Footwear Plus | July 2016

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INTO THE LIGHT Fashion Takes a Shine to the Sneaker


Experience the Børn Spring 2017 Collections at OR | FN Platform | TASM and at FFaNY | New York Showroom | 1441 Broadway | 15th Floor | New York, NY



C are Fund


And on Earth Day, in New York City, Earth Shoes were born. Coincidence? We don’t think so. It was April 22, 1970 and it was time for a change. Time to change the way we walk on our planet. Anne Kalsø’s “Earth Shoe” was now available to anyone who was lucky enough to pass by her storefront in Union Square. With its innovative comfort design and message of wellness, it revolutionized walking and shoe design. 46 years later, it still does. Today, Earth Shoes has evolved into a family of comfort brands – where each and every style is built from the ground-up and innovative comfort is the DNA of our shoes. We like to think Anne would be proud that we’re still walking tall, confidently and beautifully. Earth Shoes. Walk your World.

Caroline Diaco Publisher Greg Dutter Editorial Director Nancy Campbell Trevett McCandliss Creative Directors EDITORIAL Ann Loynd Senior Editor

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Lauren Olsen Associate Editor Kathy Passero Editor at Large Melodie Jeng Contributing Photographer Judy Leand Contributing Editor PA G E


ADVERTISING/ PRODUCTION Jennifer Craig Associate Publisher Katie Belloff Associate Art Director Production Manager Allison Kastner Operations Manager




14 Shaky Times Analysts weigh in on the rash of retail bankruptcies and store closings. By Lauren Olsen

26 Game On It’s no contest: The sneaker is dominating the fashion scene. By Ann Loynd

16 The Rockport Files Led by industry veteran Bob Infantino and under new ownership, a dedicated team of experts is on a journey to make Rockport great—again. By Greg Dutter

32 Food Run Classic men’s sneaker silhouettes that never lose their flavor. By Ann Loynd

20 Young at Heart With a focus on lightweight technologies and athletic-infused styling, work boot makers are adapting to a Millennial-driven workforce. By Lauren Olsen

36 Walk This Way The evolution of sportstyle: Lightweight sneakers with natty knit uppers stretch far beyond the gym for next spring. By Ann Loynd

Photographer: Trevett McCandliss; Fashion Editor: Ann Loynd; stylist: James M. Rosenthal/ Kate Ryan, Inc.; stylist assistant: Vinny Michaud; hair and makeup: Abraham Sprinkle/Next Artists; model: Jenny F./Red Model Management.

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Editor’s Note This Just In A Note to My Younger Self What’s Selling Shoe Salon Athletic Ebeat

56 Last Word

Bruce Sprague Circulation Director Mike Hoff Digital Director OFFICES Advertising/Editorial 135 W. 20th St., Suite 402 New York, NY 10011 Tel: (646) 278-1550 Fax: (646) 278-1553 editorialrequests@ Circulation 26202 Detroit Road, #300 Westlake, OH 44145 Tel: (440) 871-1300 Corporate 9Threads 26202 Detroit Road, #300 Westlake, OH 44145 Tel: (440) 871-1300 Xen Zapis Chairman

On the cover: Under Armour knit-upper joggers. Kowtow trench, DKNY top, Dzojchen, sunglasses by Fendi. This page: Mesh trainer by Gola. Creative Recreation sneakers.

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, 135 W. 20th St., Suite 402, New York, NY, 10011-3616. 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.

Lee Zapis President Rich Bongorno Chief Financial Officer Debbie Grim Controller

Come And Experience Earth At These Upcoming Shows August 3-6, Outdoor Retailer, Salt Palace Convention Center Booth #30187W August 15-17, FN Platform, LVCC South Hall August 20-22, Atlanta Shoe Market, Cobb Galleria Centre Booth #1317-1323

Style featured: Earth Daylily

E D I TO R ’S N OT E Nailing

BUILDING THE PERFECT BEAST I’M THE SON of an architect and the sibling of a contractor, so you might assume I’d possess innate building talents. Alas, I can’t draw a straight line and if I hang a picture frame straight, it’s pure luck. I’ve always been in awe of those who can build things from scratch. My father has the creative ability to envision entire office buildings, restaurants and homes—from the basements to the rooftops and every room in between—then draw each to spec so that when his designs are constructed they stand the test of time. The same goes for my brother: His ability to turn blueprints into reality never ceases to amaze me. From what often starts as a muddy hole in the ground, a foundation, framing, sheet rocking, tiling, wiring, appliances, and eventually fine woodworking details emerge—and his projects always come together seamlessly and beautifully. He never cuts a corner. All I think of is what would go wrong structurally and aesthetically. My foundation would be sloped, the walls tilted and load-bearing joints held together by a few crooked nails and plenty of prayers. I have equal awe and admiration for brand builders, both wholesale and retail. Turning an idea into a thriving business requires vision, talent, smarts and incredible determination. It’s a shoe-by-shoe process—much like brick-by-brick building—from the ground up into a solid brand or merchandise mix. What’s more, to continually make the necessary renovations and additions to keep a brand or store structurally sound and inviting so that consumers reward those efforts with their loyalty is, to me, the ultimate building feat. The fact is, there are plenty of brands consumers can live in, so to speak. So when they feel “at home” enough in a particular brand to seek it out, that represents the Taj Mahal of brand building. In an increasingly crowded and competitive landscape, the ability

to build such a perfect beast is paramount. It is the key to long-term survival in a world where consumers can shop anywhere, anytime and for anything from pretty much anyone. Technology has leveled the playing field. There are no more home field advantages. Shoppers can choose to do business with any brand. Thus, loyalty has become the new gold standard for success in our business. While unlimited choice might be a good thing for consumers, it puts the onus on brands to connect on a deeper level to build loyalty. Great product and exceptional customer service are cornerstones, but countless other details go into the construction—from staying on message and communicating it effectively to making sure your products are relevant and unique. Neglect these building blocks, and you’re most likely building a house of straw. This brings me to the house that Bob Infantino and his new team are in the process of building at The Rockport Group, makers of Rockport, Dunham and Aravon brands (“The Rockport Files,” page 16). A veteran brand builder for Rockport in the ’80s who went on to enjoy a near 20-year run building Clarks Companies, N.A., into a $800-million entity and then helmed the start-up Drydock Footwear (makers of Cobb Hill), Infantino has returned under new ownership and embarked on a complete rebuild of the legendary comfort brand. It started last fall with Rockport’s extraction from its former parent company, Adidas. The renovation involves product, marketing, logistics, positioning, relationships and—this fall—moving into new state-of-the-art offices. It’s a combination brand repair, rebuild and reinvention project. Rockport is a brand worth restoring. It’s got great bones, as my father and brother would say. And with the right amount of TLC and investment by people who appreciate its past and know how to build on that foundation, there’s no reason it can’t once again be great. That’s the beauty of being a talented builder: What’s old can be restored and what doesn’t exist can be built. Here’s to all the great brand builders in our industry.

Greg Dutter

Editorial Director

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Purveyors of luxury European comfort footwear

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AUDACIOUS AUSSIES Ladies Down Under go over the top with statement shoes anchoring loose, breezy outfits. Photography by Melodie Jeng 10 • july 2016


STRAIGHT FROM THE HEART Ron Fromm, former CEO of Brown Shoe Company and current president and CEO of FFANY, on life’s unscripted journey— one filled with twists and turns but always a beautiful ride.

Dear Ron,

IT’S A DAUNTING task to reflect on six and a half decades of one’s life. With that said, I must share that life’s journey is simply incredible and improbable. First, I ask that you remember to thank all the people who make it possible, fun and relevant. They are the ones who will make your life remarkable. Second, never forget the reality of divine intervention. How else could an aspiring accountant end up doing a sixyear tour of duty in the Air National Guard as a medic? And how could that lead to an opportunity at a consulting firm and a client with a store fixtures company that suffered a major fire that led to a footwear company, which would lead to a magnificent journey of discovery involving fascinating people, countries around the world, constant challenges and endless opportunities? Who would have thought a career in footwear could yield such a combination of success, failure, adversity, sacrifice and joy? It’s virtually impossible now to remember all the intersections that have affected the journey. But know that people and prayer create a tapestry of life’s most important moments and connect them in a way that can’t merely be coincidence. Some people will be in your life for a season, others for years or decades. They all cross your path for a reason. Sometimes they

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lead and guide you. Others are there to learn from you. Be aware that your father’s small business, his illness and your illness will all lead to dramatic, unexpected changes and will remind you of the benefit of prayer—whether it is by the side of a distraught mother, or feeling the power of those praying for you as you lie in a coma, or the gut-wrenching decision that will cause hundreds to lose their jobs or the joy of finding that special person for the rest of your life. There will be nothing more calming than prayer to guide you through life. It’s hard to imagine the son of a mechanic who built a successful Amoco service and gas business leading a multi-billiondollar, multi-national NYSE company. But it will happen. And it will make you believe in divine intervention. Here’s a wise adage a friend once shared that I’d like you to keep I mind: The future is not found on the side of the path. It is created, first in the mind, then deeply rooted in one’s heart, then in the action one takes. Finally, don’t worry about turning 65. You’ll have confidence that the decade ahead will be the best yet. You’ll decide to lend your time, talent and treasure to FFANY and make the most of a great philanthropic opportunity to give back to the footwear industry that will be so good to you.

2017 Collection My Islands take me to my friends, my special places, and the things I love.

Platform, Atlanta, Surf Expo, North West Buyers, WCTS



Shaky Times Analysts weigh in on the recent rash of retail bankruptcies and store closings, which beg the question: Is this the end of the retail world as we know it? By Lauren Olsen ETAILERS HAVE BEEN feeling anything but fine of late. Sales are way off. Traffic is worse. The weather gets blamed (way too) often—and so do the dismal economy, the endless presidential election, the rise of online retailing and just about anything else. Consumers just don’t shop as much as they used to, nor do they seem to have the time or desire to do so. Perhaps most worrisome of all, many consumers lack discretionary funds. For some retailers, the diagnosis has become terminal, and many who aren’t dead already are knocking on heaven’s door— loudly. The Great Retail Shakeout of 2016 has taken out former heavyweights like PacSun, Aéropostale and Sports Authority and inflicted damage on big shots such as Sears, Kohl’s, Macy’s, Nordstrom, Walmart and J.C. Penney. It’s pretty safe to say this is a market correction for the retail ages. What’s still up for debate is whether the industry is at the beginning of this shakeout. Will there be lots more bloodletting to endure? And just what might the new landscape look like when the dust clears? “There are just too many stores out there,” says Nikki Baird, managing partner at Retail Systems Research. “Even if real estate had not overbuilt, retailers would have too many stores for what ultimately may be a world where 25 percent of retail purchases are transacted online.” Baird says to do the (scary) math: “If a retailer is currently only transacting 5 or 10 percent online today and they have too many stores and their stores have too much square footage, just imagine what it will look like when that number hits 25 percent.” Baird notes things have gotten so dire debt holders are squeezing out retailers for profit. Even if this shakeout proves not to be the biggest ever, most industry experts agree that it’s triggering radical changes. “I don’t know if we’ve had something of this magnitude,” says Camilo Lyon, managing director at Canaccord Genuity. Worse, says Beth Goldstein, fashion footwear and accessories industry analyst at The NPD Group, it may still be in the early stages. “I think we are still going to see many more store closings/consolidations,” she reports. Lyon and Baird believe the shakeout is still somewhere between the early and middle stages. “The Great Recession took out the most vulnerable retailers, but I think it’s 14 • july 2016

no coincidence that the electronics category got hit the hardest early in that shakeout—the category had already significantly moved to online purchasing,” Baird says, adding, “Any big box category that has multiple players is still at risk, as are department stores.” When might things start to settle down? No one knows for sure. Baird believes that when e-commerce, as a percent of total retail sales, flattens out, the market might calm down. “From our surveys, retailers themselves expect that things will reach a kind of equilibrium when e-commerce reaches 25 percent of total retail sales or thereabouts,” she says, guessing that will be within the next 10 years. More immediately and with respect to athletic footwear, Laurent Vasilescu, senior equity research analyst at Macquarie Capital, says that once Sports Authority completely closes, it will provide some clarity about what’s going on with inventories and where the market is headed. A lot of today’s problems stem from unwillingness or inability to adapt to rapidly changing market conditions. “Too many people think they can do business like they did 10 years ago,” states Sam Poser, managing director at Sterne Agee CRT. They are sorely mistaken, he says. Goldstein says the rapid shift in consumer purchasing, invigorated by the current dramatic increase in shopping options and 24/7 accessibility makes many traditional retail formats appear archaic in comparison. Canaccord Genuity’s Lyon adds that consumer behavior has shifted to a “buy now/wear now” mentality. Shoppers don’t want to wait for next season or for their local store to catch on to a trend they saw flash across their smartphone from a Tokyo-based streetwear blogger that they follow religiously. “Thus far, retailers haven’t offered a good response,” he says. Millennials, in particular, are driving many of these changes. They just don’t shop like previous generations. How marketers and retailers reach this 75-million-plus strong audience and what makes them buy one brand over another or shop store A instead of store B is quite different from generations past. “They want the brands to stand for something meaningful and be ‘authentic,’” Baird offers. They also want to be able to shop whenever, from wherever and for whatever. What’s more, they want to be able to find the lowest price possible instantly and expect prices to be matched if they know an item is being sold for less elsewhere. That’s a lot of “wants.” It also >51

The Rockport Files Led by industry veteran Bob Infantino and under new ownership, a dedicated team of experts is on a journey to make Rockport great—again. BY GREG DUTTER

ERHAPS IT WAS destined to play out like this for industry veteran Bob Infantino. Full circle career symmetry, from a comfort footwear perspective, is just so fitting. As one of the first retailers ever to stock Rockport shoes in the early ’70s at Altier’s Shoes in his hometown of Rochester, NY, Infantino eventually crossed over into wholesale in the early ’80s where he led Rockport’s product and marketing team for about a decade. He then went on to an 18-year run at the helm of Clarks Companies, N.A., followed by the launch of the start-up Drydock Footwear (makers of Cobb Hill, Dunham and Aravon) in 2012. He returned late last year to lead Rockport again as a stand-alone company newly minted as The Rockport Group under the joint ownership of Boston-based private equity firm, Berkshire Partners, and New Balance Holdings, an investment arm of the athletic footwear company. You might say Infantino and Rockport needed

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Bob Infantino, CEO of The Rockport Group

each other. Infantino likes to dream big, and while Drydock Footwear (led by Cobb Hill) was making solid inroads into the marketplace, the growth trajectory was still years away from matching his previous gigs at Rockport (when annual sales

soared from $30 million to $100 million-plus) and Clarks (where the business grew into an $800-million powerhouse). Rockport, in terms of brand recognition and size, is much further along. It’s an iconic American brand synonymous with comfort, innovation and craftsmanship. It offered the head start Infantino was looking for to once again build a major casual lifestyle brand on a worldwide scale. “I like the bigger canvas to do something like this,” he says. “I like creating a big team. “My nature is to do more,” continues Infantino, who shows little desire to retire. “I don’t think I’ve ever realized that, at some point in life, you stop doing things.” In recent years, Rockport slipped from its perch as a leading comfort brand. To say it was taken down-market might be overly critical, but after years as a subsidiary of Reebok, which has been a subsidiary of Adidas for the past 10 years, the brand had become an afterthought

and an anomaly alongside two major athletic businesses. Rockport was in desperate need of oversight by people from the comfort and casual footwear space. Specifically, people who knew and appreciated its rich history and believed that with the right positioning, investment and seasoned management the brand could once again be at the forefront of comfort footwear innovation and styling. “A talented group of people have come back to this family brand and are nurturing its roots to make it great again,” Infantino explains. “We are some of the original caretakers, and we’re making sure every aspect of Rockport receives the attention and care it deserves. You will see that dedication come through in every single pair of shoes we make.” Those original caretakers include Rick Byrne, vice president and lead product engineer, who ran Rockport’s model shop years ago, and Roberto Grosso, senior vice president sourcing and manufacturing, who once worked for Rockport founder Saul Katz. In addition, John Daher, senior vice president of product development, who grew up in his parents’ shoe store and ran his own retail business before becoming Infantino’s right-hand product guru at Clarks and Drydock, is a key member of the new team. Sue Dooley, senior vice president of marketing, has also rejoined Infantino. She had similar respnsibilities during a stretch at Clarks and Drydock. Taken as a whole, Infantino says the new team is the perfect complement to what was the Rockport team under Adidas: The women’s product talents and strong independent retailer ties of Cobb Hill balance out the men’s product expertise and established key account relationships of Rockport. “Our combined expertise fits together beautifully,” he says, adding that this is collectively the most talented team he has ever assembled. “We have a spectacular group running this company in all facets of the business. These are real shoe people—everyone on the senior team has been in the business a long time. They all understand shoes: how to make them and what makes the insides of them work.” That’s how Rockport made its mark—introducing breakthrough comfort technologies that worked. It’s long been a brand noted for introducing firsts—like being the first “brown shoe” brand to introduce “white shoe” athletic technology in the form of EVA midsoles, heel cups and removable footbeds into casual styles. It was the brand that created the DresSports shoe, which garnered worldwide attention for its performance features when a former employee ran the New York City Marathon wearing a pair—one of the most effective comfort footwear testimonials ever. It also introduced such iconic

shoes as the ProWalker, basically inventing the walking category, and its redesigned boat shoe was a technical masterpiece worn by sailors during the world’s most challenging open sea races. Along the way, Rockport cemented its position as a leading comfort brand around the world. The brand became synonymous with comfort as well as handcrafted American styling. Never a brand to rest on its laurels, Rockport has approached the market much like an athletic footwear company—always innovating, tinkering and trying to make a better shoe. Innovation is imbedded in the brand’s DNA. Its most notable introductions of late, the truWALK and Total Motion collections, are breakthroughs fusing lightweight comfort technologies with style. Unlike athletic shoes, where the technology is the leading aspect of the look, the beauty of Rockport’s design is its hidden comfort attributes. It’s all there, but neatly tucked inside stylish shoes. In essence, Rockport has been making seamless “wearable technology” since long before it became the emerging head-to-toe category it is today. b b b

Comfort never looked so stylish: highlights of Rockport’s Spring ’17 line spanning (top to bottom) its Total Motion, Men’s Dress Casual and Cobb Hill collections.

READY TO ROCK If Rockport built its reputation on innovation, expect more of the same—only this time on steroids. It starts with the facilities: The company will be moving into new state-of-the-art offices in Newton, MA, later this fall. The 70,000-squarefoot former mill building will feature an open floor plan, an R&D work shop, photo studio and a room dedicated to focus groups. Additional homey touches will include a working kitchen, fireplace, courtyard meeting area and bicycles to explore the local scene. The new offices will also be filled with top-notch talent. “We have tripled the amount of resources in product development,” Daher says, noting, “It’s all about specialization and segmentation today, and we now have multiple business units featuring separate teams dedicated solely to each unit.” One of those units, Daher says, is focused purely on innovation. “We’ve taken it off calendar because the regular six-month product cycle doesn’t allow enough time for such development,” he explains. “We’ll now be able to incubate new comfort systems and styles. We’ll create multiple prototypes to make sure they are right before we release them into the marketplace.” Daher adds that it’s part of an overall commitment to product excellence, which also includes a design lab based in Italy. “We have to be thinking about and developing the next big thing,” he says. “It takes time and it’s a big investment, but it’s a great investment for the future of Rockport.” That future begins with Rockport’s Fall ’16

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FIRST IMPRESSIONS Call it love at first sight: What happened when Bob Infantino first laid eyes on a pair of Rockport shoes.

BOB INFANTINO KNEW there was something special about Rockport the first time he saw a pair, which happened to be the first-ever style for the brand. The year was 1972. Infantino was working as a buyer for Altier’s Shoes in Rochester, NY, when he came across Bruce Katz pedaling the shoes by van around the Northeast for his father, Saul Katz. A sourcing veteran, Saul Katz had discovered the unique-looking crepe sole casual shoes made of a thick leather he dubbed “Rockport” in Brazil and was convinced the style would sell in the United States. When Bruce Katz walked into the Altier’s buying offices—unannounced— with a bunch of shoes under his arm, Infantino didn’t know what to think at first. The bearded, bandana-wearing Katz looked like a hippie in search of the next Grateful Dead show, not the typical traveling shoe salesman of that era. Nonetheless, Infantino was intrigued by the messenger’s enthusiasm and, especially, by the shoes under his arm. “There was something special about them,” Infantino recalls. “They had these cool baseball-stitched uppers, and, back then, men’s casual shoes were your old dress shoes, basically. There really wasn’t a casual shoe market to speak of at the time.” Infantino went with his gut and ordered 4,400 pairs on the spot. His instincts proved right: The initial order blew out of the store. More important, Infantino’s hunch about an untapped casual men’s market proved massively

lucrative. Little did anyone know at the time that this was the dawn of the casual footwear boom or that their unexpected meeting would lay the groundwork for one of the world’s most iconic comfort footwear brands. As Rockport lore goes, Infantino and Katz became fast friends—real fast, as Katz crashed that first night at Infantino’s apartment, where the duo got to talking about shoes, the shoe biz and the possibility of working together one day. That day finally came in late 1983, when Rockport had gained tremendous market recognition following Saul Katz’s groundbreaking idea of fusing athletic performance technologies inside casual shoes. At the time, the company had recently expanded into women’s. Infantino came on board to help take the brand to the next level. He spent nearly the next decade doing exactly that, taking over product development after the Katz family sold the business to Reebok. What Infantino recalls most fondly of his first go-round at Rockport is the collaborative family-like atmosphere the Katzes created. He considers family one of the most important factors that make a company successful. “I’ve always built my businesses around a family atmosphere and making sure people enjoy their work as well as where they work,” he says. Infantino also developed a passion for making innovative shoes thanks, in part, to the Katz family. A key lesson: Every detail counts—down to the tissue paper in the shoeboxes. Speaking of that, Rockport’s key product collections will feature illustrations of the shoes and design details on its shoebox tissue paper. “Every aspect is being thought through with the integrity and care that you’d expect from people who really love a brand,” Infantino says. —G.D.

collections, which is led by five revamped divisions: Total Motion, Cobb Hill, Active/Innovation, Men’s Dress and Men’s Casual. The shoes, Daher assures, are best-in-class across all categories, whether it’s a style from its new men’s DresSports Modern line aimed at younger metropolitan professionals or a women’s waterproof boot replete with beautiful leathers, hand-burnished details and interesting textiles that blend fashion and function seamlessly. To that end, consumers increasingly expect the best in performance and style today. “The ability for a shoe to feel like a sneaker is most relevant today,” Daher offers. “If it lacks those qualities, it’s just not accepted in the marketplace.” Fortunately Rockport’s unique heritage allows it to pursue function and fashion on a broad scale. “The Rockport banner gives us that license,” Daher says, noting that building The Rockport Group’s product development department has been a dream job. “We have opportunity to create our own looks as well as play in multiple classifications. It’s a tremendous platform to build on,” he says. “And we have the best-of-the-best in terms of product directors, designers and engineers to make it happen.” Attention to detail and brand affection will be evident in Rockport’s pinnacle collections, aimed at better-grade independents and department stores. In that regard, Infantino says the company is going back to its roots, relying on specialty retailers to convey the brand’s quality story. “That’s where we can really showcase our brand and do it with shop-in-shops. Those stores will help create our new brand image,” he explains. Rockport’s women’s collections will be another major focus going forward. Infantino predicts the brand will be split 50-50 between genders over the next five years. Helping to galvanize that shift is the rebranding of Cobb Hill as the Rockport Cobb Hill Collection, which gives immediate entry into 2,000 doors nationwide. Beyond that, Infantino knows great product is the most effective way to change brand perceptions. No one had heard of Cobb Hill, he notes, but it broke into the market on the basis of its strong collections. Pairing the two names, Infantino believes, is a win-win: “Consumers are going to see this beautiful product under the marquee of Rockport. Great product paired with a brand with great consumer recognition just makes sense.” Infantino predicts Rockport’s reputation for comfort, innovation and American heritage will strike a chord with female shoppers. “Even before consumers think of it as a men’s or women’s brand, they think of it in >53


Tamaris USA INC. 路 4767 New Broad Street, Orlando, FL 32814 路 office (407) 514 2734 路 路


With a focus on lightweight technologies and athletic-infused styling, work boot makers are adapting to a Millennial-driven workforce dominated by tech and service industries. By Lauren Olsen

Rocky Mobilwelt

T’S NO SECRET that when the economy is soft, sales of occupational footwear take a hit. Fewer jobs, especially those in heavy industries and commodities, have an adverse impact on the work boot market, in particular. Boots are sitting in the closets of the unemployed, and many of those workers still lucky enough to be collecting a paycheck are looking to get another season out of their current pair. Jordan Gottke, marketing director at Georgia Boot, a division of Rocky Brands, cites the steep drop-off in production in the oil industry (thanks to a worldwide glut in supply and low prices) as having a negative impact on work boot sales of late. Roger Huard, vice president of product development at Wolverine, adds that the slowdown in the natural gas sector (again thanks to low oil prices) has also negatively impacted the market over the past several months. In particular, fracking states like North Dakota, Oklahoma, Louisiana and Texas that had booming localized economies only a few seasons ago have since grown cold—and work boot sellers have been feeling the big chill. 20 • july 2016

Of course, these sort of industry slumps are cyclical. They are boom-and-bust industries regulated by the laws of supply and demand. They will rebound eventually, and, in the meantime, industry execs say it’s not all doom and gloom. There are bright spots within the market, led by a Millennial-aged workforce in want of athletic-infused styling and in need of lightweight and versatile silhouettes. “There are several positive things happening within the safety-toe arena,” offers Huard. “All indicators point to the fact that construction, as a whole, continues to thrive.” In addition to construction statistics being up (often a bellwether of economic recovery), Courtney Frank, marketing manager at Cat Footwear, a division of Wolverine Worldwide, is optimistic that once the presidential election is (finally) decided, sales should get a shot in the arm. Elections, many pundits say, make consumers nervous about spending in general. And with the daily mudslinging by both candidates about all that is wrong with America, can you blame consumers for sitting on the shopping sidelines? Many are waiting to see how a Trump or Clinton win might affect policies

Sky 0110 Tampa: luxury, comfort, quality and style Wolky’s Tampa has the essence of luxury, comfort, quality and style. Why? It’s in the refinement of the sacchetto construction. Sacchetto is an Italian word that means little bag owing in essence to how the shoe is made. This construction is part of the rare artisan shoemaking technique that requires gentle care and precision in shoemaking, a technique that can only be felt by the wearer. Unbelievable comfort, silky softness, and fits like a glove. For more information on the new Wolky springsummer 2017 collection,, please contact your Wolky representative or the Wolky office: / 480 831-8064

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like trade, minimum wage, immigration, healthcare, taxes, infrastructure, etc. Like Frank, many work boot execs, express hope that once a new president is sworn into office, consumers will return to more predictable spending patterns.

for the job,

Thinking Positive While external headwinds like a weak economy are out of the hands of work boot makers, what is in their control is the products they make that answer the needs and concerns of today’s workers. For Cat, Frank sees a bright future in focused product offerings that address the shifting attitudes of today’s customer. That translates to “consumer centricity� and innovation as keys to connecting with this demographic, she says. “We are taking major steps in understanding our younger consumers and their journey, taking into account new technologies and the evolution in how they shop and live,� Frank offers. Given the athleisure craze, athletic-inspired styling features strongly in the brand’s Spring ’17 collection. The trend holds true for many brands, and many of them cite aiming to appeal to Millennials, specifically. This group’s influence and purchasing power simply can’t be ignored. “This is the largest generation in U.S. history, and as Keen Utility they reach their prime working Davenport and spending years, their impact Mid WP on the economy is going to be huge,� Huard says, noting, “How Millennials interact with brands and what’s important to them is considerably different than other generations.� Keeping in mind the shifting tastes of a workforce that is “getting younger,� Rocky aims to offer Skechers an assortment of work styles that Conroespeaks to the aesthetic preferCenterton ences of this generation as well as changing job conditions. Ryan Maisenbacher, marketing manager, says the focus is on the increasing demands for warehouse and distribution center settings. He notes that the economy is increasingly Oliver shifting to a service-based model, OL2500 requiring lighter, less featureSeries driven work footwear. Responding to these needs, Rocky will introduce its Mobilwelt collection for next spring. The boots feature a form-fitting elastic arch band that aids holding the foot in place during “even the longest� of work days, Maisenbacher states. Also new from Rocky is the Flexagrip line, which showcases high abrasionresistant woven uppers in a sleek and comfortable hiker silhoutte. In addition to an overall focus on lightweight comfort, he estimates that about half of Rocky’s Spring ’17 collection features an athletic and youthful aesthetic suitable for on or off-duty—an important selling point for Millennials seeking versatility. Wolverine is also targeting a younger-age workforce in light industrial, warehousing and logistics jobs. Huard says the brand’s new athletic shoe styled collection features a CarbonMAX safety-toe that provides the ultimate in lightweight protection. Key styles include the Rush and the Jetstream. “The growing significance of the younger consumer and influence of athletic design are driving forces in today’s

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work market, which helps explain our new athletic introductions,” Huard affirms. To appeal to the “core work consumer” in construction and heavy industrial settings, Wolverine is introducing the Blade LX and the Blade FX with EPX technology to increase comfort and help fight fatigue. Also in the mix is the Legend LX, a work boot extension of the brand’s DuraShocks technology, which incorporates the stabilizing Wolverine H-Plate suspension while forming four independently responsive quadrants to “harness step energy”, in addition to shock-absorbing sidewalls. Last but not least is the Glacier Ice boot,

How Millennials interact with brands and what’s important to them is considerably different than other generations.

GB00107 / GB00108

which features EPX technology and a Vibram Arctic Grip outsole for an “unparalleled grip” on slippery surfaces, according to Huard. The rubber lug sole is made from two compounds for supreme traction and the four millimeter lug depth and a wide lug design provides optimal surface contact for performance on varied terrain. Meanwhile, a 90-degree braking heel helps with steep descents.

Sport Style Acknowledging the overriding power of athleisure fashion on just about every category, Cat is introducing sportier designs to appeal to both men and women. “Athleisure is no longer a trend, it is a lifestyle,” Frank says, adding that for spring the brand will release its newest and lightest industrial work shoe incorporating Nano Toe Technology in the Expedient style for men and the Array for women. “Our Nano Toe is 40-percent lighter than traditional steel and thinner, and it feels more like a sneaker than a traditional work boot,” she says, adding, “This athletic work shoe is built for the jobsite.” Bright colors, chunky outsoles and a mix of textures and textiles are a part of the package as well. “We are experiencing tremendous growth in our category of next-generation product, which offers the protection of safety footwear with the look of athletic outdoor-inspired footwear,” Frank says. Similarly, Skechers is leaning on its sporty aesthetic with its latest work assorment that reflects younger consumers entering the workforce. Michael Ferlauto, vice president of Skechers’ work division, says the brand is using more athletic materials and constructions. “The consumer is voting for versatility,” he says. That translates to Skechers’ extensive range of work footwear that goes beyond the classic work boot silhouette, including a variety of high- and low-profile shoes and colors that go from classic to “retro pops of color.” Ferlauto singles out the

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Wolverine Blade LX

Timberland Pro Powertrain Sport

Georgia Boot Amplitude

Synergy-Flex Gripper for men and SynergySandlot for women as two prime examples. Yet another brand focusing on a younger consumer is Georgia Boot. Gottke says the design team incorporated more color into its line, as evidenced by the new Amplitude collection, while “staying true” to the Georgia Boot brand’s DNA. “We wanted our product to have an armored, tough look,” he notes, adding that there will be fewer SKUs in the Spring ’17 collection than usual. “Retailers will notice our line is smaller (featuring about 10 SKUs), but it has allowed us to implement a laser focus from a product development and marketing standpoint,” he says, noting that every boot in the line has a “rhyme and reason” for being there. “The collections include a new work hiker program, as well as an unlined work Western pullon, two heavy industrial welted styles and two new slip-on oxfords in our successful Tybee Island program,” Gottke adds.

Real Work

Wolverine Glacier Ice

24 • july 2016

While Martin Meade, U.S. senior sales director for Dr. Martens, says the brand has embraced some athletic technologies, there’s a limit on how much the company wants its work boots to look like sneakers. Brand authenticity, he says, is paramount. “We started as a work boot and will always be proud of our heritage,” he explains, adding, “We are not trying to be something we are not.” That aside, Meade enthuses that any addition to the work category this spring will be led by a Softwair comfort insole featuring Smart Foam for immediate comfort and a design that allows for maximum airflow and blood circulation. The brand also is launching the Hybrid collection, which is visually similar

to its traditional PVC outsole but is unique in that it combines the PVC with rubber, enabling excellent slip-resistance. Timberland Pro will launch its Disruptor collection (featuring Chukka, oxford and slipon styles), according to Ben Ashe, senior product manager. Features include a three-part Bio Suspension System, which consists of a contoured shock-diffusion plate insole, a super-lightweight foam midsole and a flexible outsole. The elements combine to offer cushioned stability that adapts to uneven surfaces for great support and traction. The line also features a Defender coating on the uppers. Powered by 3M Scotchgard, it’s a tripleaction formula that repels spills and stains without affecting breathability. Additional features, Ashe notes, include 100-percent recycled PET canvas, providing durability that is “equivalent to traditional air textured nylon ballistic woven work boot materials” and asymmetrical military grade aluminum alloy protective toe caps. Noting the need for work boots to move seamlessly from work to non-work settings, Ashe cites Timberland Pro’s launch of its Powertrain Sport and relaunch of its Stockdale work collections for next spring. “[The Stockdale] features our patented Grip Max lug design that was inspired by everyday tools that clean surfaces,” he says. The unique “wiper technology” helps clean paths, allowing the primary lug to make contact with less contaminated surfaces. Keen Utility’s spring offerings focus on a lighter, faster and colorful aesthetic as well. The brand’s top story is the men’s Davenport Mid WP (available in several colorways), which is a lightweight, non-metallic hiking-inspired design. Also new for the season—in men’s and women’s—is the Asheville, a lightweight, low-cut shoe with athletic influences. It features a locking bungee and lace option—an element that Chris Heffernan, general manager, describes as giving a freedom not offered by its competition. Similarly, Sean O’Brien, vice president and general manager of Honeywell Industrial Safety, makers of Oliver Safety Footwear, notes that instead of focusing on traditional work boots, the Spring ’17 push will be its OL2500, a lightweight, low-cut athletic safety shoe, available in a range of colors and patterns. Amber Vanwy, director of marketing for Twisted X, says that doing basic casuals with work features like protective toes and waterproofing will be the focus as well. For next spring, she says Twisted X will add some of the color pops it’s known for into these styles. “We think this will be especially popular for women,” Vanwy says, adding that the brand will also introduce a new technology that provides cushioned comfort customized to the wearer’s foot shape, weight proportion and activity. “We believe it will be a game-changer, providing a new level of comfort that is almost customized to their particular job,” Vanwy says. •



Clear Weather One O One

Pharrell Williams designed brightly colored Superstar sneakers (below) for Adidas Originals.

Rihanna poses with Travi$ Scott to show off her FENTY Puma by Rihanna creepers.

Game On It’s no contest: Sneakers are dominating the fashion scene. BY ANN LOYND

NEAKERS HAVE BEEN popular for a while now, but the meteoric rise of athleisure within the past 18 months or so (think yoga pants everywhere), has elevated the silhouette to a whole new level. No longer strictly for sports, guy attire or commuting women to swap into to and from work, the $35-billion strong sneaker category (as of last year) has become the centerpiece to many an athleisure-based ensemble. It’s the everyday, go-to choice for on-the-go women hooked on lightweight comfort attributes. Mega brands like Nike and Adidas have become so influential—in sports, music and fashion—that design houses are increasingly following their cue. Sneakers on the runway are no longer unexpected but the norm. The estimated $1 billion-plus (and growing) sneaker resale market is another sign of the category’s all-encompassing power. So it didn’t come as a surprise when Glamour published a 10-page “Athleisure 101” feature in its latest issue. The article’s opener sported a collage of stone26 • july 2016

faced models wearing athletic looks accompanied by text declaring, “Athleisure for the Win!” The following pages offered a do’s and don’ts guide to rocking the sporty-trend. The style takeaway for readers: wear sneakers—with everything. Sneaker culture has gone mainstream, and you don’t have to crack open a fashion magazine to see it; you can simply look on the streets around the globe and see kicks sported everywhere. It begs the questions: How did we get here, and will the sneaker craze subside? Experts seem pretty unanimous that the sneaker trend has been brewing for a long time and shows no sign of running out of steam in the immediate future. “We’re in a permanent state of people wearing sneakers,” states The NPD Group Sports Industry Analyst Matt Powell. “I have been studying this industry for more than a decade, and I don’t see us returning to a place where people will dress more formally.” Powell attributes the growth, in part, to Millennials’ love affair with sneakers. “We have a generation that grew up wearing nothing but sneakers, and they want to wear them all the

time,” he says, adding that this demographic sneakers as a daily fashion statement. “The is more concerned about health and fitness world is getting smaller. If you look at overall than previous generations. fashion, it’s becoming a fusion of everything,” Michael Vincent, senior footwear buyer Vincent opines. “Think about the last 20 to 30 for Jack Threads, a men’s online dealer that years: You had high fashion, hip-hop, street… just released a proprietary footwear collecNow it’s one look.” tion, agrees that Millennials are the muscle Vince Sirico, photographer and contributor to behind the current sneaker fashion craze. “The sneaker blog Modern Notoriety, has witnessed [Millennial] consumer was wearing sneakers the gradual acceptance of sneaker culture into every day in high school and college,” he says. the mainstream. He’s also noticed a fashion “They grew up watching Michael Jordan. It’s opposition to the traditional performance not really that big of a surprise.” shoe. “Performance shoes have become so While Millennials are blazing the trail, the performance-oriented that they’re hard to wear athletic look is not solely a young person’s in public,” he says. “These days, pop culture trend. “Everybody is wearing sneakers today. influences a lot more than sports. You can No demographic is not participating in this wear Kanye’s shoe, someone who you listen trend,” Powell stresses. In fact, the shift started to every day, and make a statement.” He adds — ADAM PETRICK, PUMA long before this younger group was buying that of the leading brands, Adidas has been his/her own shoes. Robert Schwartz, CEO particularly successful at cornering influencers of Eneslow Shoes in New York, aptly calls this movement part of the “casual in the entertainment industry, tapping celebs like West and Pharrell Williams lifestyle revolution.” Over time, Americans have been dressing more and more along with designers like Yohji Yamamoto and Stella McCartney. Bodega cocasually—even in the workplace—so it stands to reason that their footwear founder Oliver Mak is also impressed with the brand’s fashion chops of late. choices follow suit. “I remember when I started out in the department store “Adidas, they’re hitting fashion,” he says. “They’re grabbing up fashion designers days, and I wore a suit to work every day,” and offering retro stuff as well.” Puma’s Fenty Tracey Neuls Powell remarks. “I didn’t walk out of my office by Rihanna line is another recent example. Geek bike shoe. without putting my jacket on!” “She’s had a massive impact on our business Gola CEO Tony Evans believes that, in the obviously, but her mindset and approach to case of casual fashion, the denim chicken came fashion and style are also having an impact before the sneaker egg. “If you go back to the on our brand’s design language overall,” says ’50s and ’60s, everything was very formal,” he Adam Petrick, Puma’s global director of brand notes. “The denim craze that came in the late and marketing. ’60s changed the culture for the vast majority of people. Now, anyone who is 60 and under NOT S O FAST wears denim and sneakers.” Josh Brubaker, Those who have been around long enough co-founder of Clear Weather, concurs that and have lived through previous athletic this casual movement has been a long time booms and busts are hesitant to put a “forin the making. “This running/trainer thing ever” stamp on sneakers as the end-all, was on fire in the early ’90s, but back then, be-all fashion statement. And that goes for the fashion influence wasn’t as strong as it is any category. After 40-some years in retail, now,” he says, noting, “You’ve got two worlds Schwartz says: “There’s a feeding frenzy colliding with high-end fashion meeting the for things, and they’re going to disappear sneaker world.” The result is a perfect storm eventually. They have a cycle. They come in of factors that has tipped the sneaker from as a trend and go out as a fad.” what may have been a cyclical trend to a Brubaker also believes these trends phase Florsheim Flux Wingtip full-fledged lifestyle revolution. out every 10 to 12 years. He cites the skinny Evans agrees that the luxury factor in jeans style as an example: “Younger kids are sneakers is rather unprecedented. “I was in starting to wear baggier pants. The dad is Saks a few weeks ago, and the prices luxury wearing tight pants now, and the kid doesn’t An upcoming brands sell sneakers for is shocking,” he want to look like dad!” Reebok x Jack Threads collab. says. But when Kendall Jenner or one of her Even leading athletic brands like Puma Kardashian sisters step out for a latte sporting are weary of getting overly confident about Lululemon attire and Yeezys, it’s not about the sneaker’s staying power at the tip of the sport or utility. It’s all about fashion and fashion spear. “There is always a place for status. Limited distribution, special makeups sneakers in the overall marketplace, but and a steady stream of celebrity collabs are obviously trends come and go,” cautions helping fuel the sneaker as a luxury mustPetrick. “Currently, the athletic look and have. “I was walking down the street and saw sports influence can be seen in every brand’s this grandfather-aged man wearing Yeezys,” range, from the runway to fast-fashion. That laughs Vincent. “It’s a prime example of how said, we all have to work harder than ever to sneaker culture has permeated the whole fashion culture.” The designer/ bring great technologies and innovations in our designs.” buyer adds that this was not the case 10 years ago. “Back in the early 2000s, Passing fads aside, most experts agree that the comfort casual quotient it was just skater kids, urban kids. Your parents wouldn’t touch that style,” is here to stay. “I think wearing trainers began as a trend, and then people he says. “Even then, movie stars wouldn’t touch that.” Now, celebs like Drake, realized how comfortable they were and just couldn’t stop,” offers footwear Rihanna, Gwyneth Paltro and every card-bearing Kardashian are choosing designer, Tracey Neuls. “The ‘craze’ is a reaction to a demand for shoes >55


28 • july 2016






Sneaker Boutiques

What are your best-selling brands of late? This season, Adidas and Nike have been our best two resources. Any notable brands added into the mix recently? We haven’t added too much from a footwear perspective in the last year or so. The funny thing about athletic fashion is that it’s a small group of brands. Unlike in a brown shoe store, where you might have 50 or 60 vendors, it’s a tight grouping. What are some of your best-selling accessories? People love West NYC hats and t-shirts. Other hat brands do well too, like 47 Brand and Only NY. How has business been so far this year? Like everybody else in retail, the early part of May was tough to recoup. But for the year overall, I expect we’ll be ahead. What’s your fastest-growing customer segment? Women’s has been growing exponentially. With the sneaker boom, a rising tide raises all ships. We’ve been selling lots of Adidas Stan Smiths and Superstars along with Nike Flyknits. I see us increasing our SKU count for women’s moving forward.

W E S T N Y C N e w Yo r k , N Y


FOURTH-GENERATION SHOE retailer, Lester Wasserman has been selling footwear since 1990 when he started working in his family’s Manhattan sit-and-fit store, Tip Top Shoes. In 2007, he opened his own boutique on the Upper West Side (aptly named West NYC) to sell strictly sneakers, which were a personal passion of his as well as a relatively rare retail format back then. Despite the onslaught of sneaker boutique competitors who arrived on the scene since, West NYC has carved out a niche and garnered a loyal following. How so? “It’s how we present the shoes to customers that separates us from the rest,” Wasserman believes. “We try to get more personal with people, and not make it so transactional.” The presentation inside West NYC is clean with 800 square feet of “vintage classic” décor. (Think reclaimed wood and exposed brick.) But Wasserman insists that customer service is what wins the day in a saturated sneaker market. That unwavering service has earned West a cult-like following of city-dwellers and tourists alike (the shop boasts nearly 40,000 followers on Instagram) who covet its array of leading brands, including Adidas, Nike, Puma, Asics, Clarks and Converse, as well as apparel and a steady offering of collabs. Basking in the current athleisure/sneaker boom, Wasserman can’t predict what the shop will look like in five years, but he promises one thing: “The shoes and the customers might be different, but the attention to customer service will remain the same.” —Ann Loynd

30 • july 2016

What is unique about being based in New York? The tremendous diversity of customers, which is good and bad. Being, literally, a stone’s throw from Central Park is great. One minute we have a group of tourists, followed by a group of teenagers, followed by neighborhood folks…Every second we have a different type of person in the store. It gives us the opportunity to sell a lot of different products. The downside is we’re not always able to be as deep in one particular item because of that. What’s the biggest challenge currently facing your business? Like anybody else, the weather and the fact that people can buy shoes at any hour of any day at any price. That’s a tremendous problem, especially based on the New York rent structure. You would think the rents would be going down because [physical] stores aren’t as important now that web sales are headed to surpass store sales. But that’s not the case. Rents are going up. We have a web and social media presence and are doing our best to attack that. What are your most effective forms of social media? Instagram, Twitter and a little bit of Facebook. We’ve done paid content on Facebook, but it’s tough to measure the success because we aren’t doing it consistently. We have a large following on Instagram, and we’re heavily dependent on that. Trump or Clinton…Any thought on how one as president might impact your business? We need a pro-business president, someone who is about job creation. What are you most proud of with respect to your store? The fact that we opened in 2007, in what some might call one of the worst years ever, and we’re still here nine years later. What is the greatest shoe of all time? I have to say Nike Air Force 1. It’s pretty much been in production since it launched in 1982. It’s still in style. I’d love to have a dime for every pair sold. That’s an iconic shoe and one of the all-time greats.









Joggers by Diadora. 32

Geox suede trainer.

Umbro nylon and suede trainer.

Leather sneakers by Clear Weather. 34

New Balance running shoes.

Florsheim leather tennis shoe.

Canvas tennies by Feiyue.

Gola suede and nylon jogger. Grooming by Christina Nicole; model: Ethan W./Red Model Mgmt.

2016 june • 35




Teva sneakers, Kurt Lyle overcoat and Dzojchen jumper. 37


Knit trainers by Coolway, top by Sandro with Kurt Lyle suspenders and overcoat. Opposite: All Black mesh and leather cutout sneakers, jacket and trousers by Dzojchen, Tory Burch beaded vest, Burberry hat, ChloĂŠ sunglasses. 39


Slip-ons by Dr. Scholl’s, overcoat and trousers by Dzojchen, Nanette Lepore suiting, paper hat by Nicholas Mendise. Opposite: Vans hi-tops, MM6 Maison Margiela top, M. Patmos knit vest, button-down by Kobi Halperin, Dzojchen pants. 41

Pikolinos leather and stretch-fabric sneakers, Dzojchen overcoat and trousers, Missoni skirt, DKNY top. Opposite: Knit trainers by Pazzo, Dzojchen crushed velvet suiting, hat by Burberry.



Rockport knit trainer, striped top and pants by Dzojchen. Opposite: Slip-on by Ecco, Karen Millen cardigan and vest, coat and pants by Dzojchen, Fendi sunglasses. Fashion Editor: Ann Loynd; stylist: James M. Rosenthal/ Kate Ryan, Inc.; stylist assistant: Vinny Michaud; hair and makeup: Abraham Sprinkle/Next Artists; model: Jenny F./Red Model Management.



S H O W C A S E SP RING ’ 1 7

Fashion meets function in this easy-to-walk-in wedge sole and waterproof suede bootie with leather detailing, soft faux fur collar and inside zipper that screams city-chic. Visit Cougar at FFANY and Platform.

Western Chief has added Star Wars licensed

rain gear to its kid’s collection. Western Chief has been providing family footwear options for outdoor wear since 1891. Footwear offerings

Since its creation, Yaleet, distributor of Naot Footwear, has been guided

range from lovable character rain boots for kids

by two basic principles: We offer solutions and we promise trust. Our

to whimsical and cozy boots for women, durable

superbly crafted products demonstrate our response to the compelling

work boots for men and more. Visit us at The

need for healthy, comfortable and fashionable footwear. At the same time,

Atlana Shoe Market and FN Platform.

our unfailing commitment to integrity makes quality customer service

our very highest priority. Visit us at Outdoor Retailer, The Atlanta Shoe Market, FN Platform and WCST, or reach out on social media @NaotFootwear.

From Island Slipper’s Stars &


Studs Collection, this Classic is featured in fine suede crafted with the care and quality the brand is known for and is Made in the

The Jambu Valentina is part of our

U.S.A. See this style and more at

Artisan collection. It features hand-crafted

FN Platform, The Atlanta Shoe

wooden heels with premium leather and

Market, Surf Expo, N.W.

a dual-density countered footbed that, at

Buyers and WCTS.

a 90mm heel height, will make you feel

like you’re walking on clouds. This style is crafted for comfort and fashion in true Jambu design. See the entire Artisan collection at FFANY, Outdoor Retailer, The Atlanta Shoe Market and FN Platform.

Azura: Always ahead of her time. Classic styles have just the right amount of edge to subtly set you apart from the rest. Affordable European-inspired designs are comfortable and gorgeous. See

Each and every Earth Shoe is

this Azura by Spring Step Spring

inspired by our founder,

’17 style, Tresna, and more at FN

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wellness and healthy liv-

ing should start from the ground up. For more than 40 years, uncompromised comfort has been combined with fashionable style to the delight of discerning women. EARTH. WALK YOUR WORLD. See for yourself at Outdoor Retailer, FN Platform and The Atlanta Shoe Market.

fine footwear in-stock for Fall ’16. Top styles include shooties with pizzaz and charm like the “Danica” (shown in eggplant) and “Diem” (shown in almond). Both feature luxurious suede and are available in a large range of widths including N, M, W and WW, sizes 5–12. Visit us at FN PLATFORM and all regional shows.

Skechers Work is the No.1 work footwear brand for men and women. Known for its high-quality safety technology and comfortable, trendright styling, our extensive offering includes the Conroe Centerton boot with a puncture-resistant insole, composite safety toe, electrical hazard protection and slip-resistant sole, and Skechers’ trademark Relaxed Fit technology for unparalleled comfort. We look forward to showing the latest styles and technologies from our Skechers Work division at FFANY and FN Platform.

Established in 1982, Wolky has developed its own characteristic style over the years and built a reputation for exceptional quality and comfort. Every season, Wolky introduces new models that are based partly on new designs and partly on existing, successful ones. It is the comfort materials, custom sole design features and what we put inside our footwear that truly makes the difference. Come by and visit us at FFANY, FN Platform, The From wedges to slides, check out new handcrafted comfort from San Antonio Shoemakers! With vivid colors, metallics, patterned textures and a variety of new styles, SAS has stylish comfort covered like never before. Stop by the SAS booth at FN Platform or The Atlanta Shoe Market for more information.

Atlanta Shoe Market and local regional shows across the U.S. and Canada.

Tamaris is the No.1 shoe brand in Europe. The brand combines premium quality, excellent comfort fit and an excep¬tional price/perfor¬mance ratio in perfect synergy. The open toe/closed back Nao “cage” sandal (28140) in full-grain upper leather and with ANTIshokk heel technology is just one of the many exceptionally stylish articles in the Tamaris ranges. See them for yourself at Santa Fe Shoe Sho, FFANY, TRU Show, FN Platform, NWST, Atlanta Shoe Market, Windy

We’ve taken the fundamental elements that go into our renowned Winter line and created a collection of Spring casual footwear that

City Shoe Travelers, Rocky Mountain Shoe Show,

can go anywhere, get wet and still come out looking fabulous. Our water-

Michigan Shoe Market, Northwest Market Show

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Portland, BSTA, Fashion Market San Mateo and Seattle Trend Show.

‘Get into Outside.’ Visit us at FFANY, FN Platform and regional shows across North America.

S H O W C A S E SP RING ’ 1 7

Bella~Vita debuts an elegant line of

S H O W C A S E SP RING ’ 1 7

Step & Stride has maintained its historically rich brand reputation by The Skechers Kids line features styles that incorporate fashion, fun and a playful edge in every design. Our Shoutouts hi-top delivers on all aspects of this mantra. These trend-right hi-tops feature brushed silver metallic uppers, chain detailing around the collar, rhinestone embellishments and a cool fashion print on the tongue. Experience this style and more at FFANY, Outdoor Retailer, The Atlanta Shoe Market, FN Platform, Magic, WSA@Magic, Project Sole, WCST and other local shows.

designing a versatile collection of fashionable shoes at a great value. With identifiable proprietary technology, this line is not only successful due to its modern twist on classic styling but also for its emphasis on wellness, comfort and fit. Experience it for yourself at FFANY, The Atlanta Shoe Market, BSTA, Michigan Shoe Market, Midwest Children’s Apparel Group, NW Market Association, NWST and The Children’s Great Event

Easy Street has been recognized as an innovator

For more than 30 years, Easy Spirit has been

in all categories of comfort footwear for more

inspired by real women and how they live

than 50 years. The “Joelle” and “Jana” are a key

their everyday lives. That motivation contin-

part of Easy Street’s newest collec-

ues with our Spring ’17 collection featuring

tion, which features unique comfort

styles that are as feminine as they are com-

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able straps and ultra-light padded

FFANY, FN Platform, TheAtlanta

footbeds. In stock for Spring ’17,

Shoe Market and BSTA.

the line is available in sizes and

widths M, W and WW, 5 to 12. Visit us at FN Platform and all regional shows.

Restricted Footwear styles focus on edgy elements of design and present eye-catching details to the fashionforward consumer. Unique silhouettes and styles appeal to a broad range of consumers. The smart shoppers who like to combine fashion and comfort with quality and a great price always look to Restricted for the latest shoe inspirations! You can see Restricted Footwear at the following shows: FFANY, The Atlanta Shoe Market, FN Platform, The Atlanta Apparel, WCST, Dallas Strut and many other regional shows. 48

Finn Comfort is the undisputed leader in healthful natural comfort footwear for the sophisticated set. Skillful Old World European craftsmanship combined with medical know-how and state-of-the-art modern technologies give our shoes unparalleled quality, trademark support and world-class comfort. Decades of experience, great skill and expertise make Finn Comfort what it is today: a product of unsurpassed excellence, meticulously handcrafted exclusively in Germany and according to the most rigorous quality standards. See us at FFANY, FN Platform, TRU, The Atlanta Shoe Market, WCST, Michigan Shoe Market, Dallas Strut, Rocky Mountain Shoe Show, NWST and BSTA, or call to schedule an in-store presentation.

SUNDAY, AUGUST 21, 2016 7: 3 0 A M – 9 A M



BOLD AND BEAUTIFUL Su per chunky platf or m s andals with fu nky c u tout s pu mp up t he volume on a sum m e r s t a ple .

Musse & Cloud




50 • july 2016

Gee Wa Wa

How does architecture relate to fashion design? There are a lot of similarities. Like with apparel, you have to use twodimensional representation to create three-dimensional objects. For me, it was a natural progression. I want to make shoes that have not yet been considered. There’s a lot of unexplored territory there. What inspires you? Just being on the street, especially in New York. You see lots of movement in different forms—running, skateboards, cycling, the train. I like to see how objects appear when they’re in motion. How does movement influence your designs? The movement of the body directly influences clothes and shoes. I’m interested in how you can read the foot from different angles. But it has to be practical. Like many other New Yorkers, I need to be able to walk the city in my shoes. Who is your core customer? Someone who has an appreciation for good design and quality. My focus is making quality product that’s sustainable—culturally and materially. I want them to be the coolest

Swedish Hasbeens

pair of shoes in your closet. What’s the biggest challenge facing footwear designers today? We live in a time of disposable fashion. It makes it difficult. I don’t think [fast-fashion brands] are my competitors, but they impact the market in a profound way. Independent designers need people to see the value in their product. A lot of mass manufacturing, for example, uses synthetic materials that don’t biodegrade. That’s why I’m interested in making 100-percent handmade footwear. When my shoes reach the end of their life, you can plant them! What celebrities would you like to see wearing Triptych? Tilda Swinton, Björk, Annie Clark…and I think Madonna could really rock my shoes. What’s the most rewarding part of being a designer? Every day you can make a new discovery. There’s also a level of immediacy: In a few months time you can understand the possibilities of an idea coming to life. It’s even more rewarding seeing someone wearing one of your designs.


AN ARCHITECT BY training, Triptych creator Tania Ursomarzo has always had a passion for fashion—or, “design for the body,” as she calls it. “When I first started learning to bench craft shoes, I fell in love with the art of footwear construction,” Ursomarzo says. “With leather in particular, the process is so complex and beautiful.” The point of differentiation from architecture, Ursomarzo notes, is the level of intimacy that comes with designing something that is actually worn. Attracted by that concept, she began developing her own method for crafting shoes after nearly two decades in the design industry. “I was interested in the Italian method and had a vision for my own footwear,” she says, adding, “I had prototypes, then my own shoes and eventually realized it was too serious to be a hobby, so that’s how Triptych was born.” Everything about Triptych is off the beaten path, including the name. Deriving from an old art word referring to works made up of three elements or panels, Triptych refers to Ursomarzo’s trifold design ethos encompassing body, material and form. For Spring ’17, that translates into an array of slip-on constructions featuring the brand’s signature unconventional cutouts. The palette is monochromatic in blacks, grays and neutrals. In addition, Ursomarzo is branching into men’s with the introduction of eight unisex sneaker styles featuring a cast-leather sole hand-stitched to an all-leather body. “A few styles are fun and sporty with yellow neon leather and cobalt blue and emerald suede,” she says, adding, “I like to use leathers with character and texture. The designs are clean and simple, but have details that make them luxe.” (Think furry suedes and metallics.) The Triptych name also hints to the company’s future: Ursomarzo is currently working on bags and jewelry line extensions. “Triptych has become the culmination of my design career [architecture, interior design and art],” she explains. “It ties in those three elements and circles back to the art world.” —Ann Loynd

continued from page 14/Shaky Times

shows that, thanks to technology, the consumer is more in charge than at any win in the future,” Baird explains. point in retail history. Those that do survive may be healthier in the long run. Margins should So what’s a retailer to do? Remaining relevant requires a proactive be healthier and there won’t be as much excess product in the marketplace, approach. It demands flexibility, creativity and a willingness to take some Lyon predicts. Fewer stores also signify less competitive pressure and more risks. According to Lyon, retailers need to inspire consumers and create profits for surviving retailers and brands, notes Powell. Retailers will probdemand, be it in the form of new concepts ably care a lot more about their customers, or the addition of new categories. “That’s too, Baird adds. “They have to, if they want the greatest difficulty, and those are the to survive,” she says. “That’s good news for questions they’re trying to answer right shoppers who like to give certain brands now,” he acknowledges. Poser advises offertheir loyalty, but bad news for deal-hunting ing a different point of view—in addition to shoppers because I think retail will be less compelling merchandise—in order to build a easy pickings for that kind of shopper.” strong relationship with customers. Driving There’s no doubt that today’s retail environvolume doesn’t necessarily lead to success, he ment is challenging and complex. Winners says. “Right now you need to drive loyalty,” and losers are still being determined and Poser explains, noting that consumers need the final outcome is anyone’s guess. In the to feel understood. He predicts consumers meantime, there’s still a whole lot of shakwill only become sharper and more informed ing going on. “We’re in this new normal—a in the years ahead, and that we are in the world with too much capacity and not enough — CAMILO LYON, MANAGING DIRECTOR, early stages of great changes to the retail demand. It’s Econ 101,” Lyon offers. “But I CANACCORD GENUITY landscape. still think there’s value in stores.” Poser agrees It’s safe to assume that more sales will that brick-and-mortar “isn’t dead” because take place online. However, as omnichannel retailing grows, it will become people still want to touch and try on goods. “I’m a permanent optimist,” he harder to differentiate between whether shoppers buy an item in a store or says. NPD’s Goldstein agrees that, while the landscape continues to evolve, online because the process will be seamless. “Stores may become more like people still like (and need) shoes—and that keeps her optimistic. “The showrooms,” The NPD Group sports industry analyst Matt Powell predicts, footwear market has experienced mid-single digit growth during the past adding that retailers who are able to build a robust online business and offer few years, which is very good,” she says. “It’s up to the brands and retailers a compelling customer experience should thrive. Furthermore, “Brands that to keep consumers excited enough to buy more and spend more, enabling stand for something, and live what they stand for, have the best chance to that growth to continue.” •



Get Your Kicks Tapping a rich soccer heritage is the goal for Umbro.

London Calling Gola looking to score big in the States.

IF YOU’RE A soccer fan, chances are you’ve heard of Umbro. For those perhaps not in the know, the English sportswear brand (acquired by Iconix Brand Group from Nike in 2012), is hoping to change that with a beefedup Spring ’17 collection that features women’s styles for the first time. The self-proclaimed “soccer authority” is making a big push to enter the heritage/lifestyle sneaker arena in the U.S. And with a heritage that dates back to 1924, Umbro believes it has the license and the archives to do just that. To help penetrate the ultracompetitive athleisure market, it has enlisted the services of footwear veteran David Mann as vice president of sales. Mann has worked with such athletic leaders as Skechers, Vida Group and Fila. “We feel we’re in the right place at the right time with heritage being so hot,” Mann says, adding, “We are the soccer authority, so we have the right to be here.” Speaking of which, Umbro Design Director Ryan Flynn says the El Rey style for back-to-school and Spring ’17 (offered in men’s, women’s and kid’s) is a play off of the famous soccer cleat with a soccer-stitched toe-cap and a

mesh body. “We’ve really pushed ourselves to blur the lines between soccer and lifestyle,” Flynn says, noting the heritage collection retails for $60 to $95. “Inspiration draws from the game, our iconic cleats and our ‘tailored by Umbro’ mentality.” Umbro is also attempting to raise its boutique profile with a premium line as well as exclusive collaborations, including a partnership with New Jersey sneaker boutique, Packer Shoes, in tandem with the 100th anniversary of the Copa América soccer tournament. The classic styles, retailing from $125 to $225, feature handcrafted Portuguese leather and suede uppers and imported Italian outsoles. Umbro’s diverse offerings are designed to let the brand play in both mainstream retailers and sneaker boutiques. Regardless, the brand will be sticking to its soccer heritage roots. “We’re aligning ourselves with what we’ve done throughout our history, partnering with the right teams, players and artists,” says Saul Cattan, brand manager. “We’re here to tell the story that hasn’t been told—where soccer meets lifestyle. Who can tell it better than us?” —Ann Loynd

52 • july 2016

BORN IN THE U.K. in 1905, Gola survived world wars and economic depressions to stake its reputation as a leading sports brand in the ’60s and ’70s. Now a coveted name in Europe and Asia, Gola is making a big push to tackle the U.S. market. “We’ve been in the U.S. for 12 years,” says CEO Tony Evans, “but the difference now is that we’ve set up our own subsidiary and want to ramp-up distribution and in-house marketing.” So far, so good as Evans reports that Gola’s spring collection has been selling well at retail. A particular bright spot is women’s. “Women’s has really taken off this spring in the U.S. and Asia, and we’re looking to build on that,” he confirms. “We’re taking classic silhouettes and adapting them with feminine details. We have a metallic story and a pastel story with white trim and white outsoles.” Building on that momentum, Gola is delivering a slew of new styles for Spring ’17 by reworking archival styles as well as expanding its price range. “We looked to successful styles in our back catalog and how we can make them relevant today,” Evans explains. “Then we looked at the present pricing architecture to see if we can stretch it at the top and bottom.” Entry price-points will be just over $50, such as the Varsity canvas shoe and Monaco suede nylon jogger. High-end styles will retail for up to $110 and feature premium fabrics (including a collaboration with Liberty London), leathers and suedes aimed at premium boutiques. Also hitting that limited-distribution tier are Gola specialty collections. Tapping into the brand’s British DNA, a lawn sports (tennis, cricket, croquet) pack and barbershop pack will debut next spring. Evans says a big focus for both genders is heritage silhouettes, a strength for Gola. “There probably aren’t many sports brands who can claim 111 years of history,” he notes. In particular, the brand is focusing on its ’60s and ’70s archives, which Evans believes resonate with college-aged Millennials who are looking for something unique. “Certain brands are flooding the market with product. Our consumer is fashionable and doesn’t want to wear what everyone else is wearing,” he says, adding, “Gola is sort of the anti-brand.” Looking forward, Gola has an exciting milestone approaching: the 50th anniversary of its famous Harrier trainer. “There will be a lot of extra product and tie-ups with that,” Evans reports. Gola is also looking into more collaborations stateside, like its recent pop-up shop in Fred Segal. “It’s a very exciting time for us within the U.S. to be able to take back control and plan long-term development for the brand,” Evans says. —A.L.

continued from page 18 those terms,” he says. “For those who might not, changing that perception starts with making the right shoes.” For Spring ’17, specifically, that translates to the relaunch of the Prowalker. The iconic fitness walking shoe, first launched in 1985, has been updated as the Prowalker truFLEX, a dual gender collection aimed at today’s modern, active consumer. Also of note for next spring: the heritage DresSports collection that, Daher says, involves a “multi-tiered, multi-consumer approach” designed to achieve a more balanced distribution and reengage independent and premium level retailers. “We’ll also be expanding our Total Motion men’s collection with a modern loafer program and a new modern dress program,” he says. On the women’s side, Daher cites the Total Motion collection—led by its varied heel heights and classic silhouettes—and the handcrafted Cobb Hill collection as standouts. “Consumers will see perf detailing, caged silhouettes and neutral metallics across both collections,” he notes.

addition, the brand name is widely recognized, which offers a far easier path than having to launch from scratch. What’s more, the track record Infantino and his team have earned for building powerful comfort brands over the years is a huge confidence builder among retailers. “With Bob Infantino as CEO of The Rockport Group, I can foresee the revitalization of the Rockport brand, especially in women’s,” confirms David Vella, vice president of the Canadian chain Walking on a Cloud. He reports that Cobb Hill has been the fastest growing brand of late for the 20-plus store chain. “The DNA of Cobb Hill entails having the best value with sizes and widths with styles suited specifically for North American markets,” he notes. “I expect to see similar growth in core Rockport items as was done with Cobb Hill.” Michael Hendler of True Alliance, the Australian and New Zealand distributor of Rockport, expresses similar high expectations with Infantino and his team at the helm. “Bob and his team really understand the category in both men’s and women’s,” he b b b says, adding they know the needs of the global market as well. “Rockport has been and I expect will continue to be a very imporGREAT EXPECTATIONS tant part of our business, not only from a turnover perspective —MICHAEL HENDLER, Infantino says The Rockport Group is committed to achieving but in also allowing us to continue to offer our consumers the TRUE ALLIANCE greatness. The Rockport brand alone has potential to become very best in comfort and style.” a $1 billion business within five years and it could double that The enthusiasm extends stateside as well. Dee Calderon, a size down the road, he predicts. “It’s got that kind of upside,” buyer for Zappos, says the company is very excited about the Infantino says, promising that when people walk into stores over the next new ownership. “We have a legend overseeing the brand and the future of year, they will immediately see the difference in presentation, signage and, of Rockport,” she enthuses. “[Bob] knows comfort and style and is not afraid course, shoes. “It’s going to be unlike anything they’ve ever seen before from to challenge his team to produce. And he listens.” Calderon notes that Cobb Rockport,” he assures. “Retailers will be blown away by the professionalism Hill quickly became a top performer at Zappos and, under this new ownerof The Rockport Group.” ship, expects “that growth to continue” now for Rockport. Helping to achieve those levels of greatness, Infantino says, is the flexibility and freedom The Rockport Group provides. Being a privately held b b b company allows for growth at a manageable and healthy pace. “This is the first time in about 30 years that this brand isn’t a small part of a big athletic FOOTWEAR FATE company,” Infantino points out. “It’s a brand that is now being run by people What were the odds that Infantino would find himself back at the helm of who know and love these kinds of shoes.” Being privately held also enables Rockport after three decades, or that many of his key associates would be the company to do what’s right for Rockport rather than what’s dictated by able to join him in this latest endeavor? He admits it was a long shot, but a parent company with other interests. This includes investing properly to one he secretly hoped might happen someday. “I always had Rockport in upgrade every aspect of all its brands in terms of product, marketing, perthe back of my mind,” Infantino says. “Over the past couple of years, I would sonnel, in-store presentation—you name it. In fact, Dooley says its upcomthink to myself, ‘It would be nice if it were for sale...’” ing “Made for Movers” re-branding celebrates not only the people wearing The stars indeed aligned, but Infantino acknowledges that acquiring the Rockport but also the design team behind it. Digital marketing campaigns brand was just the first hurdle; making it great again will be an even bigger will feature product, the people who made it and the movers who wear it. job. “I’ve never worked harder in my life,” he admits. “This has been non“We want consumers to know that they are buying from a company full of stop.” While Clarks grew organically from $18 million to $800 million over people who are truly dedicated to the art of shoemaking,” she says. “And once nearly a 20-year span, “This is jumping in the pool at $400 million [with a they are in our product, they can keep moving without a second thought to brand] distributed in countries all over the world,” Infantino says. “It’s retail, comfort and style.” wholesale, rack stores—a million different moving parts—and we’re creating That’s the up-to-date Rockport story. It’s a tale steeped in 40-plus years a whole new backroom system on top of that. We’ve got years ahead of us in of rich, New England shoemaking heritage but with what Infantino believes making all these details come true.” has worldwide appeal and its most exciting chapters still to unfold. “There’s Succeeding in this business is never easy, especially during the first few a passion here that didn’t exist before,” he says. “We’re all in this together—a years. But if creating $1 billion-plus footwear companies were easy, anyone family that truly cares about our brands, our retail partners and ultimately, could do it. But Infantino and his team are off to a great start, and they’re our consumers.” in it for the long haul. “We’re dedicated to innovation and looking forward,” The timing is ideal. Trends such as wearable technology and casual dress he says. “That’s how we’re building the next best thing in the shoe business. coupled with a renaissance in men’s fashions all bode well for Rockport. In It’s just a really great story.” •


2016 july • 53

E - B E AT


Yu-Ming Wu Stadium Goods

Everybody Wins Material Wrld hints at a future where re-sellers and retailers both profit. IN AN ERA where fashion trends change at the drop of a hat, consumers are increasingly opting for temporary ownership when it comes to apparel. Call it another aspect of the Uber-driven sharing economy and the impetus of Material Wrld, a unique site that allows women to re-sell fashion items and earn credit to purchase new items featured on the site by an array of retail partners. “It’s a hassle-free way for women to refresh their closets so they have both space and funds to go shop for new pieces,” states Rie Yano, the site’s co-founder. Here’s how it works: Customers begin with a free trade-in kit to mail in their items. (Material Wrld accepts 230-plus designer brands.) “We make an upfront offer on each item so you don’t have to wait for items to sell,” Yano explains. If the customer accepts the offer, the amount is instantly loaded onto her Material Wrld Fashion Trade-In Card. The card can be used to shop at 900-plus online and in-store locations nationwide. “Think of it as a fashion currency that lets you continue to shop new—guilt-free— with funds from your closet,” Yano describes, adding that the result is an optimal model for retailers. “We are the only service that offers a reloadable debit card that is focused on shopping designer fashions,” she says. “One hundred percent of the value from trade-ins is used to shop with our partners, allowing us to be a true win-win model.” Yano views Material Wrld as part of the greater “conscious consumption” movement. When consumers decide to refresh their closets, many like the idea that the items they’re discarding will be “worn with love” elsewhere, she says. “Your style may evolve quickly, but high-quality pieces can be re-worn multiple times,” Yano notes. And while retailers may feel like the rental/resale space is cannibalizing new sales, she reports its customers generally refresh their closets using Material Wrld every two months and spend 2.5 times the trade-in earnings amount buying new items. “We are driving more sales and foot traffic back to retailers,” Yano says, noting shoes currently account for 10 percent of the business, and its retail partners include Bloomingdale’s, Intermix, Nordstrom and Shopbop. With a list of retailers requesting to partner with Material Wrld, Yano reports sales grew 13 times year-over-year in 2015. —Lauren Olsen 54 • july 2016

TO THE DELIGHT of sneakerheads, launched last October—a consignment marketplace for “highly sought after sneakers” and other goods created with a customer-focused experience in mind. According to Yu-Ming Wu, chief marketing officer, 80 percent of re-sale revenue goes to the consigner if sold through Stadium Goods’ New York location, its website,, or Goat App. Wu, who joined majority partners Jed Stiller and John McPheters, brings a deep understanding of the sneaker world. “Prior to joining Stadium Goods, I worked as a UX designer for, later founding and co-founding Sneaker Con trade events,” he explains. Stadium Goods’ current footwear sales are 75-percent online and 25-percent in-store, and the items can be as old as a pair of vintage 1985 Air Jordan 1s, but the majority of styles span from 2005 to the present. “Customers aren’t really looking for a consignment piece per se, they are looking for the best variety of the best sneakers in the market,” Wu says, proving the old adage, what’s old is new again, rings true with sneakers, as well. —L.O. What is your overall buying philosophy in regard to consignment footwear? We have an intake philosophy and policy, and the team gauges the items based on what our customers are looking for. For instance, we intake most Air Jordans but a generic brand will most likely not make it past the consignment desk. Does your online customer differ from the in-store one? The store’s customers are sneaker enthusiasts but also everyday people wowed by our selection of top-tier and highly sought-after sneakers. Where brick-and-mortar brings in a bigger assortment of random walk-ins, online gets a bit more targeted with customers knowing what they are looking for. What are some top-selling brands on Nike is the No. 1 selling brand followed by Air Jordan and Adidas. What are you most excited by for Spring ’17? We continue to be excited by Adidas and Kanye West’s Yeezy line, and we know Air Jordan will surprise us with interesting options come next spring. What are some of the key sneaker trends for next spring? We see comfort defining trends for the season and possibly the foreseeable future. Nike continues to rebuild their sneakers for comfort, and Adidas has two of the most comfortable sneakers in the market, the NMD and Ultra Boost. What’s your favorite part of working in consignment, and do you have a personal sneaker fave? The best part about consignment is seeing deadstock vintage sneakers come in. I am partial to Nike Air Max sneakers, and my favorite is the Atmos Tokyo x Nike Air Max 1 Safari.

continued from page 28 that are comfortable and fun.” Neuls doesn’t see this “comfort addiction” waning, but she believes that the sneaker will eventually morph into new areas of footwear. “The pendulum will swing back toward dress shoes at some point, but overall the future is casual,” echoes Florsheim designer Brody Tierney. BROWN SHOE BLUES Is the sneaker takeover good for the overall footwear business? “Sure, if you work in the athletic industry,” quips Latigo designer Naomi Reid. “I don’t think it’s so great for brown shoe people.” Unlike the majority of brands hopping on the athleisure bandwagon, Reid chose not to make a sneaker for Latigo’s Spring ’17 collection. “I feel like the girl buying my shoes takes risks. If she’s buying sneakers, she wants Saucony or Vans,” Reid says. Powell says it’s a tight grouping of manufacturers controlling the athletic sphere. “There are only a handful of brands that are in the space, so they control how much product is made and sold,” he offers. Where does that leave a brown shoe player? Reid suggests collaborations and stresses the importance of comfort features. Neuls, on the other hand, believes unique takes on the typical “sneaker” is the answer. “We combine the idea of a rubber sole with tradition and sculpture,” she says. “Comfort is the under-pinning trend on why trainers are so popular. It is our job to offer individuality, good design and uniqueness.” She’s not alone. Many other brands are putting bets on the sneaker/dress hybrid. Florsheim, for example, is rolling out athleticbottomed dress shoes for spring. Tierney says that although the sneaker dominance makes things tougher for primarily brown shoe companies, it’s a good design influence overall. “There will always be a need for the more classic dress shoe, but making it feel like a sneaker will help,” he says, adding that the trend is pushing non-sneaker categories to evolve designs in new constructions and materials. For example, Vincent says Jack Threads is incorporating hybrid athletic design elements into its boot line by using athletic outsoles. “Our consumer wants versatility,” he says. Schwartz cites Ecco and Samuel Hubbard as brands with strong fusion styles of late. It’s important to point out as well that not every consumer wants to, say, rock sneakers with a suit or cute dress—or can pull it off. “If you’re 18 and wear a little dress with sneakers, it looks really cute,” Reid offers. “But can I wear it?” Meaghan Lawson, Coolway USA marketing manager, feels the same way. “I would never wear a tennis shoe out and about, but I would wear a more casual, contemporary version,” she offers. To satisfy both demographics, Coolway is making a push toward performance-styled athletic shoes in its junior-targeted line, while its higher-end brand, Musse & Cloud, is focusing on soft, comfortable leathers featuring athletic touches like perforated leather and rubber outsoles.


S EL L I N G S PO RTST Y LE Like brown shoe brands, non-athletic based retailers have to learn how to adapt in a sneaker-crazed climate. Schwartz, who saw the decline of the dress shoe coming, says a tighter style selection and simpler, more versatile trends

are the keys to survival. He’s seen success with athletic-inspired shoes focusing on durability and comfort, and adds that the popularity of fresh styles has been a godsend. Currently, athletic footwear accounts for at least 15 percent of Eneslow’s business. “Any sit-and-fit brick-and-mortar store better have a substantial athletic department,” he says. Otherwise, waiting for replenishment purchases can be tough: “The basic men’s shoe will work for five to 10 years. And if you’re not in a walking city like New York, it can last a lifetime.” Powell agrees that athletic shoes and hybrid styles can help bridge the gap for non-athletic based retailers. “If I’m a comfort shoe store owner, I’m going to make sure my assortment is lightweight with more casual footwear,” he says. He cites Cole Haan as a brand that’s doing a nice job on the dress-upper-meets-athletic-outsole look. Of course, old-fashioned customer service is another way these retailers can remain relevant up against the likes of Foot Locker and Finish Line. Even the sneakerhead cares about customer service. Sirico says that when employees build a meaningful relationship with their customers, that’s when it becomes their go-to boutique. “That’s better than a store where they just want your credit card,” he says. Bodega’s Mak emphasizes the same attention to customer service. “You have to make people understand why a brand is important through presentation and education,” he says, adding, “And you have to change aesthetics with the aesthetics of the time to remain relevant.” For the foreseeable future, that relevancy rests in sneaker style. •


Big Pimpin’

BURNING RUBBER Talking kicks and sneaker culture with shoe-game guru, Snkr Joe. By Ann Loynd

HE YEAR IS 1986. Run-D.M.C. had just released “My Adidas,” How do you define a sneaker pimp? Someone who doesn’t allow the shoe to the first single of the legendary hip hop group’s third album, define their personal style. A sneaker pimp can take almost any shoe, even if Raising Hell, and the song that propelled the Adidas Superstar it’s a GR [general release], and dress it up to look really cool. into superstardom. Joe Guerrero (now known as Snkr Joe) was a kid in Brooklyn back then who was into music, fashion and B-boy What’s your personal sneaker style? I’m 41 now, so it’s more subtle with culture. When the song dropped, “We all had to have [the Superstars],” he colors and styles. Once in a while, or if I’m hosting a tournament, I don’t mind says. It marked the beginning of Guerrero’s love affair with all things sneakers. breaking out a flashy pair. But for the most part, I leave that to the youngin’s— Flash-forward to the turn of the Millennium— where every pair is a loud color, glow in the before the dawn of the sneaker blog—when dark this, reflective that... sneaker culture was still largely underground. Guerrero made his way into online message Are you surprised about how big the sneaker boards that gave him access to exclusive kicks business has become? I kind of expected it, but that weren’t available anywhere else. He quickly I’m surprised by the way shoes are purchased realized this untapped market could be very today. When I first started out, I heard about lucrative and started selling rare sneakers on resellers who would pay homeless people to Ebay and then his own website, sneakerpimp. sleep in the street so they could get multiple com, under the name Snkr Joe. The entrepreneur pairs. When I was selling sneakers, there weren’t formed connections with sneakerheads all over campouts. There weren’t sneaker blogs that the globe to score the most coveted releases were giving everyone the heads up that ‘these often before leading retailers. Big-time rappers are coming out next Wednesday at 8 a.m.’ Now, and celebrities including Jay Z, The Game, Fat people have the option to plan financially, to Joe, Jadakiss and LeBron James called upon take off work. Snkr Joe to hand-deliver elite kicks. His seal of approval gave the shoes that added, coveted Do you envision any slowdown in sneakers street-cred status. The media began to take sales? I think the market will continue to grow. notice, and in 2002 Guerrero made the front But it all depends on how well these compapage of the Wall Street Journal in an article nies market and target the next generation. about the booming sneaker business. When these sneakerheads get older, they’ll “Back then, stuff just dropped,” Guerrero want to start families and will have to change recalls, adding, “You visited the store and asked their spending. Sometimes it gets passed on if there was something new. You had to go in to their kids. and check what was on the shelf.” By 2007, the market was oversaturated, and there wasn’t a What will be the next big brand? That depends demand for third-party retailers like Snkr Joe. on who will be the next big influencer. Right Snkr Joe in his element: hosting a Sneakerpimp tournament. Quick to adapt, Guerrero launched the now, it’s Kanye [West], but it only lasts so long. Sneakerpimp Tournament in 2012, an elimination contest for sneakerheads Who will be the next young, hungry influencer, and what company is going to to show off their collections and compete for prize money. Today, along with invest in that person? It also depends on who will develop the next cuttingrunning tournaments, Snkr Joe is working on a Sneakerpimp apparel line and edge technology. Nike is making shoes that lace themselves. That’s something has shot a pilot for a sneaker-related reality TV show. He’s hush on details but dreamt of in Back to the Future. Regardless, the next big performance shoe assures it’s going to be dope. Here, Snkr Joe offers some kick-related loves has to have style. and insights. What is the greatest sneaker of all time? The Air Jordan 3. I’m a big Knicks What is it about sneakers that you love? There’s definitely something about fan so, to be honest, I was never too much of a [Michael] Jordan fan. But I a brand new pair—the feeling of taking it out of the box and lacing it for the appreciated when he won the slam-dunk championship wearing the Jordan 3. first time. The die-hard fans don’t wear sneakers with the factory lacing, by He wore them again in black and white for the All-Star game. That’s something the way. You have re-lace them, right over left, and make them even. I’ll always remember. 56 • july 2016