THE SOURCE FOR RETAILERS • OCTOBER/NOVEMBER 2009 $10.00
Walk This Way Comfort Injects Some Swing for Spring
Special Report: The Trade Show Scuffle Wellness Market Ups the Style Ante Abroad View: Europe’s Latest Trends Vibram FiveFingers’ Tony Post Bares All
10/13/09 2:54:11 PM
What Swings Jazzed-up comfort styles put a modern twist on metallics and architectural shapes for spring.
10 The Main Event? The WSA and FFANY overlap has industry members weighing their trade show options and debating which will emerge as the place to be. By Leslie Shiers
EDITORIAL Leslie Shiers Managing Editor Melissa Knific Features Editor Angela Velasquez Editorial Assistant
Vibram USA CEO Tony Post shares how FiveFingers won him over and how consumers are growing more aware of the health benefits of natural movement. By Greg Dutter
CONTRIBUTORS Dorothy Hong Photojournalist Jamie Wetherbe West Coast Editor Kathy Passero Editor at Large Bahar Shahpar Fashion Stylist Paola Polidori European Editor
Here to Serve With 70 years of experience and roots in repair services, Dardano’s of Denver attributes its success to a thorough sit-and-fit approach to comfort sales. By Melissa Knific
6 Op-Ped 8 This Just In 24 Show Stoppers
ADVERTISING Jennifer Craig Advertising Director Rita O’Brien Account Executive Erwin Pearl Special Accounts Laurie Guptill Production Manager ADMINISTRATION Theodore Hoffman Special Projects Director Melanie Prescott Circulation Manager Sanford Kearns Webmaster CONTACT INFO Sales/Editorial Offices 8 West 38th Street, Suite 201 New York, NY 10018 Tel: (646) 278-1550 Fax: (646) 278-1553 nyeditorial@ symphonypublishing.com
34 Shoe Salon 36 Street 39 Kids 40 Made You Look On the cover: Sebago boat shoes; April Records tunic; chinos by Dunderdon; Comptoirs des Cotonniers fedora. This page, on him: Sperry Top-Sider loafers; Dunderdon chinos; YMC buttondown. On her: Me Too gladiators; Leranio Beatriz dress; Giles & Brother necklaces. Photography by Olivier Pascaud.
Greg Dutter Editorial Director
CREATIVE Nancy Campbell Creative Director Trevett McCandliss Art Director
4 Editor’s Note
Caroline Diaco Publisher
Spring Step, El Naturalista and Dansko.
A Wealth of Wellness Consumers looking for a more holistic lifestyle have pushed this rapidly expanding and evolving market to amp up the style for spring. By Angela Velasquez
Circulation Office 21 Highland Circle Needham, MA 02494 Tel: (800) 964-5150 Fax: (781) 453-9389 circulation@ symphonypublishing.com CORPORATE Symphony Publishing NY Corporate Headquarters 26202 Detroit Road, #300 Westlake, OH 44145 Tel: (440) 871-1300 Xen Zapis, Chairman Lee Zapis, President Rich Bongorno, CFO Sid Davis, Group Publisher
FOOTWEAR PLUS ™ (ISSN#1054-898X) The fashion magazine of the footwear industry is published monthly (except for bimonthly April/May and October/November editions) by Symphony Publishing NY, LLC, 8 West 38th Street, Suite 201, New York, NY, 10018-0150. The publishers of this magazine do not accept responsibility for statements made by their advertisers in business competition. Periodicals postage is paid in New York, NY, and additional mailing offices. Subscription price for one year: $48.00 in the U.S. Rates oustide the U.S. are available upon request. Single copy price: $10.00. POSTMASTER: Send address changes to FOOTWEAR PLUS, P.O. Box 8548, Lowell, MA 01853-8548. Ride-along mail enclosed. Publisher not responsible for unsolicited articles or photos. Any photographs, artwork, manuscripts, editorial samples or merchandise sent for editorial consideration are sent at the sole risk of the sender. Symphony Publishing NY, LLC, will assume no responsibility for loss or damage. No portion of this issue may be reproduced without the written permission of the publisher. ©2009 by Symphony Publishing NY, LLC. Printed in the United States.
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editor’s note the cool index 7
Is This Cool? Recently, I came across a proﬁle of an author who wrote yet another deﬁnitive book on deﬁning what is cool. Such books are rarely cool, but it got me thinking about how this subject is a never-ending debate among editors, trend forecasters, designers, artists, stylists, hipsters, musicians and even some politicians. And while there is never a deﬁnitive answer, I ﬁgured, why not solicit feedback from our pretty cool industry? The fact is we are tastemakers who are always in search of the next hottest shoe, which requires immersion in many sources of coolness. That said, we’re pleased to introduce the “Footwear Plus Cool Index” at Footwearplusmagazine.com—a running tab of what our industry thinks is hip across a variety of subjects. I encourage all to sound off and let a constructive debate ensue. Ideally, we’ll come up with a consensus on everything cool, from colors (Pantone reports violet, aurora and turquoise are tops for Spring ’10, but do they work on shoes?) to music acts (what tunes do you pipe into your store?) to trendsetters (who do your customers aspire to sartorially mirror?). To get the ball rolling, here are some of my current assessments: Rock guitarists Jack White, The Edge and Jimmy Page are all cool, a fact made clear
in the very cool documentary ﬁlm “It Might Get Loud,” which delves into their respective creative geniuses. White’s retro fashion sense—authentic, not costume-y—only enhances his coolness. In fact, White just might be one of the coolest guys around right now; he even gives Johnny Depp a run for his money. Speaking of cool music, my pick for the coolest rock group ever? The Ramones. Their stripped-down sound and fashion statement, anchored by Converse All-Stars, is as relevant today as it was more than 30 years ago. There are plenty of cool actors; George Clooney and Brad Pitt are popular references, and James Dean and Marylyn Monroe just may be the closest we ever get to eternally cool. But I offer Steve Buscemi and James Gandolﬁni, because coolness is not only skin deep. Many athletes are cool, like LeBron James, Lance Armstrong (his cause more than his personal life) and Serena Williams (despite losing her cool at the U.S. Open). A lot of writers possess coolness, and my ﬁrst choice is goth queen Joyce Carol Oates followed by Flannery O’Connor. As for places, I’ll nominate deserted Jersey Shore towns in the fall, when the ocean is still warm. On the ﬂipside, New York is the coolest city in the world, and it’s cool knowing that I’m always surrounded by cutting-edge artists, designers and other creative minds. But it’s not just the newsmakers who are cool. I have to say when my daughter slides her hand into mine when walking together through Riverside Park, it’s the coolest thing ever. Now, what do you think is cool?
Greg Dutter, Editorial Director
10/9/09 4:44:19 PM
D E T S E U Q E R T S O M
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Market ‘Elevation’ Aerosmith’s Steven Tyler knows what rocks.
Shop This Way
RESEARCH SHOWS THAT pumping up the jams in stores is a key component in creating a holistically appealing shopping environment. The right songs—not to mention their beat, volume, variation and more—can not only have a positive affect consumers’ moods and keep them browsing longer, but a specialized soundtrack will help differentiate a store from its competition. At the very least, strains of a rockin’ song can pull music-loving customers through the doors. So kudos to Famous Footwear for tapping Aerosmith’s Steven Tyler to determine the playlist for 985 of its North American stores. The retail chain (a division of St. Louis, MO-based Brown Shoe Co.) has invited up-and-coming musicians to submit songs via Sonicbids, a promotional music Web site. Tyler and other celebrity judges—including songwriting legend Livingston Taylor and John McMann, senior vice president of Atlantic Records—will review all entries and curate a song list for the family shoe chain, hopefully inciting consumers to linger while helping launch some up-and-coming bands. Tyler, of course, has long been a determiner of cool, but Footwear Plus invites you to share your own suggestions for what music keeps your shoppers in the mood. Visit our new online “Cool Index” to debate what’s hot and what’s not. In the meantime, below some of our staffers share which songs would put them in the mood to shop. —Leslie Shiers “You’ve Got the Love” by Florence and the Machine. I heard this while browsing the Palazzo Shops in Vegas, and it drew me right in. —Rita O’Brien, account executive 3 “Lady” by Lenny Kravitz. His songs are great to strut to when you’re trying things on. —Angela Velasquez, editorial assistant 3 “I Want You to Know” by Dinosaur Jr. —Trevett McCandliss, art director 3 “Single Ladies” by Beyonce or “Boom Boom Pow” by the Black Eyed Peas. Any catchy dance track gets me moving around a store. —Laurie Guptill, production manager 3 “Ooh, Child (Things Are Gonna Get Easier)” by Marvin Gaye. —Caroline Diaco, publisher 3
THIS YEAR MAY well be remembered as the Year of the Cutback. In art, entertainment, travel, footwear and many other goods and services industries, suppliers have curtailed, stripped down and (in some cases) downright cheapened their respective offerings as a ﬁrst line of defense against the Great Recession. Unfortunately, less is not always more, especially when one does not pay any less for that sub-par version. That’s why it was so refreshing to see U2 go over the top on its recent tour stop at Giants Stadium in New Jersey. It seemed no expense was spared—from the impeccable sound system that made the audience feel one with the music to the sheer rock ‘n’ roll spectacle that is the band’s part-spacecraft, part-cathedral stage—complete with an enormous video screen that put even those stranded in the nosebleeds right in Bono’s lap. I, for one, got my $98’s worth, which was about the price I paid the last time the band came around a few years back. In fact, I got more bangs, riffs and wails for my buck—a surpassing of expectations that, after a year of receiving less, was a breath of fresh air. The sheer enormity of the U2 concert is a stark contrast to the Metropolitan Opera’s latest rendition of “Tosca,” which was reportedly met with a chorus of boos on opening night. The stripped-down set (one reviewer likened it to a dank church basement as opposed to the Sistine Chapel-like backdrops of previous productions) coupled with shaky performances left the city’s opera-going elite feeling gypped. Many attendees paid the same amount, if not more, for a show that clearly suffered cutbacks on set designs and talent. One can only assume that the bad reviews will have an equally adverse impact on future ticket sales, which begs the question: Were the cutbacks really worth it? Soon after “Opera-gate,” I read a report stating how several airlines will tack on a $10 surcharge for those ﬂying during key holiday travel days, which comes atop those periods’ already jacked-up ticket prices. And that’s in addition to the surcharges for extra bags, not to mention the cutbacks on complimentary meals—hell, you’re lucky if you get a free bag of peanuts. There is simply little enjoyment in ﬂying these days, other than arriving in one piece. I dread the day the bean counters look at safety as a cost savings. Wait, they already are, which begs the question: How could that ever be worth it? Thankfully, any cutbacks related to footwear production are not matters of life and death. U2’s 360° Tour gives ticketholders great ROI. Nevertheless, consumers will not respond kindly if shoes that cost the same or more don’t hold up as well. It has been well documented how Americans have been scarred by the recession and, going forward, will no longer buy with wild abandon; now frugality and quality rank far higher on the decision-making scale than impulse and greed. But here is one instance where a resulting cutback actually might be a good thing. Word has it that the shotgun production approach to line making is being replaced with a less-is-more strategy intended to meet the demands of increasingly discerning shoppers. Rather than, say, 50 styles where half may not be so hot, the decision is to make only the 25 styles that possess real value. The overall cost to manufacture is lowered and the quality level of the styles that do make the cut can be enhanced. The result: retailers are choosing from a better pool of potential sellthroughs and consumers are rewarded with a better selection of styles. That begs the question: Why would the industry not approach production this way? This fewer-but-better concept is as refreshing as the U2 concert: Dazzle with unique, high-quality designs rather than drown in me-too mediocrity, and leave your fans screaming for more. It surely worked for U2. —Greg Dutter
6 footwearplusmagazine.com • october/november 2009
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THIS JUST IN
Rosa Won, 27 Fashion designer, Brooklyn, NY Wearing: Jimmy Choo, purchased at Neiman Marcus for $600. What do you think will be this season’s top fashion trend? Wideshoulder silhouettes and men’s style jackets. What stores are you planning to hit tonight? Barneys, Prada.
Carlotta Carrubba, 22 Student, Milan Wearing: Unknown, got in Milan for 70 euros. Thoughts on Fashion’s Night Out? It’s cool. I’m not necessarily spending, but it’s fun. Has the recession made you more budget conscious? I try to be a bit more careful and attentive, but I’m a vintage shopper, so it hasn’t changed my habits.
Louis Braga, 17 Student, NYC Wearing: Topshop, bought in New York for $110. What’s the most you’ve ever spent on shoes? $895 for Christian Louboutins. What’s been the highlight of this event for you? The Olsen twins bartending at Bergdorf. What stores are you planning to hit tonight? Patricia Field’s store and Barneys.
Kit Yeung, 25 Unemployed, NYC Wearing: Camper, purchased for $180 at the Camper store. What’s the most you’ve ever spent on shoes? $500. What qualities will make you splurge on an item? I’ll spend on classic items that will last a lifetime. What do you think will be the season’s top fashion trend? Jewel colors, like dark purples and topaz.
Indira Bhuyn, 28 Interior design student, NYC Wearing: Chloé, bought for $1,200 at Bergdorf Goodman. When going shopping, do you wear practical or fashionable shoes? Heels. You’re shopping, so you have to look good! What’s the most you’ve spent on shoes? $1,200—on these! What’s been the highlight of the night for you? Seeing all of the designers is a dream come true.
Window Hopping Style addicts clamored to see and be seen while browsing Fashion’s Night Out. By Dorothy Hong 8 footwearplusmagazine.com • october/november 2009
10/13/09 9:32:02 AM
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N LA T
ered due to the economy. Retailers, too, have seen their travel dollars shrink, and thus are increasingly turning to more geographically accessible shows. Others question whether a national event is the most advantageous platform in light of today’s buying cycle. Nowadays, getting a buyer to commit to an order six months in advance is a tough sell, since booking product closer to season—sometimes plucking product straight out of vendors’ stockpiles—has been a better way for retailers to stay on top of consumer trends. “Shows are supposed to be visionary going forward, but today people are buying ‘of the moment,’” Birki’s Mangione says. He also notes that, with many manufacturers making pre-visits to their biggest customers, the opportunity to present a “big reveal” on the national scene becomes a rather moot point. All of this has many execs giving FFANY a closer look. Though its primary focus on the women’s fashion market won’t draw the same breadth as a show geared to the industry en masse, and its multi-venue, hotel room-driven format goes against the traditional approach, FFANY president Joe Moore is not concerned. He says FFANY’s board of directors fully supported the decision to stick with the pre-set dates despite WSA’s shift, and that retailers see the value in a New York show from a fashion standpoint. “We’ve zeroed in on the major stores—the Nordstroms, the Macy’s of the world—and they are deﬁnitely supporting us, as are the fashion independents,” he notes. “For [other retailers] across the country that carry a bit of everything, it’s more of a decision. I think it’ll be a learning process for some who choose to go to Vegas and see if they’re adequately covered or [realize] they’ll have to come to New York next time.” Moore does not believe the date overlap is in the industry’s best interest, and believes WSA will be weaker in 2010 as a result. “Is that necessarily good? No,” he says. “But there is an advantage for FFANY; they’ve made FFANY stronger.” Could FFANY ever establish New York as the national platform? Moore says it might be possible via future partnerships, but the nonproﬁt hasn’t revealed any alliances yet. There are signs that New York has growth potential, however, and that the industry has perhaps grown weary of traveling to Vegas. Last month, Compass—a trade show for directional fashion brands that had been held in Vegas during WSA since its inception in 2008—announced it will move to New York in February. “We’re just listening to what the market is say- >38
ILLUSTRATION BY SNUGGLEBUNNY
WHERE WILL YOU BE come February 2? With both WSA and FFANY now scheduled to take place Feb. 2-4, 2010 (and overlapping again Aug. 3-5), both fashion footwear vendors and buyers will have to make the choice between Las Vegas and New York or split their resources among the two. The general sentiment? This isn’t a good thing—especially if you are of the belief that a national trade show is the ideal forum for the industry to exchange ideas, make deals, and discover new trends, brands and partners in an atmosphere that generates excitement for the upcoming season. “I have no idea why ENK [International, WSA’s parent company] and FFANY have to compete,” says Marty Rose, agent/distributor for All Black, who notes his small company won’t be able to attend both. “There should be a way to work it out so shows are spread across the year in a balanced way so buyers don’t have to decide.” According to Dave Murphy, Dansko’s executive vice president of sales and marketing in West Grove, PA, “Any time the shows conﬂict, it means additional investment in time and money for the brands. Anything that reduces the amount of business opportunities you have is bound to cause damage.” Birki’s vice president of sales and marketing Robert Mangione agrees. “If we pick one over the other, there’s a chance we may miss,” he says. On top of WSA and FFANY, Outdoor Retailer recently announced its 2010 summer market will be held in Salt Lake City Aug. 3-6, giving outdoor lifestyle brands yet another option and further complicating the show calendar. At the root of it all lies two main questions: What dates, location and venue offer the best opportunity for footwear retailers and manufacturers to conduct seasonal trade? And can this even be done on a national level nowadays? Positioned as the show serving all footwear categories and retailers, WSA has been that broad industry platform for the past two decades (give or take), but some large exhibitors pulled out of recent editions due to timing concerns and the rising costs tied to exhibiting and staying in Las Vegas. However, ENK (which took over the show in 2008) is determined to get the situation back on track. Changing the dates was step one, ENK president Tom Nastos reports. “We came to the conclusion that these were the optimum dates for a national show,” he asserts. “Did it satisfy everybody? No, but it’s pretty close.” Attendees also wanted WSA to ﬁnd a venue big enough to house the entire show under one roof. It managed to do so for next year, securing the Mandalay Bay Convention Center for WSA’s February edition and the Sands for August and future editions. Now WSA management is working to maximize efﬁciency so all vendors will have the opportunity to connect with key retailers. Bringing aboard ﬂedgling companies and fresh talent is also a priority to woo buyers seeking newness in design and innovations, Nastos reports. “I’m very optimistic that in 2010 we’re ﬁnally starting to go in the right direction,” he adds. WSA’s past management had lost the industry’s love, says Joel Sigal, owner of Littles Shoes in Pittsburgh, PA. “They didn’t make [the show] retail-friendly,” he says. “In fact, they became almost adversarial to us retailers.” So if ENK can reassess the goals of WSA and then deliver, perhaps it will regain the appeal many past attendees agree has waned of late. Still, some aren’t sure the traditional giant show approach, with its over-the-top booths, celeb appearances, etc., provides a solid return on investment, as vendors’ show budgets have with-
Timing, trafﬁc and turmoil spark debate over which trade show will emerge as the national leader. By Leslie Shiers
The Main Event?
10 footwearplusmagazine.com • october/november 2009
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O&A The Bare Facts Tony Post, CEO of Vibram USA, makers of FiveFingers, on the brand’s barefoot shoe premise and why consumers are increasingly buying into the health beneﬁts associated with natural movement. By Greg Dutter TONY POST, A competitive runner of more than three decades, always ran the way his running shoes intended him to: heel-strike ﬁrst, then a roll-through cushioned by layers of midsole shock-absorption technologies. And for decades it proved to be an effective method as Post completed countless marathons and shorter race distances. But one day, Post’s knee gave in to the wear and tear that not even surgery and extensive rehabilitation could repair. It appeared his running days were over. But as luck would have it, Post’s day job as CEO of Vibram USA in Concord, MA, involved not only expanding the outsole maker’s penetration in the outdoor and athletic footwear markets (see “Post Time,” p. 15) but also introducing brand extensions that would enhance the company’s image and reach. One of those extensions happened to be a “barefoot shoe” premise created by a young industrial designer and naturalist living near Italy’s Dolomite Mountains. Rudimentary prototypes caught the attention of Marco Bramani, the grandson of Vibram founder Vitale Bramani. The beta product would eventually become FiveFingers—the funky-looking shoes that ﬁt like a glove and are designed to exercise the wearer’s feet naturally, thereby improving strength, balance and agility. Product beneﬁts aside, these shoes were truly “out there” from a traditional footwear aesthetic. Few, if any, could have predicted the success that would follow the FiveFingers launch in April 2006. The list of skeptics included Post—until he became a running testimonial for the brand. Frustrated by his knee injury, Post decided to see if he could run in a pair for a mile. The company had recently enlisted Dan Lieberman, a human evolutionary biology professor at Harvard, to research its barefoot concept, taking into account his studies that stated early humans literally ran animals into heat exhaustion as a way to capture food before they discovered the use of spears. “This got us interested in the idea that people used to run without running shoes,” Post explains. So Post took the new product for a test run. Immediately, he realized the design forced him to land on his forefoot ﬁrst, then use the muscles in his feet and the ﬂexion in his ankles and knees, a movement similar to the landing when jumping rope. Seven miles later, Post was pain-free and in amazement. “My body adapted and went into what I realize now is a much more natural gait,” he says. “I could run comfortably.” The next day, however, Post felt like he had run a marathon—his leg muscles had never been used like that before. The company realized it would need to tell potential consumers they should ease into the shoes and gradually develop those muscles. But Post knew the company was on to something with enormous potential. “The idea itself is huge,” Post says. “It’s not because they look cool or come 12 footwearplusmagazine.com • october/november 2009
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“My vision isn’t to qualify it in a sales goal,” Post in a hot color. Rather, the product delivers somesays. “I think we will continue to grow at a rapid thing that improves the quality of people’s lives.” clip, and some of that is in our control and some FiveFingers’ sales tripled this year to more of it, quite frankly, is not. If we could grow a little than $10 million and Post forecasts exponenslower it might make it a little easier, but you tial growth for 2010 and beyond. There are now have to go with the ﬂow.” four models designed speciﬁcally for outdoor recreation, ﬁtness, running and casual wear, and Post says additional models are on the way. He believes FiveFingers’ basic health and wellness premise is in stride with consumers the world over seeking a What are you reading? Bill What did you want to be more natural, holistic way of life. In McKibben’s “Deep Economy,” when you grew up? First, fact, Post believes FiveFingers has Thomas Friedman’s “Hot, Flat, a Denver Bronco, then Jack quickly moved beyond its “weird” and Crowded” and Seth Godin’s Nicklaus and then a ﬁlmmaker. phase and its converts are serving “Purple Cow”—I make everyone as ambassadors for future customin our company read that. What is your motto? It’s ers. It’s a word-of-mouth phenomour tag line for Vibram enon fueled largely by the Internet. What’s on your MP3 player? FiveFingers: “Discover the “Trends spread quicker than they Andrew Bird, Beirut, Fleet alternative.” did 10 or 20 years ago, and people’s Foxes and Bon Iver. These artawareness of new things that imists just keep getting put back Which do you fear more: prove the quality of their life are into to my iPod shufﬂe. global warming or ﬁnancial learned a lot faster,” Post says. “I’m meltdown? Deﬁnitely global conﬁdent that our business is going If you could be anyone for warming. But McKibben to continue to expand dramatically.” a day who would it be? and Friedman say that if you A year ago, FiveFingers had one Leonardo da Vinci. He was prevent global warming you sales agency. Today, it has 28 reps in an interesting mix of scientist might also save the economy. the ﬁeld. “That gives you an indicaand artist and saw the world tion that when we say sales might through a different set of eyes. What is your favorite hometriple, I’m not sure that’s even an town memory? Saturdays accurate number,” Post says. “We If you could hire anyone taking a train to the Winter opened just 24 retailers that ﬁrst who would it be? Right now Park ski resort. My parents year. A year later we had 125 acI would just like to hire a few would drop me off in this counts and today we are probably up more people because things ﬁeld with a bunch of other to 600 accounts.” have been bursting. kids and say, “Now, make sure Financially speaking, FiveFingers you catch the train home…” is still a small part of Vibram’s overWhat was your ﬁrst-ever (laughs). It taught me a sense all business. But according to Post, paying job? Retail. I worked of community, a love of the it’s becoming a more meaningful in a ski shop where I grew up outdoors, about taking care of part of the company’s portfolio. And in Golden, CO. myself and being independent. while he is the ﬁrst to admit that Vibram is not the only company promoting a barefoot shoe concept, Post Just what have you tapped into here, despite believes no one else has made this level of comthe fact that FiveFingers look really weird? mitment. “What is unique about FiveFingers is I think that for a lot of people the footwear just that we had the courage to do it so extreme,” Post feels good. Right off the bat, there’s a visceral says. “Nike’s Free product had a similar idea, but sensory experience. The second aspect, which is at the end of the day, they made something that associated with our positioning as a performance was much more commercial, whereas we really product, is that wearers really take advantage of went for the full barefoot experience.” the features that the product delivers. For examNot a bad success story to date for a brand ple, enthusiasts of cross-ﬁt training—a vintage that originally toyed with positioning itself as a method now being adopted by sports teams, poquirky fashion item. Post credits Vibram’s North lice academies and the military—are looking for American team for seeing FiveFingers’ potential ways to strengthen their bodies not just by usas a healthy performance product. He is coming machines but in more natural ways. They do mitted to growth based on product improvea lot of kettle bell and endurance training, and ments that are relevant to people’s well-being.
OFF THE CUFF
FiveFingers work well for those activities. Is FiveFingers for everyone? I don’t think it’s for everybody, and we are OK with that. There are always going to be some people for whom it’s not the right product, either physiologically or [aesthetically]. I don’t think we are ever going to ﬁnd a product that appeals to everybody. Could FiveFingers have been successfully launched 15 years ago? Or is the world more open to this concept now? It’s hard to say. Good ideas are a combination of the right environment and letting consumers see and experience their relevance. People talk about this current wellness movement, but I spent the better part of the ’80s and ’90s trying to convince people to exercise for improved health and a better lifestyle by walking. I think wellness has been relevant for a long time—since the jogging boom of the late ’70s. You could even cite the physical ﬁtness craze of the early ’60s during JFK’s era that ﬁrst got people thinking about improving their health. What’s your take on other ‘barefoot shoe’ concepts? I certainly respect innovation. When people create their own new and interesting ideas it makes for a stronger, more vibrant market and it serves consumers better. That said, clearly there are going to be people who try to copy FiveFingers. We do a pretty good job of protecting our intellectual property—we have nearly 40 patents developed in FiveFingers. The reason we do this is to ensure we deliver the full experience and somebody else doesn’t make something cheaper that doesn’t deliver and sours somebody’s taste on the FiveFingers concept. Might we see a barefoot shoe section in stores some day? I think there will be more footwear concepts that encourage more natural movement in general, and that’s a good thing for consumers. There will be lots of people who will create interesting designs that will evolve from this. And there already are a few—Vivo Barefoot [by Terra Plana] does a nice job of offering a barefoot experience. How does barefoot ﬁt alongside the rockersole wellness craze? It’s a little different. I respect what some of those
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Having hit his stride as the head of Vibram FiveFingers, Tony Post’s career in footwear can be traced back to the starting block. —G.D.
MORE THAN 35 years ago, Tony Post ran an intramural race at Tulsa University, where his impressive time in the mile caught the attention of the school’s track coach. “He said, ‘You should come out for the team,’” Post recalls, noting he was a writing major who was at work when not at class. When the coach offered Post a scholarship to help pay him for college, he was off and running— in races that eventually led him into a long and successful career in the shoe business. Post-college, Post still wanted to run competitively and moved with his then-girlfriend (now wife of 26 years) back to her home in New England—a running hotspot in the early ’80s. To make ends meet, Post managed a local restaurant. One of the eatery’s co-owners also owned a Nike distributorship; the other ran two athletic footwear stores north of Boston. Both helped spawn Post’s interest and contacts in the shoe business. Once Post accepted the fact that he wasn’t going to be the next Alberto Salazar, he decided to get more serious about a career. Nike was a possibility, but Post thought the $700-million company at the time was “huge” and preferred something smaller. He’d read about how Rockport (a roughly $30 million business at the time) was incorporating athletic technology in its casual shoes—an idea he found compelling. A cold call led him to a job as a Rockport customer service supervisor, Post’s initiation to the industry. He eventually crossed over into Rockport’s marketing group, just when the brand began promoting the concept of walking for exercise.
Soon after, Post took the helm at the Rockport Walk Institute, where he ran numerous walking-related promotions—one of which involved a person walking 11,000 miles through all 50 states. “It was a grassroots approach telling people they could walk to lose weight and get healthy,” Post recalls. “But at the time a lot of people said, ‘Walking? What’s next, sitting?’ We really had to sell the concept of walking for health and exercise.” Post credits Bruce Katz, then owner of Rockport, with the vision that convincing consumers of the health beneﬁts of walking would be a more effective approach than just trying to sell the product. “He knew the shoes would sell if we could convince people that walking was good for you,” Post says. Katz was right. Rockport was soon acquired by Reebok and the brand blossomed. During its rapid growth phase, Post became product manager for men’s, complementing his marketing and sales experience. He spent 15 years at Rockport, leaving in ’99 to join Katz on a Web venture before getting back into footwear as CEO of Vibram’s new North American division in 2001. The ensuing eight years have been exactly what Vibram sought from Post’s leadership, starting with an expansion of the company’s components reach beyond its backpacking and work roots. “Our challenge was to make it relevant to a younger and broader audience,” he says. The company targeted snowboarding and now make soles for Burton and K2, as well as mountain biking brands such as Shimano, Lake and Scott USA.
“We now have a much deeper penetration in all of outdoor recreation, plus many active-casual brands and a few high-end fashion brands.” Post says Vibram is currently making more than 30 million soles a year and working alongside many talented companies. “We are inside their R&D centers working at the genesis of their ideas, and we’ve built a reputation where people now call us to help build something great,” he says. Post’s second major directive was to expand Vibram’s reach into ﬁnished products. “We wanted to be more than just a components brand to increase our strength and build a relationship with the consumer,” he says. “When we came across this idea of FiveFingers, it seemed like a really interesting ﬁt.” FiveFingers, which launched in April 2006, has generated tremendous name recognition for Vibram without cannibalizing existing business. It’s been a win-win for the company and Post, whose challenge now is trying to keep pace with exponential growth. But he says he’s up to the task and credits his team for putting in the extra effort. “Any time you have a business triple in size you never have enough people, so everybody is working twice as hard as they should,” he says. “But I love watching our team enjoy its success together.” In fact, Post is now more than happy to play the role of coach. “After a certain number of years, it’s not about myself,” he says. “When I bump into people in airports who are so passionate about what FiveFingers has meant to them, that is reward enough.”
brands are doing, but again you could go back to the Earth shoe of the ’70s and its wave sole, and Rockport used to market its rocker proﬁle during the ’80s. I don’t want to take anything away from MBT, as they have done a very good job of delivering an experience and I see people wearing them all the time. Consumers are clearly ﬁnding it a rewarding experience, and that’s good for retailers. They are creating innovation with the idea of improving the quality of people’s lives, and how can that be a bad thing?
Can FiveFingers co-exist peacefully alongside traditional running shoes? There are two ways to answer that. One: Consumers deserve an alternative. That said, some people use FiveFingers as a training tool for all the beneﬁts I just described and may use traditional footwear at other times. Second: FiveFingers are not for every occasion. I wouldn’t climb Everest in a pair or wear them on a 5-degree day or in certain work environments. You still need boots and shoes for many occasions. Second, I believe that we’ve been pretty upfront from the very beginning—we showed the product to all of our key wholesale customers before we launched it so they knew what we were doing. Besides, not all of our customers use Vibram soles exclusively, so fair is fair. More importantly, it’s an additional sale for the retailer, and I think our customers realize that as well. We wanted to showcase innovation and raise the proﬁle of the Vibram brand in a way that would also help our sole business. FiveFingers has delivered on that goal.
Can running companies make a barefoot model based on their traditional designs, or is that contradictory? The next couple of years are going to be quite interesting for the running market. We post plenty of links on our Web site that suggest that midsole cushioning and pronation control technologies of the past and even now might not necessarily have been a good thing. Maybe injuries didn’t really decrease during this period, despite all of the money that was spent on technology, advanced concept development and marketing. The reality is that people are still getting injured and then they can’t run; and if they don’t run, they are not going to buy running shoes.
In my opinion, the wellness category presents enormous potential going forward. I agree. To me, wellness is a more proactive approach to comfort footwear. Speciﬁcally, with FiveFingers you’ll strengthen the muscles in your feet, improve range of motion in your toes and ankles, and improve neural function—which is important to balance—and agility as well as spine alignment. That’s all connected to wellness, and there’s nothing wrong with that.
Wow, what if the athletic companies were approaching shoe design all wrong? Well, it depends on the individual. I’m affected in both ways: I’m a part of the footwear industry and I’m also a consumer who has been an avid runner for 35 years. If I weren’t the president of
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COME SEE FOR YOURSELF...
O&A Vibram FiveFingers, I would be grateful that the product came along because I can run again. And while I don’t know if everything the industry did before was wrong, I do know there’s something right about FiveFingers. I think the jury is out for some people, but we believe that this is a healthier way to run and move. Taking into account the rapid growth of FiveFingers, might you be one of the few people optimistic about business right now? Well, keep in mind we still have a very mature business in the sole industry, so we suffer along with other brands when their business is down. Thankfully, certain partners’ business is still pretty darn good— like Merrell, Ugg and a few others. Certainly, the work boot market is feeling the economy the most. In the meantime, we’ll continue to develop new concepts and innovations and target new market segments. From your career perspective, has 2009 been unlike any other year? Actually, 2008 was the most unusual year for me. All of us were confronted with the incredible price increases in China—the cost of materials was increasing far faster than we could pass those costs along. Everybody took shorter margins while gritting their teeth through the challenges. And once all of that product was delivered to market, the ﬁnancial crisis put such a halt on retail that inventories backed up. While that lack of demand allowed prices to go back down, it didn’t really help, as no one was buying. Are we now on a path to a more normal business environment? I do think that the market has stabilized. Retail is still not good, but fortunately with the numbers we are going to be up against versus last year, things should come out in our favor next year. Overall, consumers are still being cautious. But anytime you have something interesting that improves the quality of their lives, I believe people will buy.
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What has been the biggest change you’ve seen among your retail and wholesale partners? When things get tough, retailers tend to hold off on bringing in new brands and wholesalers decide not to open new molds. But sometimes playing it safe is the riskiest thing you can do. You have to take some portion of your portfolio—whether it’s 10 or 15 percent of your open-tobuy—and dedicate that to something more speculative. It may or may not pay off that time, but I think that approach puts you ahead of the curve for when the market does turn around. And more times than not, you will succeed with something that you speculated on. It’s easy for me to say that in regards to FiveFingers now, but that’s exactly the approach we took. We were a 70-year-old brand making soles. Did people [expect us] to make footbeds next? Or, [we thought], do we really try something different—footwear like nobody else is making? When it ﬁrst came out, a lot of people laughed at our product and thought we were crazy. Sometimes you can get so mired down in your business that you need a little wake-up call and need to look elsewhere. It makes you think and might start a chain reaction. But I would recommend focusing on what you think might really work—if you truly believe in it, a lot of times that makes all the difference.
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In the case of something as unconventional as FiveFingers, did you offer any added incentives or deals to entice buyers? We didn’t, but the entire line is already keystone-plus so that ev- >38
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Serve Dardano’s of Denver parlays its roots in shoe repair into a proven 70-year formula for sit-and-ﬁt service. By Melissa Kniﬁc
HE YEAR WAS 1938 when Frank Dardano opened a shoe repair shop in downtown Denver in a mere 800 square feet of space. Seventy-plus years, several generations and many moves later, the business (appropriately named Dardano’s) remains alive today—quite a feat, considering not only the recent economic turmoil but also the stock market’s ups and downs in the decades prior. “People who have lived in Denver a long time, they know Dardano’s,” says Roger Van Deman, a sales rep who has been servicing the store over the past 15 years. Not only has the shop, which has expanded beyond its repair roots into the retail comfort footwear category for men and women, remained a ﬁxture in the Colorado capital, it is experiencing signiﬁcant growth despite the doom and gloom surrounding retailers nationwide. Year to date, the company has seen a 7-percent proﬁt increase, says Dave Dardano, grandson of Frank Dardano and now owner of the store. While the retail end of the business, which he estimates accounts for 60 percent of proﬁts, has undergone consistent growth since it became a part of the operation, he says the service end (approximately 20 percent of sales) also has something to do with it. “We’ve seen some increases there because people are trying to save money,” he notes, explaining that a larger number than usual are coming in for repairs to extend the life of their shoes. “We’re still experiencing growth over the last two years, and that’s not really the norm.” When it was time for Frank to let go of the business, his son, Delbert, took the reins. In the early ’80s, Delbert’s three sons—Joe, Dino and Dave—were handed the store; today, Dave runs the retail business and Joe works at its
off-site repair facility. However, it wasn’t until the late ’80s that Dardano’s began testing the waters of footwear retail. “Birkenstock was one of our ﬁrst brands,” Dardano notes. Throughout the years, the brand list increased slowly—at least until recently. “We’ve seen the most growth over the last ﬁve years,” he says, noting that it became necessary for the retail store to move to a new location because it was “busting at the seams.” Van Deman remembers when Dardano’s was just introducing retail product to its business. “When I met them, they were basically a shoe repair
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big mistake if they don’t go for the orthotic,” he explains. “They’re not overshop with a few shoes,” he recalls. Besides Birkenstock, he remembers the selling it… I don’t think the customer ever leaves there without feeling like store had a selection from Dexter, which he represented at the time, and their best interest was not at heart.” Ecco. “They realized how big the comfort shoe side of [retail] was going But whether or not a visitor has foot ailments, it’s part of Dardano’s phito grow,” he adds, noting that they began to increase the selection and, as a losophy to measure and properly ﬁt every person who tries on a pair of result, were rewarded for their prediction. “The shoe store became bigger shoes. In fact, it’s one of the retailer’s selling points. “Service is really major and more powerful.” for us,” Dardano notes. “It’s helped us to get where we are.” While he says Shoppers walking into Dardano’s today will ﬁnd upwards of 50 labels, there aren’t a whole lot of independent footwear retailers left in Denver, it’s all falling in the comfort and wellness categories. Dansko is the store’s still necessary for the store to differentiate itself from its competitors—the No. 1 seller, followed by Birkenstock’s trough of brands (Tatami, Footclosest being Nordstrom, The Walking Company and other retailers in the prints, etc.). Other top performers include Keen, Naot, Mephisto and Finn nearby Cherry Creek Shopping Center—so providing shoppers with undiComfort. Sales manager Les Fauth notes that sticking with staples is imporvided attention is of utmost importance. tant, as many customers continually look to Dardano’s for speciﬁc brands It’s not surprising that Dardano’s and styles. However, that doesn’t mean he’s has moved locations a number of times afraid of taking risks. “There are always over the years to adjust to the ebb and fads in the footwear industry,” he notes, ﬂow of the population and its growexplaining that when he brings in fringe ing retail business. At one point, the styles, he ensures that they don’t outnumber store had a dozen locations; today, one the core product. One of his “risks” in re5,000-square-foot retail store stands cent years—wellness brand MBT—has along with a separate 3,000-square-foot been a pleasant surprise. “The shoes do repair facility. The store, which the staff what they claim,” he notes, adding that inhabited about ﬁve years ago, is located even at $250 a pop, pairs have been ﬂying in a strip mall in a retail-heavy area on off the shelves since he added the brand Colorado Boulevard, one of the busiest three years ago. In addition to footwear, Repair service streets in the city. Dardano notes that close to 10 percent of Dardano’s proﬁts accounts for it’s also central to many ofﬁces, making come from accessory sales: The store offers 20 percent of Dardano’s business. it a prime location for lunch-hour and everything from a selection of handbags to after-work shopping. “The location is recedar shoe trees. ally key,” he says, adding that plenty of One of the reasons Dardano’s can exparking (the store has its own lot) and periment with product, Fauth says, is accessibility from both the north and due to the repair trafﬁc the store genersouth on the boulevard makes it a conveates. “We can bring in footwear that we nient destination for shoppers. would never [have thought about carryDardano notes that consolidating ing] in our store,” he notes. Because the into the two locations was a good deciservice department is open to all brands sion: It’s easier to manage now that he and styles—not just comfort product sold doesn’t have to move from store to store in the store—a variety of customers visit —Roger Van Deman, sales rep for site visits. “Especially for indepenDardano’s, so Fauth can step a bit out of dent retailers, if they’re not dialed in, the box. He also uses these customers as they can lose a lot,” he says. Plus, he’s an opportunity to see what might work on doing the same volume of revenue with his ﬂoor, product-wise: The sales manager one retail shop as opposed to multiple claims he studies the footwear of each and locations. “I’d rather have one really every person who walks in the door. “I look big store doing a great job than three at the customers who bring in shoes [for smaller ones not doing such a good job,” service] to get an idea about what they he adds. However, Dardano is still open want,” he explains. to expansion, as his own children, who Dardano estimates that 75 percent of also work in the store, have expressed his clientele is female, ranging from age interest in the business. 35 to 65. Overall, Fauth says customers are Before any such plans get under way, higher-income folks looking for comfort Dardano has more immediate priorﬁrst and foremost (customer service is also ities. At the start of 2010, he plans to a top priority, as is quality). “Shoppers are launch an e-commerce site, which his more concerned about how [the shoes] ﬁt daughter will work on full-time. (The than what they cost,” he says. A number of store already has a website, www.darDardano’s faithful have foot problems and danos.com.) Looking ahead, Dardano head to the store to visit its full-time pedoris conﬁdent his family business will thist. Shoe modiﬁcations and other orthothrive. “The future is really bright,” he pedic work accounts for approximately 10 says. “We’re holding our own through percent of proﬁts. Even though it’s a good the economy. It gives me a lot of comchunk, Van Deman commends Dardano’s fort that if we can survive that, we can for soft-selling this category. “They don’t survive anything.” • make the people feel like they’re making a
“I don’t think the customer ever leaves [Dardano’s] without feeling like their best interest was not at heart.”
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A Wealth of Wellness Vendors address the growing consumer demand for a more holistic lifestyle. By Angela Velasquez
ITH THE RECESSION-resistant success of brands like MBT, Earth, FitFlop and Vibram FiveFingers, the wellness category has moved beyond its curious fad phase and is quickly establishing itself as a major market segment entrenched between the athletic and comfort footwear markets. The promises are tempting—calorie-burning, strengthening, gymless workouts, pain relief, toning and foot correction—but don’t write off the latest wellness intro-ductions as “gimmicks.” As resistance gear takes hold of the category and barefoot styles gain ground, manufacturers and retailers are relying on substantive research, testimonials and well-versed salespeople to authenticate their message. It helps that both prior converts and curious individuals are eager to listen, as many have grown weary of the “no pain, no gain” approach to health and wellness. In addition, time-starved consumers seek opportunities for multitasking, while the budget conscious are intrigued by the “ﬁtness anywhere” workout. Who needs a gym when you can tone on the way to work? (Or while looking for work, as the case may be.) The growing interest boosts wellness past “fad” status. Most fads, after all, never account for four million sales, which is how many pairs FitFlop has sold in just two years of business. Trends do not propel growth rates into double digits as Earth has experienced. The New York Times noted the popularity surge in both barefoot and resistance shoes in two separate articles, which were picked up by newspapers across the country. The word also continues to spread through advertising (it’s hard to miss FitFlop’s leggy models) and word-of-mouth (Alegria, for one, credits its vast and loyal following of hospital workers as a source of customer referrals). As a result, lines are blurring and wellness shoes now cross into many other categories, appealing to a younger demographic and a wider range of retailers. And the wellness category’s evolution as a fashion-forward, body-
beneﬁting, streamlined creature continues into Spring ’10, ingraining innovators deeper into consumers’ consciousness and paving a smoother path for fresh entries.
Fashionable Function The once-clunky wellness footwear segment continues to improve on its appearance for spring, legitimizing these brands’ “fashion meets function” concept. Exhibit A: Alegria’s spring selection of rocker-outsole shoes, livened up with whimsical colors, funky patterns and stylish uppers. The new products are designed to continue the brand’s claims of minimizing muscle, joint and back stress but feature a lower platform that reads more youthful than traditional rocker-bottom shoes. Donnette Ortel, marketing representative for the Pomona, CA-based company, says styles from the new Milano Collection of thong sandals ($89.95 suggested retail) are intended to attract a trendier customer. “These shoes resonate with customers who want comfortable shoes but don’t want to buy ‘comfort’ shoes,” she explains. In addition to patent leather sandals and fashion embellishments like brushed hardware, Alegria is tapping into current issues its wearers feel connected to—a sign that consumers are ready to collect pairs, rather than test the wellness waters with basics. The Classic Collection ($99.95) will offer one-of-a-kind “Team Green” and “Peace and Love” prints for the spring season. “As the wellness category becomes more mainstream, we want our unique prints to set us apart,” Ortel adds. Similarly, Waltham, MA-based Earth will mark the 40th anniversary of Earth Day with Aquatix ($49), a new resistance shoe with an outdoor performance angle. The style is constructed with BIOStep, the brand’s latest advancement in eco-friendly materials, and includes environmental protective additives—natural biodegradable starches that aid decomposition in the product’s afterlife. Earth also has plans to celebrate Mother’s Day, when it will raise awareness around women’s health issues with the launch of Exer-Splash ($40), a ﬂip-ﬂop extension to the Exer-Fit range. Part of ExerSplash proceeds will be donated to the Susan G. Komen Race for the Cure foundation. “Women are the fastest group to adopt to wellness programs,”
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notes David Aznavorian, vice president of marketing for Earth. “As a brand committed to physical wellbeing, Earth is proud to align with the cause.” At FitFlop, fashion remains the No. 1 selling point. “The setback with wellness styles has always been how they look orthopedic,” spokesperson Katie Neiman says. The London-based, Italiandesigned brand strips its offerings of outer details signifying function, packing the shoes’ patentpending, triple-density barefoot mechanics directly into the footbed. For Spring ’10, bestsellers like the sequined Electra freshen up in extended colorways; a jeweled style is added and pastel suede is introduced to the Oasis line. One brand-new silhouette includes FitFlop’s ﬁrst adjustable sandal to accommodate insteps of varying shapes and sizes. The company is also gearing up for an exciting designer collaboration. The fact that FitFlop’s fashion stance has not interfered with its promises of toning and shockabsorbtion positions the brand not only as a wellness role model but also as a mainstay in department stores’ fashion and athletic shoe areas. “You can ﬁnd us in Nordstrom with other fashion sandals, but we’re also propping up the entire sports department for one U.K.-based retailer,” Neiman says. David Helter, general manager of Ecco USA’s performance division, concedes that “fashion is a ticket into this market,” suggesting color, materials and styling play a major make-or-break role in consumers’ buying decisions. But he also says it is important for shoes to be perceived as multifunctional. The BIOM Running collection, a series of barefoot-construction shoes the Londonderry, NH-based brand launched last season, was made for the running market. But, Helter notes, “if the consumer wants to wear them every day because they look cool and are fashionable, Ecco certainly doesn’t mind.” Reebok’s muscle-activating EasyTone range ($60 to $125) is popular for its reported effects of toning the legs and glutes, yet Bill McInnis, head of advanced innovation for the Canton, MA-based company, credits the styles’ unique low-to-the-ground proﬁle as an advantage over competitors. “The EasyTone styles cover all types of activity but are also appropriate for casual wear,” he adds. “It doesn’t look orthopedic.” Due to customer demand, Reebok plans to add men’s styles in the future.
Versatile Use As sobering effects of the economic downturn trickle into nearly every shoe category, versatile resistance and barefoot styles and their health-beneﬁting traits are proving to be vital selling points. “At the consumer level, the economy is at the forefront of everyone’s mind,” Helter explains. “People are working longer hours and therefore have less time to take care of their bodies. At the same time, they are trying to streamline their spending while getting more for their money.” He adds, “In some respect, we’re offering them a gym and a shoe.” According to Mike Crosno, president and CEO of Nashville-based Mephisto USA, maker of the wellness brand Sano, the key is fashion versatility. The rocker-bottom styles getting the best response are the ones that can be worn anywhere. “That is where we are focusing our growth and new prodoctober/november 2009 • footwearplusmagazine.com 21
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uct,” he explains. Sano’s Spring ’10 lineup includes two new men’s sandals and several “wear anywhere” designs, including boat shoe, Mary Jane and slip-on silhouettes. Brian Yoo, marketing director for Cogent Footwear, says his Wayne, NJ-based company is introducing lower price points for spring in order to make the health beneﬁts affordable for everyone. The Spring ’10 line of double-rocker-bottom shoes—designed to provide more stability and balance than single-rocker styles—will add its ﬁrst sandal silhouettes for men and women, which he says work as both casual and dress wear. Wellness brands are also maximizing their reach and toeing into athletic wear by adding performance-speciﬁc styles. Next season, Concord, MAbased Vibram FiveFingers launches the Bikila ($100), a glove-styled shoe built for runners’ vigorous movement and heavy moisture production. Bikila is the brand’s ﬁrst running-speciﬁc style—a direct result of Vibram FiveFingers’ acceptance into the barefoot running community. Marketing associate Georgia Shaw is conﬁdent in the brand’s move into a cushioning-heavy running category. “We’re seeing a shift in the minds of runners, where shoes do not have to be overly technical,” she notes. “Traditional running shoes do not improve the body, but running in a natural state allows runners’ feet and lower legs to grow stronger. They are able to trust their own bodies.” The shoe’s new platform offers more plating protection and distributes impact forces without compromising important ground feedback essential to a proper forefoot strike. The Bikila also features a denser athletic padded collar and topline and reﬂective surfaces. MBT of Venice, CA, is reaching out to athletes with the SS10 Athletic Bottom ($225), which is based on its dual board construction. The latest rocker-bottom addition features innovative geometry, lighter materials and mesh uppers created to maximize performance and breathability while weighing 20percent lighter than MBT’s prior styles. Ecco plans to translate BIOM Running’s success to walking with BIOM Walk ($175 to $195).
Although walkers currently use the company’s running shoes, Helter says the new rendition reﬂects a walker’s slower gait and speciﬁc movement. But, he notes, the objective to strengthen the foot remains the same—especially as more people rely on walking as their main means of exercise. “Walking is a huge segment of the business and participation is growing dramatically as the U.S. population ages,” Helter reports, further noting that the walking market is serviced by a broader group of retailers.
New Solutions Part of the lure for manufacturers to offer a broader range of resistance and barefoot wellness styles is the opportunity to transcend categories and straddle multiple types of retailers. In retail, Hetler says, there are leaders and there are retailers that are the “ﬁrst to be second.” While most premiere department stores like Macy’s and Nordstrom have dedicated a healthy bit of real estate to these two emerging market segments, Helter believes it is time for the rest to adapt. “If a retailer isn’t in both of these segments with a couple of brands, they should run, not walk, to the category,” he remarks. Even though consumers may not purchase shoes in both of these emerging market segments, these categories are addressing the same concerns of people wanting to improve their health and wellness as ﬁtness and athletic vendors. In fact, it’s a long-running macro trend that started decades ago that keeps evolving. “Both segments are essentially reaching for the same solution, just through different approaches,” Shaw says. “Consumers need to ﬁnd what works best for their individual needs.” Brand leaders on both sides of the wellness aisle agree there’s plenty of room for both segments in the overall market. While Rebecca Kotch, vice president of marketing and retail development for MBT, anticipates an eventual shakeout of resistance and barefoot brands due to a crowd of me-too concepts and wannabes, she still sees the upside. “Like any product category experiencing explosive growth, there will be fallout, but those that offer proven solutions will have a sustainable future,” she says. •
Selling Wellness As a category ﬂooded with research, stats, techie terminology and style options, wellness leaders give tips for retailers breaking into the market. —A.V.
Courting Claims John Lynch, head of marketing for Reebok, says retailers need to ensure the products they sell are authentic. Lynch recommends making sure manufacturers back up their claims scientiﬁcally with legitimate testing. Independent research, statistics and testimonials also help drive home sales. And beware of knockoffs: Some new entrants offering big (and typically false) promises at low price points are cashing in on the category’s popularity. FitFlop recently won an infringement case against a U.K.-based distributor who was selling poorly produced copycats under a similar name.
Walk the Talk “Believe in it,” asserts Mike Crosno, president and CEO of Sano by Mephisto. David Aznavorian, vice president of marketing for Earth, echoes his sentiment, adding, “The retailers working this category the best are the ones who are wearing the product.” Of equal importance, stresses Rebecca Kotch, vice president of marketing and retail development for MBT, is the assurance that staffs are properly educated and able to articulate the product’s beneﬁts and features. Take advantage of all learning opportunities and product information manufacturers provide: Brian Yoo, marketing director for Cogent, says customers will require advice from retailers and expect them to have answers. “Retailers should acknowledge that this is a growing market and should educate themselves on the different products out there,” he adds.
Expand and Conquer
Clockwise from top left: Reebok’s Reeinspire, Alegria’s Peace and Love, Vibram FiveFingers Bikilia, Sano’s Evasion and Earth’s Exer-Splash.
Crosno recommends retailers merchandise the entire category, instead of trying to cover everything with one or two brands. “Create a mini assortment or merchandise collections based on the needs of your clientele,” Aznavorian adds. Lynch suggests displaying footwear in a way that demonstrates to consumers what the technology does and how it works. FitFlop has gone as far as creating bespoke display walls. As Aznavorian puts it, good presentations allow customers to “pick their ﬂavor.”
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La Suite Milano
EURO FLASH BUYERS GOT A glimmer of overseas brands’ spring introductions at the September edition of GDS in Düsseldorf, Germany, where designers paraded imaginative and resourceful interpretations of ongoing trends. Toughlooking hardware glints in the form of zippers, grommets, and big and bitty-sized studs, while weathered and worn leathers emit a less literal yet just as hardy quality. Scales from varied species brought some animal instinct (faux or no) as an allover element or in more subtle material pairings. Leading colorways came straight off Van Gogh’s Starry Night palette, with rich mustards and bright golds offsetting inky midnight blues. Other labels took a more collage-driven approach, marrying funky combinations of embellishments, treatments and hues in artistically scintillating styles. And boots and booties prove themselves all-season staples, with warmweather favorites featuring low-cut shafts, perforated materials and open constructions that let the sun shine in. —Leslie Shiers
METALLIC DETAILS Airstep
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HUES FOR HIM
MIDNIGHT BLUE Chibs
Aro by Vialis
Künzli All’Tag Floris Van Bommel Gabor
Floris Van Bommel
Piu di Servas
Roberto Rinaldi Ash
EXOTIC SKINS Neosens Vialis Milly
Fred de la Bretonière Gabor
Coclico Strenesse Airstep
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On him: Rockport lace-ups. T-shirt by American Apparel; Martin & Osa jeans; stylistâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;s suspenders. On her: Cordani wedges. United Bamboo dress; necklace by Giles & Brothers. 26
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WHAT SWINGS Architectural lines jive with metallic touches, raising Spring â&#x20AC;&#x2122;10 comfort footwear to a whole new level. Photography by Olivier Pascaud
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Styling by Sara Dunn; hair & makeup by JSterling for JSterlingBeauty (www.jsterlingbeauty.com); fashion editor: Melissa Knific
Gentle Souls by Kenneth Cole T-strap wedges with metal detail. Rachel Comey blouse; Fremont jumper.
10/12/09 12:56:54 PM
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On him: Kork-Ease loafers. Victorinox shirt; Martin & Osa jeans. On her: Pikolinos woven leather peep-toe booties. Chris and Jaime dress. Opposite page: Naot mules with twisted straps. Catherine Malandrino blouse and shorts.
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7 For All Mankind cutout wood wedge. Roberto Cavalli dress.
Ugg Australia 32 32
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Styling by Michel Onofrio; hair by Ryan Taniguchi; makeup by Mary Douglas. Fashion editor: Melissa Knific
Chunky heels by Anyi Lu. Rachel Comey dress; Society for Rational Dress vest; necklace by Amanda Pearl.
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Designer Chat: Kooba A leather master bows shoes for Spring ’10.
Clockwise from top left: Miss Sixty, Frye, Matisse, Miz Mooz and Nicole.
Grit Kickers E D I T O R’ S PI CKS
your closet—the shoes you naturally gravitate to when completing your outﬁt,” she says. “There is a deﬁnite need in the market for shoes of such quality and styling at this price point.” Who is your customer? The Kooba woman embodies a way of life, a style of being, a way of experiencing the world. Style for her is true self-expression. She’s known for her timeless sensibility, and her approach reﬂects her strength and conﬁdence. Where do you look for design inspiration? Everywhere—from vintage shops to everyday
Pony up to ankle boots— spring’s big Western trend.
people on the streets. I am inspired by anything that catches my eye in a special way. What shoes could you not live without? The Kooba Mila wedge. It’s a shoe that I can wear with everything that makes a statement at the same time. Describe a shoe that would never be found in your line. Although I love shoes, you wouldn’t ﬁnd stiletto heels. A stiletto doesn’t ﬁt into the casual sensibility of the line. What would people be surprised to know about you? I love karaoke. —Melissa Kniﬁc
EDITOR’S PICKS PHOTOGRAPHY BY TREVETT MCCANDLISS
More than a decade after launching handbag line Kooba, creative director Abbe Held has decided to dive into footwear. “It seemed like the natural next step for the brand,” explains Held, who introduced the New York-based leathAbbe Held er-goods label in 1998 with her mom after spending a number of years working in fashion. “We’d often ﬁnd ourselves looking at a detail that we just developed for a handbag and thinking how sexy it would look on a shoe.” Held sees Kooba growing into a lifestyle brand but plans on expanding organically, one day at a time. With the help of Peter Marcus Group (which has produced footwear for Nanette Lepore, Rebecca Taylor and Cynthia Rowley, among other designers), Kooba’s footwear line debuts for Spring ’10. The creative director describes the styles as need-to-have, everyday items running the gamut from ﬂats and sandals to wedges and heels. “Just like our bags, the overall sensibility is a relaxed, chic look that is timeless and very wearable,” she notes. The initial collection will retail from $225 to $450 and be offered in the same distribution channels as the handbags: high-end department stores and select specialty stores. “These shoes will be the fresh and necessary must-haves in
34 footwearplusmagazine.com • october/november 2009
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ATHLETIC COMFORT GREEN KIDS OUTDOOR STREET
Into the Sun Mea Shadow steps out for spring.
Warming Trend Australia Luxe Collective adds a new season. ENVIABLE STYLE COMES easy as a sea breeze for Nicole Durand, creative director of Australia Luxe Collective. The Aussie-born former runway model and Versace retail buyer uses her high-fashion background as a glamour guidebook for the four-year-old line she created with husband Stuart Rush. “I come from a world of fashion snobs. I know what they are not willing to wear,” she says. To sum it up: anything that reads “basic.” As a result, the couple has carved a niche in the sheepskin boot category by turning the classic silhouette into a luxury item made with Grade A sheepskin, organic washed leathers, silk lining and lush embellishments even the most discerning stylistas desire. The Venice Beach, CA-based brand plans to carry over its luxurious disposition as it dips a toe into warm weather styles for the ﬁrst time. Durand says the Spring ’10 additions are a chance to have a year-round relationship with consumers and retailers. Plus, the styles let the designer pay homage to her coastal roots and create captivating characters. “The spring lineup is inspired by a group of naughty, rich kids taking daddy’s yacht without telling him,” she says. “It’s fun to create a story and see how it moves a collection forward.” For women, there are hand-carved wooden heels ($300 to $335 retail) inspired by female icons of the ’60s, pairing vegetable-dyed leather and suede in neutrals and rich hues of orange, ocean blue, red and yellow with mesh, fringe and cut-out heels. Styles can be ordered with sheepskin lining—an option Durand says has been popular with European retailers. A range of leather and canvas boat shoes ($85 to $315) coined Dirty Luxe is available for men and women. Vintage styling, quality leather, salt-washed hardware and weathered canvas—some lined with sheepskin or accented with tassels, fringe or anchor charms—add high-end elements that can be called anything but basic. “Think Dickie Greenleaf in ‘The Talented Mr. Ripley,’” Durand says. “We wanted the shoes to look like they were out at sea for six months.” The boat shoes also allow Australia Luxe Collection to make a mark in the men’s category—a hard door to break down for a sheepskin boot company. —Angela Velasquez
WHEN IT COMES to introducing a new women’s fashion brand aimed at stylish 20-somethings, “You want to create something different,” says Jacques Messeca. As the principal of Messeca New York Footwear, maker of numerous private label lines over the years, he was eager to step out with a brand of his own. Yosi Samra, who was born into a shoemaking family, shared his desire, and the two have partnered to launch Mea Shadow, a Brazilian-made collection that illuminates the category with trend-pushing design ideas. “People say it’s a tough time [to launch a label], but we think it’s a good time to start swimming,” Samra notes. The key, he says, is offering product that reﬂects trends but is differentiated enough to give retailers and consumers that extra nudge they need to buy. While Mea Shadow’s debut Spring ’10 collection offers staple silhouettes—from sexy heels to tough-looking boots to wearable ﬂats—the design team has injected enough creativity to make the product fresh. Of the 30 initial styles, which were unveiled to solid response at Project, perhaps the best example is a group of platform shoeties, ﬂat sandals and strappy heels featuring laser-cut leathers inspired by French lingerie. “People want something new; these will catch their eye,” asserts Devon George, Mea Shadow’s sales director. Other twists include a cut-out sandal (a riff on the popular gladiator shoe); a platform heel with a sultry silhouette; a buckled sandal with an asymmetrically curved ankle wrap; and knee-high riding boots with a uniquely perforated shaft. “There’s something for everyone,” George notes. Value and quality are top priorities for the brand. The spring collection is set to retail between $129 and $325 and the shoes feature soft, high-end leathers and padded soles for comfort. Messeca pledges to keep the line below $400, even in the fall. The partners plan to introduce handbags down the line, and hope to grow Mea Shadow into a diverse lifestyle brand. They know doing so means delivering innovative fashion, top-notch quality and the service to back it up. Building relationships with retailers is key, George notes. After all, she adds, “Business today is cut-throat— especially in fashion.” —Leslie Shiers
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Merch It Up The latest footwear add-ons expand versatility and style quotas. DEKKORI Take a pump—any pump—and slip over a fringe T-strap. What do you have? Brand-new heels. This line of footwear styling pieces helps rework oldies and customize new favorites, offering women innumerable design possibilities. Hidden snap, hook or elastic closures secure the pieces in place on virtually any pumps or open-toe sandals. The concept is the brainchild of Stephanie Kim, a former corporate attorney and confessed shoe addict. The New York-based company’s Spring ’10 lineup ($19 to $94 retail) incorporates blended jersey fabrics into strappy styles, leather booties with ribbon detailing and mid-length boot options. Pieces are available in two or three sizes.
Toll Free: 866-581-8880 www. blossomfootwear.com
December 2-4, 2009 Hilton New York Hotel 6th Ave. (53rd & 54th Streets)
BOOT CHIC Born out of the ski industry, this Duxbury, MA-based brand introduces a new way to update boots: ﬂared faux-fur accessories that slip on over footwear and winter apparel for a completely different look. Founder and designer Kim O’Connor created the line after having trouble ﬁtting her favorite ski pants into her new boots and, after picking up a pair of scissors, realized the styling potential. Boot Chic’s cover-ups (think bell-bottom legwarmers) come in solid-colored shag styles; a luxurious faux mink; and checked, tiger-striped and leopard-spotted versions ($78 to $98 retail). A girls’ line ($38 to $48) is also available, along with coordinating children’s handbags and headbands.
BOOT HUGS As sheepskin boots become a closet staple, wearers looking to reinvent the classic can embrace Boot Hugs—maker of decorative bands that embellish and personalize the standard winter fare. The South Orange, NJ-based brand was developed by Laura Johnson, who crafted the accessory to appease her trendy daughter. Tagged as an affordable way to curate individual style, each removable band attaches to the top of the boot or around the ankle by either a suede drawstring cord or a clasp closure. Ten styles for adults ($16 to $22 retail) are available, including a grosgrain ribbon with peace sign charms, suede cords accented with glass beads, feathers or fringe; and a leather band with silver detailing. The kids’ line ($14) features a pink suede band with puffy heart patches and black velvet ribbon with dangling, multicolor beads.
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O&A Q&A • continued from page 16 eryone can make money. Whether you order the 36-pair minimum or 3,600 pairs, it’s the same price. Admittedly, retailers and consumers ﬁrst asked, “What’s this, a $75 aqua sock?” But once everyone realizes that it delivers on all of its proclaimed beneﬁts, plus the fact that retailers can make money, everybody is happy. We focused on three channels of distribution—outdoor and running specialty and premium independent shoe stores—because we want retailers who will take the time to explain in detail the features and beneﬁts of FiveFingers. Even though we sell it on our Web site, the product is best served by a sit-and-ﬁt experience.
Few others are happy with the traditional sell-in/sell-through process. How come? I don’t know where it really starts. Is it the lack of compelling product that has driven down prices so there are less margins to go around? Would making more interesting product at a premium price without over-distributing ﬁx the problem? At some point you have to say no to certain accounts because it might take your brand in the wrong direction. Similarly, retailers have to refrain from marking a product down to match price because that will take them down the wrong path as well. You have to stand by your convictions at a certain point and be willing to pay the consequences. Sometimes you can get so caught up in trying to do so much business that you don’t build a business that is sustainable. It’s the same for how you develop product. Sometimes a brand will come out with 50 new shoes but there is really not one shoe in that mix that is truly compelling and addresses what consumers really need. You know, eBay was created so people could get rid of stuff. This is a whole country of people who don’t need more stuff. We just want the right stuff. So make less stuff and make it right—stuff that works, improves someone’s life with great product and you will make a difference. How have consumers changed amid the Great Recession? The ﬁnancial crisis has had an impact. For a long time we have been the country of “more” and “bigger.” I think after a year like this feels maybe people won’t go out and blow the bank on stuff they don’t need. But at the same time the world is not going to end either, so it’s OK to shop again. Whether it’s people buying less, looking for better quality or not buying beyond their means, I guess we’ll see what happens. Personally, I think things were out of control before. I don’t wish for anyone to be unemployed and I want the economy to improve, but the world before the recession probably wasn’t healthy or real. So now we have a more discerning consumer who buys what he or she really needs. Yes. And alongside that, people are returning to a more simpliﬁed approach to life that embraces naturalism. FiveFingers drafts on both of these trends, and that’s why the brand has broad adoption here and overseas, [a growing market that] is still in the early stages for us. But with the power of the Internet, I’m getting 2.5 to 3 million page views a month and 10 to 12 percent of that trafﬁc is coming from overseas. This brand has all been driven by word of mouth. And I think people tend to root for something new—they like the idea that they’ve discovered something unique. That’s been our strength all along. Often somebody will post a picture of our shoes on a Web site and the ﬁrst ﬁve comments will be along the lines of, “Those are ugly…” But if you keep scrolling down, you’ll eventually see supportive comments of what FiveFingers has meant to a person’s life and recommendations from someone to try a pair. We just stay out of the way. The consumer usually ﬁnds what’s right. •
Special Report • continued from page 10 ing,” says Compass co-founder Edina Sultanik. “I think New York is going to win out. There’s a bigger concentration of brands there—at least for our market—than in Vegas right now.” She notes Compass attendees will likely save their trip to the Strip for Magic, which will take place two weeks later. The conﬂicting FFANY and WSA runs might be a boon for Magic, which has announced plans for a footwear-dedicated offshoot founded in partnership with Footwear News (sister publication to WWD, which already hosts a WWDMagic women’s wear section at the show). Magic had openly declared intentions of increasing its shoe category in the past, and brought aboard exWSA exec Leslie Gallin as vice president of footwear for Advanstar’s Fashion Group (Magic’s parent) to oversee the growth. Gallin believes Magic’s dates (Feb. 16-18) are perfect for companies that want to launch their product at FFANY, then roll it out to the masses a few weeks later. “It becomes more advantageous as a writing event,” she explains. Furthermore, Gallin and Chris DeMoulin, president of Magic International, note Magic’s head-to-toe fashion context gives buyers a unique perspective on what will be hot each season. For those concerned that shoes might be treated as a stepchild in the house of ready-to-wear, DeMoulin asserts, “We’ve always positioned Magic as a place where all trends in all categories and all inﬂuencers and brands can come together to learn. We’ve always had accessories that complement the core assortment,” he adds. “[And] we’ve done the research; 72 percent of buyers said, ‘If Magic had more footwear, I’d buy more footwear.’” Of course, there’s a chance all of these shows will splinter off into regional events. In fact, the current economy may be propelling everyone toward this dispersal. “We’re seeing regional shows are actually more productive for our company in terms of being able to work with people and write orders,” Dansko’s Murphy remarks. But when a turnaround’s effects begin to be felt and the desire for a singular industry platform becomes stronger, it’s possible that a well-established regional show could blossom into a national player. This opens the door for The Atlanta Shoe Market (TASM), which the Southeastern Shoe Travelers Association and executive director Laura Conwell-O’Brien have been cultivating as the next national show (scheduled for Feb. 19-21). TASM’s pitch as a low-cost, easy-to-shop show housed in one venue is enticing, especially as the show reports record growth in trafﬁc. “As each show approaches, we get more and more interest and attendance from the major and independent buyers as well as [international] buyers,” Conwell-O’Brien notes. “We’ve watched what the industry is looking for and we feel we have the right ingredients for what the industry desires at this time.” Meanwhile, yet another contender is vying for top billing among industry shows: The United Shoe Show (USS), a nonproﬁt trade event set to launch Aug. 6-9, 2010, in Los Angeles. “Because of all the craziness going on [with the shows], I think it’s probably time to try something new,” says founder Gary Hauss, head of the J Stephens retail chain, who notes USS will be the only show held for the industry, by the industry. “WSA has put a tremendous amount of logistical pressure on vendors at a time when they can’t really afford additional staff and expense,” adds USS director Frank Catapono, a 40-year industry veteran, who promises a single venue—the Los Angeles Convention Center—and booth prices 30- to 35-percent less than WSA’s. Catapano claims several major manufacturers are interested, (though he declined to name names), and its dates make it viable as a West Coast option, if not a full-ﬂedged national title winner from the onset. Management has tapped ConvExx, an award-winning trade show producer, to support the event and ensure it will be economically feasible, efﬁcient and a proﬁtable event for both wholesalers and retailers. That’s music to the ears of many execs. For some, like Dave Aznavorian, vice president of marketing for Earth, next year’s muddled show calendar is sparking reassessment of which events have the most proﬁt-making potential. “Ultimately, that should be a good thing for everyone,” he says. Whether the best investment lies in Vegas, New York, Atlanta, L.A. or Des Moines, Aznavorian believes trade shows remain a vital tool for the industry. Sigal of Littles Shoes agrees but still has one request: “The big companies need to get together and ﬁgure out what makes the most sense. I’m not saying [which show is] right or wrong. But for the health of our industry, we need a national show.” •
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ATHLETIC COMFORT GREEN KIDS STREET WORK
The Next Step Pollliwalks’ animalistic designs reach a new level. WHEN POLLIWALKS LAUNCHED two years ago, the Auburn, ME, company’s animal-shaped, molded foam slip-ons spread like wildfire; they are now in roughly 700 doors in the U.S. market, not to mention 20 other countries, according to company co-founder and chairman Dave Levy. Marketed as “toys for feet,” it’s easy to see why the playful footwear would be a favorite of children and, thanks to an accessible price point, an easy two-in-one purchase for parents. For Spring ’10, Polliwalks takes business a step further, making the leap beyond sandals to fullfledged footwear more suited to everyday, everywhere wear. The spring line includes about 40 new athletic styles for girls and boys, which span lace-up and Velcro sneakers as well as sporty Mary Janes. The new styles still feature Polliwalks’ signature animal- and character-inspired molded features— including “footprints” on the soles—and come in an array of bright color combinations. “We don’t do a black shoe; that wouldn’t fit the ‘fun’ theme,” Levy says. “They’re conversational,” he adds, noting he’s witnessed kids talking to these shoes as if they were friends. The collection is also anatomically correct for children’s growing feet. Levy, a certified pedorthist, works with designer Joel Rusnak to ensure the line’s quality, and he points to the shoes’ flexibility and removable footbeds as facets that improve comfort. Wholesaling for $10 to $20 and retailing for less than $40, Polliwalks’ latest styles are still a steal, and they are now available from a toddler size 4 to a youth 4. (In prior seasons, the brand only offered up to a youth 1.) Levy also notes the company has developed innovative packaging that kids can play with rather than throw away. Polliwalks seems to be right on the money with its functional yet fun approach, and the company foresees big things for its brand of “entertainment retail,” starting with the sneaker additions. “We think this new group is going to get us into the kids’ business in a very quick and big way,” Levy asserts. “It gives customers something so fresh and so new. It’s not a ‘me too’ product, it’s extremely unique. Yet at the same time, it’s sellable and market right.” —Leslie Shiers
Hybrid Hype Skidders gives unrestrictive footwear new unobstructive packaging. IN THE COURSE of a year, Skidders of New York has carved a unique niche into the infant footwear market with its sock-shoe hybrid, according to Skidders president Michael Matalon. “Our customers are now referring to the category as Skidders, which is great for our brand,” he says. As a division of Celebrity International, maker of Vitamins Baby and other children’s lines, the brand has positioned itself as the best alternative to constricting leather and PU booties. “Celebrity always looks to create new product categories that offer tremendous value. Our customers know this and expect this from us each season. Skidders is no exception,” Matalon explains. Designed for babies learning to stand and walk, Skidders’ knit upper prevents little feet from overheating as thick yet soft rubber outsoles provide traction and protection. For added comfort, each shoe is outfitted with an EVA insole. In addition to the line’s lightweight and machine-washable qualities, Matalon notes Skidders’ indoor and outdoor duality as one of the brand’s major benefits. To add visual value to the patent-pending footwear, Skidders’ Spring ’10 products will be delivered in re-worked, clear zippered packaging. The new bag allows shoppers to see the shoes and try them on. “The original packaging performed great at retail, but the footwear was restricted because it was secured in the package,” Matalon explains. The new packaging “will brighten up the sales floor” and create great displays, he adds. Twenty-four new styles join five popular carryovers for spring. Girls’ options include pink zebra print, cherries and cowgirl pattterns, polka dots and a trompe l’oeil T-strap. The boys’ lineup features animal, peace sign, rocket and sport prints, plus rock star and skull-and-crossbones versions. Licensed versions featuring favorite Nickelodeon characters such as SpongeBob SquarePants, Go, Diego, Go! and Dora the Explorer are also available. Sizes range from 12 to 24 months; each pair retails for less than $20. “We don’t believe in overcharging to profit,” Matalon says. “We value the customer looking to purchase an infant footwear product, and they shouldn’t pay more than $19.99.” —Angela Velasquez october/november 2009 • footwearplusmagazine.com 39
10/5/09 9:24:08 AM
made you look fashion’s night out
Giuseppe Zanotti’s windows brought to life >
Storming the aisles of Bergdorf Goodman
Designer Zac Posen does up Bergdorf’s windows Opera singer Andrea Bocelli and designer Roberto Cavalli
Designer Parade A fan with Manolo Blahnik
FASHION’S DRIVING FORCES and aﬁcionados packed Manhattan department stores and boutiques during Fashion’s Night Out, turning the aisles into catwalks on Sept. 10. The global store-hopping event, planned to resuscitate shopping urges, lived up to its celebrity-hobnobbing and freechampagne promises. Among the main attractions: Manolo Blahnik mingled with his well-heeled following at his Midtown boutique; designer (and DJ) Giuseppe Zanotti hosted a dance party that drew in songstress Rihanna to his Madison Avenue store; and Mary-Kate and Ashley Olsen tended bar at Barneys. After the parties ended—long after stores’ regular closing times—fashioneuphoria carried over into Mercedes-Benz Fashion Week. While Vogue editor Anna Wintour’s splashy event may not have triggered cash-strapped shoppers to spend like it was 2007, the night was successful in making style feel accessible to the masses. Ultimately, Fashion’s Night Out was an opportunity for fashion lovers to catch a glimpse of their favorite designers, toast to beautiful apparel and accessories, and give those typically left outside the Bryant Park tents a peek into the glamorous side of the industry. Hopefully next time around consumers will have more discretionary funds available to pump back into their favorite brands. —Angela Velasquez
PHOTOGRAPHY BY DOROTHY HONG
Fashion lifts its velvet rope for one fabulous night.
Giuseppe Zanotti in his store
10/5/09 9:31:21 AM
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