MAY / JUNE 2018

One for the Weekend

When Packing Light for a Weekend Trip, These Multifunctional Shoes Work for Sightseeing, Happy Hour and Perhaps Even a Light Hike or Run. By Suzanne Blecher
New Balance Fresh Foam Cruz v2 sneaker; Thule Subterra Carry-On 55cm/22” bag.
Today’s shopper appreciates products that are versatile, especially when it comes to footwear. So, in return, footwear brands are delivering shoes that go from business to brunch and beyond, with technology and style to boot. Throw in a few gadgets and some transitional apparel, and you’ve got yourself an easy to-go bag.  Here are some of the multifunctional standouts for Fall 18.
Ecco Biom Venture, 5.11 XPRT 3.0 Waterproof 6” Boot.
A Light Hike, Followed by Happy Hour
Ecco Americas product manager for Golf & Sport, Thomas Dixon, calls the Ecco Exostrike “a great combination of functional credibility and modern utility.” It is a boot made for the trails (a rugged rubber outsole gives great traction) and the city (with an urban sneaker design and Dyneema bonded leather). The Biom Venture has similar multifunctional attributes, with an added integrated pedal pad for a quick switch to cycling. “Consumers are demanding products across the board that allow them to simply their lives,” chimes in Joe Johnson, Salomon’s outdoor marketing manager in the Americas. Salomon’s Outline is based on a running shoe with an added High Traction Contagrip outsole and protective toe cap. Versatile construction and sleek lines make it a “go-to shoe for every type of mountain adventure,” even the apres-adventure, says Johnson. 

Chaco brand manager Josh Weichhand attributes multifunctional growth to “consumers simplifying their wardrobes,” adding that “being able to get by with fewer pieces that can be worn day-to-night and occasion-to-occasion makes a huge difference in your packing list.” The Sierra Waterproof is a trail-crossover boot that works for light hikes, days on foot and nights out. The Dixon High is the “perfect balance of urban sensibility with outdoor capability,” adds Weichhand. Keen focuses on fit in its women’s Terradora Hiking boot with a narrower last and strategically cushioned heel to take pressure off the Achilles. 

Terradora is part of Keen’s TrailFit franchise, which bridges the gap between the gym, mountains, backcountry and city. The Targhee, for both men and women, is crafted for unpredictable terrain and features a breathable, waterproof membrane and mud shield to protect against all of nature’s elements. 

5.11 Tacticals’ Mission Ready Chukka and Oxford styles are both built on trail running chassis, with added street style thanks to a full-grain leather upper. The XPRT 3.0 Waterproof 6” boot has a Kevlar heel, eVent waterproof lining and Ortholite Imperial footbed for high energy return and decreased fatigue — perfect for the public safety professionals the brand caters to. With a new focus on the outdoor and fitness markets, the XPRT boot “can be a great casual story and also a fast-tactical look,” says footwear category manager Brendan Rynne. Today’s shopper appreciates products that are versatile, especially when it comes to footwear. So, in return, footwear brands are delivering shoes that go from business to brunch and beyond, with technology and style to boot. Throw in a few gadgets and some transitional apparel, and you’ve got yourself an easy to-go bag.  Here are some of the multifunctional standouts for Fall 18
Birkenstock Bakki, Jambu Blakely, Smartwool Socks, Mephisto Rainbow.
Winery Tour, or a Likewise Casual Adventure
Perfect with a pair of jeans or capris, and perhaps even topped off with a blazer, the Vionic Codie is designed for consumers who are on their feet all day, thanks to the EVA bottom and the brand’s footbed technology. Its colors – built around neutrality – make it easy to match with many pieces and its style – a gore strap across the vamp – makes it simple to slide on and off. It also performs on uneven terrain. “The comfort derived from this style makes walking on cobblestone streets a breeze, as well as walking up hills or around town,” says Marisa Byrne, director of product and materials for Vionic.    

Birkenstock’s Bakki features a shearling fur collar that can be worn up or down for versatility. “Its durable outsole is great for walking and touring around in cold weather, notes Birkenstock VP–merchandising Jacqueline Van Dine. “Pair it with your favorite denim during the day or dress it up with a skirt and tights for the evening.”

“Jambu shoes are designed to take you from one adventure to the next seamlessly without having to change,” according to Yetzalee Mazza, marketing director for Jambu & Co. The Blakely Slip On and Granada Mary Jane feature All Terra Traction, meaning each has a partially recycled compressed leather outsole for superior traction and durability. 

Mephisto’s Emie and Margaux, which just happen to come in a wine-friendly burgundy hue, put quality, comfort and fit first. “No matter what style we are making, it is designed to be worn all day and night,” notes James Rowley, CEO of Mephisto USA. Hybrid shoes, built on high-end sneaker constructions, are what keep shoppers loyal to the Mephisto brand, he says. For men, Mephisto’s Rainbow in brown grain and rust nubuck offer a speed lacing system, perfect for travel. ‍
Dr. Scholl’s Amalie, New Balance Fresh Foam Cruz v2.
Sightseeing Jaunt Around the City Before Brunch
If you’re packing light, your shoes must be lightweight, versatile and neutral. The Amalie, one of the first styles from design-meets-tech venture “The Lab by Dr. Scholl’s,” marries performance and street style in a sporty silhouette with an anatomical insole. Luxe suede, marble-printed accents, a feminine ruffled tongue and on-trend translucent outsoles lend some chicness. “Consumers are less and less interested in one-and-done shoes that they can only wear with one or two things in their wardrobe,” notes Katie Moore, design director, Dr. Scholl’s.    

The Fila Mindbreaker 2.0 combines contemporary and heritage looks. The Fila team tapped into the archives to update the iconic Mindblower silhouette (a chunky running shoe with an oversized, warped logo) “for the trendsetters of tomorrow.” 

The New Balance team is looking at what a variety of athletes are doing in terms of movement, in hopes of delivering more multifunctional products in the future. “Fresh Foam Cruz can do about anything — take it for a job or go for a light hike, and look and feel good doing it,” says Kevin FitzPatrick, strategic business manager for New Balance. The Fresh Foam Cruz v2 has a bootie construction with a midfoot saddle that’s quick to slip on, yet offers support for someone on their feet all day.

Beyond Retro

The Sportsyle Shoes of Today Are Bringing Tech to the Table. By Jennifer Ernst Beaudry
Misty Copeland in her signature collection from Under Armour.
Whether you call it athleisure, sportstyle or lifestyle, the casual side of the footwear business is on fire. And despite frequent predictions that the pendulum will swing back to performance looks (or even to dressier shoe styles), sportstyle has continued to be the animating force in the footwear marketplace. But the newest crop of versatile athleisure looks is going well beyond straight heritage models or stripped-back silhouettes. Brands and marketwatchers say shoppers want hybrid sneaker styles that leverage performance-grade technologies in all aspects of the shoe’s construction to make ultra-comfortable, highly functional styles they can wear all day and use for everything they’re doing. 

“For sneakers, weight and breathability is very important, comfort from a foam outsole is huge and then price and versatility are the next level,” says Matt Powell, an analyst at NPD Group. 

And sharply drawn lines between “performance” and “lifestyle” looks continue to blur both internally in companies and in the product they create. This month Under Armour released the Misty Copeland Signature Collection, an apparel capsule co-designed by ballet dancer and long-time Under Armour athlete Misty Copeland.

And legendary Nike designer Tinker Hatfield’s latest creation is the $140 Jordan Standard, a Nike Sock Dart-inspired slip-on with the ride of a Jordan shoe, but with easy-on, easy-off wear being the key design feature.Even brands that approach athleisure style very much from the “leisure” side of the equation say there is interest in their performance bonafides — especially as it relates to making them as easy to wear as possible.

“There’s an appetite for that info and we’re happy to share,” says Mike Belgue, creative director for Native Shoes. The brand, which launched with EVA takes on classic athletic styles and has since branched out into knit uppers, ultrasuedes and more, has made adding – and talking up – ease-of-use features a priority. Things like lightweight materials, recycled knits, hidden goring and elastic on the tongue and stretchable laces are designed to elevate the styles above simple basics. (The brand is also fully vegan-friendly, a big plus for some shoppers.) And for Fall ’18, the brand is launching a recycled knit material. 
Pharrell x Adidas Crazy BYW PW
“We’re really looking at how we can make people’s lives easier and better, so they can think about other things. We’re building a lot of function into the shoes so they’re easy on and off,” Belgue says. “As consumers become better educated, they are absolutely looking for that.”

German athletic brand Puma has long considered the intersection of sportstyle to be its defining characteristic and historically has not shied away from technology, whether it be Netfit or Puma Disc lacing systems or evoKnit upper material, for shoes in the category. And while many technologies are born in performance and migrate to lifestyle, for Fall ’18 its newest innovation, HybridFoam, will be released in both performance and sportstyle shoes. 

“We don’t use the [word] athleisure very much. For us, sport is lifestyle,” Heiko Desens, creative director for Sportstyle, tells Footwear Insight. “The active life of the nowadays consumer requires transitional products. The trend in general is going away from a total coordinated look and we see that our consumer buys items and enjoys mixing high-performance products with archive-inspired designs. Technology is a macro trend inspiring our design and also allows us to integrate the latest technology, function and comfort to our products.”

The launch of Adidas’ new BYW collection shows how far that blending can go.

Concepted as a lifestyle bringback of the brand’s 1990s FYW (Feet You Wear) performance basketball franchise, BYW was designed to bring “street flair and culture back to the sport,” according to Christopher Law, global senior design director for Adidas Originals.

“To combine the design aesthetics from FYW with the desired technology of now in Boost technology just seemed like a winning formula,” Law says. In the spirit of the natural motion philosophy of the original FYW style, in the $170 Crazy BYW launched this spring the material is used in distinctive midsole pods, a new application for the brand.

And that lifestyle-side innovation spilled over. Law says that creating the Crazy BYW inspired the team to consider making the new Boost application into a game-ready style. The result, the $200 BYW X, is affixed with both the brand’s Originals trefoil label and performance Three Stripes mark and is designed for on-court wear.

“The world of sport and lifestyle blur these days. Everyone wants to look good doing sports and we tackled BYW from both end,” Law says. “Our design team lives in a constant exchange of ideas with our basketball design team, working closely together, and we have a robust technology pipeline developed by the brand accessible for lifestyle product design.”

According to Law, that blend is something we should expect to see more of going forward. 

“Comfort blended with design aesthetics is the winning factor for every lifestyle shoe created,” he says. “Technology is the separating factor from all other fast-fashion or trend-chasing brands.”

The Nimble Cat Preys

Classic Brands Modern Path. By Bob McGee
PUMA x MCM Suede.
In January, Gucci and Alexander McQueen parent Kering announced its intention to divest 70 percent of its 86 percent stake in Puma to existing shareholders. Once completed, Puma will have approximately 55 percent of its shares publicly floated.

The company isn’t saying if the new ownership creates added pressure to deliver higher revenues and profits. But Puma does exude confidence about its ongoing strategy under Norwegian-born CEO Bjorn Gulden and its stated brand values of bravery, confidence, determination and joyfulness “For us, sport is more than winning at all costs. We revel in the pure joy of sport, competition and play,” it writes in its latest annual report.

Puma has enjoyed two consecutive years of topline growth, helped in part by an ability to effectively straddle its authentic sports heritage with fast-moving fashion trends, particularly with young women. Americas’ revenues rose 12 percent in euros in 2017, with footwear sales up 17.6 percent and apparel up 11 percent. The business is largely balanced between footwear and apparel because Puma has made a point to link the two to present “a cohesive story” to consumers worldwide.

“As a brand, we do operate in a smaller capacity,” admits Bob Philion, who took the helm of Puma North America in February 2017 following the retirement of Jay Piccola. “As a team, we can make decisions much faster than our competitors. We have the freedom to take risks and change with the times, but also the deep-rooted history that allows us to be taken seriously. 

“Whether a consumer knows the specific details of Puma’s past and history isn’t as important to us as the fact that they are familiar with the brand and see us as a relevant player in the mix.”

Like his counterpart Mark King at Adidas North America, Philion became the regional head of a major Germany-based athletic brand after spending years in the golf business. For King, who retires in July, it was TaylorMade. For Philion, it was Cobra Golf, a brand he helped Puma acquire and integrate in 2010 and led as president and CEO for seven years. It is a business he continues to oversee in his larger role as president of Puma North America. No one is quite sure how many of its nine lives Puma has used up during its nearly 70-year existence. But the Cat may well be marking the start of another in 2018 as it begins its first full year as more of a standalone public company, aiming to snare a larger presence in North America.
Puma Fast Facts
• Celebrates 70th anniversary on October 1, 2018.
• Surpassed 4 billion euro ($4.78 billion) in annual revenues in 2017.
• Double-digit Americas’ growth in 2017 to more than $1.78 billion.
• Jumping Cat logo was created in 1967, updated in 1979.
• Acquired Cobra Golf in 2010.Rihanna, Usain Bolt, Pelé, Clyde Frazier among famous endorsers.
• Gucci parent Kering acquires 60 percent stake in 2007; spinning off 86 percent stake in 2018.
Philion emerged onto the larger Cat-scape more than a year after the brand made a major decision that forever altered its position in the fashion world. It signed Rihanna as global ambassador for women’s training and named the Barbadian singer and actress as the brand’s women’s creative director in 2015. With Rihanna saying she “tried to push the envelope a little bit” with her collection under the Fenty Puma by Rihanna label, young women around the world responded and Puma had a hit on its hands. 

Now, the trick for Puma, particularly in North America, will be to replicate that success with young women while also developing a formula that will attract more young men, Millennials and Gen Zers to the brand. Nine months ago, Puma added 25-year old singer, actress and producer Selena Gomez to its team. Gomez helped Puma develop its Phenom and En Pointe fitness footwear and apparel lines.  

“Our objective is to create a sense of urgency for the consumer in North America,” says Philion. “Over the past few years, in both men’s and women’s, we have had incredibly strong momentum brought on by the inclusion of creative, strong and humble ambassadors like Rihanna, Selena Gomez and Usain Bolt.”

Given its brand DNA began in men with the Suede and T7 track suit, product that mixes sport, lifestyle and fashion with culture, Puma is confident it can make a new statement with young males via an entry into the Nike and Jordan dominated basketball category later this year. Also on tap: Hybrid Foam, a new midsole compound in the running category.

“With basketball, we are taking a sport culture approach and will be working with both performance and entertainment ambassadors,” confirms Philion without offering specifics. Of course, The Cat thinks it can also gain additional traction with men in the Americas through its strong ties to international soccer and new category products such as the Puma One and Puma Future. 

Several retailers surveyed for this story suggest Puma’s growing success in North America has been built on the brand’s ability to attract young Hispanics to the brand and its designs, particularly in markets such as Philadelphia and South Texas. 

“Since our re-positioning to be ‘Forever Faster,’ Puma is able to move quickly to produce products that matches current trends in the ever-flowing marketplace,” Philion points out. “We are noticing that consumers want to wear trends sooner and our retailers want to work with a brand that offers a variety of products in-store and one that shows diversity in the sneaker place.”

Fila, Fast and Furious

Apparel and footwear from the Fila Heritage Mindblower line.
“This company is willing to adapt quickly to changing trends and our infrastructure offers us the ability to do so,” says Louis Colon, VP–Heritage & Trend at Fila North America. 

“We are unique in that via our sourcing we are able to create customized products and stories. This approach allows us to build a consistent cadence of storytelling that keeps Fila top-of-mind for the customer. It’s about reaching a new audience, making an impact, telling a good story and building an after-effect.”

That adeptness explains why the Fila brand has been able to sell premium products through the likes of Urban Outfitters and Barneys, open Fila Mindblower pop-up shops with the brand’s latest and greatest and also deliver price-point, volume wear to the more price-conscious who shop Kohl’s. The Mindblower pop-up shops, which since April have “popped” up in New York City, Seoul and Tokyo, play off the brand’s Heritage offerings with a re-launch the 1995-era Mindblower silhouette. The experiential shops feature the Mindblower and Mindbreaker 2.0 collaborations.

“We do develop product at various price points,” offers Colon. “But where we differ from other companies is that we don’t dictate to a brand partner what they can buy (from us). With strong relationships with our retail partners, we can be transparent about the different product offerings and have a discussion about what makes sense for the particular retailer.”

In addition to working on growing its men’s, women’s and kids’ businesses in the U.S., Fila is launching a Home collection. It should be noted that any new category from the brand “has to be approached with a lifestyle lens” to be considered. The company utilizes a “cross-departmental collaboration,” tapping staff from design, development, sales, marketing and production when developing new products for a customer. 

“This inclusiveness allows any issues to be addressed early in the process and different perspectives to be heard,” says Colon. “Most importantly, this method allows us to be fast-to-market and react to trends.”Both Fila’s group ownership structure and wholesale distribution strategy are equally complex. But the 108-year-old brand’s mission to be a nimble, fashion-forward player on the global sportswear scene is clear.
Fila Fast Facts
• Began in 1911 in Biella, Italy largely as underwear, knitwear producer.
• Firmly established its sportswear identity in 1973 with its “White Line” collection.
• First tennis endorser, Bjorn Borg, captured 11 titles in his career.
• NBA’s Grant Hill, skier Alberto Tomba and tennis stars Boris Becker and Monica Seles have worn and endorsed brand.
• Fila Korea, which owns worldwide rights for brand in footwear and apparel, acquired company in 2007.
• Consolidated Fila USA sales topped $282 million in FY17.
Nothing about the brand’s Italian heritage and penchant for fashion-forward sportswear from head-to-toe is lost in translation by the company’s principal owner and former regional distributor. Fila Korea acquired the Fila trademark and global assets for $400 million in a leveraged buyout in 2007. Three years later, the brand parent filed an IPO in its home market. In 2011, Fila Korea teamed with a consortium led by Mirae Asset Global Investments in a $1.2 billion leveraged buyout of Acushnet Holdings Corp. In 2016, Fila Korea became the controlling shareholder in the parent of Titleist and FootJoy. 

But the Fila brand, which generated consolidated revenues of nearly $2.37 billion in 2017, remains a primary focus of Fila Korea, which operated 598 multi-category Fila brand stores at the end of 2017; was a 15 percent partner in an Asia region-focused joint venture with ANTA Sports and oversaw 37 worldwide brand licensees, including seven in North America. Fila USA’s consolidated revenues were nearly $305 million in 2017. 

Asked about the biggest trade misconception about the brand today, Colon says it’s rooted in a belief that Fila’s connection to sports is limited to tennis and basketball in the 1990s. 

“Our influence in sportstyle extends to running, baseball, boxing, outdoor, sailing, skiing, swim, motor sports and beyond,” Colon points out. “We have the ability to tap into the experiences, and our goal is telling those stories. Fila is a brand that started in sportswear, but we have become a fashion brand with a sports DNA.”
Mon, Aug 28, 2017
Vol 1, Issue No. 33