Materials may change and heel heights may go out of style, but “Made in Italy” remains an asset on the footwear sales floor.
“The ‘Made in Italy’ label still holds the most weight, especially in the U.S.,” said Jonathan Roselli, Pas De Rouge agent for U.S. and Canada. “It makes a huge difference because U.S. consumers understand Italy’s history of quality, craftsmanship and luxury.
Pas De Rouge is among the Italian shoe brands that will show at FFANY’s New York Shoe Expo at the Hilton Midtown, Feb. 6-8. Other brands include Summit by White Mountain, Flexx Studios and new brand RelaxShoe.
Pas De Rouge works with a family-run factory outside of Venice to develop one-of-a-kind designs that cater to its specific customer. Styles include flats, pumps, oxfords and boots made with lightweight and soft leather materials. Each shoe is made with a sacchetto construction to create a seamless fit and feel.
The brand offers retailers the option to customize their orders, which allows them to handpick the colors, silhouettes and heel heights they believe best suit their customers’ needs. For Fall ’18, Roselli said the brand will offer 15 to 20 new accessories like bows and crystal to add a custom touch.
Competition has increased, but Roselli believes the Italians are still the fashion leaders in footwear.
“They’re very receptive to try new things,” Roselli said about the factory. “They are really creating the line and offering input because the American market is very different from other markets around the globe.”
Italy’s footwear know-how really can’t be replicated.
“Italians are passionate about making footwear. They enjoy what they are doing,” said Max Harrell, Summit by White Mountain director of sales.
Summit has kept the “Made in Italy” tradition alive through the long-standing partnerships its parent company, White Mountain, has maintained with Italian factories.
While the majority of White Mountain’s footwear manufacturing has moved to Asia, Harrell points out that at one time, the company was the largest importer of Italian shoes in the U.S. Summit works with those factories now and advantageously taps into the trend and fashion insight gleaned from their work with domestic markets in Europe.
“We get to see the trends before they get to retail and the factories work with our designers and myself to cater to the U.S. market,” he said.
The result is a “Made in Italy” footwear collection that spans casual and dress styles at an accessible $120-$180 retail price range. “If you compare, our prices are 20 to 40 percent less than other Italian-made footwear,” Harrell noted.
The brand focuses on modern basics—styles that every woman owns, like a ballet flat, a riding boot and a Chelsea boot.
“We want to have ‘best in show’ items that are affordable,” Harrell explained.
And consumers are responding to Summit’s recipe for success. Business is up more than 60 percent for the year. In 2017, the brand opened 110 new accounts.
In a retail climate where a lot of shoes look the same, Harrell believes any point of differentiation helps.
“It’s good to have an alternative to where the shoes are made,” he said, “It’s nice to have a company that continues to look at sourcing in other areas and it’s another way to give customers more options.”
For Fall ’18, Summit is focused on western influences, oversized bows, ornamentation, burgundy colorways and sneaker alternatives.
“Our hottest category is sneaker alternatives,” Harrell said. “They have the fit, feel and comfort of a tennis shoe with a more stylish and versatile upper.”