Footwear Plus | The Source for Retailers | 2011 • August

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THE SOURCE FOR RETAILERS • AUGUST 2011 • $10.00

SPECIAL REPORT: HOW TO CATCH A THIEF RETAILING ALONG THE REAL JERSEY SHORE WHAT’S IN STORE FOR THE HOLIDAYS REMEMBERING NATHAN CLARK OUTDOOR GUIDE: ALL-TERRAIN DESIGNS KIDS’ TREND REPORT

SWEPT AWAY

OUR SPRING ’12 PREVIEW BASKS IN THE SEASON’S NATURAL BEAUTY


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See the Børn Footwear Spring 2012 Collections at Outdoor Retailer, TASM and FN Platform


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MEET YOUR NEW FAVORITES

Welcome to the Spring/Summer 2012 line-up from the six time winner of the Footwear Plus Award for Design Excellence in Women’s Comfort. Take your pick from proven performers and the latest additions to our line up—every style perfect for the warmer weather selling season. So, go ahead, pick your favorites and enjoy where Dansko takes you.

Dansko is a registered trademark of Dansko, LLC. © 2011 Dansko, LLC.


Caroline Diaco Publisher Greg Dutter Editorial Director

16 The Devil Inside

With employee theft on the rise, follow these tips from retailers and security pros to help protect your store’s bottom line. By Audrey Goodson

Nancy Campbell Creative Director

18 Q&A: Ara

Rob Rask, managing director of Ara Shoes North America, shares the German comfort brand’s strategy for success stateside. By Greg Dutter

Bettye Muller

EDITORIAL Angela Velasquez Fashion Editor Audrey Goodson Meagan Walker Associate Editors Melissa D’Agnese Editorial Intern

24 Trend Spotting

CREATIVE Trevett McCandliss Executive Art Director Brad Istnick Lenny Vella Art Directors Tim Jones Senior Designer

42 The Real Jersey Shore

CONTRIBUTORS Michel Onofrio Style Director Kathy Passero Editor at Large Jamie Wetherbe West Coast Editor

Shedding winter’s neutral hues, designers enliven Spring ’12 silhouettes with bursts of bright color and texture. By Angela Velasquez

Three local retailers reveal their secrets to success and what The Shore is really like off camera.

ADVERTISING Jennifer Craig Associate Publisher David Sutula VP Technology Leslie Sutula VP Account Services Laurie Guptill Production Manager

46 Happier Holidays

Brands are enticing shoppers with festive styles for the holiday season. By Angela Velasquez

50 Kiss The Sky

A mix of nautral textures in men’s and women’s Spring ’12 styles drum up a tribal feel. By Angela Velasquez Spring Step

66 Outdoor Preview

Bold colors and technical innovations up the ante in performance gear for spring. By Meagan Walker

10 Contributors 12 Editor’s Note 14 This Just In 60 In The Details 64 Shoe Salon 72 Outdoor 74 What’s Selling

Sperry Top-Sider

On the cover: Spirit by Lucchese wedge. Billy Reid chambray shirt and cardigan. Photography by Ruvan Wijesooriya. Model: Andzelika @ One Model Management

78 Comfort 80 Last Word

FOOTWEAR PLUS ™ (ISSN#1054-898X) Vol. 22 issue #7 The fashion magazine of the footwear industry is published monthly (except for bimonthly April/May and October/November editions) by 9Threads, 36 Cooper Square, 4th fl., New York, NY, 100037118. The publishers of this magazine do not accept responsibility for statements made by their advertisers in business competition. Periodicals postage is paid in New York, NY, and additional mailing offices. Subscription price for one year: $48.00 in the U.S. Rates oustide the U.S. are available upon request. Single copy price: $10.00. POSTMASTER: Send address changes to FOOTWEAR PLUS, P.O. Box 8548, Lowell, MA 01853-8548. Publisher not responsible for unsolicited articles or photos. Any photographs, artwork, manuscripts, editorial samples or merchandise sent for editorial consideration are sent at the sole risk of the sender. Symphony Publishing NY, LLC, will assume no responsibility for loss or damage. No portion of this issue may be reproduced without the written permission of the publisher. ©2011 by Symphony Publishing NY, LLC. Printed in the United States.

ADMINISTRATION Alexandra Marinacci Operations Manager Melanie Prescott Circulation Manager Julie Gibson Webmaster Theodore Hoffman Special Projects Director CONTACT INFO Sales/Editorial Offices 36 Cooper Square, 4th fl. New York, NY 10003 Tel: (646) 278-1550 Fax: (646) 278-1553 editorialrequests@ 9Threads.com Circulation Office 21 Highland Circle Needham, MA 02494 Tel: (800) 964-5150 Fax: (781) 453-9389 circulation@9Threads.com CORPORATE 9Threads 26202 Detroit Road, #300 Westlake, OH 44145 Tel: (440) 871-1300 Xen Zapis, Chairman Lee Zapis, President Rich Bongorno, CFO


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contributors i n s i d e t h e c r e at i v e m i n d

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KATHY PASSERO, PROJECT EDITOR Kathy Passero is a New York Times best-selling author and award-winning journalist whose articles have appeared in numerous national magazines, including Condé Nast Traveler, Departures, Elle, InStyle, Life & Style, Seventeen, Health, Martha Stewart Living, Reader’s Digest and Self. Her non-fiction books have included Laguna Beach: Life Inside the Bubble; Blood Secrets: Chronicles of a Crime Scene Reconstruction and Chasing Ghosts, Texas Style. We asked Passero to tap her inner teen spirit as the project editor of our custom publication, Bearpaw Style. She guided the hybrid teen and celebrity tabloid concept from inception to finish, working closely with Bearpaw’s CEO Tom Romeo and Vice President of Marketing Randy McKinley to make sure it reflected the vibrant and irreverent nature that is Bearpaw. Mission accomplished.

MICHEL ONOFRIO, STYLE DIRECTOR Onofrio, a regular contributor to Footwear Plus, once again lent her talents in bringing our Spring ’12 preview “Kiss the Sky” (p. 50) to life. For this go around, we forced her to work a 12-hour day in the blazing July sun on New York’s Fire Island to style our shoot. Onofrio went for a “classic with a quirk” approach, using plenty of textured neutrals to bring out the best aspects of the shoes that feature plenty of natural materials and textures. Onofrio’s editorial work has appeared in Blackbook, Zoo and A4. She has also styled for Joan & David, W Hotels, Rolex and the footwear brands Born and Yellow Box.

DOROTHY HONG, PHOTOGRAPHER Another Footwear Plus regular, Hong has been the go-to source for our monthly This Just In installments. She has a knack for finding the best representations of the latest trends, not to mention the added bonus of stellar on-the-street interview skills. Hong delivers once again with “Arm Candy” (p. 14), depicting the big and multiple bracelets trend making the rounds this summer in the Big Apple. Hong also lent her portrait photography talents to this month’s Q&A subject, Rob Rask, managing director of Ara North America, (p. 18). Dorothy’s other clients have included Nike, The Wall Street Journal, Monocle and The Guardian.


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editor’s note leader wanted 7

A Vote For Change EVER SINCE LIFE after the Great Financial Collapse was dubbed the “new normal” by pundits and adopted by millions of confused and rattled-to-the-core consumers, the sad reality is that there’s little normalcy in this new landscape. It’s so disturbing, perplexing and rapidly changing that if your head is not spinning by now, it might be because you’ve stuck it into the sand. People are scared and looking to leaders for answers. Good luck with that. Where’s our Winston Churchill or FDR when we need them? A JFK would be good right about now. It’s not like there are any new stars on the visible horizon. And while there are days when President Obama looks as knight-like as he did during his election campaign, there are moments when his inexperience shows, which would be forgivable if it weren’t for those days he appears ensconced in the corrupt system that millions of Americans voted for him to change. Here’s what scares me the most: That we don’t change because we simply won’t; that a refusal to come together to reach a common good results in the U.S. going belly-up. It’s no longer about the debacle we are creating for our grandkids; we are now in peril of financial ruin in the here and now. We’ve procrastinated to the point of paralysis. And while stalemates and partisan politics are nothing new, the self-destructive and petty levels it has reached are not normal—unless you are a 4-year-old who missed nap time. The bratty intransigence is tiring, even little kids could see that. How about some change we can all believe in here? This is one instance where our government might want to take a page out of our industry’s playbook. We change constantly—from season to season, year after year. Many of us embrace change, respect it and realize that if we don’t adapt then we likely will go belly-up. We understand that the wants and needs of consumers change. It is our job to keep pace and, in some instances, to answer those changing demands before consumers even realize they have them. That’s called being proactive, which is a word that surely can’t be used to describe our government’s actions of late. Our latest issue contains plenty of change as a new season is once again upon us. Preview time is change on steroids. I love it when all the trends are being thrown against the wall and we collectively decide which ones may stick. To that end, we’ve featured a bevy of worthy spring looks in our Trend Spotting pages (beginning on p. 24). And our feature fashion story (p. 50), shot on location on New York’s Fire Island, served as the ideal backdrop for bringing out the many natural materials and spicy colors that look to be so prominent this spring. There’s plenty more good stuff inside, including our latest Little Steps kids’ look book as well as our annual update on Soles4Souls, whose mantra of “Changing the world one pair at a time” is leading by example. CEO Wayne Elsey and his dedicated team are relentless in their efforts to change the world—for the better—with the simple gift of shoes. Bravo! Last but not least, I hope you enjoy our change of pace with the enclosed Bearpaw Style custom publication. The teen-themed format speaks to the 10-year-old brand’s young, irreverent fashion-loving audience and reflects a company that doesn’t take itself too seriously. I hope you enjoy reading all of this issue as much as we enjoyed creating it. In that sense, some things never change. Greg Dutter Editorial Director



THIS JUST IN

Alexandra Tanguay, 28 Profession: Marketing Hometown: Providence, RI Shoes: Dolce Vita, bought at Oak for $150. Where did you buy your bracelets? An African market in Harlem for $2 each. How do your accessories complement each other? It’s all about the embellishment factor: the studs on the shoes and the squares on the bracelets. Do accessories make the outfit? Absolutely, because I wear only neutral colors and black, so I rely on my accessories to make my looks different from day to day. What does your outfit say about you? That I’m ready for summer. Typically, I’m an all-black dresser but today I’m in color.

Arm Candy Big and many: Stacked bangles make a bold statement and contrast well with barely-there summer shoe styles. By Dorothy Hong 14 footwearplusmagazine.com • august 2011


www.ara-shoes.net

My Favorite Season? Summer!

1

1. Giselle 36230-07 2. Alexandra 37929-07

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Shoe fashion that fits me. ara North America · 12 W. 57th Street, suite 1001 · New York · NY 10019 · 877.272.7463


SPECIAL REPORT

The Devil Inside A FEW YEARS ago, Bruce Kaminsky, owner of Big N Little Shoes, caught a long-time employee stealing from his Chicago boutique. For some retailers, the solution would be cut and dry: hand the employee his walking papers, and possibly call the police. But for Kaminsky, it was a tough decision and he decided to keep the staffer. “Finding good employees, even when unemployment is high, is so hard,” he explains. “We had a stern conversation and a real heart-to-heart.” Nevertheless, Kaminsky admits he’s been left thinking, “This is a great salesperson and a great shoe person, but also a thief. It put his reputation right out the window.” Unfortunately, Kaminsky’s tale isn’t uncommon. Employee theft accounts for about half of retail shrinkage annually—and the numbers are on the rise, says Richard Hollinger, a criminology professor at the University of Florida. According to preliminary figures from the National Retail Federation’s annual security survey, which Hollinger conducts, inventory retail shrinkage rose to more than $37 billion, up from $33.5 billion in 2009. “This is the largest form of property crime in the United States, bar none,” Hollinger maintains. The reason behind the increase is not easy to pinpoint, but the slowly recovering economy might be playing a role, Hollinger says, noting that employee theft actually decreased during the recession. “When the economy goes down, people who lost jobs turn to retail jobs as their sole source of income,” Hollinger explains. “People are trying to keep these jobs to keep food on the table.” Now that the economy is slowly rebounding, people may feel comfortable enough to slide back into bad habits. Just what is the typical profile of a light-fingered staff member? “It could be anybody but your mother,” says Gary Weiner, owner of Saxon Shoes in Richmond, VA. “Somebody that has worked for you a month or for 15 years.” David Shelist, owner of Madison and Friends, a children’s shop in Chicago, says he’s found that “part-timers are more apt to steal.” But security experts warn that full-time employees can be just as dangerous since they often feel entitled to the items they’re taking. “They rationalize stealing if they think they’re giving, giving, giving to the company,” says Terrence Shulman, director of the Schulman Center for Compulsive Theft, Spending & Hoarding in Detroit. Retail and security experts agree: Vigilance is key to keeping theft at a minimum. Although there are no guarantees, the following tips can help keep employees in check.

1. HIRE AND TRAIN YOUR STAFF CAREFULLY “An ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure,” Shulman says. “If employers can do a good job on the front end—with background checks and multiple interviews—it will save a lot of time and money on the back end.” While a thorough hiring process won’t weed out every bad egg, experts say it will help you spot obvious red flags, like previous criminal activity. More and more companies are also requiring credit checks for new employees. “People with low credit scores might be more likely to take money to help them with their bills,” Shulman notes. During the interview, Shulman advises to spot poor eye contact and to keep an eye on employees whom “make excuses for little errors rather than owning up for it and seem afraid to ask for help.” Allan Bachman, education manager at the Association of Certified Fraud Examiners (ACFE), advises retailers to emphasize the consequences of stealing during employee training. “State that you are serious about employee theft and fraud, that you are watching and will prosecute to the fullest extent of the law.” Kaminsky at Big N Little’s says that’s exactly what his experience taught him. After he caught his long-time staffer stealing, he stressed the potential consequences: “The police would have taken you away in handcuffs, you would have had to pay bail and for an attorney, you would have lost wages since you’re no longer employed here, you would have had to find a new job, and you wouldn’t be able to use us as a reference. And it’s all because you stole $50.” When spelled out this way, Kaminsky says his employees appear to understand that it’s “ludicrous” to steal. The problem, says Abe Rogowski, owner of the Shoe Parlor in New York, is that most employees know the threat to prosecute is an empty one. “Unless it’s a major amount, no one is going to go through the trouble, because by the time you’ve hired a lawyer, what’s the sense?” he says. “You’re better off letting the person go, and most employees know that.”

16 footwearplusmagazine.com • august 2011

2. KEEP A CLOSE WATCH “We have cameras in every section of our store, including the back room,” says Shelist. “No matter where we are, we can bring up our stores on our iPad to see what’s going on.” In fact, technology is helping retailers monitor their stores more closely than ever. Rogowski also uses cameras, which he watches via his cell phone. “We’ve caught >76

ILLUSTRATION BY GhOstXFX

Smart preventative measures can keep employee theft from hurting your store’s bottom line. By Audrey Goodson



AMERICAN ACCENT

THERE ARE PLENTY of Euro comfort brands that have come ashore during what has become an ongoing head-to-toe casual revolution now stretching back several decades. Some are well-established and highly successful both here and abroad, and many others are small and struggle to find their way. Then there are those that seem to get the formula right overseas but run into enormous difficulties trying to put an American accent on their European designs and seem determined to utilize the same approach to marketing, brand positioning and delivering their goods to retailers Stateside. For the latter companies, it’s like they just refuse to speak English. The fact that they have already been quite successful elsewhere around the world leads to a stubbornness and, to be blunt, an arrogance to adapt to the unique demands that this market presents. C’est la vie. But try as they might, companies that insist upon their European ways often find the road to building a viable business in the U.S. full of potholes, complete with plenty of debilitating detours and sales roadblocks. The wreckage of such brands litters the side of the road. And it’s no secret that our industry does plenty of rubbernecking in this regard. Rob Rask, an industry veteran with extensive retail and wholesale experience, is well aware of these tales—just one reason why he is the ideal candidate leading German-based Ara Shoes into America. Rask began his footwear career working for a division of Nordstrom called Place Two and sold many a shoe at its Crossroads store in his hometown of Bellevue, WA. He worked his way through many different departments during his Nordstrom tenure and eventually wound up as its men’s merchandise manager for the Southern California region. “It was an amazing experience and I learned a lot about this business,” Rask says. “The culture back then was entrepreneurial and decentralized.” Rask says the lessons taught then were to listen to each customer, in each department, in each store. “Employees were encouraged to carry merchandise that reflected the customer in each department,” he says, noting there was a designated buyer in every department. “It was a bit like herding cats, but the idea was not to bring them all together. The idea was to support the buyers in each of their environments and encourage and celebrate the separate businesses that each store had.” Not surprisingly, Rask says the store managers took ownership of their businesses, which, he adds, is part of his approach at Ara North America. “We want to reach the consumer, and we undrestand that each of the retail partners we work with are very passionate about how they go

18 footwearplusmagazine.com • august 2011

PHOTOGRAPHY BY DOROTHY HONG

O&A

Rob Rask, managing director of Ara Shoes North America, reveals why the German-based Euro comfort company—already a major player around the world—is positioned to take the country by storm. By Greg Dutter



O&A So far so good, Rask reports. Asked to grade getting the backroom capabilities dialed into about reaching their respective customers,” he 2011, he modestly responds: “We get a good American needs and time schedules—Rask explains. “We are embracing our unique partgrade.” While this past spring was a tough one believes Ara is positioned for rapid growth. ners by working individually with each to help weather wise and the economy continued on its Perhaps the very fact that Rask acknowledges them grow their businesses.” anemic recovery, Rask says Ara came out OK. the need to adapt to such market specifics is the Following a successful 10-year run with Nor“Our inventories are in great shape heading into first sign that Ara will avoid the mistakes made dstrom, Rask entered an entrepreneurial stint this fall season and we really like how the overall by others who have sought to conquer America. of designing and importing shoes from Europe line merchandises,” he says. “We believe that was later folded into an opporwe have the right fashion styles with tunity with Roots Canada. Rask was the fit and comfort that the customer is then offered an opportunity to work looking for.” In addition, Rask says the alongside then Mephisto USA President finishing touches on a new operating Richard Meckfessel. “Richard believed system are nearly complete. “This will there was a very big opportunity to What are you reading? tions—the muscles, tendons, really propel us forward,” he says, noting grow Mephisto in this country and he The Impact of Trust by ligaments and bones—and it was already considered a strong suit and I worked together successfully to Bruce E. Brown. He was how important footwear of the brand. “We often receive comthat end,” Rask says. “We had almost my junior high gym teacher is to help us ambulate in a pliments regarding our operations and four years together and really did have and football, basketball and healthier manner. customer service. This will only help us fun building that business.” Following baseball coach. He is one of get even better in these areas as well as Meckfessel’s unexpected passing, Rask my life mentors. What was your first paying better in many other facets of the busionce again went the entrepreneurjob? From a young age, I ness. Our customers will be pleased.” ial route importing shoes from Europe Who would you want to lived at the Boys Club in my under Borgesi until the Ara opportunity be for a day? On Saturday, hometown of Bellevue, WA. presented itself in 2008. He was immeJuly 9, Derek Jeter! I figured I could make some What might surprise U.S. retailers diately intrigued by Ara’s vast resources, money and justify to my parabout Ara? its long track record of success globally What one word best ents why I was always there, That we are a very big brand in Europe. and, specifically, how that could equate describes you? Passionate. so at age 8, I began refereeWe own most of our factories, which is to a comfort-loving nation like the U.S. ing 5-year-old basketball great for quality control, for the continuFor starters, Ara owns most of its facWho is the world’s most games for 50 cents a game. ity of fit for our shoes and to maintain a tories and therefore has a firm grasp on inf luential person in fashImagine an 8 year old telling good value. Ara started out almost 70 quality control and the ability to mainion? The consumer. It’s fasa parent of a 5 year old to sit, years ago as a manufacturer and retailer tain consistency from one season to cinating how social media be quiet and enjoy the game. of shoes. It is still a family-owned and the next. In addition, it assures greater influences fashion. Most would nod in agreeoperated business. reliability with respect to in-full and onment, but then let me have it time deliveries. Then there’s the sheer What might people be on the next “blown” call. What is Ara’s reputation in the Eurovolume of product Ara makes each seasurprised to know about pean market? son. “We have many lasts, designs, patyou? I am a certified pedorFavorite hometown Ara is in many of the better retail stores terns and types of shoes,” Rask offers. thist. From the waist down, memory: The 1979 Seattle in Europe and around the world. In addi“We are well known in many parts of I know how the body funcSupersonics’ NBA title. tion, we have a very broad and diverse Europe for all types of footwear, includbusiness in those markets. We are very ing women’s comfort footbed sandals much a complete shoe company. The to mid-heel dress pumps to fashion consumer knows Ara for all types of platform pumps to Gore-Tex boots and footwear as well as for being a go-to retailer for “What is difficult to bring to the North Amerishoes and much more.” He adds, “We also have all types of shoes. Or, as our slogan reads, “Shoe can marketplace is the European timing of a very healthy men’s business that is competitive fashion that fits me.” deliveries as well as some of the sensibility for with many of the brands that are popular here.” materials, colors and seasonal products,” Rask Overall, Rask believes Ara’s product arsenal What advantages does Ara have that other says. “We have worked hard to align both Ara is a key selling point with American retailers, Euro comfort brands might not in its efforts Canada and Ara U.S. with their respective many of whom are looking for product diverto become a player in the U.S. market? markets and, in this regard, distanced ourselves sity to set their stores apart from increasingly It all begins with our ability to control our qualfrom Europe these last couple of years.” Specifihomogenous competition. And the fact that Ara ity. The continuity in terms of fit, from season cally, Rask says Ara is now offering many more owns and operates approximately 800 stores to season, is a strong selling point for us. To patterns, lasts and styles to the North American worldwide, Rask notes, proves it understands be precise, our shoes are made on numerous, marketplace than ever before. “Ara offers such the needs and concerns of retailers. “We have a specific-fitting lasts. We make certain styles on a diverse collection that we believe we can be very long retail history; we understand retailcertain lasts and, therefore, the overall execugreat partners with retailers in North America,” ing,” he confirms. tion of the shoe is much better. There are not he says. “As we continue to deliver on those marNow nearly three years into the gig—the many companies that use these types of fittings ket demands, we expect great results.” majority of his time and effort was first spent

OFF THE CUFF

20 footwearplusmagazine.com • august 2011


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anymore. While the benefits are a bit more difficult to translate to retailers initially, it builds a loyalty once they understand and their customers experience the difference. In the long run, the better we help the shoe fit and be comfortable, the better for our customers. In addition to lasts, what are other unique comfort attributes of Ara shoes? Our Comfort Stretch design gives the customer more flexibility and give in both the ball and the little toe area of the foot. We make many different types of shoes with this technology and have found a very nice following with our customers. Ara also offers multiple shaft width boots—from S, M, L, XL, XXL. This is pretty unique in the marketplace today and a particularly strong point of brand differentiation. Many women in this country have difficulties fitting into one-size-fits-all boots. Women come in all shapes and sizes. Carlina

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Where are you at in the process of making Ara a major player in the comfort market here? We have worked very hard over the last couple of years to get our business in line with our retailers’ needs. We are excited that the hard work is paying off. To date, we are beating our plan for 2011, but the numbers are still not where I think they should be. That said, I’m excited for this season. We are in good inventory shape, and I believe we should have a very good rest of the year. We have worked hard on developing more fashionable shoes. We have listened to our retail partners, and they are responding positively. Our initial bookings going into this season are very strong and our deliveries have started earlier than ever. Also, we have a very strong relationship with Gore-Tex and that package of shoes and boots for this season is the best we have had to date. It’s a tremendous product and continues to get stronger because of the consumer demand. Our initial bookings in this category are well ahead of where we were last year. It should also be noted that, because we believe in being an in-stock company, we have a strong inventory position on our entire line. What are some of the challenges in gaining acceptance in this market? As you well know, it is very competitive out there. We believe that if we can continue to deliver on time, have stock for reorders, offer great value and maintain our fit, comfort and quality, then we will continue to experience success. It doesn’t hurt that our brand is well known worldwide and it’s a very small world now. People travel much more and they are also exposed to much more because of the Internet. Ara is increasingly coming to the attention of consumers here.

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What has been your biggest surprise—good or bad—this year? The good has been how responsive retailers have been to our efforts. They have really been encouraging us these last couple of years. And while the reaction really isn’t unexpected, it’s nice to know that we are moving in the right direction. Along those lines, what’s on tap for Spring ’12? Traditionally, our business has been very strong in the fall and winter months. And while we continue to work on opening up our footwear, we don’t want to lose the unique Ara elements related to comfort and fit in the process. Our head designer, Ralf Schlachter, has done an outstanding job for this marketplace in this regard. He has worked hard to integrate the lasts, materials and colors that we have been asking for. We just finished our line set for next spring and believe we have made great strides. Specifically, we’ve >79


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TREND SPOTTING

BLOCK PARTY

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Designers color inside the lines.

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Clockwise from top left: 1. Chocolat Blu skimmer 2. Wedge by Messeca 3. Two Lips stiletto 4. Bettye Muller cap-toe pump 5. Boat shoe by Sebago 6. Patrizia by Spring Step slide 7. Jellypop peep-toe platform 8. Chukka by El Naturalista 9. Cut-out peeptoe pump by Lovely People.

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PHOTOGRAPHY BY DEAN POWELL. FASHION EDITOR: ANGELA VELASQUEZ

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august 2011 • footwearplusmagazine.com


TREND SPOTTING

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Today’s Catch

Men’s sandals reel in classic fisherman details. Clockwise from top: 1. Fisherman sandal by Dansko 2. Bungee cord fisherman by Clarks 3. Hush Puppies sandal with whipstitch detail 4. Rockport traditional fisherman 5. Naot sandal with contrast stitching. 26 footwearplusmagazine.com • august 2011



TREND

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SPOTTING

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Golden Girls

Heavy metal flirts with a refreshing hint of rose. Clockwise from top: 1. Bernardo flat sandal 2. Mark + James cage stiletto 3. Stiletto sandal by Via Spiga 4. Two Lips cork wedge 5. Penny Loves Kenny platform Mary Jane 6. Charles Jourdan slide 7. Jewel-embellished sandal by Lovely People. 28 footwearplusmagazine.com • august 2011

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VISIT US IN ALTANTA booth # 1355 800.848.9452


TREND SPOTTING

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Main Squeeze

Designers have a zest for citrus hues. Clockwise from top left: 1. Fossil espadrille 2. Pelle Moda cut-out flat 3. Rubber sandal by Lacoste 4. Etienne Aigner sandal with rope detail 5. Rockport wedge sneaker 6. Heeled mule by Cordani 7. Elizabeth Brady suede slingback. 30 footwearplusmagazine.com • august 2011


Earth® Camellia

Follow the Path to Wellness! experience the earth® brand like you’ve never seen it before!

WSA | July 27 – 29 | Sands Expo Center | Booth #5139 FFaNY | August 2 – 4 | Hilton NY | Room #1251 Atlanta | August 13 – 15 | Cobb Galleria Centre | Booth #1437 Platform | August 22 – 24 | Las Vegas Convention Center | Booth #61561 Kalsø Earth® Shoe (kalsoearthshoes.com), Earth® Footwear (earthfootwear.com) and Earthies® (earthiesusa.com) are trademarks of Meynard Designs, Inc. licensed to Earth, Inc. (Waltham, MA). 781.893.7474. © 2011 Earth, Inc.


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Clockwise from top left: 1. Gwyneth peep-toe flat 2. Ugg Australia clog 3. Platform oxford by Daniblack 4. Fossil flat with bow 5. Clarks Originals men’s desert boot 6. Calleen Cordero laceless oxford 7. Oxford with ribbon laces by Hush Puppies 8. Bernardo tall boot.

august 2011 • footwearplusmagazine.com 33


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Lavender Fields

The soft and feminine color crops up across spring styles. Clockwise from top center: 1. Naya espadrille 2. Blonde Ambition mixed material wedge 3. Chambray boat shoe by Sperry Top-Sider 4. Mark + James patent leather stiletto 5. White Mountain flower-embellished flat 6. Lace-up by Gravis 7. Ecco cap-toe sneaker. 34 footwearplusmagazine.com • august 2011


THE INDUSTRY’S PREMIER EVENT the shoe show at 49 SQUARE MILES • 7 FOR ALL MANKIND • 80%20 • ACCESSOIRE • ACORN • ADDICTION TO COMFORT • ADIO • ADORE BORN TO LOVE • ADRIENNE VITTADINI • AEROSOLES • AETREX • AGAPE • AGATHA RUIZ DE LA PRADA KIDS • AK ANNE KLEIN • ALEGRIA • ALEJANDRA G • ALL BLACK • ALLEN EDMONDS • ALLROUNDER BY MEPHISTO • AMALFI BY RANGONI • AMAZONAS • AMERIBAG • AMERIBAG BY DESIGN • AMERICAN SPORTING GOODS • AMIMOC • AMINAH ABDUL JILLIL • ANARCHIC BY T.U.K. • ANATOMIC & CO. • ANATOMIC GEL TECHNOLOGY • AND 1 • AND 1 KIDS • ANDRE ASSOUS • ANDREW STEVENS COLLECTION • ANGELES • ANGELS NEW YORK • ANNA CAPRI • ANNA SUI FOR HUSH PUPPIES • ANSWER 2 • ANTELOPE • ANTIA • ANYI LU • APARA • APEPAZZA • APRES BY LAMO • AQUATALIA BY MARVIN K. • ARCHE • ARCOPEDICO • ARDIENTE • AREA FORTE • ART • ARTIFICIAL INTELLIGENCE • ARTURO CHIANG • ASH • ASH KIDS • ASPIGA • ATHENA ALEXANDER • ATTILIO GIUSTI LEOMBRUNI • ATTITUDES • AUDLEY • AURI • AUSIIE BOOTS AUSTRALIA • AUSIIE COUTURE • AUSIIE FLIPS • AVANCE • AVIA • AVIA KIDS • AZURA • B. 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Captain’s Choice

The men’s warm weather staple docks for spring. Clockwise from top left: 1. Rugged boat shoe by Wolverine 2. Timberland teal boat shoe 3. Sneaker-soled boat shoe by Ugg Australia 4. Canvas boat shoe with contrast stitching by Crevo 5. Aetrex boat shoe with gold hardware 6. Red suede boat shoe by GBX. 36 footwearplusmagazine.com • august 2011



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Scent of a Woman Tiny florals evoke a vintage look.

Clockwise from top left: 1. Jellypop cork platform heel 2. Gravis lace-up oxford 3. Clog by Sanita 4. Gotta Flurt skimmer 5. Etienne Aigner peep-toe slingback 6. Espadrille by White Mountain 7. Spring Step T-strap wedge. 38 footwearplusmagazine.com • august 2011


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Homespun Style

Woven leather adds dimension and texture. Clockwise from top: 1. Frye short boot 2. Sorel men’s boot 3. Flat by Bass 4. Rockport driving moccasin 5. House of Harlow 1960 slingback platform heel 6. Multi-color slide by Sanita 7. Bernardo flat sandal. 40 footwearplusmagazine.com • august 2011



THE REAL

JERSEY SHORE

Forget Snooki, self-tanner and over-gelled wannabe Romeos. Despite what MTV may say, for these footwear retailers, the real Jersey Shore is full of locals who flock to the coast for sun, sports and style.

Brave New World

The one thing Brave New World offered in its fledgling years may be the one thing that no longer appears in the store’s merchandise mix. Opened by Bill Lammer in 1974 as a bike shop, Brave New World Surf Shop in Point Pleasant Beach, NJ, has exploded to stock everything from apparel, footwear and sunglasses to surfboards, skateboards and décor—bikes sold separately. Taking over an entire strip mall on Rt. 35 South, the gateway to now infamous Seaside Heights, it’s no wonder the store requires a minimum of 15 employees on the floor at any given time. Men’s, women’s and kids’ apparel is located on the ground floor, along with swim, footwear and accessories. Upstairs is what Cathyie Brand, the store’s footwear manager, calls the “fun stuff”: Rows upon rows of surf and skateboards, helmets, wetsuits and niche magazines. Brand notes, “It’s a shore-style department store.” In Brand’s shoe department, staffers are chosen for their outgoing personalities and work ethic, despite the fact that she affectionately calls one employee “Bum” due to his habit of sleeping right until it’s time to clock in. Regardless, Brand says the kind of kids she hires are up to speed on what’s hot with beach dwellers now. “They’re in the know about what’s going on. For the most part, they’re local kids who know the beach,” she says. As of late, that’s been Sanuk’s Sidewalk Surfers, or as the brand refers to the naturally flexing footwear, Not-A-Shoes (get it?). Even with three grab-and-go racks of the comfy slip-ons, Brand says, “We sell out faster than we can keep it on

The entrance to Brave New World’s Point Pleasant location. 42 footwearplusmagazine.com • august 2011

Cathyie Brand (right) and staffers Jack Cartright (center) and Mickey Kearns (left).


our shelves.” Generally, Brand says flip-flops from Reef sell well for men, women and kids during the summer months. And once the tourists vacate, skate brands like Vans and DC Shoes start to fly on the men’s side. “I’ve always noticed that men tend to get what they know is comfortable and walk out the door,” Brand explains, “but men are actually shopping now.” Brave New World’s biannual blowout sale really draws a crowd, Brand says. A native, she brought her kids for years before becoming an employee. “We live around the corner and would come for the sale,” she recalls. “You wait in line in the searing sun, and you’re not the only one. There are people who sleep outside. The line wraps around the building.” But even for regularly priced merchandise, sales are up this year. “I got called in last Sunday, on my day off, because we were slammed so hard because of the weather,” Brand relays. And furthermore, online orders have been depleting back stock. “The Internet guy calls me constantly to pull more shoes,” Brand jokingly gripes. —Meagan Walker

Katherine’s Boutique

The charms of Katherine’s Boutique and downtown Manasquan are interchangeable. Picturesque, inviting and on a summer evening, filled with the sound of street musicians filtering through the store’s open doors, the setting seems idyllic. But don’t mistake this retailer, nestled between a traditional cobbler and 102-year-old Raffeto Shoes, as old-time or quaint. Since 2006, Katherine’s Boutique—begun by co-owner Katherine Visceglia—has been a hub for locals and visitors seeking hard-to-find fashion footwear, and more recently, apparel and accessories. The expansion came about when Jacylene Holloway came on board as co-owner. “We both have backgrounds other than retail, but are drawn to the ever-changing world of fashion,” Holloway says. “We’re always combing through magazine after magazine to make sure we hit the latest trend,” she says of the pair’s perfect fit. Their low key and pleasant work dynamic is reflected in the relaxed, yet fun lines the Jersey Shore locals carry in the boutique. “Kathy and I are both born and raised here, so we have a pretty good idea what will sell and what will not,” Holloway says, noting the majority of clientele are locals, too. On their checklist: goodlooking, comfortable, durable shoes in the right color. Neutrals, like nude and pale metallic gold, are having a moment, which Visceglia and Holloway are pleased about since they are instinctively drawn to them. Wedges are proving successful, too. “We definitely offer a more casual, laid-back type of style,” Holloway says. Leading footwear brands include Steve Madden, Sam Edelman, Restricted, Seychelles and Lucky Brand. During the summer, when Manasquan’s population triples, the store’s assortment becomes more diverse. “In the summer, we outfit women for weddings, showers and graduations. Our

Casual styles fit for the boardwalk.

footwear collection goes from super casual, such as Havainanas flip-flops, to dressy evening shoes by Nina Footwear,” Holloway explains. The typical Katherine’s Boutique customer is 20– to 40– years old—a wide age range that Visceglia says is taken into consideration as the store expands and pushes the limits of its inventory each season. Still, she says, “A challenge for the store is the concept that we are only for younger people. We may have to turn the store upside down, but we can find something for everyone.” One thing that goes unchanged is the owners’ mission to keep the store trendy yet affordable. “We do our best to keep everything under $100,” says Holloway. Some higher-end styles priced over the sweet spot are peppered throughout the boutique, but Visceglia notes brands like Kensie Girl, Madden Girl and BC Footwear offer a price point and style that is unbeatable. “They keep our customers in style without breaking the bank,” she adds. Cash saved means more to splurge with during shopping events Holloway and Visceglia host each season. The boutique’s plush interior, reminiscent of a luxurious seaside bungalow, with crystal chandeliers, crisp white shelving, ornate mirrors and a white couch visitors can sink into, sets the perfect tone for swank events like purse parties and girls’ night out. The girlish atmosphere often sparks fashion montages a la Pretty Women. Holloway notes a common need for customers is help pulling together an outfit. Her favorite customers are those willing to try on something they normally would have bypassed. She says, “I absolutely love when a person comes in for an outfit. We may struggle for a bit, trying on a bunch of items, but when an outfit really comes together, you know your customer is going to walk out of your store, get tons of compliments on her outfit and feel absolutely great about herself. That’s the goal.” —Angela Velasquez

Above: A selelction of sandals and beach totes at Katherine’s Boutique. At left: Co-owners Katherine Visceglia (left) and Jacylene Holloway (right.)

august 2011 • footwearplusmagazine.com 43


Miles Ahead Sports

A photo collage of the shop’s loyal customers sporting their Miles Ahead gear (above); One-onone service is key at the shop (right); Owners Bruce and Sharon Robinson along with their daughter, Courtney.

Running isn’t just business for Miles Ahead Sports co-owner Bruce Robinson; it’s a way of life. At least, it was until the sport started taking its toll on his knees (now he limits his workouts to a mere 200 miles of cycling per week). A former triathlete and marathoner—he qualified for the Olympic trials in 1976 and finished third in his age group at Ironman Hawaii, the big kahuna of triathlons—the success of the store is largely built upon his reputation, expertise and outsize personality. Opened in Manasquan 27 years ago by Bruce and his wife Sharon, the 550-square-foot store became a mecca for endurance athletes looking to stock up on the best footwear and running apparel in town, and the couple helped build its faithful customer base by hosting local 5Ks. “That also was good exposure, not only for local people, but people that would come down from North Jersey and the Philadelphia area and New York,” Bruce says. Although the shop’s customer base is largely local, Miles Ahead sees “a huge influx” of summer beachgoers, Sharon reports, so capturing that out-of-state audience was key. Nowadays, a 7-person staff, including the couple’s daughter Courtney, helps fit a variety of customers, young and old, for an array of fitness activities, from walking to cross training. The boom in popularity of gyms—more than a dozen have sprung up around the shop since it opened—has been a double-edged sword for the store, since gymgoers need shoes, but not the outdoor apparel and Gore-Tex jackets the shop used to stock more heavily, Bruce says. And while the economy and competition from big box retailers in nearby towns have proved challenging in the last few years, Miles Ahead’s faithful clientele have carried it through rough waters—the shop now fits the teenage children of its original crop of high-school customers. What keeps its customers coming back generation after generation is its focus on fit, Bruce says. Even on its busiest days, when the staff sells upwards of 30 pairs in two hours, “You want to be able to service all of them without rushing them through the experience,” he says. “How we’ve built our reputation has been with the people that don’t even ask to try on 4, 5, 6 pairs of shoes on, but we bring them up to let them feel the difference.” With a surprisingly diverse array of brands in its cozy space, including Asics, Saucony, Brooks, Nike, Mizuno, New Balance, Puma, Adidas and Newton, customers can be sure to leave with the best possible option. It’s a mix of service and selection that’s attracted everyone from Court TV’s Jack Ford to football legend Bill Parcells—but no Snooki or Pauly D as of yet (Sharon is quick to note the Jersey Shore is “nothing like the MTV show”). Also, “No Bruce Springstein,” says Bruce. “ We keep waiting for the day for him to come in. Maybe one day we’ll get him in, and we’ll put on ‘Born to Run.’” —Audrey Goodson

Everyone Loves a Jersey Girl Pairs of pals sport beach-ready styles as the sun sets on Seaside Height’s infamous boardwalk. Later, Pauly D. and Ronnie, from the cast of MTV’s Jersey Shore, made an appearance.

44 footwearplusmagazine.com • august 2011



HAPP[IER] H O L I DAYS

Once considered an off season, the holidays are becoming a whole lot jollier for the footwear industry, thanks to special collections and related promotions.

IF ‘KA-CHING’ IS retailers’ favorite sound, then the ringing of holiday bells is increasingly becoming their second. A recent Reuters Retail and Consumer Summit revealed that holiday spending is expected to increase by 3 percent for 2011. It’s a small uptick, but bodes well for retailers who usually produce about 40 percent of their annual profit from holiday sales. What’s more, with an increasing number of footwear companies pulling out all of the stops—limited editions, finer leathers, glitz and glitter—shoe retailers are expecting sales of holiday collections to be on the rise. “It always takes fresh goods to move old goods,” say Trevor Delmore, vice president of Coogi Footwear. “Consumers are always open to newness— this drives the business as a whole.” New temptations, along with consumers’ generous spirit and their own needs for festive footwear make a perfect

package for an industry that long considered shoes a less than ideal holiday gift—aside from slippers for dear old dad. Quite the contrary, Blake Mycoskie, founder of Toms Shoes, says the company’s holiday styles are great purchases for this time of the year because they embody the true spirit of this season: colorful, imaginative and meaningful, thanks in part to the company’s One for One business model that donates a pair for every pair sold to children in need around the world. Still, Mycoskie reports that the brand is also stepping up to the demands of the fashion crowd by introducing more glitter, wedge and sequin styles, giving women an opportunity to wear Toms to holiday parties. During the holiday season, Sportie LA’s marketing director Mikey Sajbtai says everyone wants the hottest styles.

By Angela Velasquez 46 footwearplusmagazine.com • august 2011


“People wait all year,” he says of special collections the Los Angeles-based store offers by brands such as Nike, Lacoste and Sebago. These labels have collectible status, but they are just a few of the ever-increasing range and number of manufacturers tapping into this season with holiday collections. Years ago, the holiday season was seen as a small add-on to the fall product offering, remembers Element Footwear Development Manager Charlie Manos. “In general, retailers experience a spike in sales during the holiday months, so it makes sense to freshen up the selection,” he says. “But now the holiday season has become so important that it seems to stand alone as a third season.” The season is indeed growing in importance each year, confirms Vans Lifestyle Footwear Director Steve Mills, noting 100 percent of the brand’s retail partners buy into its holiday collections at some level. By offering retailers new shipments during the season, Mills says, Vans allows them to freshen what’s on the f loor. “Some of the product they carry during holiday has been on the f loor since July,” he notes, adding, “We can also offer more season-appropriate products with winter stories, such as popular styles with f leece lining or water-resistant uppers.” Randy McKinley, vice president of sales and marketing for Bearpaw, likens the effect of holiday collections to being the center of attention at a party: “Just think of holiday as being able to walk into a get-together and turn every head in the room to look at what you’re wearing.” The head-turning, $800 holiday styles featured at the New York boutique Chuckies may not find their way into every stocking, but owner Richard Erani believes a few are essential for enlivening the sales f loor and window during that season. He peppers a few metallic and jewel styles amongst more versatile silhouettes and fabrications—a direct response to consumers’ desire for more practical investments. “In terms of traditional holiday, women are just not buying satin shoes anymore. It’s a fading fashion moment,” he notes. Henry Cosio, vice president of sales for Vans, says retailers typically see a great sell-through with its holiday range, but it’s a very short window of opportunity. “It’s imperative that the product be on the f loor by Black Friday to take advantage of that foot traffic,” he advises. On the other hand, McKinley questions the need to highlight new stock during a time when consumers are conditioned to expect special sales. “It’s almost a waste to bring in something new and exciting. Save it for the following week,”

SHOPPING LIST Some of what’s in store for this upcoming holiday season.

NEW BALANCE

Following up New Balance’s Fall ’11 American Folk theme, Lynch says the holiday collection draws from the Age of Aviation. “We took inspiration from the rich bomber jackets, details of the original aircrafts and the craftsmanship that accompanied many of the accessories during this time,” she describes. The collection, which Lynch reports is getting a strong reaction from buyers, includes leading New Balance styles 991, 1300 and 998 models that incorporate a vintage vibe with cream mesh and cognac suede.

PRIMIGI

Noting that holiday styles for kids in Brooklyn are different than holiday styles in Baton Rouge, Primigi Director of Marketing Gina LaRossa says one common demand from retailers—no matter geography—is a classic patent leather Mary Jane. “It is the holiday staple,” she says. This year Primigi offers one in cherry red, chocolate brown and navy patents, and also in metallic leather silver or gold. The collection also includes ballet flats reworked with sequins, metallics, sparkle leather and black suede and a tall black quilted boots which, LaRossa says, speaks to boutiques wanting a high fashion option. On the boys end, expect traditional loafers and hand-sewn moccasins in black, grey and navy leathers that can transition into next season.

TOMS

Special colorways and sparkle have always been part of Toms’ holiday program, but this season the company is making a statement with a package of prints introduced to four staple silhouettes: the botas, classics, cordones and wedges. Aztec patterns, plaid, tile, multi-color polka dots and hounds tooth—in a lush, jewel-tone color palette— are offered in wintery fabrications including corduroy, fleece, flannel and tweed. For the customers living in colder climates, Mycoskie says botas and classics are further winterized with fleece lining. Toms is also adding untraditional holiday colors, like neon green and pink to the soles of some styles for contrast. Still, Mycoskie says Toms loyalists can find their fill of sequin classics—this year in purple, pink, turquoise, black and pewter.

ACORN

Winter motifs and a holiday color palette lay the foundation for Acorn’s collection for the whole family. A solid representation of the line is the women’s Snowflower Mule, reports Christine Berube, marketing director. The wool slide, available in blue or red, features original snowflake embroidery, which Berube says is a key selling point for Acorn that distinguishes the brand and makes the slippers a special gift. “That extra element of customization draws customers in and gets them to touch and feel,” she adds. Other styles include the women’s Gala mule with bursts of multi-color embroidery; a men’s moc with varsity stripes and a nonslip weatherproof outsole for indoor and outdoor wear; a bright pink moc for girls with a flower appliqué and a soccer-themed boys’ moc. For traditionalists, and to diversify the selling floor, Berube says Acorn is also making available simple mocs in solid red, cocoa and slate.

august 2011 • footwearplusmagazine.com 47


COOGI ELEMENT BEARPAW

Embossed details, decorative stitching, studs and buckles add to the distinction of Bearpaw’s Boutique Collection for holiday. The fur, light metallic and hand-stained boots are not intended for the masses, McKinley notes. “It was really designed with those key trendy independent shops in mind,” he says. Highlights include a knee-high boot with an equestrian flavor made from python embossed leather; a fine leather motorcycle boot with three buckles; and a top-of-the-line suede boot trimmed with fox fur. According to McKinley, “This is definitely a ‘look at me’ boot. Perfect for before or after skiing, or just walking around the lodge.”

Living up to its name by addressing winter’s harsh elements, skateboard lifestyle brand Element is using heavier leathers, swapping out lightweight lining for denser bamboo micro-fiber and applying more cold weatherappropriate fabrics, such as wool, to key styles in its Emerald Collection. As the brand’s more sophisticated and environmentalfriendly line, Manos says the Emerald range—a true blend of men’s staples including chukkas, crepe sole lace-ups, work boots and boat shoe hybrids—draws inspiration from the great outdoors. Rugged laces, side lacing and combinations of full-grain leather and suede carry out the theme. On the more casual end, Element is offering washed canvas sneakers and simple slip-ons that Manos says speaks to the company’s core wearer.

VANS

What begun as an extension of Vans’ fall line has become a full fledge holiday collection over the last five years. “Our holiday line [which encompasses Oct. 1 to Dec. 1 shipments] consists of new seasonal styles—about 50 percent of the SKUs that we carry for fall—and popular carryovers from fall,” Mills says. To keep the holiday collection special, Vans designers applied party-ready details like silver matte sequins and cheetah print to some of the company’s best-selling silhouettes for women, including the Lo Pro lace-up sneaker, and re-created the brand’s signature checkerboard print in red and black tonal patterns on a series of rain boots. Slip-ons with shearling lining, moccasin-boat shoe hybrids and full-grain leather lace-ups with preppy laces offer a sophisticated story for men.

48 footwearplusmagazine.com • august 2011

Delmore says retailers buy into holiday lines based on the success of particular styles from previous seasons. As a result, Coogi execs are placing bets on boots for 2011—a category Delmore says is still delivering notable results at the checkout counter. New abstract tribal prints in vibrant colors spice up the women’s range of sheepskin boots. “The collection is very iconic for the brand,” he says of the versatile styles that can be up or cuffed. On the men’s side, outdoor-inspired boots including the tall Henry lace-up, short hiker Tomas and buckle-accented Aston, get a street makeover with pops of red and brushed gold hardware. Similarly, navy, rich shades of brown and subtle color block details lend a luxe nautical feel to men’s sneakers.

UGG AUSTRALIA

Drawing from athletic and outdoor styles, Ugg Australia’s Bowery holiday collection adds another dimension to the brand’s everexpanding line for men. The collection, comprised of a lo-top lace-up, a chukka-inspired hi-top and a hi-top with a hiker-vibe, gives Ugg fans a vulcanized, yet masculine alternative to traditional leather footwear that can be worn everyday. “The sleek styling and new materials on the outsoles, paired with the comfort Ugg is known for on the inside, make them the ideal combination for men,” says Ed Goins, Ugg Australia vice president of sales, adding that the line is designed to complement and merchandise well with the brand’s other gift items like gloves and hats.

he recommends. While Manos at Element says Black Friday isn’t as important for footwear as it is for other categories, product should be out by October in order to take full advantage of the increase in consumer traffic and pre-shopping. Jennifer Lynch, senior product manager of New Balance Lifestyle, lauds its independent retailers in particular for working holiday collections to their fullest potential. “They have focused on key stories and have been able to pull them together in-store,” she explains. Similarly, McKinley tapped into the creative know-how of Sportie LA co-owner Isack Fadlon for input while working on Bearpaw’s 2011 holiday collection. McKinley says these types of accounts are fast and can’t count on color updates to last both seasons, making holiday styles essential. “The mom-and-pops are literally thanking us for developing this line,” he says of its über-luxe Boutique Collection slated for this holiday. “It gives them styles that will set them apart and provide that point of difference that all retailers are looking for.” Ideally, execs says retailers should take a serious look at holiday collections in late spring to early summer to ensure fulfillment and give themselves enough time to plan promotions, but it’s not too late join the festivities in August. Manufacturers are still accepting orders—another example of buying creeping closer to the season. It’s a new buying norm that Coogi, for example, is adjusting to by pre-selecting with its top retailers. Toms takes a similar proactive approach to designing its holiday collections and forecasting the gaps and wants of its key retail partners. “We have become increasingly meticulous over the design and needs of our customers,” Mycoskie says. It is an exercise in management and trusting gut instinct, offers McKinley. “Product testing, factory relationships, production planning, risk management—trusting you’ve got good input from consumers and retailers and then managing the process from there is key,” he says. •


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KISS THE SKY RICH LEATHERS, EARTHY TEXTURES AND A BLEND OF SUN-WASHED AND VIBRANT COLORS SETS SPRING ’12 AGLOW. PHOTOGRAPHY BY RUVAN WIJESOORIYA STYLING BY MICHEL ONOFRIO


51


From left: Sorel pony hair sandal; beaded sandal by Minnetonka. Below: L.A.M.B. mixed material stiletto. Opposite: (on him) Riviera Club shirt; JNBY pants; (on her) Billy Reid jumper.

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53


54


From left: Dansko jute wrapped clogs; GBX desert boots. Above: (on her) Billy Reid romper; (on him) Billy Reid shirt, model’s own jewelry. Opposite: Billy Reid blazer.

55



From left: J. Shoes slip-on; leather and jute lace-up by El Naturalista. Riviera Club striped shirt; model’s own jewelry.

57


From top: Kalso Earth Shoe jute and leather fisherman sandal; Callen Cordero slide with toe accent. 58


Fashion Editor: Angela Velasquez Makeup: Vanessa Evelyn Hair: Jennifer Brent@BeautyWing Models: Andzelika Buivydaite@One Model Management; Aris Schwabe@Fusion


Sole Patch

IN THE DETAILS

Top to bottom: GBX; Sperry Top-Sider; Rockport; Sebago.

60 footwearplusmagazine.com • august 2011

PHOTOGRAPHY BY DEAN POWELL. FASHION EDITOR: ANGELA V VELASQUEZ.

A surprise splash of color awakens deck shoes’ statement potential.





Designer Chat: Celine Ouaknine

64 footwearplusmagazine.com • august 2011

From top: Charles Jourdan geometric platform; wedge by Bettye Muller; polka dot print sandal by Daniblack; Reed Evins peep-toe mule with metal details.

E D I T O R’ S P I C K S

leather and jewels. As always, Ouaknine has a rosy outlook for the brand’s future: “I’d love for it to grow and become a well-known brand that girls can count on when they need a fun and fresh pair of shoes for a special occasion, or just because.” —Angela Velasquez Describe your personal style. At my core, I’m a super girly girl who secretly longs for the days of corsets and bustles, but I’m also realistic. I’ll wear jeans and a simple top and throw in a something girly, like a big pink bow in my hair. Which designers do you admire the most? Muccia Prada, definitely. Season after season I’m blown away by both Miu Miu and Prada.

Opposites Attract The chic color scheme makes a strong statement for spring. And Betsey Johnson, who I had the extreme pleasure of working with for almost two years, is unlike anyone else on earth and I truly love her. If you could raid anyone’s shoe closet, who would it be? I guess I’d have to go with the editorial closet at Footwear Plus. I bet you guys see some amazing shoes. What is the most challenging part of your job? Deadlines. I’m a procrastinator. I can’t work unless under extreme pressure. Kinda like a diamond (laughing). Any hidden talents? Well, I can do a mean Cher impression.

EDITOR’S PICKS PHOTOGRAPHY BY DEAN POWELL.

TITAN DESIGNER CELINE Ouaknine, also known as The Shoe Girl to savvy fashion blog readers, has a pulse on what footwear fiends want. Since 2008, she’s given her readers a peek into the demanding and ever-changing world of shoe design. “It’s super fun and I feel a special connection with my readers. We’re all just a bunch of shoe lovers, just hanging out,” she says. That insider knowledge, and her own obsession with shoes, kick started the launch of Ouaknine’s own line Cece L’amour for spring. Bright, romantic and with a little whimsy, the line is never too serious, Ouaknine says, adding that her own outlook on life—“seeing the world through rose colored, heartshaped glasses”—laid the framework for the collection. “I love being a girl and I like feminine things. The power of being a girl inspired me.” Drawing from vintage designs, the collection retails from $120 to $165 and includes wooden platforms and stilettos and wedges with a basket weave texture. Never one to leave anyone out of the party, the designer also added some lower heel heights to the mix. Noticing more aggressive shoes on the market, Ouaknine says she thinks a lot of brands forget about the side of women that wants to be feminine. As a result, she’s using flirty prints like polka dot, strawberries, florals and black and white check with bursts of patent, fabric pompoms, satin, metallic



Outdoor

Preview:

Spring ’12

Chaco

Teva

Salomon

Merrell

Water Works A mix of cuts, closures and colors dives into the latest in water gear. 66 footwearplusmagazine.com • august 2011 66 footwearplusmagazine.com • august 2011


Brooks

Fast Company

Tecnica

Poppy primaries in men’s trail running make a dash. Vasque

Ahnu

Asics

PHOTOGRAPHY BY DEAN POWELL. FASHION EDITOR: ANGELA VELASQUEZ

Saucony

Lowa

august march 2011 • footwearplusmagazine.com 67


Outdoor

Preview:

Spring ’12

New Balance

Tecnica

Asics

Girl Power Columbia

68 footwearplusmagazine.com • august 2011

The royal hue and lime green mingle on women’s minimalist and trail styles.


Hiker Chicks

Rugged styles with feminine flair climb into women’s boots.

Chaco

Vasque

Wolverine


Outdoor

Preview:

Spring ’12

Ahnu

Minnetonka

Rocky

Hi-Tec

Birki’s

Timberland

Wolverine

70 footwearplusmagazine.com • august 2011


El Naturalista Olukai

Natural Selection The growing outdoor fashion category sticks to its neutral roots.

Baffin

Birkenstock

Sorel

august 2011 • footwearplusmagazine.com 71


ATHLETIC COMFORT GREEN KIDS OUTDOOR WORK

On Tap Columbia aims to outpace its outdoor competitors with a waterproof minimalist collection. “LESS IS MORE” might be the most influential philosophy in footwear at the moment, and it certainly is at Columbia, says Mark Nenow, vice president of footwear. Inspired by the minimalist movement racing through the athletic world, the company is releasing 25 new lightweight styles for Spring ’12, including a trail running shoe, the Ravenous Lite, weighing in at just over six ounces. “The whole barefoot conversation birthed in running is increasingly part of the conversation in outdoor footwear,” Nenow says. The paradigm, he adds, is shifting away from the “heavy, overbuilt and clunky” trail footwear of yesteryear toward styles that are “way more flexible, forgiving and comfortable.” Following hot on the heels of outdoor minimalist collections from Merrell, Ecco and New Balance, Nenow says the Columbia collection, which retails for $30 (slides) to $190 (hiking boot), addresses an oft-overlooked aspect of outdoor wear: waterproofing. “Traditional waterproofing techniques add bulk to the shoe,” he explains. “When submersed in water, today’s ‘waterproof ’ shoes often double in weight, as water is caught between the shell and the waterproof booty.” Enter its new OutDry technology, a waterproof breathable laminate featured in 15 styles. “There is no space for anything to collect,” he says. In addition, Columbia is incorporating Fluidpost (previously used in the company’s Montrail brand), and Fluid Frame, two new construction methods that increase support and stability. It’s a slew of new technology that aims to please the consumer, who is increasingly taking the reins when it comes to deciding how to wear their footwear, Nenow says. “Consumers will define the need and what they use their footwear for, not retailers or brands,” he explains. “For some consumers, versatility resonates and the option for hybrid designs are a key factor. Other consumers have a specific end use in mind.” In other words, Nenow says, “One person’s perfect trail runner is another’s perfect day hiker.” —Audrey Goodson 72 footwearplusmagazine.com • august 2011

Color Splash To reach adventure seekers outside its base demographic, Chaco sheds some weight and pumps up the palette. COLOR POPPED OFF Wolverine World Wide showroom’s shelves at the recent FFANY show in New York, particularly for one rather unexpected brand—Chaco. As the traditional outdoor brand plugs its expanded Spring ’12 collection that includes closedshoe styles in addition to its hallmark sandals, Chaco is ditching some of its traditional earth-toned hues in hopes of appealing to what the company calls its “aspire” group of consumers. “It’s not an age-related group, but a mindset,” says Brandan Hill, Chaco’s director of product development. “They’re professional and enjoy adventuring. They have careers. They’re discerning about product choices and will step up and purchase a premium product knowing the details are taken care of.” Hill notes this savvy shopper may have passed by the Chaco wall before, viewing it as too clunky for their activity level. In response to that weighty concern, the brand is infusing its lightweight Bulloo outsole and XO3 platform (cheekily dubbed “hugs and kisses three”) into key styles this season. The ultra-lightweight, water-ready construction is built on Vibram TC-1 rubber, which is specifically made for outdoor use and in line with the Chaco ethos. “There’s a lot of attention paid to the outside of footwear,” Hill explains. “We’re taking care of everything under the hood, too, wrapping it up in a happy, emotionally light package so the customer can just celebrate their lives and go adventure.” As for the colors, Hill says the palette is now broader than ever. Key colors for spring include eye-catching magenta and teal, with contrasting laces. Hill says the new styles, including the high-cut Tedinho and ankle-cut Torlan and Vade in confetti, zenith blue (pictured) and stripe fade, were greeted with, “Wow, the color!” reactions at FFANY. “We’ve always been about color on our sandals,” Hill explains, “but with that small strap you sometimes don’t pick it up from across the room. With closedtoe footwear, we have so much more real estate to throw color on.” —Meagan Walker



what’s selling

outdoor specialty

JAGGED EDGE

UNCLE DAN’S

Telluride’s rugged environment is the perfect setting for Jagged Edge, a 4,000-square-foot family-owned outdoor store that’s been in business for 18 years. A one-stop shop that offers customers first-hand advice on the latest footwear and outdoor gear, store manager Cari Mackey says, “We strive to provide our customers a unique, knowledgeable, friendly purchasing environment. Our entire staff hikes, kayaks and camps, so we create customer loyalty by providing honest service.”

Originally opened as an Army-Navy store in 1972, Uncle Dan’s, dubbed “The Great Outdoor Store,” has since expanded to three locations in the Chicago area. The family-focused format relies on its strong customer service, and the well-versed staff shares its love of the outdoors with customers, providing detailed advice for an active lifestyle. Nicole Jensen, head buyer, says, “We’ve evolved so much over the years and we believe that our customers have grown with us.”

What is your buying philosophy? We are a small, locally-owned store, so we focus on brands we believe in. We don’t carry brands just because they’re trendy; we carry ones that focus on sustainability and quality.

Top-selling brands: Keen, Merrell and Vibram FiveFingers. The barefoot minimalist movement has been trending over all other styles recently.

Telluride, CO Keen

Chaco

Top-selling brands: La Sportiva, Merrell, Patagonia, Montrail, Vibram FiveFingers, Sanita and Chaco—our No. 1 seller. La Sportiva

Most popular colors: Pinks and reds for women. Color is less of an issue with men. Best new brand added to the mix this year: Ibex. We also brought back Montrail, which has done well, and Vibram FiveFingers is our latest best-seller. Best-selling accessories: Hats and SmartWool socks perform consistently well, along with Outdoor Research accessories.

Vibram FiveFingers

Who is your fastest growing customer segment? Our biggest age segment ranges from the 40s to 50s. Telluride has a big population in that age range who own second homes here. They’re really active. Our most consistent sales come from thirtysomethings.

Sorel

What is your most effective community outreach program? We host a Film Night every Memorial Day weekend that raises money for the Sam Miguel Whitewater Association, a local kayak club, and First Descents, a free outdoor adventure camp for young adult cancer patients and survivors. We also hold a local shopping night. It’s an invite-only cocktail party with special sales for our loyal customers. What is the biggest challenge facing your business right now? Competing with bigger stores in Colorado. It’s hard to compete with that kind of money. And, of course, competing against Internet retailers.

74 footwearplusmagazine.com • august 2011

Chicago

Projected best-selling brand this year: Usually, it’s Merrell and Vibram, but I project Sorel to do well this year. We are bringing in a much larger collection and the brand is big with colors and prints. It works well in our city store because it fits the urban active customer. Most popular colors: For women, magenta, purple, pink and orange. For men, styles with a hint of lime green have done really well. Color is huge, huge, huge for fall. Best new brand added to the mix this year: Merrell’s Barefoot collection and Jambu, which has been popular as everyday wear for women. Best-selling accessories: Goodhew socks, which are made in the U.S. They’ve been a great partner. Also, Patagonia’s lightweight travel packs and totes do well. Who is your fastest growing customer segment? The everyday, active consumer with a youthful twist. Travelers are our main focus—those seeking products that are commuter or on-the-go friendly. What is the biggest challenge for your business right now? The prices for the upcoming fall and winter seasons continue to rise. This will be a major challenge for us and for our shoppers. What has been the biggest surprise of late? Customers used to buy things on a whim, but lately they think about the longevity of products. What advantages do you have in an urban setting? We get to buy for a diverse crowd. But the city offers its challenges, especially now as a number of nearby department stores have jumped on the “outdoor” bandwagon. —Melissa D’Agnese



continued from page 16 2011 • $10.00 RETAILE RS • AUGUST THE SOURCE FOR

SPECIAL REPORT: THIEF HOW TO CATCH A RETAILING ALONGE SHOR THE REAL JERSEY WHAT’S IN STORE FOR THE HOLIDAYS

REMEMBERING NATHAN CLARK OUTDOOR GUIDE: GNS ALL-TERRAIN DESI RT KIDS’ TREND REPO

SWEPT AWAY OUR SPRING ’12 PREVIEW BASKS IN THE SEASON’S NATURAL BEAUTY

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people through our cameras,” he confirms. “It made everybody aware that we had cameras; it’s cut out a lot of things.” Hollinger notes that new POS exception monitoring programs can be linked to cameras, so when exceptions occur—like a ‘no sale’ is rung up—retailers can monitor exactly what happened. “It’s all about the technology now,” Rogowski explains. Shelist even monitors social media. “We look on our employees’ Facebook pages to make sure they’re not selling any items that don’t belong to them. We actually caught someone doing that once,” he says. In addition, credit card technology has helped cut down on staff members skimming cash from the register. “The advent of 90 percent of customers using charge cards is a big advantage,” Kaminsky says. But Weiner warns to watch out for staff members that credit themselves, using the new merchandise machines, for something that was never purchased. To combat this, Weiner advises: “Call your credit card processor to check your business and see if they notice multiple credits to the same account without corresponding purchases.” While technology can help catch crimes at the cash register, another problem for retailers is employees snagging inventory. According to a study by the ACFE, stealing of merchandise is the most common type of fraud in retailing. To that end, old-fashioned detection measures are an owner’s best bet, experts say. “Use clear plastic trash bags to prevent staff from taking merchandise out with the trash,” Weiner suggests. “Periodically, we do a bag and purse check on the way out,” Shelist offers. He also asks his employees to conduct periodic spot checks on certain categories “to make sure what we have on the floor matches our POS system.” According to the ACFE study, these types of surprise inventory audits can be one of the most effective measures against employee theft. Although the audits are time consuming and have limits, they work as a deterrence. “All a surprise audit can do is tell you something is missing. It can’t tell you where it went or when it went,” Bachman acknowledges. “But it would give you enough predication to start a full investigation, depending on the magnitude. And it lets everyone know that you’re paying attention.” 3. KEEP YOUR STAFF SMILING While technology and inventory audits play a large role in preventing theft, it’s not the silver bullet that will erradicate the problem. “You can’t just throw money at it and hope it will go away,” Hollinger says. The biggest deterrent, he adds, is to keep the staff happy. “The focus should be on making sure you don’t have substantial numbers of disgruntled employees,” he says, noting that it’s often better when sales are off to cut down on the number of employees rather than trying the share the burden among the staff. “A lot of retailers don’t like to lay people off and, instead, lower everyone’s hours. That loss of 10 hours a week can be a major hit to somebody’s wallet. They tend to feel disgruntled, and it allows them to rationalize their theft as a jusified fringe benefit.” Hollinger says another problem is that many workers see retail as a temporary job without the possibility of promotion or as a long-term career. “If you look at low shrinkage companies, one of the best predictors is low turnover,” he notes. “The employees see that their vested interest is tied to that of the company.” Bachman agrees that fostering a positive staff environment is key to cutting theft. “A good, ethical and honest corporate culture goes a long way to creating awareness,” he says, adding it also makes it more likely that staff members will report coworkers who steal. According to the ACFE study, tips from fellow employees are the most common ways fraud is detected. To that end, he suggests setting up an anonymous tip line, or creating an open-door policy that encourages staff to come forward when they feel like something is amiss. Hollinger agrees that a positive environment is key: “Retailers need to focus more on making sure employees feel that their vested interest is linked to the success of the company.” •


SEPTEMBER 7-9 H DÜSSELDORF, GERMANY INTERNATIONAL EVENT FOR SHOES & ACCESSORIES

Get to Germany!

Show and Tell

TT Travel Inc. offers convenient hotel and travel arrangements. For details, call (866) 674-3476, fax (212) 674-3477 or e-mail contact@traveltradeint.com. More information is available at www. traveltradeint.com. For additional show information, go to GDS-online.com.

GDS Project Director Kirstin Deutelmoser discusses what’s on tap for the upcoming show. What’s new and noteworthy at the upcoming GDS show? GDS will boast multiple new brands across all categories, including Germany’s Salamander and Lurchi; Italy’s Lumberjack, Geox and Fratelli Rosetti; and Desigual and Farrutx from Spain. Up-and-comers such as United Nude, Massimo Santini, Fonnesberg and John Varvatos will be on display as well. Also, Adidas will be showing its SLVR collection for the first time at GDS. What’s more, the British are coming. Our British Footwear Association section will include Northern Cobbler, One True Saxon, Ted Baker Footwear, Po-Zu, Laidback London, Esska Design, Kat Maconie, Michael Lewis London and Cheaney Shoes. Anything else? For the first time, the fashion shows will be staged in a dedicated marquee between Halls 3 and 6. The runway presentations have always been a major part of presenting trends at GDS as they provide attendees not only with the latest styles, but also bring to life the emotional component of GDS. The marquee setting will enhance that experience. Similarly, newcomers will once again be showcased in the Design Attack section of Hall 3, alongside major lifestyle and fashion brands. More than 100 young talents will present their individual collections. The 15th edition of Design Attack will feature a “Miami Sun Machine” theme, making reference to the legendary TV series Miami Vice.

What does GDS offer that other shoe shows may not? No other shoe fair offers attendees a better and more comprehensive spectrum of information than GDS does under the umbrella ethos “Follow the Trend.” It’s a unique concept that is like a golden thread running through all segments of the show. It provides our visitors with all the necessary information by means of booths, lectures, seminars, events and awards as well as fashion shows and trend displays. Why do you think GDS is the world’s premiere shoe show? GDS serves as an international benchmark for the shoe industry. Be it with sneakers, high heels or fashionable comfort shoes, it addresses buyers from all genres and segments. Is exhibitor attendance up? A little bit and, for some segments, we have a waiting list. Overall, I believe exhibitors and retailers are recognizing our ongoing efforts. They are noticing the huge dynamic behind GDS and its value as a business platform in the international market. This is how we have been able to gain brands back that were not at GDS for a while. Along those lines, the GDS team is continuously on the road and is deeply connected to the shoe industry. This enables us to pick up very early on trends that are then reflected in our shows for the benefit of the entire footwear industry.

Attendees at the GDS show will have the latest trend information at their fingertips.


ATHLETIC COMFORT GREEN KIDS OUTDOOR WORK

A True Original Legendary Clarks designer Nathan Clark never stopped doing what he loved best—crafting classic shoes. KORA MANCINI WAS a sales assistant at the Clarks’ flagship store in New York and a student at the Fashion Institute of Technology, learning shoe design, when she stumbled across an ad seeking a shoemaker. She answered the ad and was asked to come in for an interview. Admittedly, Mancini says she was interviewing more for curiosity than actual employment (she had already taken on several clients of her own) and didn’t even catch the name of the designer she potentially could be working alongside. When she reported for her interview, Mancini was ushered into a townhouse where racks and racks of shoes and original ads for Clarks lined the walls. She was then introduced to an older gentleman. “I started speaking with him, and it finally hit me. I said, ‘Are you Nathan Clark? I work for your store,’” Mancini recalls. “And we started crying laughing.” The laughter and hospitality that greeted Mancini that day would become a mainstay of her relationship with Clark, who passed away last month at the age of 94, and indeed one of the famed designer’s many legacies. Mancini worked with Clark, the creator of the iconic desert boot, for the last five years of his life, creating designs—like an updated version of the designer’s popular Chuplee sandal—that will be released as part of the Clarks Originals collection beginning this October. The pair even crafted a customized pair of Chuplees for Vanity Fair Editor-in-Chief Graydon Carter, who still sported his oftrepaired original pair. “It took a while to win Nathan’s trust because he had been in the business for a long time,” Mancini says. “He had patience and, after I won his trust, I was 100 percent able to make a lot of input. He would just say to me a few words about his vision, and I would make it happen. People would listen to our conversations and say, ‘Do you even understand what he was saying?’ But we had our own language, our shoe language.” It was a language born of a passion passed down from generations— Clark was the great-grandson of Clarks’ founder James Clark. In 1950, his desert boot debuted at the Chicago Shoe Fair, the design inspired by the crepe-soled, rough suede boots that British Army officers had made in the bazaar in Cairo, Egypt. Today, the shoe’s popularity is evident in the many brands that have reinterpreted the look, including everyone from J.Crew to Dior. “To me the desert boot ranks up toward the top of fashion’s most iconic designs, up there with the Burberry Trenchcoat and Levi’s 501 jeans,” says Dennis Comeau, president of Bernardo Footwear. “In fact, the desert boot resonates a stronger note with me because Bernardo reinterpreted the look in colored suedes and introduced the crepe-soled version for women in the early ’50s. It 78 footwearplusmagazine.com • august 2011

Nathan Clark poses with one of his iconic creations: the desert boot.

was a big hit and turned a sandal brand into a fashion footwear brand.” Comeau adds another cool aspect with respect to the desert boot was that the Clarks’ board of directors hated the initial design and said it would never sell, but Clark insisted. “Things change when someone has the vision and courage to go against the grain and do something different,” he says. Clark continued going against the grain, committed to his vision of timeless, impeccably-made footwear, creating a new pair of shoes every few days, Mancini says. “He would call and order shoes from me all the time,” says Jason Shapiro, store manager of the Clarks flagship in New York. “I said, ‘OK, but you know you can get these for free.’” Clark would then completely disassemble the shoes and use the materials and his original lasts to re-craft them, recalls Shapiro, who often modeled Clark and Mancini’s designs. “It was pretty wild to see someone his age still sitting there making shoes with such enthusiasm. He just had so much energy for doing it.” “His love of product never ended,” confirms Clarks President Jim Salzano. “He spent his life continuing to fall in love with product. He shared his passion with us right up until the very end.” Aside from his legendary enthusiasm, Manicini says he also maintained the family’s commitment to precision and quality. “Every day we were adding or taking off an eighth of an inch and making new patterns in different samples,” she adds, noting that the duo worked on the updated Chuplee for two years. “We sometimes would spend weeks on the pattern itself.” The fact that the designer spent his final years doing what he loved most—crafting high-quality shoes while passing his knowledge on to the next generation—is perfectly in keeping with the history of the Clarks family, Salzano notes. “The value system embedded in the heritage goes beyond the products—it’s also part of the people. He’s part of the regime that says people come first.” —Audrey Goodson


continued from page 22 included looks in step with the strong nautical trend, and we also plan to offer more shoes on more moderate height wedges. In addition, we are featuring many more season-appropriate colors and materials than we have in years past. When I started with Ara, I got an earful from some of our retail partners on how they wanted us to become more of a ‘12-month-a-year’ player. We’ve been working well toward this goal the last couple of seasons and our latest collection proves we will now be a player. Who is the target Ara customer? More than likely she’s a business professional who is on her feet a lot. She needs to look professional and wants a comfortable shoe, but she doesn’t want to sacrifice comfort for fashion. She also would like to be able to wear her shoes beyond the workday, for her evening plans as well. Where will this customer most likely find Ara? We are currently in many of the better independent retailers across North America. We want to become even better partners with them. We also believe we can partner with many other retailers. Our research tells us that there are a lot of customers looking for our brand. Has our industry recovered from the financial collapse? I’m not so sure. Many companies have disappeared and I suspect more will follow, in both retail and wholesale. So it’s hard to say we’re better off with people still losing jobs and companies going out of business. But we all know that we have to keep moving forward and, those that do, probably will be better off. They are the ones that tend to be better organized and prepared as well as leaner and more able to weather this tough climate. To further answer your question, I would say our industry has become even more competitive since the financial collapse kicked in. As a result, we have to continue to make our companies, brands and products better.

period. We need to listen to them always, because they always want something. We just need to be sure to give them what they want. Do they still want to shop in stores or will they continue to increasingly look to the Internet for their shoe purchases? I think that most customers still want to shop in stores. I travel quite a bit and many of the stores I visit are filled with people sitting in the seats with shoes boxes strewn on the sales floors as they try on pairs. And, fortunately, the registers are ringing. However, I also believe the Internet has opened up a much bigger shopping environment—one that is staggering, actually. But it can also help grow sales in the shops. The Internet can be a great driver of business. Many consumers still enjoy or need to try on shoes before making a purchase. And the Internet lets them pre-shop to their hearts’ content. Is social media truly a revolutionary change with respect to consumer behavior? I sure think so. We can learn so much more about the consumer through this medium. For one thing, the social media age has helped usher in the casual movement. The marketplace is a much more relaxed in terms what people are wearing and what is acceptable. I believe the Internet has played a big part in bringing that vibe to the forefront. As such, social media is really an amazing opportunity for us to grow our business. We need to embrace it, learn from it and grow with it. To this end, we have our own website for Ara North America and we also have a Facebook page. Our website is completely independent of our parent company’s site. Some may think this is not a good idea, but it enables Ara North America to speak to our customers directly. We felt that it was important that our website and Facebook page really be our own voice. The traffic has been growing daily. I find that the site is very similar to working on the sales floor: you get direct feed back from the consumer. While not as immediate, you learn what the customer is thinking. Of course, it’s not fun to read any ‘need improvement’ messages, but I am listening to what our customers have to say. It’s a great tool to help Ara become a better partner with our retailers and consumers. That said, I don’t think the in-the-store basics will ever change: The need to offer quality, value, fit and comfort remains the same.

“Can anyone really define what is going on right now in this country from an economic standpoint? I sure cannot.”

Is it fair to venture then that introducing a relatively new brand has become more difficult these days? Business overall has definitely not gotten any easier over the last couple of years. The marketplace is getting tougher. Fortunately for us, more retailers are becoming aware of Ara and are excited about our value, comfort and fit stories. While we have experienced the loss of some partners due to the difficult economy, we have begun many new partnerships, which is exciting. Might we all be meandering amid a “new normal” that no one is particularly thrilled about or can define? Can anyone really define what is going on right now in this country from an economic standpoint? I sure cannot. In the meantime, I’m just trying to make sure that when our retail partners have a request for an Ara shoe, that it is of great value, fits properly and is very comfortable. And, let’s not forget, that it’s in stock so they are able to ring the register. What is your assessment of the consumer’s psyche right now: good, bad or ugly? The customer is always good. Without them, we don’t have a business,

What’s the status on the rest of the Ara’s brand portfolio with regard to the U.S.? The parent company, Ara AG, based in Langenfeld, Germany, has many brands under its umbrella. All of them continue to perform well in Europe. Currently, we are focusing on Ara women’s and men’s, the edgier, more moderate-priced Jenny by Ara brand for women, and Ara handbags in North America. Recently, we also decided to introduce the Lloyd men’ brand here. We believe this could be a very good brand for North America. What do you love most about your job? I love the opportunity to work with so many different people from across North America and around the world. It’s really cool to experience such diverse interests and cultures but, in the end, to discover that we are at the heart of it so much the same. That and I also love doggin’ (i.e. selling) shoes! •

august 2011 • footwearplusmagazine.com 79


LAST WORD

THE ART OF THE HEEL

Slipping into the Limelight

Blond Ambition: “It’s inspired by Madonna’s look—the Gaultier cone bra corset, high blond ponytail and headset microphone— she wore during her early ’90s tour by the same name.”

Since Kobi Levi’s Banana heel went viral five months ago, he’s been hard at work on new styles. Here, the Tel-Aviv-based designer reveals what makes him tick, the story behind some of his greatest works and what designer duds match his shoe art. By Meagan Walker Where do you get your inspiration? Inspiration can come from everywhere and everything. As you can see in my designs, I like to choose an unusual inspiration or choose an “obvious” one and design it in a surprising new way.

Slide: “The design behind this shoe is quite obvious. I don’t know how I didn’t design this one before; the slide and the shoe are so visually close to one another.”

Swan: “Part of my mini bird collection, this design features a bird silhouette as the upper with beak heels. Different birds are featured through the collection.”

What are you working on now? Not telling. I just don’t want to ruin the effect when people see the new design and understand it without words. I can only say it is completely new. Contemporary Chinese: “It’s about East meets West. I chose stereotypical Chinese symbols and colors—a fire dragon, chopsticks, red and gold—and designed a Westernstyle silhouette of a sling-back peep-toe double stiletto heel.”

How wearable are your shoes? They are completely wearable, although some are more challenging than others. It depends on the heel curve, just as with any high-heel shoe. These are real handmade shoes, just made as art. It is great to see it come alive on the foot. I can say that people who have tried them on are really excited about it. It’s fun. What apparel designer do you dream of teaming up with? Sarah Burton (at Alexander McQueen). I just love her work. It’s an artistic approach, which I obviously relate to. Have you ever designed anything for men? Yes, of course. The “Banana Slip-on” is really a men’s mule. The high-heel curve is what turns that into a women’s shoe. What do you think about fashion’s growing presence in museums? It’s great! I see my shoes as art, not just a functional product. I love fashion that has that aspect to it and is definitely museum material—art to wear.

80 footwearplusmagazine.com • august 2011


August 2-4 • FFANY Show, Warick Hotel • Warwick Suite

August 13-15 • THE ATLANTA SHOE MARKET• Booth 527


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