Footwear Plus | October/November 2023

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Twisted X® is dedicated to creating comfortable, quality, and innovative footwear. After ten years with over 1 million pairs sold, our “Original Driving Moc” still stands out in the western industry as the original standard of comfort. Explore over 550 styles in casual, work, western and outdoor markets at Copyright © 2023 Twisted X Global Brands. All Rights Reserved.

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EDITORIAL Greg Dutter Editorial Director Nancy Campbell Trevett McCandliss Creative Directors


Kathleen O’Reilly Fashion Editor

10 Right On Kitty Bolinger, newly named president of Dansko, is steering the company in all the right directions. By Greg Dutter

Rosemary O’Connell Art Director Kathy Passero Editor at Large Mariah Walker Style Director Ann Loynd Burton Contributing Editor

18 Seamless Sensibility Leading comfort brands are marrying style with technology. By Greg Dutter

Melodie Jeng Marcy Swingle Contributing Photographers ADVERTISING

28 High Fiber Chic espadrilles in muted tones are on the menu for Spring/Summer ’24. By Kathleen O’Reilly

Kanna wedge with braided strap; scallop suede platform by Beautiisoles. PA G E



Noelle Heffernan Publisher Lizette Chin SVP/Group Publisher Laurie Guptill Production Manager Kathy Wenzler Circulation Director Catherine Rosario Office Manager Mike Hoff Digital Director

4 Editor’s Note 6 This Just In: New York 8 Scene & Heard 21 Trend Spotting: Chunky Sandals 22 A Note to My Younger Self 26 Trend Spotting: Men’s Slip-ons 38 Shoe Salon 40 Last Shot

On cover: Diba True platforms with Dansko knotted raffia strap. metallic Photography: Trevett McCandliss; suede styling: Mariah Walker/Art Department sandals. NYC; fashion editor: Kathleen O’Reilly; model: Ines Mambou-Missoumani/Q Management; hair and makeup: Nevio Ragazzini/Next Artists; photo assistant: Eileen Viglietta; production assistant: Olivia Mannarino.

WAINSCOT MEDIA Carroll Dowden Chairman Mark Dowden President & CEO Steven J. Resnick Vice President & CFO OFFICES ADVERTISING/EDITORIAL

One Maynard Drive Park Ridge, NJ 07656 Tel: (201) 571-2244 Ads: Noelle.Heffernan@ Editorial: Greg.Dutter@ CIRCULATION

One Maynard Drive Park Ridge, NJ 07656 Tel: (201) 571-2244

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, PO Box 300, Lincolnshire, IL 60069-0300. 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.

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Meet the New Boss

The First Noelle is laser-focused on making sure that continues. IT IS WITH great pleasure that I formally introNot to be overlooked in all this is the fact that Noelle is a woman. duce our new publisher, Noelle Heffernan. While While this is by no means a first for Footwear Plus publishers (more on she is relatively new to our industry—having first dipped her toe into our waters officially about that in a bit), it makes her an outlier in the male-dominated C-suites two years ago by working on select accounts of both publishing and footwear, not to mention a host of other fields. before being promoted to sales manager a year It’s high time my gender allowed more women to have a say in how ago—she has been a business associate of mine things are run, especially taking into account the less than stellar job for 13 years. we men have been doing in the business and political realms. Surely Thanks to my elephant-like tendencies, women can do better than the countless crypto bro frauds, tech titan I remember the very first days after she joined our company as an creeps, and bloodthirsty dictators, both real and wannabe. account executive for our sister publication, Earnshaw’s, a 106-year-old I also take great delight in featuring the newly named president of magazine that covers the childrenswear industry. This was back in the Dansko, Kitty Bolinger, as the subject of this issue’s Q&A (p. 10). She not days of office cubicles and employees toiling away at their desks five days only puts another crack in the glass ceiling, she also proudly notes that a week! You really got to know your coworkers, particularly in terms Dansko’s entire day-to-day executive team is now made up of women! That is rare. Then again, leave it to a company steeped of how they worked or, in some cases, didn’t. What in progressive actions ever since Cofounder Mandy struck me about Noelle right away was that she worked. Cabot came onto the scene. By the way, it happens Each day, I’d overhear snippets of her conversations to be the same year Footwear Plus did. as she methodically worked the phones. She was friendly, professional, informed, and determined. Speaking of our publication, Noelle is the ninth There was never a whiff of (cheesy WKRP salesperson) publisher in our esteemed 33-year history. For those keeping score, five held the title for what amounted Herb Tarlek wafting over our shared cubicle wall. to cups of coffee; one (Michael Atmore) built a solid What’s more, her conversations always focused on foundation over a six-year span that included the sheer what the magazine could do for the particular brand genius hiring of me as Features Editor way back in on the other end of the phone. She never used a one1993! He was followed by the late Thomas Hudson, pitch-fits-all approach, nor did she ever take a careJr., who had the brilliant vision (some might argue less quick-sale approach. Noelle is all about building blind faith) to name me Editor-in-Chief in 1996. long-term business relationships; many of hers have About a decade later, Caroline Diaco officially took blossomed into genuine friendships. That’s because the reins as publisher after serving nearly 10 years she truly wants what’s best for her clients, which is as our resident sales dynamo. Associate Publisher also what’s best for the magazine. It’s a win-win busiNoelle Heffernan, publisher, Jennifer Craig, another sales dynamo, joined the team ness philosophy that is rare these days. Footwear Plus shortly before that. Together, the three of us grew the It’s not surprising that Noelle’s extensive business exponentially over a 15-year span. Caroline, Jenn, and I were resume is stacked with sales experience. Publishing stops prior to on the same page, always wanting what was best for our clients and Footwear Plus have included Primedia Business & Magazines (Catalog Age), readers, which we firmly believed would also be best for Footwear Plus. Fairchild Publications (WWD), and Business Journals Inc. (Accessories The cherry on top was that we loved our jobs, especially getting to know Magazine). She is a seasoned publishing professional who has navigated so many passionate and talented players, past and present. We took our the alleged death of print and the social media-driven digital revoluwork very seriously, but not ourselves. We laughed a lot and learned a tion. Since assuming the role of publisher of Earnshaw’s in 2011, she ton along the way. has spearheaded the evolution of the publication to meet the changing Noelle was a close colleague of ours for most of that run. She comes needs of that industry. While Noelle remains a steadfast believer in from the same school of thought: Always do right by clients and readthe power of print, she knows digital can be layered on for a powerful ers, and it’ll work out well for the magazine, too. That’s why I know she and exclusive mix of coverage. As a B2B publishing expert, Noelle is the right person, at the right time, to take the publisher’s mantle of also knows that the quality of the readership is far more important Footwear Plus. I hope you will all welcome her into our crazy, colorful than overblown and off-target digital claims. A trade magazine only world of shoes. You’re in good hands. survives—in our case for decades—if the target audience reads it. She

Greg Dutter

Editorial Director

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Courting Courtney Kinderwhore chic roars back to life at New York Fashion Week. Love it. Photography by Melodie Jeng

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Seychelles and BC Strut the Paris Runway The brands’ vegan styles featured in Ivana Helsinki’s 25th anniversary show.

THE SHOES FIT—literally. Nordic fashion brand Ivana Helsinki needed a partner for the launch of its revolutionary responsible fashion concept, Edition of 50 Pieces, which restricts production of every item to just 50 numbered pieces. The label, which is also committed to 100 percent veganism, chose Seychelles and the vegan-only BC Footwear to accessorize the collection for its Paris show. Sari Ratsula, president/Queen Bee of the California-based brands, was honored on many levels to partner with Ivana Helsinki. For starters, it marks the first time the brands have been featured on a runway during Paris Fashion Week. “We believe fashion is something for everyone to enjoy and pride ourselves on having an attainable price point, so it’s incredibly exciting to have our brands showcased on such an elevated platform,” she says. “Also, I’ve looked to Paris countless times as a source of inspiration, so to now be a part of that in an official sense is a full circle moment and just really, really special.” Seychelles made exclusive colorways of three of its Spring/Summer ’24 styles for the show. “We made a special vegan version of our Seychelles Monsoon sandal, and we featured the “Used to Love You” heel in caramel velvet and a fabulous green brocade, as well as a beige Nobody But You boot from our BC line,” Ratsula says, noting that the brands collaborated in 2011 and 2012 for New York Fashion Week as well as have been featured in the label’s flagship stores in Helsinki and New York. “As brands, you could call us old friends. We’ve always been in alignment in both ethos and aesthetic, and we hold deep respect for each other’s creativity and work.” Sustainable design, of course, is a key part of that mutual respect. Ratsula, for one, views sustainability as a working mindset. “There will always be room for improvement, so it’s really about consistently making choices to do better whenever you can,” she says, adding, “When you compare the production of vegan materials to that of animal leather, that alone is less of a drain on the earth’s resources.” She adds, “Choosing Seychelles’ “Used to Love You” platforms were updated in crushed velvet and brocade exclusively for the Paris show.

renewable materials, like cotton and straw over synthetics, when possible, is even better. And making styles in small batches, producing only what we need, and ensuring all our packaging is paper-based and fully recyclable are other ways we’ve embraced sustainability.” Paola Suhonen, artistic director Ivana Helsinki, is certainly in agreement on making a lighter global footprint. “I strongly believe that only by limiting the volume can we be truly responsible,” she says. “We have too much of everything in this world.” Ratsula’s partnership with Ivana Helsinki also extends to their mutual Finnish roots. “It’s exciting for me to work with a heritage Finnish brand, considering that it’s where I grew up,” she says. “The way Paola uses true Finnishness and Finnish nature as an inspiration is truly magical and, quite honestly, made me miss my home country when experiencing the show.”

Black Footwear Forum a Big Success The fourth annual event hosted an Oscar winner and an array of industry leaders and corporate sponsors.

BIGGER,BROADER,BETTER…the Black Footwear Forum (BFF), held at Detroit’s Pensole Lewis College (PLC) of Business & Design, a Historically Black College or University, in late September, knocked it out of the park, reports PLC’s President and Founder Dr. D’Wayne Edwards. The free, four-day event, held in partnership with the Footwear Distributors and Retailers of America (FDRA), was attended by nearly 700 people and supported by more than 30 sponsors, including Nike, Microsoft, PepsiCo, Adidas, Target, Foot Locker, Designer Brands, General Motors, On Running, Puma, RG Barry Brands, Steve Madden, and Xbox. It featured presentations, panel discussions, and networking opportunities built around this year’s theme of “Culture is Currency: Know Your Worth.” “We are the culture, and we are the currency that keeps the industry going,” Edwards says. “Remove people of color from sports, entertainment, music, and fashion. Is it the same?” The event kicked off with a ribbon cutting ceremony to unveil the new Pepsi x Frito-Lay Refresh and Relax Lounge designed by PLC students and dedicated to Kevin Carroll, author, speaker, and agent for social change. The lineup of speakers included NBA all-star and entrepreneur Russell Westbrook, who encouraged PLC students to pursue their creative path and emphasized the importance of diverse talent in the design field. Panel highlights included the Black Genius Conversation, featuring Ruth Carter, a two-time Academy Awardwinning costume designer, moderated by shoe designer D’on Lauren Edwards of Michael Kors. Another panel was Free Game: Generational Purpose, a discussion on heritage vs. legacy with June Ambrose, costume

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designer and creative director for Puma, and Grammy Award-winning DJ Jazzy Jeff, moderated by streetwear pioneer James Whitner. Edwards says this year’s BFF served as a catalyst for innovation, fostering meaningful conversations and inspiring attendees to think differently. A particular highlight for him was showcasing people of color in careers attendees may not have known they were involved in. In addition to Oscar-winner Carter that included hip-hop architect Mike Ford, currency designer Brian Thompson, who designed the $100 bill, and rap ghost writer Grandmaster Caz. “BFF is a place where attendees come as themselves, not the brands they work for,” Edwards says. “This brings a vibe of openness to learn and share, no matter who you are. We’re all on the same level, and everyone is open to uplift you.” FDRA President Matt Priest concurs on the phenomenal BFF vibe. “I was surrounded by joy, gratitude, and positivity the entire time,” he says, citing the powerful lineup of speakers for setting the tone. “To hear from the likes of Larry Miller, Ruth Carter, D’Wayne Edwards, Jazerai AllenLord, Jason Mayden, James Whitner, DJ Jazzy Jeff, and June Ambrose…I was honored just to be in the room with such amazing people.” Priest adds, “We need Black employees and Black culture infused into the broader footwear community. I believe it’s critical to our collective success.”

IR Show is Vegas Bound The San Diego show is setting up shop in Sin City for its next two July editions.

IT’LL LIKELY BE just as sunny, only a tad hotter. Attendees of The IR Show’s July 2024 and 2025 editions will be at the Horseshoe Las Vegas Meeting and Convention Center in Las Vegas. The January editions will remain at the San Diego Convention Center. “While we love San Diego, we had no choice but to find alternatives for our July 28-30, 2024, and July 22-24, 2025 events,” says Gary Hauss, show director. “Comic Con, the largest pop culture event in the U.S., is held in July in San Diego and takes over the entire city. The only alternative dates would have been too early or too late, and the spaces available were just too small.” Hauss is playing the hand he’s been dealt, leaning into making the Vegas editions as economical, impactful, and enjoyable as possible. For starters, he views it as a sort of homecoming, particularly for the comfort sector, which has been largely absent from the city since the WSA Show. “We’ve always The Horseshoe is loved Vegas, and it just seemed like the perfect on The Strip. fit at the perfect time,” he says. “We got the dates and space we need, and while San Diego is easy to get to and the hotel rates are good, Vegas is even easier to get to and our hotel rates ($140 a night including a $35 resort fee) are incredible. Plus, everything will still be under one roof.” As for what’s under that roof, The Horseshoe (formerly Bally’s on The Strip) recently underwent

Lace me up: Uno sneaker with AirCooled Memory Foam insoles and Skech-Air clear airbag midsoles.

The fifth annual BFF is already in the planning stages. The overriding goal is to “elevate,” according to Edwards. “We’ve raised the bar every year, and this year the bar was set very high, but I’m already excited for 2024 because it’ll be better than 2023.” Priest says Black employees Meet the presidents: FDRA’s Matt Priest deserve a top-shelf event to and PLC’s Dr. D’Wayne Edwards honor their contributions and create a compelling space to network and connect. He’s glad he called collab on into Edwards to launch this initiative in 2018Skechers/Stones that his since blossomed at the band’s a beautiful movement. “I’m blown away bydisplay the impact BFF is having Carnaby Street flagship on our industry and grateful to have the opportunity to play a small in London. role in its success,” he says, adding that regional BFF chapters across the country are driving engagement throughout the year. “My hope is that the event continues to blossom and serve as a platform for driving change at all levels of our industry.”

a multi-million-dollar transformation. The convention center is part of the hotel, making it easily accessible for attendees. The hotel is also attached to Paris Las Vegas, offering plenty of dining and entertainment options without having to drive or walk in the heat. “Everything is new, and the rooms are beautiful,” Hauss says, noting that a key objective is to keep costs in check. “For the July ’24 show that includes one hotel room for three nights per 10x10 of exhibit space.” (Exhibitor fees and further details can be found at Travel costs, he adds, should be less, as there are plenty of direct flights and hotel rates, in general, are cheaper. Hauss reports feedback about the move is positive. “Brands believe this could be a game-changer,” he says. “They think more of their retailers will attend.” He adds that Vegas is familiar but also refreshing. “Many of our attendees love San Diego, and for good reason, as it’s a great place to have a show. So they’ll get the best of both worlds for now.” (The January 28-30, 2024 show will be in the Sails Pavilion, a glass enclosed space offering views of San Diego and the harbor.) Hauss believes a show’s location is only part of the equation. Size matters, as more exhibitors means more buyers, and vice-versa. Of late, however, smaller shows have been diffusing that potential strength. “It’s forcing reps to be in too many places without a meaningful ROI, and it’s forcing retailers to attend multiple shows in order to see all their brands,” he says. Hauss believes the West Coast warrants a big show. It’s why he created IR. “We offer a one-stop shopping experience where retailers can see their current brands and discover new ones, which is extremely important,” he says. “They can meet with key executives, network, and attend educational events.” Hauss adds, “To paraphrase Field of Dreams, ‘If you build it, they will come.’ Well, we’ve built it, and we hope to see everyone there.”

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K i t t y B o l i n g e r, n e w l y n a m e d p r e s i d e n t o f D a n s k o , i s s t e e r i n g t h e c o m p a n y in all the right directions.

ONE COULD MAKE a case that from the day Kitty Bolinger arrived at Dansko as National Sales Manager in 2010 she has been on a path toward becoming its president. Steadily and surely over the past 13 years, she rose through the ranks, becoming Director of National Accounts (2012), Vice President of Sales (2013), Executive Vice President of Sales (2014), Executive Vice President Sales, Ecommerce, and Marketing (2022), and, as of this September, President. Along the way, Bolinger expanded her areas of expertise and her responsibilities to include nearly all facets of the business. Her track record at each stop proves she is presidential material. But ascendency was hardly preordained. Bolinger earned each rung of the ladder and, for the latest promotion, bested a field of candidates from inside and outside Dansko. Ultimately, she was deemed the best choice to oversee the company’s day-to-day operations. (CEO Jim Fox is taking on a big picture role.) One of the many advantages Bolinger provides in her new role is continuity, which is of particular importance right now, given that her promotion comes during a period of significant change within Dansko’s C-suite. In the past year, the board has brought in new VPs for marketing (Christina Sewell) and sourcing (Susan Li). In addition, Kelsey Jayne was recently promoted from Design Director to VP of Design, essentially replac-ing Sal Agati, who oversaw those duties for the past 11 years and is retiring at the end of October. “We’ve had quite a bit of change over the last year,” Bolinger says. “And continuity is important to our organization—from the people who work in our headquarters to those in our distribution center to our retail partners. They all know who I am.” For Bolinger, continuity also involves keeping the needs of Dansko’s retailers top of mind. “They are No. 1 for me, and I’ve been a proponent of that all along,” she says, assuring that there will be no Dear John breakup letters sent to partners. “We want to make sure our retailers have a con-nection here.” This includes knowing reps, regional sales managers, and executive team members on a personal level. To that end, Bolinger is tak-ing the new, all-female executive team on a get-to-knowus tour with key

partners. “I’m taking them to Schuler’s in Minnesota; Shoe Mill in Portland, OR; Comfort One in the Mid-Atlantic area; and others because knowing them personally is really important,” she says. “I want [Shoe Mill President] Josh Habre, for example, to have the same comfort level working with Kelsey and Susan that he had with Sal and me.” Bolinger adds, “We’re going to continue to listen to our retailers’ concerns. That’s really important.” Many independent retailers complain about not even knowing who their reps or regional sales managers are for some brands, Bolinger says, and that’s not ok. Nor would it happen under her watch. “Dansko is here today because of those retailers, as well as the Dillards and Nordstroms of the world,” she

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Q&A says. “Being able to make sure that they know they’re being represented in the decisions Dansko makes is very important.” That’s more crucial than ever in disruptive times like the past few years, she adds. “It’s been a struggle at times to know which way is up. Now they have too many shoes. Before they had too few. Are they going to have a letter in their mailbox informing them that their number-one brand is going in a different direction? There are a ton of uncertainties keeping them up at night. But they should never worry about any of that ever coming from Dansko.” Dansko has steadfastly maintained this conscientious approach to doing business for 33 years and counting. The culture that founders and current board members Mandy Cabot and Peter Kjellerup (Cabot’s husband) established is set in stone. Jim Fox stayed the course, assuming day-to-day operations in 2016 on the heels of his 10-year run as CFO. Along the way, “the little clog company that could,” as Cabot playfully once referred to Dansko, evolved into a cornerstone comfort brand—one retailers rely on season after season to boost their bottom lines. “We’re not caught up in a lot of the bad behavior going on in the industry right now,” Bolinger says. “We would never, for example, fire the sales team if we didn’t make the quarter. That’s never been the way Dansko operates, and that comes straight from Mandy and Peter. They’d never blame a department or an individual if a quarter fell short of expectations. It’s about everybody pitching in and everybody owning it.” Bolinger believes Dansko’s management philosophy has helped retain quality people. “We’re based in West Grove, PA, which isn’t exactly a mecca for business,” she says. “But Mandy and Peter made a commitment to stand by their employees and treat them well, which is highlighted by their decision, in 2012, to make the company 100 percent employeeowned.” They could have sold the company for a handsome price, “but they feared what might happen to their employees under new ownership—or if something happened to them” before a sale, Bolinger says. Employee ownership, as well as being at the forefront of sustainability and philanthropy, truly makes Dansko truly unique. “We’re one of a kind. We don’t make short-term decisions. The brand is the most important aspect, as well as the 180 families that count on the brand. That’s always been the main focus in how we make decisions. And not having to worry about shareholders gives us permission to make the right ones.” Playing a key role in those decisions makes Bolinger’s new post a dream job. She never envisioned things playing out this way when she joined the company, but she suspects fate played a role in her career trajectory. Bolinger had just started a job as National Accounts Manager at Vionic when Dansko reached out. “I agreed to the interview because I

really just wanted to meet Mandy, who I had heard so much about and admired,” Bolinger says. “It just so happens she went to the same obscure boarding school that my mother did, and when Peter gave me a tour of the campus, there was a welcoming vibe about the place. It felt like home. So I called my husband and said, ‘I think it’s a sign that I’m supposed to come here.’” What have been some of your first orders of business as president? The first was getting our new executive team all in the same room and stating the financial goals of the organization. I wanted everyone to think about how they’re going to contribute to meeting those goals, and to ask me questions about how we’re going to get there. Everybody needs to be on the same page and understand those goals. And we all need to be communicating with each other on what we’re doing to get there. Now it’s a matter of executing against those priorities. What are some of your top priorities? We’re constantly and consistently evaluating our product, making sure it’s the very best it can be. We’ve dug in—maybe to a better degree than in the past—on what that formula is, but not in a formulaic way where it’s going to end up looking like products before. We’re looking at what has

worked for us as well as where we’ve stumbled. We’re trying to own the stumbles, but also look for the consistencies and newness to make the best product in the comfort space. We don’t ever compromise. Sometimes an option costs less, but it doesn’t perform as well. That’s not how we roll here. We think differently, and I think there’s a big opportunity sticking with that quality over cost approach. What are some avenues of potential growth? First off, we want to reinforce and reestablish our position in healthcare, as well as making her aware of the other styles we make, which includes sneakers. We’ve held a lot of in-person events across the country recently and gave away lots of shoes to healthcare workers, specifically nurses. For example, we gave the entire graduating class of Jefferson Medical College free pairs. We want to continue our conversation with healthcare workers and reinforce that we understand what they need and are delivering it. We’re also looking at new moms as a growth avenue, because we believe that’s one of the pivot points in life when a woman decides that comfortable shoes really pay off. Maybe before, when she wasn’t running around after kids, looks were the most important aspect. We’ve done lots of research in this area and are investing in more. We also have a great relationship


What are you reading? Our CEO Jim Fox just gave me Herding Tigers, which is about managing creative people. I’m really going to need it. What have you learned so far? I’ve learned that I’m not a creative person, and I don’t think the way that they do. (Laughs.) It’s going to be very helpful, as we have great creative people and I want to make sure I respect the way they process things. What was the last series you watched? The Crown, which shows that I’m not much of a TV/movie person because it first aired several years ago. What might people be surprised to know about you? I’m very much an introvert,

which is usually not associated with being a salesperson. (Laughs.) What is the best business advice you’ve ever received? I hear it from (Dansko cofounder) Mandy Cabot all the time: Stay true to who you are. It’s also great life advice.

If you could invite anyone to dinner, who would it be? Barack Obama. What is inspiring you right now? Watching my children, who are in their twenties, become adults. Both are out of college, employed, and figuring out life. It’s just interesting watching them succeed, fail, get back up again…all of that.

What did you want to be when you grew up? A lawyer.

What was your first-ever paying job? Ice cream scooper, and I lasted one shift. I thought my arm was going to fall off. It’s very hard work! What was your first concert and best concert? The Doobie Brothers was my first. And any time I’ve seen Bruce Springsteen it’s been pretty amazing. Where is your moment of Zen? My dogs sitting in my lap. What is your motto? Go big or go home. What is your favorite hometown memory? I’m from Haddonfield, NJ, which is where my kids grew up, and it’s of our annual Fourth of July parades. It’s a march-in-the-parade kind of town.

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Q&A with teachers, and are investing in activities that are more charitable, because educators care a lot about that. Those are three big buckets that we’re targeting. We’re trying to get to know all those women as best we can. These buckets extend well beyond clogs. Yes, and we offer a little bit of everything. Society has changed since the pandemic in terms of how people work, recreate, shop, dress, etc., and one of the great aspects about Dansko is that our styles are in step with this lifestyle shift. So, for example, while our clogs are flight attendants’ favorite shoe, we also have the Paisley outdoor walking shoe that’s become a monster seller. Leading outdoor brands are referencing us as their pain point. We’ve also offer super-casual items to dressy transitional styles that are suitable for various work environments. Overall, we feel that whatever our target customer is looking for, as long as she wants comfort and tremendous support, we have an answer. Will men’s be a focus going forward? Yes. We’ll start to reengage with male consumers for Fall ’24. It’ll lean toward where we had some success previously, which was more casual and all about support and underfoot comfort. The fact is the men’s dress category doesn’t really exist anymore. How would you assess Dansko’s ability to navigate through the pandemic? We came through it ok. There’s never been a year in our history that we haven’t been profitable, and that includes 2020. Our biggest pain point, however, was that our largest retail partner (The Walking Company) filed for Chapter 11 right before the pandemic. It hurts when you lose 185 points of distribution in one fell swoop. We couldn’t immediately bounce back from that. We also had reduced our footprint with Nordstrom based on some promotional activity, but we’re right back in there with them and our sell-throughs are better than they’ve ever been. Have you been able to recoup much of the lost Walking Company business? Our Dillard’s business has been fantastic. They are great partners. Our online partners have also been doing terrific. Our business at Zappos is great, and our Amazon third party business has also been very strong. A lot of that business was likely going to Walking Company stores before. Now she’s finding us online. And as you well know, the consolidation of independent retailers has resulted in some of

A chrome series update to the iconic Professional.

them becoming quite significant, and we’re lucky to be good partners with many of them. Is there a particular channel poised for growth next year? Since we transferred our DTC website to the Shopify platform, our user experience is better than it’s ever been. We expect that will be a strong avenue of growth. I know that retailers don’t like to read about that, but the reality is that when we create brand awareness, it helps all our channels of distribution. But we don’t offer site-wide discounts. We hold only four sales a year, which our retailers are informed of in advance and are items that they can also put on sale. We try to be very respectful of our retailers and present the brand in the most premium way on our site. I think most retailers are resigned to brands selling DTC online. What ticks them off, though, is being undercut on price and not having access to the same merchandise. I think site-wide sales and email blasts offering BOGOs are too common, but anybody who follows our site knows that isn’t the case. One time, though, I received a call from a retailer who said they couldn’t get a particular clog from customer service, but when they logged onto, they could purchase it. That’s not ok. It was a core basic style. That should never be the case. So as long as we continue to behave fairly and honestly, I think retailers are ok with it. The Dear John letters are another example. That’s definitely not ok. Of late, I’ve been hearing a lot about how it’s all about three brands right now, and if you’re not On, Hoka, or Birkenstock, you’re not relevant. But that’s a dangerous assumption. Brands come and go, and that often depends on how they treat their retail partners. How would you assess Dansko’s current overall strength as a brand? We have a very strong foundation, but we’re going through a bit of a slowdown with our iconic

Professional clog. Of course, we all know icons come back. In the meantime, though, we have to diversify our offerings while we’re in this valley. It’s about not being as vulnerable to the whims of whether the icon is hot or not. That said, we’re working on ways to reinvigorate our icon. It remains very important to our business and we expect it will be in the seasons to come, especially when people stop wearing oversized running shoes all the time.

It could be worse. Dansko doesn’t have an icon. Exactly, and we wouldn’t have as strong of a brand identity. I would say we’ve done a much better job at having a softer landing this time, whereas other brands who filled in around their icons did so with inferior quality. That has come back to bite them. We won’t ever do that. If a style has our name on it, then it better be as good or better than our Professional clog. How do you go about making sure those standards are kept? One way now is through weekly content creation meetings, which includes people from sales, marketing, product development, and our Amazon person. We want everybody’s input to make sure we’re all on the same page. For example, if we’re sending out an email campaign, we want to make sure the creative meets with what product development originally intended for that particular style. Is this where they see that style being worn? Overall, there’s just a lot more give and take in these content creation meetings, whereas in the past it was a case of product development making the shoes and the marketing department advertising them without any conversation about how the two should align. The same rule of thumb now applies to our photo shoots. Having product development and our VPs of design and marketing at the shoots to talk it through with the photographers and stylists makes for much better alignment. We just started on Spring ’25, and these relationships are now very solid. So now when we talk about the consumer, everybody has a say. What’s more, they like working together. It’s definitely been a positive shift over the past year. Why might it be important that a woman is president of Dansko right now? For starters, I think it’s very important to just show what women can accomplish. Let me clarify, what a team of women can accomplish, because it’s not just me. Our entire executive team is female. That’s unique. When I entered the industry in the early

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Q&A ’90s (as a tech rep for Timberland), management was dominated by older men. It has slowly evolved, but it still tends to be mostly men at the top. But when a woman is put in charge, you see what they can do. Look at what Michelle Poole (president of Crocs) has done, and what Wendy Yang recently did during her tenure as president of Hoka. You go, girls! I think it’s just a different way of looking at how to run a business. The fact that Dansko is also primarily a women’s brand and now has women’s eyes looking at how things are done is very important. In addition, we’re very much an organization with a strong culture of kindness and caring. And while being a woman doesn’t necessarily make those qualities stronger, perhaps Dansko is viewed as more progressive because of our female leadership team. I believe people want to align with brands that are forward-thinking and progressive.

Doing the right thing is a rare company credo, especially when it’s not always reciprocated. It is. But when a long-time retail customer recently called, informing us that they were going out of business, we took the shoes back and refunded the money. That’s just what you do when you’ve done business with that person for 25 years. We know their family, and we know it would make a big difference in their lives. I’m proud that Dansko says it’s ok to do that. What will Jim’s main focus be as CEO? Right now, he’s working with our board to get them in alignment with the long-term vision of the organization. It’s more guidance at 30,000 feet. Jim isn’t involved in whether a shoe should have a blue lace, or a green outsole. It’s about where we should invest. For example, if we have $2 million, we want to make sure it gets invested into the right marketing programs or new consumer acquisitions. It’s about making sure that funding is available when someone has a vision that’s vetted. He can then give the thumbs up.

“If consumers know us, they love us. But more people need to know us, because we have a great brand story.”

Mandy was a trailblazer in this regard. What have you learned most from her about business? Never compromise on what you think is important. For her and Peter, it’s extremely important to leave the world a better place than when they got there. It’s real. It’s not just saying what looks good in print. She and Peter walk the walk, and always have. In fact, they’re serial entrepreneurs. They’re doing it again in Belize with the launch of Silk Grass Farms, which is essentially a coconut water and cacao agribusiness. They’ve acquired hundreds of thousands of acres, a lot of which the delegated as a preserve. They’re reimagining the agribusiness by merging agriculture with land stewardship and conservation to create a durable model that benefits the environment and the people of Belize. As Mandy and Peter always do, they do it the right way. It’s very inspiring. It’s a big reason why you joined Dansko to begin with, right? Yes. I’m a firm believer in this precedent of leaving the world better than the way you found it. That’s what I want, and that’s what Mandy and Peter expect. I learned so much from their example. We have a monthly call to go over the business, and she often gives me books to read about how to be a better person, a better leader, a better company…everything.

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The fact that Dansko has never had an unprofitable must help in this regard. Oh, 100 percent. Our strong financial position is a huge asset. For example, some might have said we were crazy, but during the pandemic we didn’t cancel orders with our factory partners. We worked to reduce production and hold certain leathers to use later, but we didn’t leave anybody high and dry. And we paid all our bills on time throughout the pandemic. We didn’t ask for 100 days dating, or some of the other things that we heard were happening. As a result, we still have what we believe are the best factory partners in our space. They will bend over backwards for us. The fact that we could afford to do that is because we didn’t get ourselves into a jam by mismanaging our finances in the years before 2020.

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Where do you envision of Dansko in three years? It’s more of a financial vision, which is to take back some of the shelf space from brands that are maybe on-trend right now but aren’t the best partners in the world. Another big goal is to increase consumer brand awareness. With all due respect to everyone who has come >39

10/9/23 5:52 PM

FALL BOOT ESSENTIALS Ve r s a t i l e s t y l e s t h a t l o o k g r e a t o n t h e t r a i l , in the office, and on the town. The very definition of cool, calm, and collected.

CLARKHILL HI: Tough enough for urban excursions and hikes, the grippy sawtooth rubber outsole flexes with natural foot movement and the stitched leather storm welt offers extra durability. Additional features include premium, unlined leather upper; molded, leather-lined Contour Cushion footbed; and lightweight EVA midsole.

TORHILL HI: A nod to Clarks’ ’90s-era Big Gripper profile, the Torhill Hi feels every bit as contemporary with a streamlined, lace-up design that models the iconic Wallabee. Design highlights include intricate topstitching for a heritage-inspired, casual style; responsibly sourced suede upper; adjustable lace for a secure fit; soft, breathable leather footbed lining; removable, molded, part-recycled Contour Cushion footbed; grippy and flexible TPR outsole; and debossed Clarks logo and Glastonbury Tor fobs.

CLARKDALE EASY: The answer to every smart-casual dress code, the classic Chelsea boot sits atop Clarks’ signature natural crepe outsole with a durable rubber heel top piece and a premium leather storm welt for a utilitarian touch. Additional features include premium suede upper; elastic insert for a flexible fit and pull-on appeal; and molded, leather-lined Contour Cushion footbed.

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Go big and go bold this fall. Chunky heels and platform soles raise the bar on style with some ’tude.

PIQUE UP: Defined by a retro square toe and 75mm platform heel, the ankle boot pairs well with flared jeans and floaty dresses alike. Design highlights include a stretchy elastic insert for quick and easy on/off; durable leather upper; breathable leather sockliner; underfoot cushioning; and grippy resin rubber outsole.

COLDEN UP: Ideal for day-to-night dressing, the ankle boot features butter-soft suede uppers, a pillowy foam footbed, and soft linings that wrap feet in comfort. Additional design highlights include subtle stitching details; 80 mm, easy-to-wear block heel; and a grippy, lightweight outsole.

ORIANNA 2 HIKE: Part hiker/part combat boot and all style. Design highlights include premium, responsibly sourced pebble nubuck leather upper; hiking-inspired details like metal eyelets and lace hooks; padded collar; textile lining; breathable leather sockliner; removable, leather-lined Contour Cushion footbed; 50 mm heel height; and lug triple-layer outsole combining TPR and EVA for an ultra-lightweight durability.

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defining comfort

Seamless Sensibility Unlike the athletic category that calls attention to cushioning and fit features as much as possible, the comfort sector is far more subtle in its approach to design. By no means, though, are those aspects any less important. The key is seamless integration of comfort technologies that allows style to take center stage. Here, an array of brands present their seamless approach to comfort and style for Spring/Summer ’24. —Greg Dutter

Aetrex Gaining Steam The shoes and technology company is firing on all cylinders.

AETREX PRESIDENT EVAN SCHWARTZ is a glass-is-full kind of person, by nature. So are brothers Larry and Matt, CEO and Chief Revenue Officer, respectively. But the Jersey boys are even more upbeat than usual about the company’s prospects for growth next year and beyond. The positivity stems largely from its diversified portfolio that includes in-store foot scanning devices, custom orthotics, and a growing array of comfort shoes. The latter has been an especially bright spot of late. “We’re coming off a very strong season with high turns and strong consumer demand which, in turn, is helping us gain shelf space,” reports Evan Schwartz. “Retailers are expressing interest in expanding color and style offerings for our key-performing, core styles for Spring/Summer ’24.” Schwartz cites Aetrex’s wedge and sandal collections as expected highlights for next season. Standout styles include a new flat casual sandal (Tamara) and two new wedges, Ashley and Anna, as well as the Vania platform sandal. “We’re also introducing a block heel style (Kristin), which features a new heel height for us, as well as a different silhouette.

Kristin and Tamara

It’s a versatile style that can easily be dressed up or down.” There are also several new product launches in the offering that expand on and complement the brand’s best-selling Jillian and Sydney sandal styles, according to Schwartz. “They all feature our signature arch support, cork footbeds, and premium materials that combine the best in comfort and style. And, like all Aetrex footwear, they also incorporate the learnings and data from our foot scanning technology, offering premium support and a great fit.” It helps, Schwartz says, that Aetrex lies in the sweet spot from a macro fashion and lifestyle perspective—one that he doesn’t see changing anytime soon. “The growing health and well-being trends have contributed to educating consumers about the importance of support and alignment in footwear,” he says. “Our ability to combine all the data points from our millions of scans with premium comfort features and on-trend styling positions us well with today’s consumer who does not want to sacrifice style for comfort.” Indeed, Aetrex offers multiple points of customer contact that can enhance retailers’ bottom lines.

It’s a win-win-win potential. Speaking of which, the company’s reputation as a reliable partner is another winning attribute. “We do a lot to support our independent retailers, in particular, who’ve always been important to our business,” Schwartz says. “We support their sell-through. It’s a true partnership. They recognize the staying power of our brand, and we’re proud that we’re a top-performing vendor with many of our accounts.”


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10/11/23 7:12 AM

Sedonia slides from the TravelActiv collection.

Ecco Sees the Light

The Danish brand debuts LYTR midsole along with a plethora of new styles.

ECCO’S SPRING/SUMMER ’24 collection is highlighted by the introduction of its LYTR midsole technology—a bio-based material that enhances cushioning, reduces weight, improves shock absorption, is easier to clean, and lasts longer—all while lessening the impact on the environment. LYTR will debut in the Biom 2.2 natural motion running and Soft 60 casual styles. “It’s our lightest and softest midsole yet,” says Brandy LaPlante, sales manager for Ecco USA, adding that the Soft 60 will also feature the brand’s DriTan leather, which uses less water in the tanning process. “DriTan saves enough water to keep 9,000 people hydrated for one year.” From a big picture perspective, LaPlante says Ecco’s new season is all about color. “We have a plethora of options in women’s, from muted pastels, bold summer pops, and metallic details. And in men’s, we stay pretty classic, but we’ll continue with our new fall pop of dark clay, which plays into an olive green tone.” With regard to silhouettes, LaPlante cites new dress and fashion launches in women’s within its Sculpted collection that features heel heights from 35 mm to 55 mm. In addition, there are new platform soles and uppers within the Cozmo sandal collection. “We’ll also have an expansion in our core collection with new modern colorations in key groups like Soft 7, Yucatan, Flowt, and our men’s hybrid groups featuring the S Lite Moc and ST.1 Hybrid,” she says. Helping Ecco zero in on trend-right colors and styles for the U.S. market is its design studio in the Brooklyn Navy Yard. The 7,000-squarefoot studio opened in mid 2022 and has met all expectations, both as a working design center and source of creative connections and inspiration. “We’re constantly evolving and striving to connect with the consumer, and the studio enables us to add an American spice to our European recipe,” LaPlante says. “The team in Brooklyn works in tandem with our Danish designers to elevate Ecco in the U.S. market. It also allows us to react to trends more quickly. As always, it’s through collaboration with our key accounts that we can find elements that will enhance our collection in the near and distant future.” Biom 2.2 and Soft 60 sneakers with LYTR midsoles; a sandal from the Sculpted collection.

Propét Focuses on the Essentials The brand’s refined approach raises the bar on comfort.

AS THE SAYING goes, less is more. That’s the approach the Propét design team has taken with its Spring/Summer ’24 collection. Call it a quest for simplicity in terms focusing on the sizes-and-widths brand’s core values of premium comfort, fit, and durability. “Our team has taken the time to carefully review our product development process and refine details, redefine comfort, and elevate our offering of comfort products,” says Brad Gebhard, CEO of Propét USA. “Our Spring/ Summer 2024 collection focuses on the essentials and is a quest for simplicity.” That includes Propét’s Breeze Walker and TravelActiv women’s collections. The Breeze Walker sandals feature three adjustable straps at the forefoot, instep, and heel, while a supple leather lining helps prevent rubbing. It’s topped off by contoured footbed with microfiber lining and a durable PU outsole for excellent traction. Meanwhile, the TravelActiv series of casual sneakers and sport sandals is the brand’s take on athleisure. Features include a low-profile outsole offering extra flexibility, a removable cushioned footbed to accommodate custom orthotics, and a stretchy mesh fabric upper to fit nearly all foot shapes, including hammertoes and bunions. Both collections garnered strong responses during the recent round of shows, especially TravelActiv’s limited-edition Lily Pad green colorway. “We experienced a fantastic turnout at our shows, with Atlanta being a standout success,” Gebhard reports. “The enthusiastic reception underscores Propét’s expertise in cultivating a variety of unique and desirable color choices to both our dealers and consumers.” Other Spring/Summer ’24 highlights include the Propét Ultra, a carryover athletic collection that continues to create buzz, according to Gebhard. It’s success has led to the launch of the 392 DuroCloud for men, the brand’s next generation athletic style. “This shoe offers a high rebound ETPA DuroCloud midsole with a carbon fiber shank, a first for Propét,” Gebhard says. “We expect the 392 to be one of the most comfortable men’s athletic shoes available in the market.”

Propét Ultra

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defining comfort Two from the Ultra-X work collection.

OrthoLite is Hot

The leading insole supplier to introduce its popular O-Therm insole to brand partners.

BABY, IT’S COLD, outside, especially in Q1 of 2024. To protect against harsh elements, OrthoLite’s revolutionary O-Therm insoles will be featured in select brand partners, enabling consumers to stay warmer for longer, allowing them to be more comfortable, perform better, and go farther in cold-weather conditions. What makes O-Therm, first introduced in 2021, a gamechanger is that it protects feet in extreme hot weather, too. “OrthoLite O-Therm extends our brand promise of 25 years and counting to create the most comfortable environment underfoot within a shoe, be it in extreme hot or cold weather conditions,” says CB Tuite, chief sales officer. “This is aimed at people

O-Therm insoles

who live, work, and recreate in cold or hot weather conditions.” O-Therm is the only aerogel-infused, open-cell PU foam cold block solution that can be applied as an insole as well as a strobel layer or lining. O-Therm remains unrivaled in performance, according to Tuite. In fact, OrthoLite worked with a third-party thermal test laboratory, Vartest Laboratories, to quantify the performance. The results: O-Therm is a breathable thermal barrier that is 54 percent more effective, on average, at blocking the cold compared to other thermal insoles when tested at -108° F. In addition, O-Therm retains all the comfort and performance benefits of OrthoLite’s open-cell PU foam. The thermal foam is available in thickness ranging from 2 mm to 20 mm, enabling it to be combined with a wide range of OrthoLite top-layer foams to create a custom insole solution for a broad range of footwear categories. Tuite says brand partners (to be announced soon) will be introducing styles featuring O-Therm that block both heat and cold. He adds that OrthoLite has been working closely with these partners from concept to commercialization. It’s a “codesign” process that aims to deliver optimal comfort and performance. “OrthoLite remains committed to building, testing, and manufacturing footwear material solutions for our 500-plus brand partners, and O-Therm delivers on that promise,” Tuite says. “Our innovation team found a way to infuse our open-cell PU foam with a proprietary aerogel that creates the lightest, most advanced version of the world’s most insulative material. The result is a thermal barrier that offers optimal temperature control in a lightweight application, perfectly suited for our industry-leading insoles.”

Twisted X Launches Ultralite X The brand weighs in with a breakthrough work footwear construction.

IT’S WORTH THE weight. Specifically, Twisted X’s new Ultralite X collection weighs 20 percent less, on average, than traditional work footwear—without compromising comfort, says CEO Prasad Reddy. The unique EVA compound is as durable as traditional EVA materials, he adds. “When showing Ultralite X, our reps toss a shoe to buyers and they’re always blown away by how lightweight they are—it’s lighter than a candy bar,” Reddy claims. “And when they try on a boot or shoe, they’re blown away by the comfort.” Reddy says the impetus for Ultralite X came direct from consumers. “We’re always soliciting feedback from our customers, because our aim is to understand their evolving needs, in both their professional and personal lives,” he says noting that the initial response by retailers to Ultralite X has been very strong. “Our customers want to feel lighter on their feet, which lowers their fatigue over the course of a long day.” Hence the tag line: “Lighten your workload.” Reddy adds that it’s always gratifying to see a positive response to the company’s extensive R&D efforts. Their hard work paid off. One of Twisted X’s premises is to introduce a new technology every six months. It keeps the design team sharp, never resting on its laurels. “Creating footwear that is functional, stylish, and most importantly comfortable has always been at the heart of Twisted X,” Reddy says. “Everything we do is about comfort. In fact, our tag line is: ‘Rooted in Comfort.’” The exec adds, “We’re rooted in this mission to bring new comfort technologies to market. We never stop.” Speaking of which, Twisted X’s recent launch of The Circular Project, marking the company’s latest sustainable design initiative. The midsoles and footbeds are comprised of 85 percent excess foam factory scraps, preventing the waste from ending up in landfills. Select styles also include Twisted X’s ecoTWX fabric, a lightweight, carbon-conscious, and durable material made from recycled plastic bottles salvaged from oceans and landfills. To further the effort, Twisted X is encouraging consumers to return the footwear to its Decatur, TX, headquarters after use. The shoes will be reground into second generation footwear and other multigenerational products. “Sustainability is our area of expertise and comes second nature to us, but we’re consistently innovating and pushing the boundaries of what is possible,” Reddy says. “We believe that small steps can make a big impact, and I’m thrilled that our consumers can play an active role as we step into the circular economy and do better for the planet together.”

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Bold sandals strike a powerful chord.

Seychelles Sorel





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10/8/23 5:29 PM


A B U Y E R’ S G U I D E T O L I F E Trisha Sweeney, executive vice president of sales for Syndic8, looks back on a career in buying that bought a world of amazing opportunities. DEAR TRISHA, Happy Sweet 16! A proud native of Concord, NH, (Live Free or Die!), you’re enjoying junior year at Concord High School (CHS), home of the Crimson Tide! Having opted not to attend private school, you love CHS, where you’re among friends and bask in Division 1 bragging rights. You run track and play field hockey while trying not to skip too many classes hanging out with your buddies. High school is one of the most memorable experiences of your life. Forty years from now, you’re still surrounded by unconditionally loving high school friends. It’s why you hold all friendships in high regard. Before I tell you how your life unfolds, a heads-up on some touchstones. 1. You’re a planner, even though life doesn’t turn out as you planned. 2. You’re always learning. Make a point to listen and respect those with experience. 3. Develop your own style, despite pressure to conform to stereotypical business methods. 4. You’re loyal. Stick with companies as long as there’s room for advancement. It pays dividends. 5. Home is where your heart is. You have several opportunities to take betterpaying jobs that require moving away from Boston. You pass on all of them. Your greater calling is to family and friends. 6. Thanks, Mom and Dad! I know you deem them too strict right now, but they never hold you back from pursuing your dreams. You’re also blessed with the love and support of Nana and Papa. Making them proud fuels your drive to succeed. Now, about that drive. Early on, the plan wasn’t to take on the business world. It was more, “I want to work until I’m 30 and then settle down.” That is, until you catch the buying bug. Your career will take you around the world and define the important chapters of your life. On that note, let’s get started…

CHAPTER 2: Regional mass merchants are struggling to survive. Ames acquires Hills and closes the buying office. You jump ship to Value City, an Ohio-based off-price chain with a satellite buying office near Boston. You’re the buyer of seasonal decor. You embrace the dynamic close-out business. The excitement, urgency, and many ways to analyze deals (no two are the same!) means zero boredom. It’s the most fun eva! Remember: Knowledge is power in negotiating, and sweaty palms often get the best deal. Simultaneously, you work in product development. You visit factories in Southeast Asia and attend the Canton Fair in Guangzhou. Your creativity is at an all-time high. Value City is one of the most impactful experiences in your career. Then comes another fork in the road: Corporate wants you to move to Ohio. Not happening. CHAPTER 3: You join the king of retailers, TJX Companies, as buyer for the glass and crystal department in its HomeGoods chain, entrusted with elevating the assortment and creating a destination. In addition to traveling to China, you become immersed in the European market. You learn a ton about buying and running a business. The best practices you learn at TJX will guide you throughout your career. But you’re now approaching the Big 4-0. The travel is tough. When your best friend says, “Trisha is never around,” it inspires your next chapter: Hello, shoes!

CHAPTER 4: A friend introduces you to, a pure play start-up in need of a merchant. You think there’s no way you’ll cross over to the dark side of digital retail, but after the interview, your head is spinning with excitement. You have no idea what drop shipping is (yet), but you know you’re on the verge of something Trisha Sweeney, circa 2000, huge. Over the next 13-plus years, the Shoebuy team CHAPTER 1: The plan is to follow in your father’s shopping China’s Canton Fair. ushers in an online retail revolution. Under your watch optometrist footsteps. But then a friend nonchalantly as Chief Merchant, the merchandise mix grows from 200 to 1,000-plus suggests becoming a buyer. As in, “My brother’s girlfriend is a buyer, and brands. There’s no playbook. You’re helping write it! Prepare for a lot of she has really nice clothes.” Sold! And while you’re probably the least likely blood, sweat, tears, twists, turns, laughter, and a rewarding ride. candidate for a women’s college, it’s off Simmons College’s esteemed Prince Program in Retail Management! CHAPTER 5: You’ve experienced one start-up boom, so why not get in Upon graduation, you get accepted to Jordan Marsh’s coveted training on the ground floor of another? You cross over from retail to a technology program, a golden ticket to a retail career. You pay your dues, first workcompany, becoming EVP of sales for Syndic8. Suddenly you’re the seller! ing as a salesfloor manager. You then jump ship to Hills to pursue your Fortunately, you know what buyers need. Syndic8 optimizes and organizes dreams of becoming a buyer. You spend 11 years at the discount chain. reams of digital data efficiently, saving time and making ecommerce more You rise from merchandise planner to assistant buyer to associate buyer profitable for companies. to your first official buyer title, overseeing the pet department. As a lover of all animals, it’s a dream job! How can anyone be grumpy working on FUTURE CHAPTERS: What a long, strange trip it’s been, from merchandisa planogram for dog toys? Your passion for animals drives you to build ing at Jordan Marsh to growing clients’ digital business at Syndic8. Always the department into a destination category. It triples in size. The success trust your instincts. Every road you’ve taken has led you to an exciting, jumpstarts your career, expanding your buying talents to the automotive rewarding place and made you the person you are today. As Jerry Garcia (not kidding) and seasonal departments. (Mom is an artist and decorator sings, So many roads I know/So many roads, so many roads/Mountain for all holidays, so this area is right up your alley.) Your career is moving high, river wide/So many roads to ride. Enjoy the journey! onward and upward—until one of life’s unplanned moments occurs.

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Dallas Apparel & Accessories Market The Footwear Destination For Independent Retail

Bigger, better, convenient, inspiring. Join us at the premier market for the top brands in footwear, fashion accessories and jewelry. JANUARY 16 - 19, 2024

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e u r o p e a n t r e n d r e p o r t : S P R I N G / S U M M E R 2 0 24

Back in the Groove MICAM and adjacent fashion shows saw 42,000-plus visitors, marking a 21 percent increase over the previous September edition.

PEOPLE CAME,THEY SAW, they sipped cappuccinos, they networked, and they, of course, bought lots of shoes. Organizers of the Milan, Italy-based shows reported an increase in attendance from key markets around the globe—a strong sign that the industry continues to recover from the depths of the pandemic. More than 2,000 exhibitors showcased their latest Spring/Summer ’24 collections, offering buyers an array of styles across all categories. While maximal sneakers continue to set the fashion pace, many buyers were on the lookout for the next big trend. Might the pendulum be poised to swing the other way? Ballerina flats? Flatforms? Who knows? In the meantime, here’s some of the key trends that were on display.

Raising Arizona

Upcoming sequels to the classic Birkenstock sandal.

Buckle Up

Versatile monk straps are in gear with chinos, jeans, and suits.

Laura Biagiotti

Lemon Jelly





F. lli Alborino

Profession Bottier




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Clean Slate

All Rise

The cool shade of blue is the new gray.

Platform sneakers rule.


Candice Cooper

Finn Comfort


Men’s Devotion Voile Blanche


So Fresh

Mint is on the money next spring Lemon Jelly

Thierry Rabotin

Pons Quintana Rieker




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U n d e r s t a t e d s l i p - o n s f o r w h e n y o u r o v e r s i z e d r u n n i n g s h o e s n e e d a b r e a t h e r.

LaMO Rieker



Justin Boots



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Every kind




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C H I C E S PA D R I L L E S I N M U T E D TO N E S A R E O N T H E M E N U F O R S P R I N G /S U M M E R ’ 2 4 . P H OTO G R A P H Y B Y T R E V E T T M C C A N D L I S S • S T Y L I N G B Y M A R I A H WA L K E R

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Aetrex platform sandals with contoured footbeds and adjustable straps. 29

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White Mountain D’Orsay wedges. Opposite page: Raffia wedge slides by André Assous. 31 31

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Peep toe slingbacks by Impo. 33

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Clockwise from top: Sanctuary vegan leather wedge; frayed slide by Minnetonka; platform sandal by Remonte; Spring Step suede slide with rhinestone embellishment.


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Gladiator flats by Jack Erwin. 35

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Aerosoles suede fisherman mules. Opposite page: sawtooth platform by Seychelles. Fashion editor: Kathleen O’Reilly; styling: Mariah Walker/Art Department NYC; model: Ines Mambou-Missoumani/Q Management; hair and makeup: Nevio Ragazzini/Next Artists; photo assistant: Eileen Viglietta; production assistant: Olivia Mannarino. 36

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Let’s Dance

Randy Ochart, CEO of French Sole, on the classic ballerina flat and its potential for endless encores. By Greg Dutter


OME FASHIONS ARE always on point. The ballerina flat is a perfect example, and French Sole CEO/Designer Randy Ochart has been the Balanchine of ballet flats for four decades and counting. It started back in 1983, when Ochart opened a tiny store on New York’s tony Upper East Side. The ballerina flat was the store’s signature style. Soon French Sole boasted the world’s largest selection and became a mecca for women worldwide (including the queen of the ballerina flat, Audrey Hepburn, and many other celebrities) seeking seasonal updates on this versatile wardrobe staple. Indeed, the ballerina flat is one of those rare silhouettes that looks just as good paired with skirts and dresses as it does with a white T-shirt and jeans. It’s comfortable and easy to wear. Ochart saw early on that he was onto something. He’s kept it moving by seasonally introducing new colors, patterns, materials, embellishments, and subtle shape tweaks—all while adhering to French Sole’s highest standards of comfort and fit. His talents for reimagining and reinvigorating the ballerina flat has been an artistic dance all its own. “Ballet flats and are elegant, comfortable, and eternally fashionable, especially compared to some of the new regimen of sneakers and clunky comfort shoes, which I feel do very little to enhance the look of women’s footwear,” Ochart says. “We feel that there will always be a client looking for timeless ballet flats and they are a perennial favorite for many of our clients.” Ochart is a retailer by trade, who soon after became a designer. That’s because he had a ringside seat to how women shopped: what they gravitate to, what the adore, what repels them. The knowledge has given him a sixth sense when it comes to ballerina flats, which has since extended to other select silhouettes. In fact, Ochart says his first shoe-related memory is at retail, observing women focus on finding their perfect shoe. “The advantage we have is that our stores give us direct feedback on new styles, which we then parlay into design moving forward,” he says, adding that he has honed his design skills working alongside French Sole’s European factory partners.

Randy Ochart

For Spring/Summer ’24, that translates to bold, vibrant colors such as hot pink, kelly green, and a lurid orange. Ochart says the overall theme of the season is the Bold Ballerina. “We’re going above and beyond with mesh, raffia, braided leathers, striking color options, and slight-square toe and almond toe shapes, which gives a subtle yet noticeable difference from our classics that we stock year-round,” he says. As for a personal favorite in the collection, Ochart picks the Lacey Mary Jane ballerina. “It features the softest, most supple leathers, and the strap has a built-in elastic to fit feet of all sizes,” he says, adding that the classic silhouette looks to be popular in heels as well. For Ochart, the dance continues. The thrill of performing and the standing ovation from customers has him hooked. “Knowing that I have created a unique concept and watching it thrive each season is what keeps me coming back for more, ” he says. How would you describe French Sole’s overall aesthetic? Timeless, classic, feminine, chic. What makes a French Sole ballerina flat unlike any other in terms of construction, materials, fit, look, etc.? We fuse true fashion with cozy comfort. French Sole puts the emphasis on proper fitting. Our design and construction Bold ballerinas are what makes us stand out from the plethora a la French Sole. of companies that have sought to emulate our formula for success. Do you have any golden rules for design? The number-one rule is that it has to fit correctly and be comfortable, otherwise the customer will not respond. The second rule is that it cannot be too trend driven. We want our shoes to truly be timeless. We want them able to be worn year after year and seamlessly fit into any women’s wardrobe. Why is the ballerina flat an essential style in every woman’s wardrobe? It’s a timeless silhouette that never really goes out of style, no matter what trends are currently happening. A

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Put a little bling in your step.

ballerina elevates a simple jeans and T-shirt, adding a touch of understated elegance that sneakers just can’t do. What has your collaboration with Nicky Hilton brought to the ballet flat—and to French Sole? Nicky brings a youthful, feminine touch to the ballerinas with her own distinctive style. Her unique perspective on pastel colors, her signature baby blue sole, and bow details adds freshness to our already established French Sole brand. Nicky has also continued to be a pioneer of eco-friendly design, creating our first-ever, 100-percent sustainable shoes. We’ll continue with that initiative this season. How’s business this year? Fortunately, our business is on par to prepandemic levels, and we’re grateful to experience increases this past year. How are the stores doing, in particular? They’re doing great! Our loyal Upper East Side customers have shopped with us for decades. They always come in to look at our newest styles. Of note this season is the increase in women in their 20s and 30s who are coming in to purchase ballerinas. I’d say that’s in part because young women, who might have thought that style was for an older clientele, have been seeing it walk down the runways of Paris and Milan recently. Where do you envision French Sole in three years? We’re looking to expand into other markets around the world. What is the best design advice you’ve ever received? To concentrate and expand on a definable and workable concept. That’s what we’ve done, because in addition to the myriad variety of ballets and other shoes we offer, it’s the people behind French Sole that have truly made our business a success. Who are some designers you admire? Robert Clergerie, Fausto Santini, and Roger Vivier. All possessed a defined vision and relentless energy in pursuing their goals. Care to offer any advice on how to make a long-term go of it in this business? I would suggest to anyone who may be interested in entering the shoe business, especially during these challenging times, to have a definable concept, and then expand on that vision and what that represents to their client base. What do you love most about designing shoes? The limitless possibilities of creative treatments.

Q&A continued from page 15 before us here, hopefully we’ll be able to crack that nut better. If consumers know us, they love us. But more people need to know us, because we have a great brand story. On that note, more people are seeing the initiatives we’ve recently done on social media. We launched a couple of crazy-looking clogs that even caught the attention of Oprah, who featured our translucent style in her must haves for spring/summer in her magazine. That was largely due to our successful social media campaign. Our marketing team is leaning in on how to get consumers’ attention and inform them all about Dansko. We followed that up with another successful campaign featuring our chrome clog. It had the same engagement level. Brie Larsen even bought them and posted it on her social media feeds. Any obstacles to fear in reaching your goals? The biggest obstacle right now is the general lack of confidence retailers have. They aren’t buying, they’re not buying as much, they don’t know what to buy, if something gets hot then they’re unable to fill in, etc. While a lot of that is cyclical, we can’t discount all the distractions going on in the world at large, which included the murderer who recently escaped from a prison near our headquarters. We had helicopters hovering over our offices for days. That’s a distraction. And then there’s next year’s presidential election. Should we all just give up because we all know those years often stink because consumers are distracted and don’t shop as much? And what’s it going to be like the following year? Who knows. External forces are problematic, but we have much more ability to control what happens within in our industry. And right now, that’s about making our retailers feel as confident as possible. So when customers walk into their stores and ask for Dansko, they have it. What do you love most about your job? I love the interaction with our retailers. I also love being proud of the brand that I’m talking to them about. It’s rewarding knowing that we do right by our partners. We treat them well. I’m proud to be part of Dansko, and I hope that’s what retailers feel when we work together. • PUBLISHER’S STATEMENT 1. Publication Title: Footwear Plus. 2. Publication No.: 0006-9750. 3. Filing Date 10/02/23. 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 Office of Publication: One Maynard Drive, Suite 2104, Park Ridge, New Jersey, NJ 07656. 8. Complete Mailing Address of the Headquarters or General Business Office of the Publisher: One Maynard Drive, Suite 2104, Park Ridge, New Jersey, NJ 07656. Contact Person: Noelle Heffernan (201) 571-2244. 9. Full Names and Complete Mailing Addresses of Publisher, Editor, and Managing Editor: Publisher: Noelle Heffernan, 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 stockholders 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 2023 15. Extent and Nature of Circulation. Average No. Copies Each Issue During Preceding 12 Months/Actual No. Copies of Single Issue Published Nearest to Filing Date: a. Total No. Copies : 8,663/8,614 b. Legitimate paid and/or requested distribution: (1) Paid/ Requested Outside-County Mail Subscriptions: 6,370/6,134 (2) Paid/Requested In-County Subscriptions: 0/0 (3) Sales through dealers and carriers, street vendors, and counter sales:.0/0 (4) Requested copies distributed by other USPS mail classes:.8/12 c. Total Paid and/or Requested Circulation: 6,378/6,146 d. Nonrequested distribution: (1). Outside county nonrequested copies: 1,699/1,993 (2) In County nonrequested copies: 0/0 (3) Nonrequested copies distributed through other USPS mail classes: 0/0 (4). Nonrequested copies distributed outside the mail: 443/300 e. Total nonrequested distribution: 2,142/2,293 f. Total Distribution: 8,520/8,439 g. Copies not distributed: 143/175 h. Total: 8,663/8,614 i: Percent Paid and/or Requested Circulation: 74.9%/72.8% 16. This Statement of Ownership will be printed in the Oct/Nov 2023 issue of this publication. 17. I certify that all information furnished on this form is true and complete. I 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, 9/29/2023

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Bar None

White Mountain



Steve Madden

French Sole



On Point

Textural treatments and bows hit the mark on the classic chic silhouette. Bravo!

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Clarks® indoor/outdoor slippers for men, women and kids

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