraded Infinity footbed that offers increased arch support and heel cushioning. Infinity is designed to work with any of the brand’s styles, notes Christine Bender, head of marketing. “In the past, specific technologies were limited to particular silhouettes,” she says. “Rather than having five different versions of each, we created an über footbed.” Easy Spirit is also expanding the ubiquity of its E360 technology (a stitch-and-turn construction that hugs the foot like a sock) to span more styles including flats, wedges, boots, sneakers and pumps. Salzano is hoping the universal comfort features packed in on-trend designs will attract a wider audience. The Easy Spirit name, he says, has the elasticity to attain such a following. “I see mothers and daughters shopping for Easy Spirit together,” he says. With a positive reaction from buyers at the FFANY show and a cultural focus on wellness, Salzano is confident Easy Spirit’s repositioning will gain traction. “We’re never going to make believe that our customers get their identity from our products,” he says. “But we’ll help them be the best version of themselves. If she’s comfortable and her shoes look great, that’s a good start.” —A.L.

WITH INCREASING DEMAND for meaningful brand relationships, Therafit aims to offer not only customizable footwear, but also a feelgood ethos its customers can get on board with. As part of the Miami Gardens, FL–based company’s One Step Forward Giving program, a portion of each sale is donated to one of three partnering charities—The Breast Cancer Research Foundation, United Way and ARM (Animal Recovery Mission). Customers get to choose which one they prefer. “Our customers love it because they feel empowered in having a choice as to which charity is supported,” says CEO Moises Egozi. “We’ve donated over $100,000 since 2013, and hope to continue to support charities that speak to the causes most important for our core customers—the women of America.” The initiative has garnered Therafit status as a Certified B Corporation, a designation awarded to companies who use business to solve social and environmental problems. Along similar lines, Therafit aims to solve foot problems via its patented Personalized Comfort System (PCS) that features adjustable inserts situated between shock absorbers in the heel for ideal heel angle, foot positioning and impact resistance so as to relive foot, knee, leg or back pain. PCS was designed in collaboration with renowned Cornell University Professor Dr. Richard Lennihan, a longtime runner and vascular surgeon. —A.L.

Shoes you love to wear... at prices that make you smile

Exhibiting at PLATFORM-MAGIC, Las Vegas, Feb. 16-18 www.camtradeinc.com


E - B E AT

Talking Shop Fluid CEO Kent Deverell weighs in on the shopping experience in a digital age. IN A WORLD where tech neck is a concern (the condition caused by repeatedly hunching down to look at a screen), Fluid CEO Kent Deverell is paying attention to where the consumer is looking—and it’s not always, at least literally, straight ahead. Fluid is a digital agency that creates experiences and software that changes how people shop. Headquartered in San Francisco, the company has collaborated with industry giants from the likes of Puma to Steve Madden on projects that, according to Deverell, create excellent customer experiences. The key to doing so, Deverell says, is by using emerging technologies to connect to the consumer. “But, really, it’s about how you merchandise the products,” he says. Fluid breaks down that approach into three categories: e-commerce flagships, omnichannel strategy and product customization. The e-commerce component can be thought of as a digital mothership. Instead of the standard brick-and-mortar flagship, the brand’s digital presence (which, he adds, should be incredibly well thought-out and designed) becomes the ultimate flagship. “It’s about getting brands to think about it that way,” he says. The omnichannel strategy helps brands engage with customers at every touchpoint. Deverell describes it as looking holistically at the in-store experience and how that experience translates digitally—it’s about tying all of the bits together and truly experiencing the brand. The third pillar? Product customization. “We’re seeing brands generate anywhere from 25 to 50 percent of revenue from customized products,” estimates Deverell. “It’s a big trend that can’t be overlooked.” Fluid allows for technology platforms in which a consumer can, for example, quickly design and customize their own shoe. The tons of possible unique options available, he muses, make the process incredibly compelling. “We’ve seen footwear lead the way in product customization,” Deverell adds. The draw toward personalized and customizable products is innate, but venues like Pinterest and Instagram have inspired more and more people to showcase their unique purchases, says Deverell. “It’s a huge medium for driving brand and engaging customers,” he states. The fourth element that’s been added to Fluid’s approach most recently is the use of artificial intelligence (AI) to pioneer the shopping experience. In partnership with Fluid and IBM Watson, The North Face launched what Fluid claims to be the first “true-guided” shopping experience of its kind online, and the Fluid Expert Personal Shopper is now available to all online retailers. The way it works? Tell the interactive man-behind-the-machine where you are going, what you will be up to and when. In less than a minute, the software produces personalized shopping results. Whether the shopper is staring at the screen in front of them or at the smartphone in their hands, Deverell makes it clear that the digital space is changing the way consumers shop. Companies like Fluid are creating opportunities for brands to market their products in groundbreaking ways, and new technology is making the realm of e-commerce undeniably exciting—tech neck and all. —Lauren Olsen 86 footwearplusmagazine.com • february 2016

O&A continued from page 25 was just trying to keep afloat at first, selling Fubu and L.A. Gear shoes to jobbers. That’s when I asked myself: What can we always count on in Seattle? Well, if it’s not raining today, it’s probably going to rain tomorrow. We had been making basic rubber boots for years, and I decided to focus on something that we could rely on. Shortly after that, 3D molding and printing capabilities became available. We went from making basic boots in monochromatic colors to, all of a sudden, fashion boots. I remember when our first character-themed boots hit the market, and our phone started ringing off the hook. Kids were desperate for a pair, and if a store happened to be out of stock, they would often throw a tantrum. The boots were like shut-up toys. It’s like selling stuffed animals in that kids identify so strongly with those boots. The company has evolved to meet major market shifts over the years, but might the omnichannel revolution be the hardest one yet? Rob: There are definitely challenges with this because we have to be absolutely consistent throughout our distribution channel. We can no longer have a mom-and-pop store buy 12 pairs and sell a few at 40-percent off without instantly getting the attention of all our other retailers. So the major challenge now is controlling our distribution. Also, we need to create different tiers of products in each of our lines so they will fit the demographic niche of that particular retailer and avoid generating price wars. Nike is the greatest example of doing that successfully. They basically have one brand with about 10 different tiers spanning nearly the whole range of retail. Just by glancing at their different tiers of product, you know what the perceived value is. That is one of our big goals going forward. How would you assess the state of retail now? Karl: The ones that are making big dives into e-commerce and omnichannel seem to be in better condition and are generally more positive. The stand-alone brick-and-mortar stores are struggling. Do you envision a landscape that shifts increasingly to online shopping? Karl: I think it’s going to continue to head more in that direction. Everything is going to the cloud, basically. Consumers are going to start buying items via any kind of electronic means possible and less in brick-and-mortar settings—unless that retailer really specializes and becomes like a Trunk Club store where you walk in and they have a personal shopper on hand who really takes care of you. If not, consumers are more likely to buy it on their phone. What might the shoe store as we now know it look like in 10 years? Karl: I envision it as something that is fully customizable. A setting where you can detail everything about your shoe purchase and they then make it while you wait. So 3D printing is one example. Or perhaps they will have customization that’s not machine-based. I’m talking about going back to real craftsman who will measure your feet to exact specifications and then make the shoes is a few days. It could be a combination of really high-tech and old-school shoemaking. Customization looks like the next big thing in shoes and pretty much everything. Karl: I agree. And with the new more user-friendly technologies coming incorporating 3D and laser printing, it shouldn’t be too long before it’s feasible for consumers to design their own boots in-store or online— like they already do with NikeID. Remember when people used to go to their local mall and make their own pottery? Well, rain boots offer similar opportunities to express personal creativity.


These new technologies could be a real draw for brick-and-mortar shopping, right? Karl: They could. In the meantime, look at what’s driving people to go shopping now—it’s the Apple store and other high-tech destinations that carry all these cool gadgets. It’s why when Nordstrom introduced iPad search capabilities, and design customization programs like Shoes of Prey have been well received. I think retailers have to embrace more of those types of in-store experiences to remain relevant. In a world of great upheaval and extremes, is there something comforting about being a family-owned business? Rob: Well, for one thing everybody is all in. We all drink the Kool-Aid. To me, that’s a really fulfilling atmosphere to work in. We are also better able to stay true to who we are. When somebody throws a bunch of money at you, they are likely to expect maybe non-realistic goals. We are totally in control. We are in charge of our own destiny, and we like that. So, in this sense, drinking the Kool-Aid can be good for you? Rob: I think so. Our goal is to have our employees enjoy their work and do so in an environment that is positive, supportive, fun and effective. People feel like they are truly a part of something here. About a year ago, we went through an exercise to try and define the essence of our company in a short phrase. We came up with: Wear a big smile. That phrase transitions to just about everything we do. We want our customers to wear a big smile by wearing our boots. We also want our employees to wear a big smile while making and selling our boots. And we want our retailers to smile because they are selling lots of our boots. It’s something we feel really strongly about, but at the same time it doesn’t involve some bigtime corporate speak. It’s a refreshing approach. Rob: When you are true to what you are trying to do, then all that other stuff develops organically. Of course, we have to attend to business matters, and all of our employees are acutely aware of ROI and such because, at the end of the day, the decisions we make have to make financial sense. That’s why I’m very comfortable with Karl is in this new role to make sure all of that happens. Karl: Being a family-owned company allows us the luxury to be patient with new opportunities rather than focusing on a quarterly horizon. We can be measured in years. It gives us the luxury to take some risks, but they’re measured and calculated. Might there be a fifth Moehring family generation in the wings? Karl: Well, my brother has two young kids, and they do show a lot of interest in design. So, we’ll see. What do you love most about your jobs? Karl: It goes back to what inspires me: the people. In the morning, I could be in a customer meeting, that afternoon in an operations meeting and that evening speaking with one of our factory reps in Asia. I love the variety of it all. Rob: I have the best job. I love following trends, thinking of new ideas and getting great people to bring them to life. I don’t feel like I’m getting old this way. I’ll get off a 16-hour flight exhausted, but the minute I enter the Guangdong fashion market where I see all the fabulous ingredients for shoemaking—everything from minks to fabrics to leathers to all sorts of embellishments—it just energizes me. I equate it to how a chef must feel when they go to the food market and decide what they are going to prepare for the menu that day based on what ingredients look best. Until they see how fresh the grouper is or whether the Brussels sprouts look fabulous…It’s the same process for me, and that’s where I get the energy to keep doing what I love. •

info@josmo.com Booth# 80462


LAST WORD

A Fairytale Ending

FIT FOR A PRINCESS Disney animation artist pairs characters with their real knights in shining armor: the world’s greatest shoe designers. By Ann Loynd

Alice × Charlotte Olympia

Cinderella × Stuart Weitzman

Tiana × Dolce & Gabbana

Elsa × Christian Louboutin

Belle × Jimmy Choo

Ursula × Alexander McQueen

Jasmine × Kobi Levi

Snow White × Valentino

Mulan × Manolo Blahnik

Pocahontas × Chloé

Rapunzel × Jimmy Choo

Maleficent × Balenciaga

88 footwearplusmagazine.com • february 2016

OULD CINDERELLA REALLY wear a nameless glass slipper? Might Snow White opt for a killer stiletto by Manolo Blahnik instead of a generic pump to help do away with that evil stepmother of hers? Would a pair of frumpy house slippers best fit the needs of Sleeping Beauty, or might she prefer something more chic à la a demure mule by Jimmy Choo? Griselda Sastrawinata-Lemay, an animation artist at Walt Disney Animation Studios and avid shoe collector, gave such existential princess shoe fashion preferences some serious thought recently. In fact, she illustrated her take on what 34 beloved Disney princesses and notorious villains would wear in real life. Her Princess Shoe series pairs each character with a renowned designer’s style that is most befitting. “Elsa [Frozen] is a confident woman whose tastes would be very luxurious,” SastrawinataLemay offers. “Christian Louboutin is the ultimate luxury shoe designer, so I imagine Elsa would have a great Louboutin collection in her closet.” Sastrawinata-Lemay has strong opinions on the matter. She views footwear as wearable artwork. “A great pair of shoes is the exclamation point to an outfit and, when done right, the shoes exude personality and character,” she says, adding her favorite footwear designer is Louboutin. Sastrawinata-Lemay is living a real life fairytale working as an animation artist for Disney. She fell in love with princesses as a little girl watching the likes of Cinderella and Belle, and now she is working in the very studio that brought these iconic characters to life. The Princess Shoe series is part of an ongoing pet project that she and husband Normand Lemay (also an artist at Disney) create under the theme of things they love. Their creative illustrations are featured on grizandnorm.squarespace.com.


I N T R O D U C I N G

EXTRAORDINARY HEELS FOR EXTRAORDINARY WOMEN ECCO is launching the revolutionary SHAPE collection at the Atlanta Shoe Market, February 21-23, and at FN PLATFORM in Las Vegas from February 16-18.