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Skechers President Michael Greenberg on Athleisure, Tesla & Globalization

While Nike and Adidas duke it out, Skechers has quietly swooped in, selling comfortable and affordable footwear for all, grasping the concept of athleisure footwear early and with gusto.

In 2015, the quiet behemoth raked in $3.15 billion in revenue—a 32 percent increase over the previous year. According to Bloomberg, the company is on pace to reach more than $1 billion in performance group sales alone in 2016.

Athleisure suits the brand’s relaxed Manhattan Beach, Calif. roots. Founded by LA Gear creator Robert Greenberg in 1992—the same year he and his son Michael left LA Gear—Skechers has successfully built out a series of casual and performance product lines, including Relaxed Fit, Go Walk and Go Run. The lines have been further amplified by a roster of celebrities and sports icons spanning New York Yankees hero Mariano Rivera to Ringo Starr.

Celebrity endorsements and offices in plum locations aside, Skechers President Michael Greenberg says he continues to love the footwear industry because, at the heart of it, it is a people business. “We have thousands of incredibly talented people working together daily around the world, and we’ve all grown into this great global family,” he said.

VAMP: What is the status of athleisure in Spring ’17?
Greenberg: Athleisure is more than a trend. Consumers have come to expect comfort in their footwear and athleisure provides it—and with the numerous styles available, it’s now trendy and acceptable. Even if the fashion-forward want to move on, consumers won’t want to. Skechers is developing a wide range of styles for men, women and kids that focus on style and comfort, knowing they will want fresh looks and new takes on what they have come to love.

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VAMP: What other industries do you look to for inspiration?
Greenberg: I find inspiration and innovation in a variety of industries. Companies like Tesla are really captivating the world right now; they continue to push the envelope and redefine cars, technology and even transportation’s core infrastructure. Starbucks has had a very aggressive retail store rollout strategy, which is admirable. Alibaba in China has built incredible expertise in web and e-commerce, as has Amazon in the U.S. and a growing number of markets around the world. And of course there’s Google, whose search platform has grown into every domain, from exploring alternative energy to self-driving cars.

VAMP: When did you first start to work in footwear?
Greenberg: I started out by working for my dad, Robert (Greenberg, CEO of Skechers), at LA Gear in 1985. Since the day I started working for him, he’s been a great source of inspiration—he had already built a number of companies, and LA Gear was a huge cultural milestone. I learned the incredible attention and endurance that you need to take an innovative product and turn it into a billion-dollar success story–and how to steer through the growing pains, peaks and valleys of any business.

VAMP: Was there a moment when you knew that you would be involved in footwear for the long haul?
Greenberg: LA Gear was an exciting, dynamic business—it suited my ambitions well at the time, and I knew that footwear was an industry that I really loved. So much so, that the moment I left, I called my dad asking what footwear business we were going to start next. In a matter of days, that company became Skechers. And Skechers was an even better experience for me because this time, I had the opportunity to start it with him and build the brand from the ground up.

VAMP: How have you remained passionate about footwear?
Greenberg: Footwear is an incredible, dynamic industry. At Skechers, literally no year is like the next—and no season is like the previous. Everyone needs shoes; there’s always a new trend waiting to be discovered. Skechers is able to provide product in every space—all kinds of designs, all over the world. And with globalization, the opportunities are greater than ever to have billions wearing the same trends—from the Americas to Europe, Asia, Africa and beyond. It’s an incredible time for our company and the industry.

For more interviews like this, check out VAMP Magazine.