According to Amy Egelja, Aetrex Worldwide’s new VP of footwear design—the upcoming expansion of the brand’s footwear line is more evolution than revolution.
Ahead of its exhibition at FN Platform this week, Egelja and Aetrex wanted to make sure the footwear world knew it would be bringing something a little different to the table this year and in the seasons to come.
From its beginnings as an orthotic and foot health brand, Aetrex’s footwear has always had comfort at its core. But as comfort continues to be king in footwear, Egelja and Aetrex believe that there is yet more runway in the category.
“I think [Aetrex] feels like there’s an enormous opportunity for us in that space,” Egelja told Sourcing Journal. “And really, I guess it’s less of a renewed focus, and sort of a chance to say now’s the time for us to really build on the momentum that we’re starting to see.”
The best way for any brand to capitalize on market momentum is relevant product, of course. And, Aetrex should have plenty of that for Spring/Summer 2020—historically the footwear brand’s busiest season.
“Being new to the brand, it does take a little bit of time to kind of not only learn the culture but to develop and highlight the work what’s already been done. What are we known for? What, aesthetically, does it represent?” Egelja continued. “What I found is that the company has this incredible technology underfoot, the signature: Aetrex orthotic.”
So, Egelja set out to build around that core, adding in new materials and subtle updates to the line to play around with the fashion component of the brand’s footwear while keeping its comfort intact.
Egelja spoke of “amping up the hardware” in the coming spring, adding in small details to help brighten up the line and pairing those with solid constructions and premium, burnished leathers.
Notably, the designer said that the brand’s braided patterns, one of its signature features, would be featured even more prominently in the season ahead.
“We’re known for a braid treatment and we evolved that to kind of play on some of the woven trends that we’re seeing,” Egelja explained. “What I really wanted to see is an embrace of the handcrafted look and allow our consumers to feel the product and to really showcase just how beautiful these quality materials are.”
On its spring silhouettes, for example, Aetrex has incorporated that “weave” detail in several areas—notably on the straps of the “Grace” silhouette. Egleja said that the style exemplifies the design philosophy for the upcoming season while introducing a metallic look that she called an “elevated neutral.”
The “Sydney,” a sandal with a more elevated heel than the “Grace” will also be available in new materials and colors, including leopard and snakeskin, a move Egelja refers to as a “fun fashion play.”
“It gets us off the ground a little bit,” Egelja said regarding the raised heel heights on some of Aetrex’s upcoming collection. “It can offset some of the silhouettes we’re seeing in apparel. So, you know, we’ve seen some squared denim and more wider leg jeans and [our footwear] is a nice kind of balance for that. And then, they also look great with dresses. I think consumers are looking for versatility.”
Egelja offered the “Tia” as her go-to style when it comes to versatility. Built off another, more bohemian style’s construction, the “Tia” is more basic in comparison. However, Aetrex’s commitment to premium construction means that the style is instead defined by the look and feel of its materials. Egelja explained that it is this mutability, in terms of fashion, that allows the “Tia” to be worn on the commute, at work, dressed up and dressed down.
“I think that [versatility] transcends footwear,” Egelja noted. “When you have these intersections where different things meet like that—that’s where exciting things happen.”
As a brand that straddles both fashion and comfort, versatility has always been something in which Aetrex is well versed. Hoping to expand on that quality, Egelja hinted that Aetrex could be introduced into some new categories in upcoming seasons.
She said that the brand is “making a big investment” in the fall line, one of the first under Egelja’s full control after spending most of her early days with the company working on the preceding spring collection. In doing so, it is pursuing a more even approach, a lineup that will help grow Aetrex into a full-year brand.
First, Egelja said, Aetrex will have to ask: “If she’s buying our sandals, what does she want to move into when the weather changes?”
“That’s kind of what I love about this sort of niche where Aetrex is,” Egelja concluded, remarking on the breadth of possibilities that answering the question might uncover. “We’ve got all this technology and this comfort and we have all this history. We’re doing 3-D printed orthotics and that’s really exciting. It kind of plays with some of the customization trends and these, you know, really progressive manufacturing techniques and processes. But then when you mix that with footwear and traditional ways of manufacturing, when those come together, you can do a lot more.”