Footwear Plus | September 2013

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VOL. 23 • ISSUE 8 • SEPTEMBER 2013 • $10


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Fashion Inspires Us Value Drives Us

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FOP_Sept2013.indd 13 © 2013 wolverine world wide. cat, caterpillar and their respective logos, “caterpillar Yellow” and “caterpillar corporate Yellow,”as well as corporate and product identitY used herein, are trademarks of caterpillar and maY not be used without permission.




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

6 Editor’s Note 8 This Just In 26 What’s Selling 42 Shoe Salon 44 Outdoor 46 Street 48 Last Word

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

10 Surf and Turf The growing appeal of surf-inspired footwear spans seafaring to landlocked consumers. By Angela Velasquez

12 Big Bang Theory On the cover: J Shoes slip-ons. Levi’s white denim vest, vintage splatter paint shorts. This page, from top: Born, Ocean Minded, Amazonas, Very Volatile, Jambu, Vans, Freewaters. Photography by Jamie Isaia. Styling by Kim Johnson; hair by Seiji, The Wall Group; makeup by Deanna Melluso, The Magnet Agency; models: Taylor, Major; Sean, Fusion.

ADVERTISING/ PRODUCTION Jennifer Craig Associate Publisher Capri Crescio Advertising Manager

Mark Thatcher, founder of Sazzi and inventor of the sport sandal, discusses his latest innovation and why it looks to be another big deal. By Greg Dutter

Tim Jones Deputy Art Director Production Manager

18 The Nuevo New World

Joel Shupp Circulation Manager

The Hispanic market presents a world of opportunity—provided you approach it right. By Lyndsay McGregor

22 Trend Spotting Driving mocs, oxfords, denim and graphic prints spring into style next season. By Angela Velasquez

32 98° In the Shade The hottest surf-inspired styles this side of the Atlantic for Spring ’14. By Angela Velasquez

Alexandra Marinacci Operations Manager

Mike Hoff Digital Director OFFICES Advertising/Editorial 36 Cooper Square, 4th fl. New York, NY 10003 Tel: (646) 278-1550 Fax: (646) 278-1553 editorialrequests@ 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 Lee Zapis President Rich Bongorno Chief Financial Officer Debbie Grim Controller

FOOTWEAR PLUS ™ (ISSN#1054-898X) The fashion magazine of the footwear industry is published monthly (except for bimonthly April/May and October/November editions) by Symphony Publishing NY, LLC, 36 Cooper Square, 4th fl., New York, NY, 10003-7118. The publishers of this magazine do not accept responsibility for statements made by their advertisers in business competition. Periodicals postage is paid in New York, NY, and additional mailing offices. Subscription price for one year: $48.00 in the U.S. Rates oustide the U.S. are available upon request. Single copy price: $10.00. POSTMASTER: Send address changes to FOOTWEAR PLUS, P.O. Box 8548, Lowell, MA 01853-8548. Publisher not responsible for unsolicited articles or photos. Any photographs, artwork, manuscripts, editorial samples or merchandise sent for editorial consideration are sent at the sole risk of the sender. Symphony Publishing NY, LLC, will assume no responsibility for loss or damage. No portion of this issue may be reproduced without the written permission of the publisher. ©2008 by Symphony Publishing NY, LLC. Printed in the United States.

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editor’s note surf’s up

Endless Jersey In honor of our surf-themed issue, an ode to my Jersey Shore roots. MY VIVID JERSEY Shore memories began as a small child crammed into a single room with my parents and three older sunburned and sand-covered siblings at the Diamond Crest Motel in Wildwood Crest. It was there that our annual week-long family summer vacations took place. Space was tight but the vastness of those powdery beaches, what seemed like a limitless ocean and endless summers (not to mention a pool adjacent to the motel’s parking lot), more than made up for the stuffy sleeping accommodations. In my teen years, these vacations migrated north to Long Beach Island and the aptly named, Surf City, where portions of my family spent time at the end of every August in a roomy, two-family beach house. I was always there beach combing, boogie boarding and bike riding, instantly transformed into “Shore Dude,” a look that spanned from my wild-hair to my tan toes. I would fantasize about never returning north to what seemed like a distant, treefilled suburb that was worlds away from what was obviously, in my saltwater infested mind, a far better way of life. Those vacations were always topped off with a visit to the Freedom Surf Shop where I could stock up on the latest surf-themed T-shirts and OP shorts that served as a uniform of cool and validation upon returning back to school that, “Yes, I had been ‘down the shore.’” For a few years during my roaring 20s, I graduated to renting various beach bungalows further north in Manasquan along with a revolving cast of beer buddies. One year, we rented what was considered by a few local historians to be the town’s original lighthouse, but any hint of splendor ended right there. This cramped and weathered abode that was literally the shape of a hi-top sneaker was packed with renters and, more often than not, plenty of unannounced guests (a.k.a. freeloaders) that on ocassion made me yearn for the spacious confines of the Diamond Crest Motel. However, this Jersey Shore period was all about location, location, location—as in beach front and a short walk to the local bars. No matter how crowded and toxic it got inside those bungalows, I could quickly escape to the beach for a little serenity.

Now, in my 40s, I find myself going back to my Jersey Shore roots, taking my Michigan-raised wife and young daughter on weekend excursions to Cape May and the nearby Wildwoods with its gentle surf and famous boardwalk attractions complete with carnival-like characters that, to this day, seem straight out of a Springsteen song. Seeing a smile light up my daughter’s face as she catches a wave on her boogie board brings me straight back to my childhood. And, as the Beach Boys song goes, that feeling of “sitting on top of the world” never ebbs. Neither do meandering walks in search of shells, sand crabs and sea glass. My daughter has also taken a fancy to playing skee ball, a fixture of arcades all along the Jersey Shore. She has yet to discover (more like care, really) that we are spending far more trying to win redeemable tickets for a giant stuffed something. The game’s lights, bells and whistles against a backdrop of raspy carnival workers hawking their games of chance is pure Jersey Shore. It can’t be replicated online or experienced through a video game. Unlike Snooki, The Situation and the rest of the former Jersey Shore interlopers, the Jersey Shore runs deep in my bones. Come each summer I feel the urge, not unlike a sea turtle, drawing me back again. It’s not officially summer until I catch a few waves, collect a few shells and hit one of its boardwalks. (Let’s not forget the saltwater taffy, hot pizza slices and assorted other Jersey Shore delicacies that come with the territory.) There’s also the browsing in local surf shops for beach town-emblazoned hoodies and T-shirts as well as the latest board shorts, sunglasses, flip-flops, etc. One can never have enough of these summer wardrobe staples. The fact that my parents have retired to a town that’s a shell’s throw from Long Beach Island only makes the lure that much stronger. I didn’t really need a reason, but now I’ve got a really good one for many more Jersey Shore escapes. I consider myself lucky for having been indoctrinated at an early age to the enduring allure of the Jersey Shore where, as Tom Waits sings, everything’s all right. Greg Dutter

Editorial Director

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High Times High-waisted shorts put a fashionable spin on mom jeans. Photography by Melodie Jeng

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Surf and Turf

IN SURF DOCUMENTARY The Endless Summer, California surfers Mike Hynson and Robert August traveled around the world to conquer the famed waves of Australia, South Africa, Tahiti and Hawaii. Fifty years after the film’s debut, the passion shown in their search of the perfect wave and living a carefree lifestyle still rolls deep with millions of consumers worldwide. The International Surfing Association estimates that there are 23 million surfers worldwide, with close to two million participants in the United States. The Surf Manufacturers Association reports the U.S. surf industry topped $6 billion in retail sales of clothes, accessories and equipment in 2012. Nearly $1.5 billion benefited specialty shops. Stores on the West Coast saw more than double the sales per square foot of those on the East Coast, and increasingly popular activities such as stand-up paddle boarding, kayaking and Left to right: wakeboarding are drawing new consumSazzi, Ecco ers into the surf culture and creating deand Rockin. mand for fresh products coast to coast. Then there’s the crush of men and women aspiring for a life of sun, sand, surf and the luxuries that come with it, be it a glowing tan or a chilled daiquiri. “Everyone wants the feel of an exotic escape from everyday life, and that’s what our brand brings to people— instant comfort and laidback design that transports them to a more peaceful place,” says Kelley Bruemmer, director of product management for Reef. “That’s why surf is a look that has stood the test of time.” It’s an all-ages group of aspiring beach bums that might never get down on a boogie board, but gladly don board shorts, leather cord jewelry and flipflops to look like they do, says Brian Curin, co-founder and president of Flip Flop Shops. Curin’s initial plan to offer consumers a single location for casual, dress and beach sport footwear for the entire family, which he likens to the Sunglass Hut, has ballooned to 199 locations since he began to franchise the concept in 2008. Next year will see 35 more doors open and a possible expansion to the Middle East. “Our philosophy is to bring the beach to the masses, no matter where they are,” he says. “Life is busy and people want a break. Putting on a T-shirt, shorts and flip-flops might be the closest break they can get.” That relaxed lifestyle spans generations, adds Martin Dean, creative director of Cushe, a division of Wolverine Worldwide. “Surf culture represents

a carefree, aspirational lifestyle that so many wish they could experience,” he says, adding the look is trending particularly strong for Spring ’14. From traditional Hawaiian prints and surfboard motifs to imagery of exotic birds and abstract palm fronds, the threads at the recent Capsule show in New York resembled a raging tiki party, or at least a very well dressed beach soiree. And with more surf brands putting a fashionable spin on wares, surf footwear and apparel are crossing categories. For instance, Reef is capitalizing on its Latin heritage this spring with updated takes of its signature Guatemalan textiles. “It’s nice that our trends are coinciding,” Bruemmer says. Dean sees this latest run of surfer chic as an extension of the Americana trend sweeping fashion and footwear of late. Millennials, in particular, are helping fuel the macro trend. “What a younger generation wants and respects is more along the lines of what their grandparents accomplished, not so much their own parents,” he notes. “It skips a generation.” Hence, the revival of ’50s and ’60s surf fashion inspired by the pioneers of the sport. Dean adds, “They carved out the sport and the look that goes with it.” Steven Fisher, senior buyer relations manager for Surf Expo, expects the youth movement to be reflected at this month’s show (Sept. 6-8) in Orlando, FL, where he is predicting a strong return of junior brands. “The past few years have been all about fast fashion from the likes of H&M and Gap. But I think teens are growing tired of disposable clothes and coming back to surf brands,” he explains. That’s the story at Hansen’s Surfboards in San Diego. Co-owner Josh Hansen reports even young kids are embracing the laidback lifestyle, opting for category classics like Roxy, Quiksilver and Vans. “These kids are realizing the authenticity of brands early on,” he quips. Vans, which debuted a surf-specific line five years ago, is being embraced by today’s youth thanks in part to the style cues of their skater dads. Chris Reed, Vans product line manager for Surf, says, “The guys who skated back then surfed in the mornings.” Now those guys are influencing their kids’ footwear purchases. “You also have high school kids wearing Vans for its heritage patterns and prints,” he reports. But palm tree prints and bright colors alone won’t necessarily do the trick. “The story is so crucial. The younger consumer wants the real deal and is


Defined by a laidback and carefree vibe—and less so by silhouette— surf-inspired footwear is experiencing a wave of popularity spanning seafaring to landlocked consumers. By Angela Velasquez

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mecca at the tip of Long Island, and set on understanding the history its own line of apparel and footwear, of the print or brand,” Dean states. Collett is bullish about the surf cateAlong those lines, Cushe’s collaboragory that spans hip fathers wanting tion with Hoffman California Fabrics a pair of sleek loafers to wear with a for its Spring ’14 collection is a story suit (one of his favorite surf-inspired Dean believes is worth telling. The looks) to 18-year-old guys vying for family-run fabric company began the latest canvas kicks. Hansen conwith two surf-pioneering brothers in curs on the category’s broad appeal the ’40s and made its mark with origat his San Diego store, and notes that inal Hawaiian textiles. “They essenan increasing number of consumers tially built in their love for surf into are willing to shell out more for footfabrics,” Dean says, adding the brand wear. “People feel less guilty about was also responsible for the infaspending on these shoes because mous shirts Tom Selleck’s Magnum, they’ve come to understand that P.I. character wore in the ’80s. wellness comes from the bottom up Cushe selected two designs from and, in California, that means spendthe Hoffman archive: a traditional ing most of your day in flip-flops,” he Hawaiian print and a more modoffers. ern Bali-inspired print with a tinge When OluKai, for example, came of tie-dye. Dean notes that colors onto the scene with a $70 sandal were tweaked to suit contemporary complete with a comfortable foottastes, but that “The prints aged bed and arch support, Hansen exlike wine. The older and dustier, pected sticker shock, but now he the better.” Silhouettes span lacesells its sandals as high as $175. In up sneakers for men to low profile fact, he says customers come back six skimmers with minimal construcmonths later for a new pair. tion for women—perfect for the “If the product is right, even in this beach, mall or yoga studio. Dean Clockwise from top: Tigerbear Republik, Teva, Groove, Ilse Jacobsen and Ocean Minded. economy, then consumers don’t have credits a friend for the tip about a lot resistance opening their wallet Hoffman, which is a story he relishfor a quality item,” Bruemmer of Reef concurs. In the last two years, backed es telling. “If you’re fortunate enough to link with someone with a herby marketing and catalogs presenting a more sophisticated beach lifestyle, itage, then you want to show,” he says, noting an online video has been Bruemmer says Reef has positioned itself as a premium brand. “Consumers created about the collaboration. trust us and we’re in the perfect position to push the price ceiling because we That crossover between surf and street is captured in today’s diverse— have luxurious Brazilian leather and handcrafted materials,” she explains. and sometimes eclectic—roster of trade show exhibitors and attendees. Fisher believes the huge influx of surf style in U.S. and international fashTen years ago, Vanessa Chiu, director of women’s sales and marketing for ion magazines is helping open the door for higher price points as well. He Agenda, says the current tradeshow landscape was at a standstill, with onealso considers this movement an opportune time for small mom-and-pop dimensional shows that felt “too core” for the evolving market that drives shops to curate their selection with higher priced fashion items. “If there’s the youth culture. Action sports, streetwear, lifestyle, surf and footwear were five surf shops in town, they need to look for something different and newer merging, she says, adding, “There was a need to curate a show that reflectand evolve with the trends,” he advises. ed the true marketplace, with each sub-genre represented.” Most recently, No matter the price tag, be it OluKai sandals, which Curin calls the Agenda added a women’s-dedicated area and Chiu expects to see more new “Mercedes of flip-flops,” or affordable pink Roxy flip-flops worn around a categories in the future as the surf market begins to embrace more outdoor college dorm, surf footwear enthusiasts agree that retailers need to merand functional adventure gear. chandise the category in a relaxed and easyily shopped space. For Flip Flop Once perceived as a show that went “against the grain,” the Long Beach, Shops, that means island music and the scent of coconut permeating the CA, edition of Agenda is now attended by the likes of Zappos, Foot Locker shop floor, placing cash wrap at the front of the store to ensure that each and Famous Footwear as well as trendy boutique and core surf shops. The consumer is greeted and displaying shoes on hanging fixtures. Reef tries to New York edition caters to more European brands and retailers. In addimake it as easy and simple for retailers as possible by helping with fixtures tion to niche retailers like Flip Flop Shops and domestic resort boutiques, for its hanging programs. “You don’t want to leave customers while searcha growing international fleet of buyers from Europe, South America and Asia is expected at the Surf Expo, too. “Surf is truly a global marketplace,” ing for a style or size. It’s a very visual category and you want to encourage Fisher states. “And the prevalence of surf culture in the media and pop culcustomers to touch material and feel footbeds,” Bruemmer says. ture is driving more people to take a look at the category,” he adds, noting Even in its über-trendy and upscale Soho ’hood, Collett was determined that Saturdays Surf NYC, the urban meets surf oasis in SoHo (and home of to create an unpretentious retail environment. Customers can grab a cofa rare Manhattan backyard that customers can enjoy), is a prime example of fee at the in-store cafe and catch acoustic sets in the backyard. Those litsurf ’s diverse and broad appeal. tle touches are what Reed thinks help bring the footwear to life. Surf footWhen Morgan Collett, co-owner of Saturdays Surf NYC, visited Japan in wear encourages creativity, he says, adding that if you can do it on the shop 2011, he and business partner Colin Tunstall knew immediately that their level, consumers will likely be inspired to live it even if they are landlocked. curated selection of New York-inspired surf fashion would be well received. “You could be living inland in Canada, but still feel good kicking around in “The country loves surf and they really love New York City,” he says. Now your surf shoes,” he says. “They’re a lighthearted take on fashion and as life with two stores in Japan, not to mention recently celebrating the New York gets more stressful, these shoes offer an easy escape—even if it’s just a state store’s four-year anniversary with a fete in Montauk, an East Coast surf of mind.” •

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BIG BANG THEORY No stranger to big, category-creating footwear innovations, Mark Thatcher, founder of Sazzi, believes his unique four toe post design platform will set the shoe world on fire just like his Teva sport sandal launch did 30 years ago. MOST FOLKS IN the shoe business know the entrepreneurial success story of Mark Thatcher: He’s the Grand Canyon river guide who, back in the mid ’80s, invented the first-ever sport sandal—an innovative Universal Strap-based design that enabled the shoe to stay on people’s feet while in water and traversing rugged terrain, all the while providing support, traction, drainage, comfort and protection. That Teva sandal was ground zero for what quickly became a sports sandal category that, today, totals in the hundreds of millions, annually. While there have been many tweaks and upgrades to the original concept, its basic user-friendly performance premise remains the same. Thatcher’s creation is an iconic footwear design, having delivered bona fide benefits to millions of wearers all over the world. The big question is: Can he do it again? Well, if you ask Thatcher, who cashed out about 10 years ago selling his “baby” to Deckers Outdoor for around $65 million, he wouldn’t bother to even give it a shot if he didn’t believe Sazzi has the potential to be something big—really big. “I wouldn’t have launched it if I didn’t have the dream and expectation that it could become a $1 billion brand and segment of the footwear industry,” he says, noting that commitment and timing play a huge role in its potential success. “Is the timing exactly right? I think it’s pretty close and we’ll know soon enough. My commitment is definitely there,” he affirms. What are the benefits of a multiple toe post sandal construction? Four toe posts, according to Thatcher, keep the wearer naturally and securely connected to the footbed, and there’s no need to cinch toes to keep the sandal on, which avoids muscle tension and cramping. In addition, the heel is more secure and won’t slip from side to side. Basically, it’s like a flip-flop on steroids. “Posting between the toes gives you an internal anchor. Even one toe post has superior fit attributes to a shoe or slide that just surrounds your foot,” Thatcher says. “Our multiple toe post is that times four. If you move hard laterally you won’t slip out of the upper and you are less likely to twist your ankle.” Thatcher says shoes up to this point have largely been exoskeleton constructions and, particularly for performance

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O&A purposes, often feature pumps, straps or lacing systems to improve their secureness. However, that constricts blood flow and the natural athleticism of the foot. “When you tighten things in an exoskeleton construction you are basically putting a cast on,” he explains. “But when you put something between the toes, you relieve the need for that exoskeletal tightening.” Although Sazzi’s main attribute is lateral control, Thatcher says weartesting quickly proved the design to have additional health and athletic benefits. For example, he notes the sandals have proven to be ideal for older people who have difficulty wearing loose-fitting slides, and the sandals stay on effortlessly even while swimming. One also cannot overlook Thatcher’s sandal bias. “Sazzi allows your feet to move naturally and be free—like What are you reading? your hands,” he says. “Why would you Zealot: The Life and Times want to cover them up, unless it’s of Jesus of Nazareth by cold outside? Why not get the most Reza Aslan. athleticism with the least coverage you can.” That less-is-more approach What is inspiring you most to footwear is what originially made right now? The strategic Thatcher a success. However, he plans planning involved with the to extend the multiple toe post concept launch of Sazzi and whether beyond sandals. “I believe there are my beliefs will hold true. ways to dramatically innovate many I feel like I’m a successful kinds of footwear and make them more cobbler with a bit of a athletic with multiple toe posts,” he prescient ability with regards says. “I see a future where sport shoes to the future of footwear. will become dramatically different as a result of the inevitable success of this What is your motto? It’s design premise.” been a recurrent theme in Sazzi is what Thatcher originally my life that when something envisioned what Teva could have bad happens you can turn it become—a performance company that into something good if you continually pushed the envelope on can learn from it. design. The decision to focus more on lifestyle fashion is eventually what Who would be your most pushed him to sell the brand. “Teva coveted dinner guest? became a mainstream brand and the Because I’m so enjoying the uniqueness of my story got awash in book I’m reading, it’d be with the fashion marketing,” he says. And Reza Aslan. while there was little Thatcher could do about it, he bears no ill will, noting For a second there I that Deckers’ pursuit of fashion is what thought you were going to led to its acquisition of Ugg, and we all say Jesus. Nah (laughs). know how well that turned out. Thatcher has always wanted to innovate, and he claims to have had the multiple toe post concept percolating in the back of his mind for years. Now he gets his chance with Sazzi, and one cannot underestimate his track record when it comes to foreseeing the future of footwear. And while it’s not like he possesses a crystal ball (although rumors he does will surely swirl if Sazzi takes off ), Thatcher credits any footwear clairvoyance to keeping it simple. “Footwear innovation should be minimalist, simple and improvements to what is lacking,” he says. Granted, that might sound exasperating to designers, many of whom toil for decades and never hit a home run, let alone coin an entire category of footwear. But try this on for size: “I look at the shape of the foot and how it moves, but I’m no podiatrist—I don’t even know many of the names of foot parts,” Thatcher laughs. “But if it sounds easy maybe it’s because I’m not looking for complicated solutions.” To that end, Thatcher believes a fundamental flaw

in a lot of footwear design lies in symmetrical constructions that restrain the foot, which, he adds, often leads to poor foot health and posture. “My propensity is to look for simple solutions that are ergonomic and address how the foot works, which tend to be healthier solutions,” he offers. “That’s a big part of what Sazzi is about: a healthier version of a sandal in a more athletic construction.” Thatcher, who is a geophysicist by trade, believes his science training works well with his ability to see what the next big thing in footwear might be. Way back when he was searching for wildcat wells in Africa he used every bit of science available, be it seismic data, rock samples or surface expressions. But after digesting it all, it still came down to his gut—what We already know so much people described as the ability to “smell about him. oil,” he says. “Intuition is worth every bit as much as the science,” Thatcher What is your most guilty says. “The combination of both is also pleasure? Every morning what you do when you gamble on a I used to have double new footwear company.” cappuccinos and, of late, I’ve upped the ante to triples. So what have you been up to the past 10 years or so? What was your first-ever I purchased three precious properties paying job? A gas station in the Southwest—a remote ranch, a attendant, and I once each beachfront home and a creek property— serviced Muhammad Ali and and I’ve been exercising my creativity Joe Frazier. basically by spending money making improvements on them (laughs). What sound do you love? I have a home on the beach Did you think you’d ever get back near Point Conception, into the business? California, and I love the I didn’t really think about it, to be sound of the ocean. quite honest. Since I first started in the business, I’ve always felt I had the What is your favorite notion, propensity and intuition about hometown memory? To footwear, but I also had enough money be 100 percent honest, it’s where I could retire completely. That’s leaving my hometown of the kind of mode I first entered when I Philadelphia to live and began working on my properties. work for a year in Israel. While I believe Philadelphia What made you change your mind? has some very fine attributes, Two reasons: one that’s very personal let’s just say it was good for and the second that our premise is a me to leave. truly original concept. With respect to the first, I have a son who is 10 years old now and I wanted him to experience growing a business and gaining a more entrepreneurial perspective. But I couldn’t and I wouldn’t have started Sazzi if I hadn’t known of something that I felt was yet undone. By that I mean, basically, posts between each toe. Having not seen that happen yet, I figured there’s an opportunity and, if my intuition is correct as it was many years ago about the future of footwear with Teva sport sandals, then I wanted to be the first person to show how.


So footwear has always been on your mind, in a way? In a way, yes. And while I find 99 percent of footwear to be not so interesting, it’s that one percent that’s functionally innovative or restorative that is of high interest to me. As Teva came to prominence I realized the market was much bigger than I originally thought. In fact, I came to believe that there were people that used sandals athletically before Teva, but they hadn’t been

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around for a very long time. The Romans, for example, used sandals athletically, and the Greeks preceding them did as well. So did Native American tribes, among them being the Anasazi of the Southwest (and where the name Sazzi is derived) who made sandals woven from Yucca fibers that featured two toe posts to stabilize their feet while walking in rugged terrain. I believe what helped make sandals persona non grata in Western culture for approximately 1,500 years prior—in the case of men, in particular—was a lack of personal hygiene. It had gotten so remiss after the Roman era where few took baths and they didn’t want to expose their feet, nor did anybody else want them to. Once personal hygiene improved the opportunity for people to rethink sandals came around again. Fortunately for me the option remained largely an unknown until Teva came out and hit upon a great confluence of both lifestyle and activity. I believe it was something that was inevitable, but I was fortunate to come out with it before anybody else did. Maybe that same opportunity exists again with Sazzi’s superior footwear design featuring multiple toe posts. How long was Sazzi in development? About three years ago I started working on the idea and checking in with some of my old cohorts in the business about the openness the market might have to a new brand and a new idea. I reconnected with some associates who are no longer associated with Deckers. [Notably Brett Ritter, now CEO of Sazzi, who was formerly vice president of product at Deckers and later held an executive gig at Reef.] I actually got the first prototypes about two years ago. That’s when Brian Walton, who was a rep for Patagonia then and is now our sales manager, found the fit, comfort and uniqueness of the athleticism striking. It was an easy persuasion to get these folks on board and they are now partners. How has the initial response been from the trade? Well, our Spring ’14 collection is quite different and expanded from this

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year’s offerings. Our debut collection featured toe cuts on the outsole, which had a functional application with regard to traction on uneven terrain. But the aesthetic association to Vibram FiveFingers wasn’t well received. We did not incorporate that into the design for Spring ’14. We’ve also added different uppers—a leather version at $120 and hemp canvas at $50—in slide and sport sandal styles. So I’d say we stumbled a bit in our first year but we’ve remedied that and have come back with a whole new focus of where we need to go. There’s nothing wrong with the premise. In fact, there’s so much satisfaction and excitement by many kinds of footwear consumers regarding the novelty, athleticism and health benefits of the four toe post design that we are confident Sazzi will be a success. Why might now be a better time for this introduction rather than, perhaps, a few years earlier? I think everything regarding the timing and whether the marketplace being more or less receptive is like a pendulum, and when you think it couldn’t get any worse, it swings the other way. Things, in general, seem to be swinging in a more positive direction of late. Now which way is the pendulum swinging specifically to an idea like Sazzi? Well, all I know is there’s nothing out there like it. I’ve heard about some custom-made sandals by individual cobblers that incorporated this concept, but there’s never been any shoe company to approach it with the expertise, scale and quality that we are. And I’m just glad to be first. I suppose we’ll look back in five years and know where the pendulum was. What’s your primary role with Sazzi? Well, I’m not as active as I was in Teva. That was my life back then—I lived on the road and everyday I was involved in some problem or challenge in trying to popularize the brand all the while trying to not have it be stolen by my original licensee. I was wrapped up in Teva 24 hours a day. Now

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it’s more checking in with partners and key retailers. I have a life. But I am very much enjoying my re-entrance into the footwear world. I’m just doing it on terms that are different because my life doesn’t depend on it like it did when I was creating Teva.

I mean, you don’t wear gloves in the summer. It’s hot, sweaty and stinky. And I don’t believe in a totally neutral footbed. I think you should have slightly positive heel for cushioning and support. Our models, generally speaking, feature a quarter-inch heel. I think that’s a good way to go.

What was the best lesson learned from that Teva experience and how might you be applying it to the Sazzi launch? Besides learning not to live in the back of my truck, I learned to retain control of the fun part of the business, which is the creative aspect. At Teva, I had all the authority when the brand was starting out but, as a licensor, I gradually lost it as the brand grew. Not anymore. I don’t have to fight battles internally about wanting to try different ideas or introduce new innovations that are natural evolutions of the primary idea. This time I get to exercise my creativity and participate in the process fully.

A lot of people said those shoes were also ugly but, then again, a lot of big shoes over the past 20 years have been kind of ugly. Yes, but ugly for a reason. Personally, if something looks weird but has a functional reason for being, then that’s the best-case scenario. Sazzi is more subtle than Teva in that regard. But with respect to potential closed-toe styles, there are ways stylistically where it could be visible—like adjusting the toe posts, perhaps. That would be a good kind of “ugly” in my book.

Do you envision Sazzi’s distribution range to be wider than Teva’s? Originally I thought it would be similar to Teva. But we’re not wed to where we think we know it’s going to go as much as we are watching where it does go. For example, senior citizens who may have foot problems are customers that definitely shop beyond the outdoor specialty space. How might the recent slowdown in minimalist footwear sales impact Sazzi? First, I don’t think the slowdown is like the demise of the shaping and toning category, which proved pretty much to be a false premise. There are still advocates out there that believe and enjoy the benefits of minimalist footwear. But with respect to Vibram FiveFingers, in particular, I see it as a kind of a sweaty glove, and why would you do that to your feet? I appreciate the toe separation and some aspects of the minimal outsole but, unless it’s cold, why would you want to wear that?

The push of late is a more cushioned approach to minimalist shoes, which is arguably an oxymoronic definition. But what is really behind the minimalist idea? The goal of healthier feet, and it’s good that brands are exploring this direction. Healthier feet mean a healthier stride and posture, and that can translate to a healthier life, basically. You connect to the earth through your feet. I’ve come to believe that there’s spirituality in that connection and the shoes you wear play a role in terms of style and feel. It may be hard to explain, but you know when it’s a good connection. In what ways has the industry changed—good or bad—since your return? It’s more consolidated. People who owned a big brand 10, 20 or 30 years ago now probably own five or 10 brands, like Deckers or Wolverine Worldwide. Is that good or bad? I believe that there’s both good and bad. For example, it’s harder for people to innovate as small brands. But it’s certainly easier for the big guys to explore and source all different >47

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At more than $1 trillion

annually, the buying power of Hispanics presents enormous opportunity. Here’s how to go about tapping it. By Lyndsay McGregor

THE NUMBERS ARE in: According to a recent report published by research firm Nielsen, the 52 million Hispanics living in the United States have a collective purchasing power of $1.2 trillion annually. And Hispanic women, also called Latinas, are the ones in the driver’s seat: The NPD Group reports they spent an estimated $3.3 billion on fashion footwear in the year ended May 2013. That’s 18 percent of the country’s total women’s fashion footwear market. As young Latino women begin to enter the workforce and move up in their careers, the Hispanic spending power is only expected to increase. “It shouldn’t be a surprise because this trend has been happening for a few years now. Shoe manufacturers and retailers need to understand that this influential demographic is growing,” says Luis Alvarado, a strategic adviser to Revolvis Consulting in California and an expert on Latino issues. Hispanic women are the growth engine of the U.S. female population and by


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Left to right: Skechers, Toms and Rocket Dog are popular brands among Hispanic consumers.

2060 will represent an estimated 30 percent of the total female population, while the nonHispanic white female population is expected to drop to 43 percent. Indeed, emerging cultures are reshaping the country’s shopping habits and Hispanics are leading the way. In order to capitalize, brands and retailers need to understand the mindset and cultural roots that influence the shopping behavior of North America’s fastest growing population segment.

KNOW THE CUSTOMER First thing’s first: Is it Hispanic or Latino? A recent Gallup poll found that people of Latin American heritage couldn’t care less which label they get tagged with. When Gallup asked which they prefer, 70 percent said it didn’t matter, with 75 percent of people under the age of 29 saying they didn’t have a preference. In fact, most Hispanics identify primarily by country of origin rather than pan-ethnic terms, according to an earlier poll by the Pew Hispanic Center. But that doesn’t mean marketers can have a one-size-fits-all solution, especially in the retail space. “One of the biggest mistakes retailers make is that they build a marketing plan for one segment of the population and they just do the bare minimum to present it or translate the concept to the secondary culture,” Alvarado says. Danny Wasserman, co-owner of Tip Top Shoes and Tip Top Kids in New York, advises, “Hire at least one sales associate that speaks Spanish. Read and watch some of the Spanish shows on television. Get some advice from the Spanish speaking associate as to what is being worn in his or her community and, most important, observe the pattern and expand it if you’re trying to get more of that business.” Marta Rodriguez, a Tip Top Kids buyer, echoes this sentiment and says it all goes back to that golden rule of retail: offering top notch customer service. “Hispanic women are very conscious of product information and getting service from an associate. If you speak down to them or assume that because they’re Hispanic they don’t require service is something that’s disrespectful,” she says. “You don’t have to approach a customer and start speaking Spanish, but it’s great when someone is Hispanic and they

can build a sale and provide information that the customer didn’t have.” According to Skechers President Michael Greenberg, retailers also need to understand the mindset and needs of the segment as well as the most effective touch points for consumer engagement. “Skechers was founded in Southern California, just south of Los Angeles, where there is a prominent Hispanic demographic. Since our inception both male and female Hispanic consumers have embraced Skechers’ marketing, styling and family-friendly pricing,” he says. “Historically, we have run several commercials in Spanish on Spanish-speaking TV channels as well as run Spanish radio commercials.” But it’s not enough to simply translate your English marketing into Spanish. Shoes On A Shoestring of Albuquerque, NM, works closely with Rocky Mountain Media Services (RMMS) in order to best reach its Hispanic market. “We have such a large Hispanic community that we try to accommodate our selection and what we use to advertise based on some of the local activities in the area,” reveals Terry Riddle, president of RMMS, noting that the store does a lot of radio advertising to reach its target market of adults ages 18 to 49. “Basically, we take a 30-second advertisement and co-op it. We talk about general branding, price selection and service, and use the last 15 seconds to talk about the specific vendor.” For New Year’s Eve Shoes On A Shoestring ran a co-op ad with Unlisted by Kenneth Cole that talked about getting ready to go out that night and which of the brand’s pumps would make the perfect party shoe. Riddle adds, “Inviting these people to do business with you in their own language is a very easy way to target that market.” At Shoes On A Shoestring, where prices range from $24.99 to $100, Skechers, Rocket Dog, Blowfish and Madeline are among its best selling brands, and the store always makes sure it has plenty of low-heeled shoes in stock for quinceañeras (the celebration of a girl’s 15th birthday). “The one thing about the Hispanic market is that women like to dress up. They like to go to the clubs and they like to look good. Instead of buying one pair of shoes, they’re going to buy two or three,” Riddle says, adding that

the Latino shopper is a spontaneous one. “If she sees something she likes, she’s going to spend the money on it, whether it was a planned purchase or not.”

WHAT A (LATINA) GIRL WANTS The Hispanic community is rapidly becoming the most influential voice in pop culture, business and politics, and its trendsetting impact can make or break the success of those seeking brand popularity. As reported by The NPD Group, fashion boots are the No. 1 style in the total U.S. market, but in the combined Hispanic market cluster of El Paso, TX, Harlingen, TX, and Miami, FL, pumps come out on top. And as Cathy Taylor, CEO of Rocket Dog, a top-selling brand at Shoe Carnival stores across Texas and Puerto Rico, says, retailers would be remiss to assume that a Latina’s love affair with shoes is any different from that of a non-Hispanic woman. “In any market, the more aspirational you are and the more disposable income you have, footwear will always sit at the top of the chart,” she says. Alvarado agrees. “Just because one is Latina doesn’t mean she’s going to be purchasing ‘Latino styles,’” he says. “They use the same footwear that is seen in corporate America.” He adds, “Women in general have been asked to always be presentable or seem attractive. Now there are more Latinas and they want to fit in. They have a greater need to project themselves to fit into several types of social settings.” “It just goes to show that retailers and brands need to be cognizant of the changing demographic of our society and the influx of immigrants and second- and third-generation immigrants that change the way in which we market,” offers Matt Priest, president of the Footwear Distributors and Retailers of America (FDRA). “It’s another frontier for which the industry has to understand the changes.” Retailers are also advised to look beyond the Spanish-language demographic and wake up to the fact that second- and third-generation English-speaking U.S. Hispanics is where a growing volume of purchasing power lies. Despite the established notion that Hispanics 2013 september • 19

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are value shoppers, a study by the AHAA: The Voice of Hispanic Marketing reveals that Upscale Hispanics (those with incomes ranging from $50,000 to $100,000) is the most influential segment since Baby Boomers, and it offers upside opportunities in particular for high-end dealers. Cohen, chief industry “The Hispanic segment of analyst, NPD Group the population has a growing income and obviously has an eye for fashion,” Priest says, adding, “Hispanic shoppers want quality, they want high fashion and they want accessibility. Once they decide they want a pair of shoes, they want it in stock.” Marshal Cohen, chief analyst at The NPD Group, says that channels that focus on brand names and command higher price points are benefitting from the higher spend and posting stronger growth. “When you look at where they’re shopping, you can actually see the Hispanic consumer has started to migrate over to the department store, looking for better product,” he says. “She’s trading up in footwear but willing to trade down in other business: Maybe she’ll buy less expensive clothes or home essentials but when it comes to footwear, she wants the better brands.” Rodriguez concurs: “They don’t want to

“[The Hispanic consumer] is trading up in footwear... She wants the better brands.”



IS BELIEVING The most proprioceptive soles in the world Find out more



Ralph Libonati Co., 625 Pierce Street, Somerset, NJ 08873 Phone: 800.437.2526 20 • september 2013

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go downtown and buy a knockoff. It’s about the quality and knowing about the real deal,” she says.

WAKE UP, AMERICA Unfortunately, many American corporations continue to cling to preconceived stereotypes instead of becoming informed about Hispanic culture and how it shapes the identity of Hispanic consumers and their communities at large. This disconnection makes it difficult for retailers to authentically engage, build trust with and ultimately value Hispanics as a viable, business-worthy consumer base. But it’s not just Hispanics. While statistics show that one in 10 marriages—that amounts to more than five million marriages in the U.S.—are interracial, there has been little media prominently featuring interracial couples or their children. And on the rare occasion that a company showcases a modern American family, a wave of bigotry often follows. Earlier this year, for example, Cheerios was forced to disable its YouTube comments section on a commercial depicting an interracial family after it became inundated with virulent racism. Given this negative sensitivity, many advertising agencies remain wary. The fact of the matter is the rising number of

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interracial marriages and, in turn, multiracial children should offer plenty of incentive for advertisers to pay attention. “Retailers need to get out of their old ways and stop advertising so safe and neutral,” Taylor says. Rodriguez adds, “If you do any kind of POS programs, it should reflect today’s diversity. I make a point of going through signage and requesting a more diversified face to whatever the product is or the vendor or the brand. It makes the whole environment much better. When shoppers walk into an environment they notice, and it makes the whole process more comfortable and they’re more likely to stick around and spend.” “All you have to do is look at how many Latino children are in junior high and high school now,” Alvarado says. “They’re already a purchasing power because they already influence their parents.” Along those lines, Latinos are also adept at social shopping: They leverage mobile, social media and friends and family to share their shopping experience before, during and after. A recent report released by the Pew Research Center found that the demographic is the largest group of social media users, with 80 percent regularly using social networking sites. They influence and are influenced by what their social media connections are saying about a specific

brand or product with 48 percent using Twitter, Facebook and Instagram during the shopping process. “When I’m on the floor I see it,” Rodriguez confirms, adding that celebrities are hugely influential, too. “When you get a product on a celebrity or a musician that they recognize, they’re very aware. They snap that up.” Last but not least, brand loyalty of Hispanics tends to be very strong. Relationships both personal and professional are central in many of their lives. This value of human interaction naturally carries over when purchasing a product or even requesting information. As a result, when a Latino consumer is attended to with high-quality customer service, they easily form a relationship of trust and loyalty with that retailer. “She expects service and appreciates product information. Offer that and she will return time and time again,” Rodriguez says. And they can also become your biggest referral source because they will share their experiences—both good and bad—with family and friends. And, as the population continues to grow in size and influence, ignoring its potential rewards is risky, at best, and may be the difference between survival or extinction. “The Latino community is quickly growing,” Alvarado says. “It’s best to accept the fact that it’s part of the fabric of our society.” •

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Hush Puppies



Coastal Drives Cool blues refresh classic driving mocs. 22 • september 2013

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Southern Charm Light and bright oxfords are the crème de la crème for spring.





Wolverine 1883

2013 september • 23

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Joe’s Jeans

French Follies

Jon Josef

Modern Vice

Johnston & Murphy


Jean Genie

Denim footwear picks up where jeans cut off. 24 • september 2013

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Graphic Arts

Abstract prints explore the color wheel.




2013 september • 25

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w hat ’s se lli n g s ur f s h ops



Ocean Beach, CA

ince 1974, South Coast Surf Shop has been the go-to staple of Ocean Beach for all things surf related. It’s located about seven miles northwest of downtown San Diego in a community renowned for its anti-national retail chains stance. The store was instrumental in introducing and legitimizing brands such as Quiksilver, Billabong and Gotcha to the epicenter of surfing during the ’70s and early ’80s. To stand out as a trendsetting and respected surf shop along the bustling California coast, the 2,300-square-foot store features a balance of employees with knowledgeable surf experience and the latest brands tourists will recognize. “Our employees are all local and really understand the community,” says Michelle Greathouse, store manager. “I have a couple of surfers on my team who have been hanging out in the shops since they were nine or 10 years old and are now 16 or 17 working here full time,” she adds. To also appeal to customers outside of the hardcore surf realm, buyer and owner Erich Tramonti scans trends in the women’s footwear market to bring a unique mix of styles to the shop. He realizes surf brands don’t always know best for its customers. “The biggest challenge to buying footwear for our store is the changing tastes, especially with women,” he says, noting the store carries an assortment from 11 brands. “Trends can end awfully fast.” Although there are now five locations, including two stores in nearby Pacific Beach, Greathouse still humbly refers to the shops as mom-and-pop operations, but not without noting, “We’re the core surf shop of O.B., for sure.” —Brittany Leitner What are your top-selling shoe brands? Sanuk, Reef and Vans. Cobain has also been coming out with some great stuff, and at great prices. What is your store’s go-to brand and why? We have two brands that are go-tos: Vans and Reef. Vans have been a mainstay for shoes at the beach as Reef has been for a sandal. Everyone here has always had a pair of Reefs— they’re a well-known brand. What makes your store unique in terms of service and selection? We try to cater to the needs of our beach community. We want to save them from hours of travel to the malls by offering a rich selection. Also, we cater to the entire family, from children to grandparents. How are your footwear sales this season? They are good, but they could be better. How so? Closed-toed ladies footwear has really slowed while sandals have increased. The whole closed-toe hanging footwear category that the surf market pushed so hard has slowed down as pricing became an issue. When hanging shoes became more expensive than a boxed pair of Vans… that became a problem. What’s the best shoe you’ve added to your store’s mix recently? Toms, but the craze seems to slowly be coming back to earth.

What is the biggest challenge facing your business? Our customers are a mix of tourists and locals. It’s difficult to project when we will be busier with tourists and when it will slow. And it’s hit or miss as far as tourist spending goes. What do you think makes the California surfer different than surfers elsewhere? I think probably the weather is the only real difference. Because of the weather here there’s more opportunity to get in the water. It’s rainier up in Oregon or Seattle; those surfers are way more hard-core. They have to put in a lot more work than we do to go surf.

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Spring 2014 A DV ERTO R I A L

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Western Chief updates classic styles and launches two noteworthy collections. For Spring ’14, Western Chief is updating the 3D character boots that the Kent, WA-based brand launched to rave reviews 14 years ago, in addition to launching two new collections. The original Lady Bug and Frog 3D boots will get an upgrade with bigger eyes for a friendlier look. The styles will ship beginning in early October. Also on tap, Western Chief’s Flash and Splash collection of light-up boots and a line of Neoprene boots. Flash and Splash ($29.95 SRP) features multi-color lights that flash with each step. “Kids love light up footwear,” says Rob Moehring, CEO, nothing that the line was a smash hit on the recent trade show circuit. And parents will love the added safety benefits on dark and stormy days. The Neoprene collection keeps feet warm as low as -20° F and retails for under $50. “Moms love the Neoprene boot because it’s two in one; they don’t have to buy snow boots,” Moehring says.


Flash and Splash

Western Chief

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The latest styles from Muck Boot Company and Ranger offer performance with panache. Spring is the season of sudden showers and soggy socks, but no matter how uncomfortable things get underfoot Muck Boot Company’s range of rain offerings for Spring ’14 has consumers covered. The Ranger brand leads the way with the debut of the Puddleton packable boot for women and children. Retailing for $40, the foldable styles are 100-percent waterproof and can be easily tucked away after a rainy commute to the office or a wet walk to school. “We did extensive research and found that packability and versatility are on-trend in all walks of life, and this boot is convenient, looks good and can easily fold up into a bag or into a suitcase for travel,” says Sean O’Brien, director of footwear. Available in a slew of bright colored solids and statement-making prints, the Puddleton was the brand’s No. 1 booked boot at the recent Outdoor Retailer show. Also in the cards for kids’ next spring is a collection of rain boots with molded rubber details available in a variety of prints and styles. And Muck Boot Company will be off and running with equestrian-inspired Reign and Rider boots for women featuring the brand’s exclusive Xpress Cool Lining that wicks away moisture keeping feet cool and dry during warm weather.

Storm Chief



Muck Boot Company

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Sloggers branches out of the garden and onto the street. Most brands hope that positive online reviews will sway new consumers to click “buy.” In the case of David Hoyt, president and owner of the Los Angeles-made Sloggers, glowing remarks nudged him along to take his second-generation, 65-year-old garden and lawn footwear company into the realm of fashionable rain boots and shoes. Comments on Amazon have been generating a buzz beyond those with green thumbs. “Nurses started wearing our shoes. People walk their dogs in our boots. People were wearing Sloggers for

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any occasion that called for waterproof footwear,” he says. Hoyt is now giving Sloggers fans more of what they wanted with a tight Spring ’14 collection. It includes a 12-inch rain boot, an ankle boot and step-in shoe Hoyt calls “a puddle jumper” for women. The 100-percent waterproof collection features the same high quality, medicalgrade rubber materials (but not too stiff) and cushioned insoles the brand is renowned for in the garden world. And at $24.95 to $34.94 retail, the exec believes it’s a price-right collection

that also includes an easy step-in design. Plus, Hoyt notes, “We do original prints, so there’s none of the sameness in terms of patterns or color that you see coming from factories overseas.” Sloggers’ American-made aspect is a badge of honor, according to Hoyt. “There’s a movement of retailers and consumers looking for domestically sourced and produced goods,” he says. “It’s a great place to be right now and we’re committed to continue to manufacture in the U.S.”

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Taos braided sandals, vintage halter from Southpaw NYC, stylist's jean shorts. 32

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Cushe sneakers, Kill City jean shorts; Keds flatform espadrilles, vintage swimsuit, Urban Outfitters headscarf, bag from Southpaw NYC. Opposite: Cudas Serape stripe flip-flops, vintage swimsuit from Southpaw NYC, H&M denim shorts.


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Clockwise, from top: Tommy Bahama palm print flip-flop, blue flip-flop by Rainbow, beaded sandal by Aspiga, Cape Cod Shoe Supply Co. braided flip-flop. Opposite, from left: Ahnu wedge sandals, Urban Outfitters crop top, bikini briefs from Southpaw NYC; Veja Hawaiian print sneakers, Urban Outfitters tank and swim trunks, Victoria laceless sneakers, H&M denim shirt and bikini top, stylist's shorts and sunglasses.


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Bangs canvas sneakers, stylist's leopard bodysuit. Opposite: Beach Feet espadrilles, vintage swimsuit from Southpaw NYC; slides by Birkenstock, H&M bikini top. Beach towels by Ralph Lauren.


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Hari Mari yellow flip-flops, Urban Outfitters tank and jean shorts. Opposite, clockwise from top: Sebago slide, OluKai canvas slip-on, cut-out loafer by Sperry Top-Sider. Fashion editor: Angela Velasquez; hair: Seiji, The Wall Group; makeup: Deanna Melluso, The Magnet Agency; models: Amanda, Red; Taylor, Major; Sean, Fusion.


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High Horse Mules giddy up with natural materials and chunky heels.

and exotic skins. “I don’t want to make anything ho-hum, but I want people to be comfortable in their own skin. That’s the fun and challenge for me,” he says. Wholesale prices span $150 to $398 for classics; $750 to $998 for exotics. —Angela Velasquez Which designers do you admire? Joan Hepburn is a big role model for me because she’s credited for creating a marriage of Euro craftsmanship with American sensibility. You see so many high heels these days and they have a place, but the things that appeal to me come from a different sensibility. If you weren’t designing shoes, what would you be doing? I’d like to be a pro tennis player or a singer/songwriter, but I’m not good enough at either of those things, so I think it is for the best that I’m a shoe designer. Is there anything else you’d like to design? Shoes are my passion and will always be my core, but belts and other leather goods would be a logical next step. I even see myself doing something like umbrellas. It’s just a challenge to


think of things that can be made locally. What surprises you about the footwear industry? The system is very regimented. Seasons come and go and there is a very small window of opportunity to have your designs seen. But I’m getting into the rhythm of designing seasons quickly. I have that momentum now. Where do you see your label in five years? I want to be on more people’s feet and I’d like to feel more connected with customers. I think owning a retail shop would be a great way to connect with customers, to speak to them and learn what they like. What shoes in your closet are getting the most wear? I’ve been wearing black shiny oxfords a lot. And recently I put on a pair of Chelsea boots with crackled leather, which turned out to be very comfortable. I’m such a shoe lover. I have shoes in my closet that I’ve never worn and will probably never have a reason to, but I keep them because I admire them so much.


MOST PEOPLE LEAVE the Netherlands with a renewed appreciation for cycling, tulips and pancakes, but during a stroll in Amsterdam, Noah Waxman found his calling in a pair of handmade shoes placed in the window of a cobbler’s studio along one of the city’s famed canals. The shoes were clown-like with elongated toes. “They weren’t your average shoes and I immediately wanted to know how he made them,” the designer says. Waxman felt comfortable with knocking on the shoemaker’s door, even though he didn’t know a lick of Dutch. He says, “Everyone speaks English in Amsterdam, but the shoemaker didn’t speak a word of it. Our interaction was strange, but we connected through the shoes.” Waxman continued his design education in the Netherlands where he learned how to make lasts, cut materials and, making the most of his prime locale, traveled to other European shoemaking cities as often as possible. “It was a great chance to see what and how other people were designing,” he says. That perspective laid the foundation for Waxman’s eponymous collection of women’s and men’s leather footwear which, despite his zeal for European travel, is designed in New York and crafted in California. “[Footwear design] is a beautiful art form and too good to let it go completely,” he says in regards to his domestic production efforts. “I want to help it keep going.” And, Waxman adds, Americanmade products are finding support in international markets. “There’s a lot of interest in Asia and Italy in American craftsmanship,” he notes. “It’s new and exciting to them and we should be making more than shoes.” The Spring ’14 line—his second full collection—plays with textures mixing leathers with raffia and introducing wedge silhouettes for women. Waxman focused on fashion colors like blue and green for men, as well as sandals 42 • september 2013

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Go Big or Go Home Hoka One One is hitting its stride with oversized, ultra-cushioned running shoes.

The men’s Conquest has a no-sew upper, a full-length Rmat suspension midsole and a Water Drainage System.

The women’s Kailua Tarmac provides lightweight cushioning and a lower heel drop offset.

The men’s Rapa Nui 2 Tarmac is for runners seeking a lightweight, responsive and cushioned trail shoe with a faster ride.

FOR RICHMOND, CA-based Hoka One One, a maker of oversized performance running shoes, bigger has always been better. The brand came onto the scene in 2010, just as the minimalist/ barefoot running craze was shifting into overdrive. While most other running brands were sprinting in the opposite direction with the release of lightweight models with less cushioning, Hoka drew inspiration from the oversized equipment advances that spawned game-improvement technologies in skis, golf clubs, tennis racquets and mountain bikes. In fact, Deckers Outdoor was so enamored with Hoka’s concept that it took a minority stake in the brand in July 2012, and then fully acquired the company this past April. Now, as minimal mania subsides, Hoka’s strategy has proven to be downright prescient and the footwear is being embraced by runners of all ability levels, from recreational enthusiasts to ultramarathoners. Not surprisingly, Hoka’s growing buzz is already spawning imitations. “It’s inevitable that copycats would come after us, but I thought it wouldn’t happen for another six months or so,” says Jim Van Dine, brand president of Hoka One One. “Our success is a double-edged sword. The ultracushioning trend validates our concept, but it’s also risky because bigger brands have more marketing muscle than we do right now. Also, they’ve copied the extra cushioning, but not the other technical aspects of Hoka that make the shoes work so well.” More specifically, Hoka’s patented shoe design combines lightweight uppers with an oversized outsole footprint, cushioned midsoles for comfort and propulsion, and active Meta-Rocker technology that promotes an accurate foot roll through the gait cycle. According to the company, the foam used in the midsoles is 30 percent softer than the material used in traditional running shoes, and there is 2.5 times more midsole volume. This extra cushioning dissipates up to 80 percent of the shock associated with heel-striking when running and allows

for as much as 20mm of compression in the heel. Overall, the softer ride provides better control and promotes natural foot motion and efficient running mechanics over nearly all types of terrain. Moreover, the oversized outsoles have 50 percent more surface area than typical running shoes to allow for stability, traction and connection to the ground, Van Dine adds. Hoka is now on the fast track: last year it had 92 dealers and this year it has leapt to 300, and by the end of 2013 there will be 400, according to Van Dine. He expects Hoka’s business to increase by 600 percent this year, and to double in 2014. It also helps that Hoka’s founders, or “secret weapons” as Van Dine describes them, Jean-Luc Diard and Nicolas Mermoud, are still involved to help drive innovation. For now, Hoka’s early adopters are primarily ultra, trail and injured runners. “Those who test their bodies’ limits and need the most protection,” says Van Dine. “But we’re rapidly expanding to all runners because the shoes reduce stress, strain and impact on the body and help recovery.” He adds, “The concept isn’t just oversized—there are other developments to come in Fall ’14. It’s all about materials and geometry.” In the immediate future, the Conquest model, which will launch at retail in January, boasts proprietary materials, improved aesthetics and “will help to fast-forward the Hoka concept quite a bit,” Van Dine predicts. On the grassroots marketing front, Hoka will continue to develop its world-class ultra marathon team and has assembled a group of field service reps that will attend demo events, fun runs and race expos. The brand has also spent $1 million in digital and print advertising this year to get the word out. “I’ve never been as excited about a product in my whole life, both as a consumer and as a business person,” exclaims Van Dine, a former competitive runner. “As a consumer, I’m thrilled because Hoka has allowed me to start running again. And as a business person, I can see that the brand has enormous potential.” —Judy Leand

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Canvassing the Neighborhood Outdoor brands weave new life into casual styles for Spring ’14. AS OUTDOOR LIFESTYLE footwear makers continue to blend classic styling with urban outdoor and action sports influences, the result is comfortable shoes with relaxed silhouettes that also boast artisan touches and subtle performance features. These canvas and woven styles are available in a plethora of stripes, prints, sun-washed hues and mixed media materials that add texture and visual interest. They also offer versatility and value to active consumers. Here’s a sampling that was on display at the recent Outdoor Retailer show in Salt Lake City.

Bahama Vent PFG

Sunvent Ballet PFG

COLUMBIA SPORTSWEAR The company has expanded its popular PFG (Performance Fishing Gear) line with its new Vent Series of footwear. All styles in the collection are breathable, lightweight and heat-bonded, and include air-flow and water-drainable midsole ports, Techlite midsoles for cushioning and Omni-Grip outsoles. Key casual models are the men’s Bahama Vent PFG slip-on and the women’s Sunvent Ballet PFG, both of which have comfy canvas and leather uppers. Columbia expects that the line’s crossover fishing and coastal lifestyle appeal will help keep the shoes on retail shelves for a longer portion of the year.

Santa Cruz CVO Earthkeepers Hookset wedge chukka

Rivington MJ CNX

KEEN As Keen moves into its second decade, it continues to embrace the potential of hybrid footwear by offering shoes and sandals in new materials, textures, colors and sustainability. New canvas models, such as the women’s Maderas Boat and Maderas Sneaky, utilizes an eco-friendly direct vulcanization process that doesn’t require the use of adhesives, and the rubber for the outsoles is harvested within a few hours at the Thailand factory where the shoes are made. Recycled aluminum is used in the eyelets and the entire Maderas collection is certified vegan. Other key styles in the Casual Brights assortment are the men’s Santa Cruz CVO, a sneaker with a crisp canvas upper and textile lining, and the Rivington MJ CNX, a bright-colored canvas slip-on for kids that is inspired by the new women’s Rivington CNX style.

OLUKAI The Hawaiian sandal brand steps up its expansion into the closed-toe casual market with new lines for men and women. For the guys, OluKai is launching the Honolulu collection of casual tie shoes and slip-ons. The Honolulu Lace Mesh and Slip Mesh models have tightly woven lightweight mesh uppers, color pops in the midsoles and a footbed print by Hawaiian artist Emma Howard. The vibe is what the company calls “Island Modern,” a convergence of creativity inspired by Honolulu’s burgeoning fashion district and a low-pace lifestyle. For women, the Nohea canvas print slip-on features Emma Howard’s bold, original handpainted artwork of native flowers. Honolulu Lace Mesh

Nohea canvas print

Earthkeepers Hookset oxford

TIMBERLAND Every day performance, authentic style and crafted details are hallmarks of the brand’s new casual offerings. Front and center is the Earthkeepers Hookset Handcrafted collection for men, women and kids that combines new natural rubber compounds and 100 percent organic washed canvas to create relaxed, stylish designs in summery colors. The men’s Handcrafted wedge chukka and the women’s Hookset oxford are minimalist styles that offer an easygoing seaside vibe and simple, eco-friendly construction. Each piece of Earthkeepers footwear is handmade and uses minimal materials, including organic cotton, natural rubber, recycled aluminum and leather pieces. —J.L. 2013 september • 45

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Baked Goods Japanese brand Shoes Like Pottery crafts simple canvas kicks.

Pleet Please Wolverine 1000 Mile by Samantha Pleet continues to put its best foot forward for spring. WHEN WOLVERINE WORLDWIDE decided to add a women’s collection to its heritage-inspired 1000 Mile label, the 130-year-old men’s boot brand was eager to approach it from a different angle than men’s, and it wasn’t long before Brooklyn-based fashion designer Samantha Pleet made it onto the company’s radar. Known for her whimsical clothing, Wolverine knew Pleet’s mystical-meets-modern design aesthetic would translate perfectly into footwear. Now four seasons in, the latest collection includes five new styles and the design team is already putting together ideas for Spring ’15. “Samantha has a really good ability to take vintage and period styling but make it modern and hip,” notes Christina Vernon, global product line manager at Wolverine Worldwide, adding, “She brings a beautiful sense of color each season which is something we might not have done without her.” You could say that it’s in Pleet’s blood: Her greatgrandmother owned a shoe store in Philadelphia and her grandfather was a cobbler. “I love vintage shoes in general but it isn’t always easy to find ones that fit really well and have a good look for today. I wanted to work with really modern colors and leathers, but still keep

that classic shoe feeling, just updated,” Pleet says. For spring/summer that means festival-ready sandals featuring cutout details, cork and color blocking in a versatile palette of peach, coral, taupe and tan. The Picnic is Pleet’s pick of the bunch: a round-toed suede sandal with side cutouts, an ankle strap and a 2-inch heel reconstructed from a vintage sample she pulled from the Wolverine archives. “It almost feels like a 1920s dance shoe,” she says. Retailing from $215 to $255, Wolverine 1000 Mile by Samantha Pleet is available at such hipster haunts as American Rag in Los Angeles, The Tannery in Boston and New York’s In God We Trust, and Vernon reveals the sell-through has been remarkable to date. “Each season we get more and more people talking about the line,” Vernon says. “We hosted a lot of trunk shows in the beginning where Samantha talked with the consumer about her inspiration and background, and that really helped.” Pleet admits it’s exciting to see her shoes stocked in some of her favorite boutiques. She adds, “When I take the subway now I see girls in my boots, which is a great feeling.” —Lyndsay McGregor

HERE IN THE land of the free and the home of the handmade, we make a big deal out of all things artisan—and things don’t come craftier than small-batch sneakers. Meet Shoes Like Pottery, a line of simple unisex canvas lace-ups produced by 140-year-old Japanese company MoonStar. “The big difference is it’s not a molded outsole,” points out Matt Butlett of trading company Marubeni Corporation, who brought the brand to the U.S. in November. “To do mass production, a lot of shoemakers use pre-molded outsoles because it’s faster and cheaper, but they usually end up splitting. These don’t.” To make a Shoes Like Pottery sneaker, the raw rubber outsoles are fired for 70 minutes in a kiln heated to 248° F, similar to (you guessed it) pottery making. Known as ka-ryu, the process results in some of the world’s most durable vulcanizations. The extreme heat and pressure causes the sulfur mixed inside the raw rubber to chemically react, returning the rubber to its natural elasticity. Additional rubber is used to interline and reinforce the toe and heel areas, while a foxing elastic tape around the sole is stamped with a rubber seal bearing the brand’s logo. The soles of the shoes are a vivid shade of blue, lending a flash of color to the wearer’s steps. “Right now we’re just selling all white and all black sneakers but next year we’ll have a beautiful indigo and hi-tops in black and white,” Butlett shares, adding that retail prices range from $155 to $160. “It’s going to be a very limited selection and we’d like to keep it an in-style go-to.” The line is currently carried in Steven Alan and Assembly in New York and Mohawk General Store and South Willard on the West Coast, and Butlett is hoping to expand distribution to more boutiques across the country in 2014. “It’s a very simple, very clean product, but well made. I think once people try them on they feel the difference,” he says. —L.M.

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continued from page 17 kinds of footwear as they have the wherewithal to make molds and quickly manifest any ideas they might have. Along those lines, might you decide to sell Sazzi to a conglomerate down the road? Well, that depends on how far along it gets and how fun it still is. I believe if a company gets so big that it could go public then maybe it should. Now let’s say we are doubling sales every year, would I hold onto the company or sell? Maybe a $20 million to $60 million company would be fun to run. But maybe a $100 million company would be more work and a job for someone who is already in that world. We’ll see. Speaking of changes, back in your Teva days there was no online retail to speak of. What’s your take on that tier and how Sazzi might approach it? I believe with the increasing popularity of online retailing and the big players connected to it means big changes lie ahead. Along those lines, we are exploring with some of our retailers the idea of a partnership where rather than they risk carrying inventory, they would just showcase the entire line. The retailer would have all the styles and sizes for trying on and then would refer the customer for fulfillment through our web site. The store would then get a sizeable commission for fitting that person and getting knowledge of that request. It’s an idea we are discussing. Five to 10 years down the road do you envision a radically changed retail landscape? The lesser competitors, not surprisingly, are likely to suffer the most and the stores that are the most popular will be more successful and less likely to be

put out of business by online dealers. Maybe it’ll be a culling of brick-andmortar stores, which may be evolutionary and natural. Do you consider yourself an entrepreneur or a footwear designer first? I’m one-half entrepreneur and one-half future footwear seer. I don’t consider myself a footwear designer because my partner, Brett Ritter, has all that under control when it comes to color and the styling details. Now of those which am I first? I’d say I wouldn’t have the opportunity to participate in being a footwear seer if I weren’t a successful entrepreneur. But the two go hand in hand. What do you love most about your job? A lot of what we’ve been talking about: undressing the foot so we can re-dress it and have the footwear be a sort of metaphor for improving life in general with simple solutions. I believe the simpler and more minimalist the solution, the more real the solution is. It reminds me of a funny story back when I was first selling Teva to retailers. I went into an outdoor shop in Arizona that wasn’t connected to a river location. I told the owner this was a new form of desert hiking footwear without the excess weight. He looked at me perplexed and asked, “What’s to protect your feet from bumping into rocks or a cactus?” I responded, “Your eyes.” Hiking boots back then were like indestructible armor on your feet. Yet here I was advocating that your feet should be exposed and allowed to enjoy the summer. That with your eyes leading the way, your feet can move around all these obstacles. Long story short, that’s what sport sandals introduced and that’s part of what Sazzi is continuing to improve on in a more functional and minimal design. It’s always been my idea with footwear to have the absolute least doing the absolute most it can do. •

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Scratch and Kicks New York DJ, Operator Emz, talks sneaker obsession, hip-hop culture and his very own Pro Model design for Adidas. By Brittany Leitner NOT MANY PEOPLE have their lifedefining moment in the second grade, but for Operator Emz, that’s when his passion for sneakers took on a life of its own. Born and bred in New York City, Emz recalls showing up to school one day and getting teased for his generic kicks. He went home and asked his parents for new shoes, picking out a pair of red on white Nike Oceana trainers and burgundy lo-top 69ers by Pro Keds the very next day. “That was the start of my obsession,” he says. This was in the early ’80s when sneaker street style was just beginning to erupt. He says getting those first pairs of fresh kicks “changed my life.” Today, Emz is an avid sneakerhead and DJ—he is the marquis act of Mobile Mondays at Bowery Electric, a Manhattan venue that features many notable guest DJs (Spinderella from Salt-N-Pepa recently), and performs a live weekly radio show broadcasting from the über cool music and soul food joint, Miss Lily’s. Emz, who only spins vinyl, takes his style seriously on and off the turntables. But the debate on what defines a true sneakerhead remains a hot topic among collectors. “I didn’t even know what a sneakerhead was,” says Emz calling back to his days in the ’90s when he’d snap up five pairs at a time. “To me, a sneakerhead is someone who goes out of their way to find shoes no one has; that’s what I do,” he confirms. “A new sneakerhead buys shoes worth the most money. A true sneakerhead is one that has style. It’s not just about the sneaker, it’s about your whole look.” Emz’s sneaker obsession may have begun with a pair of Nikes, but he names Adidas as the best sneaker brand of all time. “My favorites are the Adidas Campus and the Adidas Stan Smith,” he says. “Those are two I can’t live without. I’ve never not had a pair of those since 1984.” He also

notes Adidas as the first brand to really embrace hip-hop culture. “It’s superior to any athletic brand,” he adds. Although his style is strictly vintage, Emz prefers to shop the millennial way—online. “I used to go to stores and shop in basements and buy all the vintage shoes that way,” Emz shares. Now, the only way to find sneakers worthy of his collection is on eBay. “I buy sneakers from the ’70s and ’80s and only in my size,” he says. He also sells shoes on the site if he doesn’t find himself wearing a pair within three weeks. “I don’t have any dead stock,” he adds. Emz estimates that he currently has more than 200 pairs of sneakers, and his collection is about to grow by one with his very own Pro Model Adidas shoe he helped design as part of the Adidas Consortium Collector’s Project. The line, which will be released early October in very limited quantities, will feature five shoes designed by five renowned sneaker collectors from London, Berlin, Scandinavia, Tokyo and Emz’s New York. Each shoe will only be available at one retailer in each of the cities. The five sneaker fanatics flew to Germany to design the shoes and film a promo documentary about the making of the collection. Emz’s will represent his take on the 1983 Pro Model he says he aspired to own when he was a kid and showcase a maroon on white colorway. So what is it about a sneaker that attracts people to spend thousands of dollars and countless hours on crafting the perfect collection? For Emz, it’s all about harnessing a particular nostalgia. “The sneakers I wear symbolize a time in my life when I was very, very happy. I was just in awe of everything around me,” he says. “I just think certain people wear a shoe that reminds them of their youth.”

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