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Editor’s Picks: The Best Brand Stories of 2017

From celebrity shoe lines and anniversary collections, to scaling sustainable and “Made in USA” businesses, Vamp spoke to the founders and CEOs of companies that are working to carve their own space in the crowded footwear category. Here are some of our favorite brand interviews from 2017.

1. Katy Perry and footwear is a match made in heaven. In August, Perry shared how she sources design inspiration for her eponymous shoe line with Global Brands Group and why it’s a safe bet to expect the unexpected.

2. Having sold more than 35 million pairs of “Made in USA” shoes, Buford, Georgia-based Okabashi may be one of the footwear industry’s best kept secrets. Okabashi CEO Sara Irvani discussed how the company is scaling business by tapping into international markets and younger demographics.

3. After launching in 2003 and growing to more than 6,000 Chinese storefronts, 361° set its sights on bringing its “one degree beyond” message to international markets. James Monahan, president at 361° USA, discussed the highs and lows of growing a company ruled by sneaker giants like Nike and Adidas.

4. Sorel celebrated the tenth anniversary of the Joan of Arctic in 2017 by elevating the style with premium materials. Sorel director of product Erin Sander discussed the Joan’s long-lasting appeal and how it helped put the brand on the radars of women seeking fashionable and functional winter footwear.

5. The future of footwear is solution-based designs. That’s the message Antonia Saint NY founder Antonia Saint Dunbar wanted to share with the industry when she launched her on Kickstarter this year. The start-up shoe brand specializes in high heels with sneaker-like comfort—a concept that caught the attention of city dwellers who are tired of pounding the pavement in uncomfortable heels.

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6. Gabriel Silva, dedicated yogi and founder of vegan footwear brand Ahimsa, shared how investments in animal-free, alternative materials like uppers made from recycled cotton and recycled PET plastic bottles can help set a new industry standard.

7. Nike and Adidas are not the only companies advancing customization. Shoes of Prey co-founder Jodie Fox discussed how the direct-to-consumer brand is taking an old fashion process and pushing it forward through digital customization.

8. Allbirds made launching a sustainability shoe line look easy, but co-founder Tim Brown shared with Vamp how the brand is working from the ground up to develop its own sustainable supply chain.

9. Flip-flops are known for damaging foot health. This year Vionic Beach unveiled a solution—a line of flip-flops with an exclusive contoured arch to promote natural alignment from the feet up. Vionic co-founder and CEO Chris Gallagher described the “revolutionary” concept.

10. From frocks to handbags, designer Rachel Roy is building an empire for modern, fashionable women. Roy dished about her new footwear collection with Titan Industries and her time designing shoes with Manolo Blahnik.

11. Social media stardom was the jumping off point for Mery Racauchi. The influencer-turned-designer unveiled her first collection of ultra-girly and sparkly footwear geared toward other aspiring social media trendsetters. Racauchi playfully described the ingredients in her footwear collection as “1 gram of romance, 1 tablespoon of fun, a cup of style and 10 drops of cuteness.”

12. Royal Vintage founder and CEO Lauren Stowell shared how her passion for vintage dress evolved into a women’s fashion footwear line that that offers modern interpretations of historical designs.