Footwear Plus | October/November 2022

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The Right Fit

Gebhard, CEO of Propét, lays out the road map for the sizes-andwidths brand to reach the next level

Greg Dutter

Forward March

Despite strong global headwinds, MICAM attendees put their best foot forward, many optimistic that better days lie ahead

Great Expectations

Seven comfort brand execs on their latest product innovations and why they believe the category is primed for further growth

Greg Dutter

Kicks Picks

Subdued hues and classic silhouettes for guys make for a winning combination

Kathleen O’Reilly

Going Coastal Chic grandmothers aren’t the only ones embracing this clean, cozy, beachy aesthetic

Kathleen O’Reilly


Belinda Pina Chief Publishing Officer

Caroline Diaco Publisher

Greg Dutter Editorial Director

Nancy Campbell Trevett McCandliss Creative Directors


Kathy Passero Editor at Large

Ann Loynd Burton Fashion Editor

Kathleen O’Reilly

Contributing Editor

Melodie Jeng Marcy Swingle

Contributing Photographers


Noelle Heffernan

Senior Account Manager

Laurie Guptill Production Manager

Kathy Wenzler Circulation Director

Catherine Rosario Office Manager

Mike Hoff Digital Director


Carroll Dowden Chairman

Mark Dowden

President & CEO

Steven J. Resnick Vice President & CFO



One Maynard Drive Park Ridge, NJ 07656

Tel: (201) 571-2244

Advertising: Belinda.

Editorial: Greg.Dutter@


One Maynard Drive Park Ridge, NJ 07656

Tel: (201) 571-2244

2 • october/november 2022 PAGE 34 4 Editor’s Note 6 This Just In: London 8 Scene & Heard 26 Trend Spotting: Slides 28 A Note to My Younger Self 29 Trend Spotting: Clogs 30 Trend Spotting: Woven 46 Shoe Salon 48 Last Shot 10
On cover: Dansko toe ring sandals with contoured cork/EVA footbeds. Photography by Mark Andrew; styling by Nancy Campbell; fashion editor: Kathleen O’Reilly; model: Margarita Babina/Major Models; digital tech: Chris Wert; makeup: Maya Ling Feero; photo/production assistant: Eileen Viglietta.
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 Wainscot Media, One Maynard Drive, Park Ridge, NJ, 07656. The publishers of this magazine do not accept responsibility for statements made by their advertisers in business competition. Periodicals postage paid at Mahwah, NJ, and additional mailing offices. Subscription price for one year: $48 in the U.S. Rates outside the U.S. are available upon request. Single copy price: $10. 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. Wainscot Media 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 Wainscot Media. Printed in the United States.
Naot leather mules

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Get in Gear

I’VE NEVER BEEN much of a gearhead, nor am I mechanically inclined. In fact, I’ve been bike riding most of my life and if I change a flat successfully, it’s Miller Time. Technology is not my friend, either. The fact that I was able to type this column on my laptop without any technical glitches is sheer luck. When I receive prompts to update this program or download that new software, I routinely ignore them based on my stubborn belief that if it ain’t broke, don’t fix it. (I also do this because on the rare occasions when I click “update,” something invariably goes wrong.) Alas, I live in fear of what my wife calls the “spinning beachball of death.” Sooner or later, it appears on my screen, and whatever I was working on disappears unsaved into the ether. I don’t want to have to upgrade—everything and far too often. I’m content living a 1.0 existence.

At least, I thought I was—until recently. June 7th, to be precise. That’s when “Otto” arrived, my new Italian race bike. While I’ve owned decent bikes before, I went all out this time, embracing all the latest, top-ofthe-line technologies—from disc brakes to a handmade carbon frame to carbon wheels, etc., etc. The gearhead who guided me through this custom build assured me that my investment would pay quantifiable dividends in terms of performance, speed, durability and comfort, not to mention enjoyment. The number of style points you get from riding a boutique, Italian brand (in stunning burnt orange, no less) isn’t really calculable in New York City, the mecca of “my race bike is snazzier than yours.” Still, I was somewhat skeptical that Otto would live up to the hype. It’s not like I was making the jump from a Pinto to a Porsche. Just how much of an upgrade could this really be?

A lot. Otto is faster, smoother, quieter, more responsive and stiffer (more efficient) than any bike I’ve ever ridden. Not. Even. Close. The disc brakes alone are worth the investment because the more responsive stopping power is an immeasurable safety upgrade, and you can’t put a price tag on that. What’s more, I’m basically the same rider, riding on the same roads, yet the same brand of tires I had on my previous bike are lasting hundreds of miles more and counting. That’s how much more efficient this fine-tuned machine is, providing a savings that will add up as the miles roll on. Most of all, it’s just super fun riding a great (and great-looking) bike. I’ve seen the technology light. My gearhead baptism has opened my eyes to a world of other potential upgrades and

given me a greater appreciation for gearheads far and wide!

Which brings me to a bandsaw—namely the one Brad Gebhard, CEO of Propét Footwear and subject of this issue’s Q&A (p. 10), had installed in the company’s Auburn, WA, headquarters soon after his arrival in early August. Gebhard, a former member of the U.S. National Cycling Team, is a total gearhead. His bike racer mentality leads him to con stantly seek a competitive edge, and technology often provides one. To that end, Gebhard has been wear-testing various Propét styles nearly every day since his arrival to see if they meet his “world-class footwear” expectations. They rarely fall short, but when they do he goes to the bandsaw for a deep product dive to find the problem—and the solution. Gebhard believes no amount of marketing and sales savvy can cover for inferior product. It’s a good, better, best or bust approach—a manage ment philosophy that extends to all facets of the 37-year-old company that, he believes, has tremendous growth potential within its existing customer base and beyond. It looks to be an exciting ride.

Fellow gearheads are highlighted throughout this issue. Our Defining Comfort feature (p. 20) profiles executives from seven leading brands about their latest product upgrades. The styles range from cowboy boots to kicks to clogs, affirming that comfort is a baseline expectation across nearly all categories today. How could it not be for generations who’ve grown up sporting performance sneakers as everyday wear? That obvi ous incentive aside, so-called “brown shoe” brands that are embracing a gearhead approach should make for more lively competition overall, which should foster further product upgrades in the seasons ahead, which will benefit all consumers. It’s a win-win-win.

The gearhead approach is not just for corporate conglomerates and their extensive R&D departments. Jackie Lindstedt, owner/ designer of Jax & Bard (Shoe Salon, p. 46), is all about the technical attributes behind her relatively small, made-in-Maine, wood clog brand. It’s a unique recipe that blends sustainable design practices with modern upper constructions and materials atop a classic wood sole—proving that great technology doesn’t have to be new. A veteran designer who has worked for many big-name brands, Lindstedt boasts an inspiring DIY drive. The company, which debuted 13 years ago, is on the verge of its biggest year ever. Lindstedt has hung in there, always innovating to upgrade her collections. She’s earned her place in our industry’s fast-moving, ever-shifting peloton of brands. The great race continues.

4 • october/november 2022
EDITOR’S NOTE I’m with the Bandsaw

“taking that power back”

JEANNIE JAY PARK Model, activist and community organizer

Queens of Style

Shoe royalty on display at London Fashion Week Photography by Melodie Jeng

6 • october/november 2022

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Two Ten Introduces Opportunity Grants Program

EXORBITANT TUITION COSTS aside, not every industry employee can afford the time to attend college full-time, or even part-time. Still, many are interested in educational opportuni ties that could advance their careers—if they had the funds to take such courses.

Enter Two Ten Foundation’s new Opportunity Grants program aimed at supporting employees who want to pursue skills-focused training, obtain certifications or complete other types of professional development to advance their careers. The first wave of grants—amounts are expected to range from $500 to $2,500—will be awarded to female applicants, who happen to have accounted for more than 70 percent of the requests for emergency relief since the onset of the pandemic.

“Most of these women are in warehouse or retail jobs, where there are limited prospects for moving up,” says DeAnna Langone, manager of educa tional grant and scholarship programs for Two Ten. “So, the same way we offer hope and help when they are in a time of crisis, this is a way to do the same with opportunities to advance in their careers.”

Langone expects that many grant applicants will be former crisis relief assistance recipients. “It’s someone who needed a little bit of help to stabilize their family and is now ready to do something on the educa tion front to increase their earnings potential,” she says. “They need a short-term course, like a professional certi fication program, to move to the next level and make them more financially resilient. Such added skills will also help them better hang on to their current jobs.”

Two Ten is working through its WIFI (Women in the Footwear Industry) com munity group to facilitate the grants. The effort kicked off by surveying members about what types of courses might be helpful to this audience. (A list of recommended courses is available on Two Ten’s website, but appli cants can also ask for funding for a course that is not listed.) WIFI members are also encouraged to volunteer as career coaches, as the application process involves matching a

candidate with a mentor to see how a course could help career advancement, followed by a conversation, after completing the training, on how to best put their new skills to good use. The coaching commitment is virtual, self-paced and a minimum of three hours, including some orientation and training. “WIFI chapters are already stepping up, wanting to sponsor grants for people in their chapters,” Langone says. “They’re planning online campaigns and fundraising events, like trivia nights and golf outings, to raise funds.” Two Ten offers planning toolkits to help organize such efforts.

Going forward, Langone says the Opportunity Grants program will be offered through partnerships with other affinity groups in the industry. “We chose WIFI first because it’s a community that we’ve championed and have extensive contacts to get people to volunteer,” she says. “Once we get this going, we’ll move on to other groups.”

The idea of the grant is already generating enthusiasm with employee resource groups and exec utives at several leading companies. Foot Locker and Famous Footwear, a division of Caleres, are among retailers that are getting behind the program early on. Employees from both companies are helping Two Ten refine the course offerings and protocols for the volunteers who will coach and mentor grant recipients.

Beyond the expected strong interest, Langone says the grant program’s launch comes as crisis relief requests (fingers crossed) are expected to return to pre-pandemic levels. It’s a welcome change after two years of the record requests for assistance. “We’ve been in crisis relief mode for the past two years, where nearly all of our financial assistance has addressed critical needs for those experiencing hardship due to job loss, a health crisis or a household emergency, as well as loss or damage due to natural disasters,” she says. “Our Opportunity Grants program represents the ‘opportunity’ side of our portfolio. Hopefully we can focus more on addressing those needs, too.”

Manitobah Flagship Celebrates its Indigenous Roots

MANITOBAH, MAKERS OF mukluk boots and moccasins, opened its first-ever flagship in its hometown of Winnipeg, Canada. The store’s downtown location, in the Forks Market, is where the Red and Assiniboine rivers converge and Indigenous communi ties, including the Métis and Inuit, have been trading for thousands of years—long before French and British settlers arrived.

“When we decided to launch our first flag ship, we knew it had to be in the historic Forks Market,” says Greg Tunney, president and CEO of Manitobah, noting that the store is a celebra tion of the region’s Indigenous communities. “It’s an amazing consumer experiential store that mixes culture, art, history, music and, of course, our product.”

Examples include smudging ceremonies, a cleansing ritual that burns sacred medicines like grass, sage and cedar. Customers will also be able to watch performances by

8 • october/november 2022 SCENE & HEARD
DeAnna Langone, manager, Opportunity Grants program

Go where you’re happiest.

Contact your sales representative to view current and upcoming collections. 2022 Dansko LLC. All Rights Reserved. 1.800.326.7564
Penni Sneaker in Raisin Mesh



Brad Gebhard, CEO of Propét Footwear, lays out the road map for the sizes-and-widths brand to reach the next level.

OVER THE COURSE of 30-plus years work ing in executive positions for an array of leading companies in the footwear and apparel spaces (Nike, Adidas and American Apparel, to cite a few), Brad Gebhard possesses a skillset that spans management, marketing, sales, product development, supply chain and (self-proclaimed) wear tester. The latter may not rank high on the corporate flow chart, but Gebhard believes if you aren’t dialed in on product, no amount of marketing and sales moxie will cover that shortcoming.

“Every single day, I’m wearing at least one or two styles,” says Gebhard, who officially joined the company in August and also happens to be sample size. “I’m wearing our shoes all day long, making sure the fit and comfort are right, and if there’s any room for improvement.”

So far, so good: Gebhard is impressed overall with his try-ons—like Propét’s Trail Walkers. Before officially starting his new position, Gebhard hit the Pacific Trail for some backpacking sporting that style. The former CEO of Hi-Tec USA, who previously held leadership positions at Columbia Sportswear and Salomon, reports the shoes “held up really well.” Still, that didn’t stop Gebhard from bringing a bandsaw into the company’s Auburn, WA, headquarters for deep product dives. “I’ve tested a couple where I thought they weren’t just right, so we cut them up and looked into it,” he says, noting that he wants consistency across the entire product line. “I want to create world-class footwear that’s on par with the top brands from a comfort, fit, construction, durability and quality perspective.”

Over the past 37 years, Propét has excelled at making product, having built a solid reputation for delivering premium comfort shoes across a broad range of categories that are available in sizes and widths. In fact, it is one of a few remaining brands offering such an extensive sizes inven tory. Propét’s operations are equally solid. Gebhard, who served as senior vice president at The Walking Company from late 2019 to the spring of 2021, witnessed this excellence firsthand. “When other brands weren’t delivering, Propét helped keep our business going forward,” he says. “I saw firsthand the tremendous operational horsepower of this company. Propét has a very strong base from which to grow.”

That’s where Gebhard, a former member of the U.S. National Cycling Team, comes into the equation. Former CEO Rick Wang, who now serves

as president, is letting Gebhard set the pace. The way Gebhard sees it, the road is wide open and the potential for growth is enormous. “I think we’re at the tip of the iceberg,” he says. “There’s big potential within our existing customer base as well as in attracting new consumers. We just have to offer the full package, which means more new and exciting products and marketing to back it all up. Combined, it’s going to create a lot of opportunities for us.”

Gebhard has shifted into high gear right away, focusing on Propét’s broad assort ment. He’s zeroing in on the winners, styles that can be updated and those that can be replaced. “While we have a strong midsole cushioning story in DuraCloud

10 • october/november 2022

and incorporate other comfort technologies by OrthoLite and Vibram, there are additional technologies that we can bring in—for example, some of our classic silhouettes that we’ve been selling for years,” he says. “There’s an opportunity to enhance those shoes and build meaningful platforms around them.”

Another key area of Gebhard’s early focus is Propét’s already state-of-the-art operations. Ever the bike racer, Gebhard is always seeking ways to improve and gain an advantage. “We’re in the process of implementing Oracle NetSuite to make sure that we’re that much more effective in servicing our customers,” he says, adding that he and Wang are working in tandem on this effort in the U.S. and China, respectively. “We’re working hand-in-hand to assess how we can continue to improve our supply chain and product creation process. It’s about how we can enhance that process to make sure we’re making world-class footwear.”

And while Gebhard has a lot of experience sourc ing from multiple countries, the near-term focus is to remain in China, where Propét has strong factory relationships. Besides, with the world in such turmoil, he says now is not the ideal time to introduce such a major operations change. “It’s quite difficult right now to change much on the sourcing front, and those moves can be fraught with their own challenges,” he says.

Helping Gebhard in these initial efforts is Propét’s strong tailwind, especially of late. The company has recorded some of the biggest sales years in its his tory since the onset of the pandemic. While being a comfort lifestyle brand surely helped, Propét’s supply chain capabilities and, more important, the willingness to take some inventory risks proved highly beneficial. Propét didn’t panic and cancel orders. As a result, the brand filled a vacuum left by many other brands that did. The decision has also kept the company at the front of the line of its factory partners. “I take zero credit for the way Propét operated during that period, but Rick did a great job,” Gebhard says. “It put our company in a great position—our 2021 sales beat 2019. Not a lot of companies can claim that.”

Gebhard, however, is not one to rest on any laurels. He’s a firm believer that the road to success is, much like a bike race, often long and winding with plenty of steep hills, not to mention crowded with ferocious competitors. Even if you finish strong one season, Gebhard believes you’re only as good as your last results. “This business is wicked tough, so it’s all about continuing to assess and trying to improve,” he says. “It’s all fundamental, but that’s easier said than done. We just have to make sure we’re doing all the right things, and that’s what we’re striving to do here every day.”

Would you agree that your experience and skillset make you the right man, at the right time to lead Propét?

I believe so. I have extensive experience instituting some best practices in driving the footwear business. I’m an expert in product, I have a lot of marketing experience in the traditional and digital fronts, and I’ve worked retail firsthand. I appreciate how chal lenging it can be for retailers to be profitable, as well as how hard it is to acquire and service customers. I also have the operational background to help drive this organization. I’m very passionate about the footwear business, which is my first love. I have a lot of energy, and I enjoy this industry immensely,

and I believe that can carry you a long way.

And returning to near where you grew up is an added bonus.

Exactly. I grew up a couple hours down the road. I love the culture of the Pacific Northwest—and at Propét. The Propét opportunity was everything I’d been looking for: a well-established brand, a strong financial and operational base to grow from, and a great team of people in place. We have a nice mix of people who’ve been here for a while and some newer employees. We’ll continue to build on our culture that’s very family oriented, which I really appreciate. Our employees work hard and we’re


What are you reading? I’m rereading The First 90 Days, a go-to book about guiding new leaders into organizations. I’m also reading Major Taylor, the biography of the groundbreaking Black cyclist who, in the late 1800s and early 1900s, was one of the most successful athletes in the world, even though he was treated poorly here.

What was the last movie you saw? Top Gun: Maverick

What might people be surprised to know about you? That I spent a good part of my youth and young adult days as a bike racer and was a member of the U.S. National Team.

What did you want to be when you grew up? A bike racer. But early on I saw what happens when (stu ) happens beyond your control, specifically when the U.S. decided to boycott the ’84 Summer Olympics in Moscow. I saw athletes at the Olympic training facility collapse in grief as their dreams vanished. I was 14 and said to myself right then: You’d better have a backup plan. I’ve loved business from the time I was little. I used to read business

books while traveling to races around the world. I always wanted to be a business leader.

What is the best piece of business advice you’ve ever received? Stay focused on the areas that are going to drive the business. Helen McCluskey, who oversaw Speedo back when I was its Senior Vice President Product Merchandising and Ecommerce, drove that point home. She’s crack-whip smart.

Who is your most coveted dinner guest? Peter Sagan, a three-time world champion bike racer from Slovakia. I had the chance to ride with him multiple times when I worked at Castelli. He’s a super-funny guy.

What are your favorite words? Dynamic, because the world is and you’d better be on your toes, and agile, because you need to have a high level of agility to be successful in life.

What is your least favorite word? It’s a saying: “It’s not my job.” Everybody needs to contribute. When I was at

Nike, all the VPs rolled up their sleeves and got (stu ) done. Nobody should be above doing anything.

What is inspiring you right now? My new role at Propét and my two adult children. My son works for Recess Studios, a marketing agency that does a lot of work for Nike, and my daughter works for GOAT, the resale sneaker platform. They are respectful, kind, motivated and getting (stu ) done at a young age. I’m super proud of them.

What was your first paying job? Mowing loans and paper boy. I later worked at a local Nordstrom and for some regional chains. I’ve sold a ton of jeans and shoes in my day.

What is your favorite hometown memory? I’m from Eugene, OR, and it’s of riding my bike and skateboard around town with my younger brother—a time of few TV channels, no computers and no cell phones.

What is your motto? “Only those who dare truly live.” If you don’t take risks, you won’t be as successful.

12 • october/november 2022
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getting great results but, at the same time, it’s a nice work-life balance here. Ownership looks out for our employees’ well-being.

How’s the reception been to the “new guy”? Great. The team (65 employees) has been very receptive. During our conversations about areas of the business, they sponge it up and come back excited about potentially how we can improve things. My management style is very collaborative. I want my team to work together, and I’m a big believer in diversity of thought. I want people sit ting around a table with different perspectives on a subject matter where no idea is a bad one. Toss it out there and let’s see if it’s something that we can work with. That philosophy was already in place here, but I think they’re embracing it even more. I’m bringing my skillset and energy but giving them the opportunity to own it too. Everyone needs to take ownership of their area and not be afraid to take a little bit of a risk and keep pushing forward.

How might joining Propét at a time of strong growth play into your plans?

First off, it’s a good situation to enter into. We’ve

had a very strong period during the pandemic, as we were well-positioned with our inventory and had a solid service model already in place—like strong EDI capabilities for dropshipping. We picked up a lot of business as others lacked inventory. We’ve been building off that since. Some of our new retail customers first tested Propét through our drop ship program to see how it resonated with their customers. Many experienced strong sell-throughs and we have converted several of them to wholesale customers in this past year. That said, one of my main focuses is to further refine our processes so we are even more reliable and quicker to market, when necessary. We’re not a fast fashion brand, but our objective is that if we need to bring prod uct in earlier for some reason that we have a very robust process in place to make sure we can do that reliably. I’m very customer-centric and want to make sure our retail partners always get their products on time.

Are concerns about supply chain capabilities equal to product and pricing now?

We’ve held several meetings with our retailers of late and it’s pretty consistent that they’re looking for

partners to help them respond quickly to opportuni ties. Right now, there’s just too much uncertainty and, with that, unreliability. So, having a robust and reliable supply chain is key. For example, if we promise our customer that we’re going to deliver our spring collection in January or December, then we must have the capabilities in place to do that.

“Dates and gates“ is an old term that I used to use often, and it still applies today. It’s about establish ing a supply chain process with multiple speeds of delivery, so if we’re working on something that requires more development time or a collection needs to arrive faster, we have calendars in place to meet those deadlines. It involves working on all our product processes and working with our suppliers to position ourselves to be more agile and quicker to the market, if necessary.

Anything else retailers say they want and need from Propét?

They love and need our sizes-and-widths inventory, because that’s increasingly harder to find. They also love and need our dropship model, and why wouldn’t you? You just place an order, and the product arrives. Some of our retailers also love and


need our wellness collection because the competi tion is not very attractive. We’re creating products that offer a solution but is still something that you actually want to wear. Our retailers are also asking us for more digital and in-store marketing assets to support the brand and help create demand. We’re working hard on that now. In the meantime, we need to make sure that our retailers have all the most current assets because it’s important that Propét be represented consistently in the marketplace.

How is the decision by some brands to cut back on retail distribution affecting Propét?

I think it’s opening a floodgate of potential oppor tunity, especially coming from our sizes-and-widths proposition. I’ve heard multiple times of late that if other brands continue to move further away from sizes-and-widths that’s just opening up more opportunities for us. Similarly, the void Nike is cre ating with pulling back on Foot Locker is opening opportunities for brands like Puma. The same way New Balance has pulled away from some comfort specialty stores has opened up opportunities for On, Hoka and us. We love sit-and-fit retail. We love having brand ambassadors in those stores talking

about the Propét proposition. That channel is a massive target for us and presents a tremendous opportunity. It will be really interesting, in a couple of years, to see how all this plays out for the brands that decided to take other approaches.

There’s been plenty of doom-and-gloom headlines of late regarding the economy and its impact on retail. What are you seeing and hearing in your recent meetings with retailers?

It’s been such a mixed bag in the malls that I’ve walked through of late and in the discussions that I’ve had with our retailers. As soon as infla tion really kicked in and interest rates rose, it caused a speed bump for everybody. It appears some large ecommerce companies are feeling the affect more than brick-and-mortar. But then I recently went through some reports with our VP of sales and some of our ecommerce customers have been crushing it. So, like I said, it’s a mixed back. Forecasting the business is not easy right now. With so much uncertainty on the horizon, it’s hard to project how the business may go. Still, our business is up for the year. It may not be up as much as we hoped in the beginning of the year,

but it’s still up over 2021, which was not an easy number to top as we performed particularly well during the pandemic.

Where do you envision Propét in three years?

I clearly see a larger business, and I also envision a higher level of brand recognition. That comes down to us to continue making the investments in product and marketing, and our overall execution. Hurdles might be unknowns, like the economy, that we can’t control. But that won’t stop us from building upon our current customer base as well as create new products that entice new custom ers. Sometimes that can be a risky process, but sometimes you have to take some risks in order to grow. I believe we will achieve that.

What types of new categories might Propét address?

We’re still figuring that out, aside from the fact that it’s going to be comfort-related and available in sizes and widths. In the meantime, we’re going to focus on existing franchises at least for the next 12 months. We already have successful frachises built around walking and travel, and there >47


Forward March

Despite strong global headwinds, MICAM attendees put their best foot forward, many optimistic that better days lie ahead.

A LINGERING PANDEMIC, a war raging in Europe and fears of a worldwide recession are enough to dampen anyone’s mood, everywhere. Still, the 35,000-plus attendees of the recent Spring/Summer ’23 edition of MICAM in Milan, Italy, were determined to look on the bright side. (Of course, aisles and aisles of beautiful shoes have a way of doing that.)

Giovanna Ceolini, president of Assocalzaturifici, the Italian footwear association and organizers of MICAM, reports that the show culminated in a prevailing mood of optimism and dynamism. “A desire to restart and resume work was a central theme,” she says, adding that despite many market challenges—like rising costs for raw materials and energy—the industry is pressing forward. “Fortunately, consumption has restarted, and I’m sure that our sector, the engine of ‘Made in Italy’ and our mix of tradition and technological innovation, will soon return to the levels of a few years ago.”

Ceolini says show highlights included the Made in Italy and Sustainability Lab sectors. “The sustainable approach is now essential,” she says. “In the eyes of consumers and buyers alike, it represents an increas ingly decisive aspect during purchase.” Other highlights were the emerging design talent sector and the Italian Artisan Heroes project, a B2B platform that connects Italian manufacturing excellence with international brands and retailers. “Young Italian companies are looking at the world with optimism, targeting the footwear and fashion sectors with their innovative ideas,” Ceolini says, adding that MICAM delivered a worldwide audience of buyers. “There were plenty from the United States, Canada and Japan, as well as a significant number from Spain, France and Germany,” she reports. “Thanks to the large attendance, meetings transformed into opportunities, even in a period of great uncertainty like now.”

On that note, Miguel Amaral Vieira, head of mar keting for Ambitious, distributed in North America by Bos. & Co., reports the booth was “quite busy” throughout the show. “It was great seeing that we’re slowly getting back to pre-Covid attendance,” he says. Spring/Summer ’23 showstoppers included the brand’s Heritage, Haven and Hoven collections.

Platform Show Rise to the occasion—always

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european trend report : SPRING / SUMMER 2023
Shang Xia Papucei Victoria Keddo

The latter two focusing on sustainable and wellness design aspects, respectively. “Haven represents our commitment to becoming a more sustainable brand and creating low-impact products,” Vieira says. “We revamped it this season to include eco-friendly versions of our best-sellers that feature recycled and recyclable materials, vegan leather alterna tives and natural fibers. Additionally, we work with Leather Working Group certified suppliers, meaning there’s up to 40 percent less energy consumption, and each product is 100 percent ethically produced in Portugal” As for the Hover line, it features a patented sole that provides greater flexibility, ergonomy and energy absorption. “We’ve always cre ated designs with comfort in mind, but Hover represents a new level without compromising our aesthetics,” he says.

Alessandro Bracalente, managing director of NeroGiardini, reported strong traffic, as well. The best in three years, in fact. “We had visits from all of our existing customers, as well as good potential customers from several countries,” he says. “We opened some great new customers in Europe, and we had very successful appointments with distribu tors from Asia, our next target market.” As for what buyers gravitated to, Bracalente cites a gradual migration from sneakers to dress and fashion categories—a sign the world is moving beyond the pandemic. “We see it already, and expect it will continue in 2023,” he says. “Pumps and loafers in different colors and heel shapes were popular.”

Jill R. Snyder, president of Snyder Shoes, a two-store comfort specialty chain in Michigan, was at MICAM on the hunt for brands that aren’t widely distributed and/ or focusing more on their DTC efforts. “We believe adding a first cost component to our assort ment will not only create a unique customer experience but will help our bottom line,” she says. Snyder adds that the show also provided the opportunity to work with fac tories and meet the families that own them. “It’s about getting out of your box and trying something newandbuildingnewrelationships,” she says. “Attending MICAM gets you ahead of the curve with what is new and trending ”

Man Core

How Sweet it Is A rainbow of

2022 october/november • 17 RUNWAY PHOTOS BY MICAM
Kick the kicks habit in dress staples
Moma JoGhost Mephisto Donna Carolina CB Fusion Rebecca White Giambattista Valli Elie Saab Koché

Dune 2.0

sandals make the

Green Scene

18 • october/november 2022 european trend report : SPRING / SUMMER 2023
Meet the new black of Spring/Summer ’23
Ara Donna Carolina Petite Jolie Christian Dior
NeroGiardini Flower Mountain Papucei 1725.a Chloé Hermès

Running Man

Mute Points

The Shining

2022 october/november • 19
Retro joggers built for style
array of dazzling metallics add a little glam value
Choose subdued in beige and nude
Francesco Sacco Voile Blanche JoGhost Moma Mephisto NeroGiardini Coral Blue Ara Tod’s Stella McCartney Bruglia Bottega Vaneta Daniele Ancarani RUNWAY

Great Expectations

An on-demand society means companies must deliver—or else. Increasingly high expectations now extend well beyond being able to receive packages and stream programming at the press of a few buttons. Consumers expect to get what they want, when they want it. That includes comfort, style and versatility in shoes from cowboy boots to clogs to sneakers, etc. Here, a broad array of leading brand execs detail how their latest collections meet those great expectations. —Greg Dutter

Hear the Ecco

The Danish brand is calling out to a new generation of consumers and reintroducing itself to previous ones.

TOM BERRY, PRESIDENT and CEO of Ecco US, is on a mission to get the brand’s story across to customers. While many may know aspects of Ecco’s 50-plus years history as a pioneering Euro comfort brand, the exec believes not enough know the full story—one that he believes is even more relevant in today’s marketplace. That story, Berry says, is a combination of genuine comfort technologies and Danish values that make for a compelling brand proposition in a post-pandemic landscape.

“Ecco is a ‘comfort and’ brand,” Berry offers. “Ecco is comfort and timeless Danish design, which is better for the environment and wallet.

Ecco is comfort and durability, again better for the environment and wallet. Ecco is comfort and support, which is better for the body and wellness. And Ecco is comfort and responsibility-driven by our unique farm-to-foot vertical supply chain where we operate both our factories and our tanneries, which is better for everybody.”

For Spring ’23 that story is led by the new Gruuv walking collection. The visual and technical high light is the two-way flex rubber sole that bends with every step, providing traction and comfort across a variety of terrain. There are also expansions of the Street 720 series, Phorene midsoles and dualfit comfort insoles. “The Street 720 series features a FluidForm breathable midsole, which creates a cooler environment for the foot and provides increased comfort for all-day wear,” says Evan Weygandt, sales director for Ecco US. “Our ultra-light Phorene midsoles provide increased cush ioning and energy return, which reduces fatigue over time.” Phorene will now be available in men’s and women’s casual and dress collections. The dual-fit comfort insoles, made of 98 percent recycled mate rial, enable consumers to customize the width for a more tailored fit. They will be available in the Gruuv, S-Lite Hybrid and Helsinki 2.0 collections.

Ecco’s overriding marketing message for next year celebrates walking. Areas of focus include the Ultra Terrain outdoor collection (“Walking

All Over Winter”), Gruuv casual styles (“Walk on the Wild Side”) and the second iteration of Cozmo casual sandals (“Walking on Sunshine”). “We want our customers to be inspired by the walk, no matter where they are,” Weygandt says. “The jour ney is what really matters, and Spring/Summer ’23 is an invitation to reengage with the everyday luxury of walking and make every step a celebration, e.g. to ‘Walk the Walk.’”

Berry believes it’s high time for Ecco, not to men tion the brown shoe sector, to tell its story to consum ers. How else will the seg ment recapture casual shoe purchases that athletic brands have comman deered of late? The time is right for Ecco, he believes, because consumer values have shifted since the onset of the pandemic. “In the prior era of fast-fashion and disposable athletic shoes, maybe investments in getting our story out there wouldn’t have made a difference,” Berry says.

“However, in today’s era, timeless design, genuine comfort, authentic sustainability and long-lasting durability are exactly what the consumer is demanding—and they are all Ecco values.”

20 • october/november 2022
Walk this way in the new Gruuv collection.
defining comfort

Signs of Spring ’23: brushed brass and warm orange.

Aerosoles on a Roll

Under new ownership, the brand is branching out.

AEROSOLES MARKED ITS 35th anniversary this year, and a highlight was its acquisition by American Exchange Group, a multi-branded fashion house spanning shoes, apparel and accessories. The new ownership has big plans for the brand. In fact, Alen Mamrout, CEO of American Exchange Group, says the party is just getting started.

“Our focus is on expansion into new product categories and international growth,” Mamrout says. “We’re introducing a new kidswear collection this fall and launching men’s and women’s flip-flops, men’s socks, slippers and roller skates for Spring ’23 with our licensing partners. We also plan to showcase a new cold weather capsule collection for Holiday ’22 that includes women’s scarves and hats to tap into gift giving season.”

Mamrout believes Aerosoles has the elasticity based on its deep roots as a leading comfort lifestyle brand. “Over the past 35 years, Aerosoles has become synonymous with innovation and comfort,” he says. “We have strong brand recognition and a loyal customer base. These product categories are a natural extension and will make Aerosoles accessible to a wider audience.”

As for Spring ’23 footwear, look for a well-assorted offering, including best-sellers reimagined in luxe summer materials like raffia, woven leather and embroidered linen. The hardware is modern in brushed brass and soft gold tones, while the palette is rich summer hues of rust, orange, golden ochre and tan. “Our fashion capsule collection is focused on elevated constructions with unexpected comfort features,” Mamrout adds, noting those include proprietary technologies offering cushioning, flexibility and arch and heel support—without compromising style.

Comfort is entwined in Aerosoles’ DNA. “For over three decades, we’ve stood by a mantra to deliver premium comfort, style and quality to our customers—without the premium price,” he says, believing this formula is even more in demand today. “People are leaning into casual dressing and comfortable shoes, and as more people return to offices after working from home for two-plus years, the need for comfortable and stylish footwear that takes you from desk to dinner is a top priority.”

So far, so good as Mamrout reports Aerosoles’ latest collections have been received well. “We’ve had an unbelievable reaction,” he confirms, citing partners Macy’s, Nordstrom and TJ Maxx, among others. “Buyers are excited to expand on our existing relationship and reintroduce a brand with such a rich history to their assortment. What Aerosoles represents is a miss on a lot of floors right now.”

The Bare Facts

Xero Shoes’ minimalist premise is gaining in stature.

STEVEN SASHEN, CEO/cofounder of Xero Shoes, has taken the comfort road less travelled since launching the brand with his wife, Lena Phoenix, in 2009. Namely, he’s anti-cushioning.

“Cushioning is less stable, which causes fatigue over the course of a day,” Sashen says. “That’s the opposite of comfort.”

Xero Shoes’ minimalist design, in contrast, enables feet to bend, flex and move naturally, which leads to stronger feet and less fatigue, according to Sashen. A Masters All-American sprinter and one of the fastest men over age 50 in the U.S., as well as a former All-American gymnast, he’s not just the CEO, he’s a customer.

“Our customers are health- and fitness-minded men and women, ages 18-95,” Sashen says. “Anyone looking to feel and perform better fit our target market.”

Here, Sashen reveals what’s new on the product front and why the brand is poised for continued strong growth.

What’s new for next spring? One aspect of comfort is light weight, and with Xero Shoes’ new Michelin Fiber Lite rubber compound outsole, we’ve removed weight in our new Scrambler Mid hiking boot. While still a rugged, technical boot, it weighs 10.8 oz (men’s size 9), which is lighter than our waterproof mid-height hiking boot, the Xcursion Fusion (13.2 oz). The boot is as technical as it is simple. The Michelin sole gives unparalleled flexibility with sculptures designed for multi-directional traction and ground penetration.

We’re also introducing the Road X Sport, a breathable, running version of our Aqua X Sport adventure shoe. It weighs 6.4 oz. compared to Aqua X Sport’s 7.2 oz. It features a moisture-wicking lining, breathable mesh upper, a road-gripping tread, speed laces and a flexible 5.5 mm sole that gives ground feedback. Also new is our Prio Perform training shoe. We took our best-selling Prio and made it sleek, elegant and lighter at 9.6 oz. It features a moisture-wicking lining that keeps you cool and our tensioning system holds you securely during training.

New on the casual side is the Dillon, a classic sneaker that’s lighter (9.8 oz) than our Kelso court sneaker at 10.4 oz. Features include a breathable knit upper, wider foot-shaped toe box and new cup sole that may look “normal,” but wearers will discover the flexible, natural feel and fantastic ground feedback.

How are you getting the word out about Xero Shoes? Some people are skeptical of barefoot/minimal footwear—until they experience our wide toe box, lightweight feel, flexibility and zero drop sole. So, our goal is to provide opportunities to get more people to feel the natural comfort of our shoes. That means a focus on live events with try-on activations. We’re also working on grassroots marketing initiatives that highlight our customers of all ages, who love all types of movement—from running to hiking to MMA to strongman competitions to travel and everything in between.

How’s business? Like many, we’ve dealt with supply chain issues. Despite that, revenue for January-June rose 60 percent to $22.4 million in 2022. Growth was driven by expansion in styles and our new European website. We’ve also invested in new staff, an expanded warehouse, product development and marketing. Key hires include Shaun Araham, director of Product Management, Tom Curran, director of sales and Jody Eichler, VP of Digital. Looking ahead, we expect to rapidly expand distribution nationwide and in Europe. We’ve also launched a new website. We’re also excited to work on a co-branded project with Christopher McDougall and Eric Orton for their new book, Born to Run 2: The Ultimate Training Guide

2022 october/november • 21
Dillon Road X Sport

defining comfort

Giddy Up

IT CAN BE done— finally . Twisted X claims to have revolutionized the comfort of traditional, leather-soled cowboy boots with the incorporation of its patented CellStretch technology. The new Tech X collection, debuting this fall, offers enhanced comfort and stability in a tra ditional Western boot profile.

“This has never been done before: the traditional low profile and aesthetic of a classic, leather-soled cowboy boot with a patented comfort technology,” says Twisted X CEO Prasad Reddy, noting that CellStretch provides customized comfort. “The cell technology housed in the outsole compresses, stretches, rebounds and distributes weight evenly through 100 individual pressure points. Each step gives the ball and heel customized and unparalleled support that’s now built right into the outsole without altering the profile at all.”

Four years in the making, Tech X was first released in 2021 in a Western work boot collection that featured CellStretch in

the midsole. The next iteration of Tech X boots featured a low profile but combined with a rubber outsole. The third ver sion, Reddy says, is a charm: CellStretch engineered directly into a leather outsole, and it’s high time for it, he says. “The era of the cowboy boot has seen little to no comfort upgrades over the last 25 years as compared to ever-changing athletic styles,” Reddy says. “Western boots are primarily built for function, and Tech X marks the first product to address the need for improved comfort.”

Reddy says the new Tech X collection is aimed at the classic Western boot wearer. Think men and women who live and breathe the Western lifestyle. “It’s durable and comfortable enough to keep up with even the busiest of days and the most rugged of lifestyles,” he says, noting that Twisted X, founded in 2005, has strong ties to this consumer base. “Western is our heritage, and we’re proud to continually innovate our offerings as this category is about more than footwear—it’s a lifestyle.”

The latest collection includes four men’s and three women’s styles. Each features a wide square toe and a walking heel. The collection also furthers Twisted X’s commitment to sustainable design with the incorporation of Blend85 footbeds made of 85 percent recycled foam and leatherTWX, which consists of 80 percent recycled factory scrap leather that would otherwise end up in landfills. The upcycled material is crafted in a way that gives it the look and feel of traditional leather. One of the women’s styles also features an iconic rose design by artist Olivia Bennett. The collaboration, Reddy says, blends Twisted X and Bennett’s mutual love of the envi ronment through sustainable materials and nature-based art.

Reddy reports the response to the latest Tech X collection has been strong right out of the gate. Buyers at the recent round of shows loved what they saw, he says. More precisely, they loved what they felt. “The goal was to make boots look as good as they are comfortable, but feeling is believing,” Reddy says. “Buyers were encouraged to try on Tech X boots to feel the difference. Many expressed a desire to make the switch, as well as appreciated the wide range of colors and designs in the collection.”

A Real Item

Kelsey Jayne, design director for Dansko, on why its latest sandal looks to be next in line in a recent series of successful item-driven launches.

What’s new and noteworthy for Spring ’23? Our new Dayna sandal, which features a new footbed with all the upgrades. It has a softly cupped, cork/EVA blend, dual-density, contoured footbed that frames the foot along with a Vibram Ecostep EVO rubber sole made with a minimum of 30 percent recycled rubber.

How is the construction an upgrade over what’s currently on the market? Our dual-density footbed provides support in all the right places and cushioning where it’s needed. It’s a kinder under-foot experience than what is currently in the market, with no break-in time needed. The Vibram sole also gives it that extra nod to performance with rubber that is highly durable and offers an improved grip.

Who is the target audience? Any woman looking for everyday comfort with adjustability and without sacrificing looks. The Dayna will appeal to current Dansko consumers and those just discovering our brand and the legendary comfort we deliver.

How has the reaction been from retailers? We’ve had great success recently with item-driven launches—like our Livorno Pace performance walking shoe, Kane clog and Larissa slipon flat styles. The Dayna is no exception. Our customers love color, and launching it as an item allows us to feature a broader palette.

What else is new and noteworthy on the comfort front for this spring? We are sprinkling little improvements throughout our line across all categories as we continue to innovate with new materials. Soft and firm support, which includes extra cushioning where needed and support with memory foam, are just a few details we’re highlighting across our spring line. Examples include our Mapleton collection of casual styles that feature a dual density, super plush EVA footbed, and the Joliette & Adelaide sandals with full-grain leather wrapped dual density footbeds with built-in arch support and hand burnishing for a vintage look. The overriding theme is offer ing versatility in end-use with no sacrifice on comfort, but a desire for style, too. Customers need to be able to wear their shoes to more places. As for the spring color palette, neutrals are a strong theme—we’re loving all the new brown tones!

22 • october/november 2022
New Twisted X collection revolutionizes traditional Western boot comfort. The Tech X collection includes an Olivia Bennett rose collab. Dayna Malena


Rock On!

Alegria hitting a high note with Rok n Roll collection

CALL IT AN encore. On the heels of this fall’s highly successful debut of Rok n Roll—athleisure-driven styles featuring Alegria by PG Lite’s next generation rocker sole construction—comes the spring collection. Scott Cates, president of sales, reports that orders are already exceeding those made for this fall, which he says is a rarity for new lines.

“In today’s competitive and transparent world, it’s logical for retailers to wait and see what sort of response they get from a new line,” Cates says, noting that 99 percent of Alegria’s retail base participated in the launch of Rok n Roll. “But Spring ’23 has booked even stronger. We see that as amazing.”

What’s to love about Rok n Roll? It starts from the sole up. Namely, Alegria’s proprietary cushioned footbed that’s nestled in a durable rocker bottom outsole with built-in arch support. The combination reduces pressure under the ball of the foot, providing pain relief associated with long hours of standing or walking. (Think teachers and healthcare professionals.) There’s also plenty of wiggle room in the toe box to accommodate natural expansion of the foot, which often occurs after long hours of standing or walking. A unique rubber outsole provides slip- and trip-resistance for added safety, while the gentle heel-to-toe rolling motion aides in walking.

Then there’s Rok n Roll’s athletic-inspired looks. Cates says the aesthetic is in line with the current style preferences of Alegria’s target audience. “With athletic-inspired footwear dominating the purchases of medical and professional consumers, our design team brought color and material interest to enhance the spring collection,” he says. Design Director Megan Gold adds that athletic styling has overtaken the scrub world. “We’ve worked hard to pivot into a product that has the best features of what Alegria is known for, which is great comfort and arch support for long shifts, in styling our customers desire,” she explains. “Rok n Roll is an evolution of a true rocker sole in an athletic construction.” Rok n Roll SRP is $149.95 and is available in European sizes 35-43 in medium and wide.

Also new from Alegria for this spring is a lightweight EVA slides collection featuring the brand’s RecoverMe rocker outsole with molded arch support that promotes balanced pressure distribution and enhanced surface grip. In addition, the twostrap slide features hook-and-loop adjustability.

Cates says a goal for next year is to recreate the buzz Alegria generated when it first introduced its rocker-soled shoes, beginning in 2008. “Our story is simple, but it must be told to a new generation,” he says. “We need to get Rok n Roll on the feet of young healthworkers, teachers and service professionals. It’s one pair at a time, and it all starts with great product and great retailers to help tell our story.”

Good to Great to Grateful

Sam Spears, president of Ara USA, on the German brand’s latest comfort upgrades and prospects for continued growth.

What’s new on the tech front from Ara? We continue to build on already great technologies, such as our new athleisure Fusion4 styles, Leena II, Lilly II and Lynn. The woven stretch uppers conform to individual foot shapes, while our HighSoft technology, now featured throughout the line, combines highly flexible outsoles, a supple and padded insole, and a foam insert under the ball of the foot for an incred ibly comfortable walking experience. Some of our athleisure styles are fancy enough that they’re being worn for special occasions. We’ve also added more sandal styles with removable and washable footbeds, like the Oregon and Danya. Removable footbeds are a no-brainer, as consumers always complain that they get dirty. Pop them into a washing machine and problem solved!

Anything else? Subtle and sustainable technology improvements have been expanded throughout the line with bamboo linings, Lyocel laces and olive tree-tanned leath ers. Bamboo is an amazing renewable resource material offering a wide range of benefits. They include antibacterial, moisture wicking, insulation (keeps feet cool in summer and warm in winter), softness and hypoallergenic. Lyocell is used primarily in our laces. It’s a sustainable fabric made of wood that’s 100 percent biodegradable in a couple of months. In addition, Lyocell is a closed loop manufacturing process that doesn’t create harmful byproducts. Its production time is also quite short and simple compared to man-made fibers. That means less water and energy are required. Similarly, oils extracted from olive tree leaves has made way for a new tanning system that’s extremely healthy for the planet.

What are some leading style themes for Spring ’23? Colors are neutrals and earth tones, like sand, nude, dune, thyme and oyster. Materials are puntikid, linokid, metallic leathers, twinkle and bamboo stretch. Popular silhouettes include sneakers (with and without zippers), Mary Janes, slingbacks, wedges, ankle straps, chunky soles, loafers, driving mocs and casual and dress flats.

Who is the Ara consumer? Men and women of all ages love our shoes. They span the Greatest Generation to Gen Z girls, particularly on the West Coast, who are buying our shoes because “they’re cool looking and not everyone has them yet!”

Anything else noteworthy? We’ve recently hired a head of global marketing from Nespresso. Even before I started drinking coffee two years ago, I was always tempted by Nespresso’s elegant branding and incredible visual merchandising. Needless to say, we’re extremely excited about what’s to come. We have such exceptional product, and now we have the right person to help us tell our exceptional story.

How’s business? Extraordinary! To see where we are today compared to the heat of the pandemic is humbling. In 2020, like many companies, we cut expenses to the bone. But we never canceled a single order with Germany. We knew the U.S. market would recover, and we had to be ready for it—and we were. Fast forward to today and we’re thriving. We have more people working for us than before the pandemic and we’re continuing to hire in our warehouse to service the surge in business we are experiencing.

Goals for next year? Most important: improve delivery performance. That said, our product comes from Europe, and the challenges Europeans are facing are very difficult—like eat or heat. So, when I find myself complaining about the cost of gas, rising interest rates, etc., I remind myself how much harder it is for many Europeans right now. So, my challenge to deliver shoes on time is something I count my bless ings on every night. Sometimes we all need a little perspective.

24 • october/november 2022
Slides and kicks: silhouettes of the times. Oregon Lynn

from page 8

Indigenous dancers, singers and musicians, along with beading classes. “It doesn’t feel like a ‘retail’ store, it feels much more like a destination,” Tunney says.

Additional Manitobah flagships have already opened in Edmonton and Calgary with Ottawa and Toronto locations on tap soon. A U.S. outpost is in the build-out stage and should open this January on Main Street in Park City, UT, the company’s U.S. headquarters. “We’re also exploring a new store in Banff, Canada, and Jackson Hole, WY,” Tunney says.

The flagships are part of the 25-year-old Manitobah’s relaunch under Tunney’s stewardship that began last fall. (Founder Sean McCormick, a member of the Métis community, remains part of the leadership team.) This fall marks the first collections under the new team. Nordstrom Canada locations are holding launch events in November, while U.S. retail partners Dillard’s, Zappos and Nordstrom are also on board.

Tunney has great expectations for Manitobah this season and beyond. “We are the leaders in mukluks, moccasins and other related cold-weather accessories,” he says. “Our ecommerce business is up 55 percent this fall in the U.S., and we’re doing a snow dance in the hopes for a very snowy winter.” He adds that Manitobah will be at the December FFANY show as the company is now ready to sell to a broader distribution. “We didn’t open independents this fall because of our limited production,” Tunney says. “But we’ll be launching our independent strategy that targets the top 50 dealers in the country for Fall ’23.”

Let it snow: Manitobah mukluk boots are suitable to -32°F and waterproof up to four inches.
“It doesn’t feel like a ‘retail’ store, it feels much more like a destination.”



HERE 1. Chooka 2. Flexus by Spring Step 3. Remonte 4. Dansko 3 4 2 1 Kick it up a notch.

LIFTING UP LIVES in footwear.

Two Ten Footwear Foundation is an independent charitable foundation that’s been serving the American footwear community since the 1930s. We offer college scholarships for footwear employees or their children and grants for employee upskilling and professional development as well as emergency relief mental health counseling services at any time. Learn more about our scholarship program at

Learn more about our new Women in the Footwear Industry (WIFI) professional development grants at

Nominate someone for a Two Ten Grant or Scholarship at


Susana Ramlie, president of Blackstone Shoes USA, reflects on the people, processes and pretty shoes that have paved the road to success.

DEAR SUSANA, I’m writing to you from the future, the fall of 2022 to be specific. It’s September 1994 your time, and your life is about to change dramatically—starting with the sudden, tragic passing of Dad. It leaves you with a gaping hole and a huge responsibility—overseeing our family shoe factory in Indonesia, despite having zero knowledge of the business! But please don’t panic. It all works out in the years ahead. Life is good—one filled with friends, coworkers, companies and a career you will ultimately love.

Early on, you bounce between the footwear and golf industries, eventually returning to your true love: shoemaking. It’s long hours and hard work, but the rewards are far greater, like traveling the world, working closely with talented people and creating amazing shoes. You really hit your shoe groove in 2009, when you partner with Holland’s Blackstone Footwear, as president of its U.S. subsidiary. It’s a dream job, working for founders, Wim and Dick De Bruijn. Their guidance and faith in your abilities to produce shoes of the highest quality marks the beginning of a long and fruitful partnership. Soon after, you start making special make-ups for other brands, as well.

But getting to this point is no easy feat. In fact, you could sure use some helpful advice. Believe me/us, I know. So here it goes, and you’re welcome.

Be Good: Life takes its own course, and some things are just beyond your control. Bad things happen, even to good people. But stay good and have courage. As long as your intentions are good and you do the right thing, life will lead you down a prosperous path.

Listen Up: There’s two sides to every story, so take time to listen and learn. Listen intensely, as it will remove obstacles and carry you far in life.

Love Strong: You’ve had a deep love for people since you were young. Stay true to that, as it will guide your path in an ever-changing world. Love will take you places where you’ll meet extraordinary people, whom you will forever carry in your heart.

Ask Away: Ask if you must and without worry. Only a fool doesn’t ask a question when in doubt.

Laugh it Off: Learn to laugh—a lot. The problems of today are for today. Tomorrow will be another day with more potential problems to solve. Let the old ones fall by the wayside.

Father (Really) Knows Best: Remember those times Dad tells you stories of his work and the people he has met—the foes, friends and inbetweens. Take heed of his decisions—his weighing of the pros and cons, consequences and acceptance of it all. Hold those stories close to your heart. They will help guide you when you are weighing tough decisions.

Helping Hands: Throughout your career, you’ll come across a myriad of mentors who will guide you, shape your soul, enrich your mind and enhance your work ethic. They include Abbas El Syeik Ali, one of the biggest shoe distributors in Lebanon and who writes your first $1 million order. He’ll remain a loyal customer, no matter how hard other factories try to cut in. Frans Van Bommel, former president of Van Bommel B.V., is another big supporter. You’ll first meet him while visiting the oldest shoe manufacturer in the Netherlands and makes shoes for the country’s royal family. He pours his heart and soul into sharing his shoemaking knowledge. Embrace all of it. There’s also John McGoldrick, CEO of Bata Indonesia, whose wife, Rose, will encourage you to seek his advice when she learns of your early struggles in shoe manufacturing. He’ll sit with you for hours reviewing your plans and give his point of view. His advice on how to approach difficult situations is invaluable. A few years later, he’ll send the Bata Indonesia team to learn from you on how to manage sustainable manufacturing and preserve leather inventory. He’s so proud of you and your family, having rebuilt the factory and successfully delivering hundreds of thou sands of Goodyear welted boots in 1997, which was no easy task. Last but not least, there’s Dean Estes, former president at Wolverine Worldwide, who shows you what true friendship is, checking on your boots during trade shows and making sure you’re at your best performance.

Nobody’s Perfect: Don’t be afraid to make mistakes. Pick yourself up, dust yourself off, learn from them and move forward. Also, always hold your head high, because you’re good at your job. You aim to deliver the best products, whether it’s shoes or the golf carts you once sold. With such high standards comes the occasional mistake. Just do your best, so that when people remember you, they smile.

Work Hard: You’ll work tirelessly, often late into the night, only to wake early to walk production lines. As a perfectionist, you demand the best from yourself and your team. You push your team hard, but the ends (great-looking shoes) justify the means. Your current team of 750 people is one of the best in the business. Get to know them during breaktimes. Listen to their stories, watch them smile and appreciate their kind greetings. They reward your soul, as everyone in this world matters.

Well, it’s time to walk another production line. Good luck and enjoy the journey! Have peace with yourself in everything that you decide to do.

28 • october/november 2022


2022 october/november • 29 TREND SPOTTING PHOTOGRAPHY BY
DAYS 1. Jax & Bard 2. Easy Works by Easy Street 3. Enjoiya 4. NeroGiardini 3 4 2 1 It wouldn’t be festival season without them.
WEAVE BELIEVE 1. Aerosoles 2. Halsa 3. Enjoiya 3 2 1 Handcrafted detailing adds textural appeal.

Retail Workshop

Presented at Atlanta Shoe Market

It’s Time to Turn Your Frustrations into Freedoms

The framework for clarity and communication


One of the most important things that you need to be doing every day in your business is to communicate with clarity. Your team doesn’t know your thoughts. They don’t have your experience. When you begin to use the 5 P’s throughout your business, everyone will have a better understanding of the decisions they need to make at every level of the business.

Pete Mohr runs a coaching business and podcast called “Simplifying Entrepreneurship” which helps business owners cut through the chaos of constant change and challenges of owning and operating their business.

the past 27 years and loves sharing them so others can live the life they deserve as business leaders. Pete is also the owner of two Shoetopia stores in Ontario, Canada.

Renaissance Waverly Hotel - Highlands Room Sunday, February 19, 2023

7:45 a.m. - 8:45 a.m.

Come early for continental breakfast and networking at 7:15 a.m. - 7:45 a.m., courtesy of Atlanta Shoe Market!

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32 • october/november 2022
Naot Spring Footwear Geox Florsheim Ecco Johnston & Murphy Remonte EVA platform sandals.
Cross strap sandal by Enjoiya Opposite: Andre Assous suede loafer; sport sandal by Lamo

Leather sandals by Halsa; Opposite, from top: Patrizia adjustable slide; Geox leather sandal.

Woven leather mules by Salt + Umber

Wedge espadrilles by Softwalk Opposite, left to right: Cougar sawtooth sport sandal; canvas slip-on by Trotters

Left to right: Antelope woven mule; wedge sandal by Azura Opposite: Jax & Bard wood sole clogs.

Fashion editor: Kathleen O’Reilly; model: Margarita Babina/Major Models; digital tech: Chris Wert; makeup: Maya Ling Feero; photo/production assistant: Eileen Viglietta.

Into the Woods

Jax & Bard, an American-made wood clog brand, is making the cut. By Greg Dutter

JACKIE LINDSTEDT LAUNCHED Jax & Bard in 2009, but it wasn’t until the pandemic hit when doors really started to open. In fact, the Maine-based company is projecting its biggest season ever this spring.

While the macro shift to remote work style has played a role in this success, Lindstedt cites another, earlier pandemic-induced factor. Namely, a retail audi ence more receptive to hearing her story. “While the world was on lockdown, buyers had unstructured time and could take a quick video call to see and hear my story in an intimate setting,” she explains. “I was able to connect much more authentically and create collections that were customized whereas, before the pandemic, it was such a challenge to just get the attention of buyers.”

Lindstedt believes buyers are responding to Jax & Bard’s unique brand recipe that mixes sustainability, classic constructions and modern touches that enhance fit. Take its popular Libby Hill sandal, for example. It’s a “cross pollination” of a traditional wood-base construction and 3-D knit uppers, similar to athletic sneakers. “The solid wood base helps keep the foot in a neutral position, while the knitted upper gently forms to the wearer’s foot for a custom fit,” she says, adding, “No one else is offering such an innovative solution to comfort and fit in the clog niche right now.”

Jax & Bard’s brand ethos—one centered on slow fashion— is also of the moment. Examples include recycled upper materials like, for Spring ’23, ripstop fabrics in bold color combinations made from leftovers of other manufacturing processes. Lindstedt’s overriding goal is to create shoes that last. “I want my customer to love her shoes for several seasons, as an expression of self with pieces that not only offer a customized fit, but are thoughtfully created,” she says. Lindstedt believes such product attributes are in step with the new normal, where humanity is more at the forefront of business practices. “Thoughtfulness of designs and how they get to market must be more transparent now,” she says. “Brands have a responsibility to provide goods that reduce our carbon footprint.”

Lindstedt, who has previously designed for Sebago, L.L. Bean, Acorn, Clarks, Kohl’s, Walmart and Dansko, among others, loves the entire creative process, especially finding that perfect combination of art and engineering. “The designer needs to understand manufacturing, pattern grading, material yields and timelines, and then be able to manipulate those constraints into a 3-D work of art that can be repeated,” she explains. “These disciplines are what motivate me to provide footwear solutions for my customers.”

How would you describe Jax & Bard’s overall aesthetic? Jax & Bard defi nitely has a bohemian prep vibe. It embodies both a free-spirited whimsy and simple classics that are easy to wear.

What are some of the brand’s signature design elements? Aside from our signature wooden base, every style has some element of custom comfort or adaptive fit. I create styles that adjust to the wearer’s foot with materials that can stretch or flex—like flexible inserts and straps. These features are

celebrated often in bold ways. I believe that elements that make something great shouldn’t be hidden.

Who is the Jax & Bard woman? She’s busy and wants fashion that works as hard as she does. She knows the value of footwear that can support her throughout her day. Comfort, versatility and effortless style are her criteria. She’s also a firm believer in a capsule wardrobe, gravitating toward shoes that can be easily paired with existing pieces. She cares about quality and conscious design, and skews towards slow fashion instead of mass production. She stays loyal to a brand that cares for the dignity of workers and wellbeing of the planet.

What is the best design advice you’ve ever received? Indirectly, from Steve Jobs. His graphic designer originally designed Mac fonts named after towns along her commuter route. Jobs said they should be named after “world-class cities.” My takeaway: Always have a global mindset to design beyond your physical location. Another piece of advice comes from a Tim Gunn quote: “You need to work with what you’ve got.” As a Maine native and growing up in a family that built nearly everything from scratch and repaired instead of buying new, we learned to be very resourceful. When creating new pieces, I always look for materials or inspiration that are in my surroundings.

Who are some designers you admire? Diane von Furstenberg is by far my favorite fashion designer. The easy, ultra-feminine wrap dress inspired my signature sandal, Libby Hill. Pedro Garcia is also a fantastic source of inspiration with their adjustable, easy-to-wear, com fortable suede-and-cork sandals.

From top: The Libby Hill with 3-D knit uppers; the Upcycled Pu er; clogs crafter, Jackie Lindstedt.

What are some advantages of being a woman running a women’s brand? Who knows better what women want than a woman who designs and wears the shoes herself? I need footwear that can be versatile and comfortable, yet makes me feel relevant. I’m sure most women feel the same way.

Where do you envision Jax & Bard in three years? I envision opening a flagship that also functions as a working samples room to show people how our shoes are crafted and to provide made-to-order styles. In the meantime, we’ll be adding collaborations with select brands that share an interest in using recycled materials. We’ll also be expanding into Europe next year. It’s a very exciting time for Jax & Bard!

What is your first shoe memory? I was about six and my mother gave me two pairs of Dr. Scholl’s wooden sandals—just like she had—in navy and in red. The design was so simple, easy-to-wear and could be paired with any outfit. I wore them so much that the rubber soles wore down to the wood. I felt incredible wearing them. I loved the sound they made on the wood floors of my school. I can still see myself skipping down those hallways with them on.

46 • october/november 2022

are huge opportunities to build further on them, especially in our Travel Series. People are traveling more again. Outdoor represents another strong growth opportunity. We already have good product representation in that segment, but I come from a deep outdoor background and think we can expand further in outdoor. Every space is hypercompetitive, so it’s about identifying the categories and families of product that we should build upon. It helps in that we have a very loyal customer who makes a lot of repeat purchases. So, I see growth by creating additional offers for consumers who are already fans of the brand and then introducing other product categories to them and potentially new customers down the road.

Having worked previously at several corporate conglomerates, what advantages does managing a company of Propét’s size present? We can be more agile and quicker, for starters. We are small enough where I can also have a direct impact on every aspect of the business, if I choose. That’s not really possible in bigger companies, where there are multiple layers above you. At the same time, Propét already has a strong product line and operations, has great employees, is profitable and has good relationships with its retail partners. Those are all areas where we can continue to build


1. Publication Title: Footwear Plus. 2. Publication No.: 0006-9750. 3. Filing Date 9/16/22. 4. Issue Frequency: 10 times per year. 5. No. of Issues Published Annually: 10. 6. Annual Subscription Price: $48. 7. Complete Mailing Address of Known O ce of Publication: One Maynard Drive, Suite 2104, Park Ridge, New Jersey, NJ 07656. 8. Complete Mailing Address of the Headquarters or General Business O ce of the Publisher: One Maynard Drive, Suite 2104, Park Ridge, New Jersey, NJ 07656. Contact Person: Belinda Pina (201) 571-2244. 9. Full Names and Complete Mailing Addresses of Publisher, Editor, and Managing Editor: Publisher: Belinda Pina, Wainscot Media, One Maynard Drive, Suite 2104, Park Ridge, New Jersey, NJ 07656; Editor: Greg Dutter, Wainscot Media, One Maynard Drive, Suite 2104, Park Ridge, New Jersey, NJ 07656; Managing Editor: none. 10. Owner (If owned by a corporation, its name and address must be stated and also immediately thereafter the names and addresses of stock holders owning or holding 1 percent or more of total amount of stock): Carroll V. Dowden, 13 Cameron Road, Saddle River, NJ 07458; Mark Dowden, 180 Washington Valley Rd., Morristown, NJ 07960, Lebhar Friedman, Inc., 241 Central Park West, New York, NY 10024. Known Bondholders, Mortgages, and Other Security Holders Owning or Holding 1 Percent or More of Total Amount of Bonds, Mortgages, or Other Securities: None. 12. (For Nonprofit Organizations - Does Not Apply) 13. Publication Name: Footwear Plus. 14. Issue Date for Circulation Data Below: September 2022 15. Extent and Nature of Circulation. Average No. Copies Each Issue During Preceding 12 Months/Actual No. Copies of Single Issue Published

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16. This Statement of Ownership will be printed in the Oct/Nov 2022 issue of this publication. 17. I certify that all information furnished on this form is true and complete.

understand that anyone who furnishes false or misleading information on this form or who omits material or information requested on the form may be subject to criminal sanctions and/or civil sanctions. Mark V. Dowden, Owner, 10/1/2022

off, whereas if you have poor relationships with your partners, you’re unreli able, your supply chain isn’t working and your product stinks...I’ve been in those situations and it’s not easy to succeed. But it taught me to be scrappy and resourceful with personnel and money. Conversely, I’ve worked for big companies with all sorts of resources at my disposal. I think the combination of my work experience has taught me well. What I learned, above all, is it always comes down to human beings and the decision-making process in place. It goes back to fundamentals, like dates and gates, and then making decisions to move a business forward. You have to have the systems and people in place to execute properly. That’s why I’m here. It’s an opportunity for me to contribute what I know. But I’m also still learning. In many ways, I’m in my comfort zone, but coming into an established organization that is already having success takes me a bit out of that zone, which I believe is a good thing. It forces me to continue to learn and grow.

You’re not charged with reinventing the wheel, nor to keep it business as usual, correct?

I didn’t come here to do either. I’m here to help Propét get to the next level. I’m a quick study and I understand the challenges brands and retailers face. I’ve sat at both sides of the table. That’s why I try to be as accommodating and customer-centric as possible as I understand the needs of both sides. I also know, sometimes, when to call B.S. It’s a fine line, but that’s how part nerships can work.

What do you love most about your job?

I love a lot of parts of my job, like the ability to teach. I love how receptive our team is to try new approaches. I also love product. While my first priorities are growth and profitability—I’m not Chief Product Tester—some of the great leaders that I’ve worked for in the past have been huge product guys. People used to joke that Mark Parker (former CEO of Nike) was really the PLM guy.

I believe product is our currency. If we don’t have great product, then we don’t have a business. I don’t care how good your distribution or marketing is, if you have crappy product, it’s going to catch up to you. Fortunately, that is not the case with Propét. We have such a good foundation to build off and our product, unlike fleeting fashion items, addresses the needs of people with foot ailments and/or specific fit requirements. That’s a meaningful brand proposition and especially relevant today. At the same time, my athlete mindset tells me we’re only as good as our last race. We will not get complacent. We’ll always look for ways to improve our products and processes, and to focus on the needs of all our customers. •

Q&A continued from page 15
I don’t care how good your distribution or marketing is, if you have crappy product, it’s going to catch up to you. Fortunately, that is not the case with Propét .


Olive Garden

Tasty shades of green are on the menu for this spring.

48 • october/november 2022 PHOTOGRAPHY BY TREVETT MCCANDLISS LAST SHOT Fresh Produce
Naot Chooka Softwalk
Featuring Aetrex orthotic support and memory foam cushioning for superior comfort
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