Vionic takes a page out of its own playbook in order to grow its men’s business.
The company, known for its biomechanical footbed sandals, has widen the appeal of its women’s footwear in recent seasons by combining comfort and support with elevated styling. As a result, Vionic has secured a place in women’s closets for work, weekend and beyond with chic ankle boots, kitten heel pumps, leather sneakers and a robust active collection.
The brand is taking the same approach to expanding its men’s collection for Fall ’17. Vionic has dabbled in the men’s footwear, but the company is making a greater push in the category by building new and improved dress and casual styles with high-quality leathers, textiles and its signature footbed technology.
“We had some great sandals and active shoes in our initial men’s line, which performed well and continue as a part of the line,” said Vionic Executive Vice President Steven Mabb. “We received feedback that we needed to improve materials and styling on the casual and dress styles, so we went back to the drawing board and brought in some new supplier partners to help with that. The new collection is now a big step in the right direction.”
Vionic is in it for the long haul. “It took us 10 years to make the women’s business as successful as it is today and we are almost starting from scratch in men’s,” said Vionic Executive Vice President Steven Mabb. “It will take some time to really build momentum and brand awareness. But if the quality and styling are as good as the women’s range it’s going to be a winning formula over the next few years.”
Here, Mabb shares what differentiates Vionic from other men’s brands, and how it is relying on its loyal women’s fan base and retail partners to help spread the word.
VAMP: Why is it the right time to offered an expanded men’s line?
Mabb: We have been getting asked by a lot of our best retail partners for men’s. They really feel we are missing out by not having a great, complementary men’s line given how well our women’s shoes are performing. It’s hard to debate that so now we have the design and supplier teams we needed to make it happen, we’re excited to test men’s again and see how big it really can be for us all.
VAMP: The men’s comfort market is pretty notorious for offering basic styles. How does Vionic aim to change that?
Mabb: Our plan is definitely to “Vionicize” the styling. We have some very successful women’s collections and constructions that we can easily add a masculine look to and they then tie in nicely with our existing programs. Especially in the sandals, active and cup sole areas. And of course our biggest competitive point of difference from others is our patented and proven biomechanical footbed that’s offers such great support to a guy as well.
VAMP: What are some of the key styles, colors, materials?
Mabb: The new Ngage and Tucker active styles have our footbed built in to the midsole and then added memory foam on top. We think it’s the best underfoot experience he will find as well as being on-trend, so we feel good about those. And we are working on some great new sandals for Spring ’18 that combine the footbed with really rich leathers, and covered footbeds that should also be a home run.
VAMP: Describe Vionic’s men’s consumer.
Mabb: He’s a 35-plus guy that values quality and also wants or needs the extra support Vionic offers. But he doesn’t want to be too basic or classic; he has a more contemporary look.
VAMP: What are some main differences between Vionic’s men’s and women’s business?
Mabb: Right now we have a lot of raving fans on the women’s side who love our shoes and are spreading the word. We don’t have that yet in men’s so the difference is we need to be smart about reaching out to men right now who haven’t heard of us yet and might need a bit more technical [information] on how our technology will work for them.
VAMP: What type of retailers are you targeting for the men’s collection?
Mabb: It’s mostly the same great partners we already have—Dillard’s, Zappos, QVC, Shoebuy for example and great independents like Footwear Etc, Comfort One and Lucky’s to name a few. It will be great for these trusted retail partners, Vionic and the consumer if we can get it to work well in the long run.
VAMP: What can we expect to see for Spring ’18?
Mabb: There are some really nice casual and sport sandals coming for spring, a new boat shoe and some on trend cupsoles all in the works, which will add to what we are soon to deliver for fall.
VAMP: What is the retail price range for the men’s line?
Mabb: Sandals will retail under $100, active and casual around $130 and dress around $150, so they aren’t cheap but are still accessible price points for the guy we are targeting and in sync with our successful women’s pricing.