It’s good to be Sorel. The Columbia Sportswear-owned brand reported last month net sales grew $26.1 million, or 40 percent to $92.1 million in fourth quarter 2014, and it is expected to play a major role in the company’s projected high single-digit 2015 net sales growth.
A Fall ’15 line that touches on a number hot fashion trends from sport to military, and a keen sense on the level of functionality customers expect from the outdoor brand doesn’t hurt either. In talking to customers, Sorel product line manager Marion Minary said, “[They] are always on trend and we thought the military, combat and army green palette really relates to Sorel well. It’s a great trend to focus on and bring into the fall collection.”
That brigade of military-inspired footwear, called the Major collection, spans lo- to mid-height lace up and pull-on boots, and is part of Sorel’s new mission to become a mainstay in women’s wardrobes beyond the brutal winter seasons. Highlights in the Major collection include the Carly canvas combat style boot with buckle details, the Major Lace mixed with washed canvas and full grain leather, and Sorel’s lowest silhouettes to date, the Major Low. The versatile, ankle skimming boot is available is both a muddy, military color palette of tan, gray and brown, or with panels of animal print calf hair.
Minary said by placing an emphasis on the canvas uppers and short styles, the diverse Major collection helps Sorel step into fall in a big way. “It allows us to be known for more than cold weather boots and that is a big initiative for this season. [The customer] can wear the product in this line from January to November,” she said.
With winter weather’s unpredictability, Minary said, “It pushes us to think out of the box and bring [the consumer] a lot of options when it comes to the Sorel brand.” She added, “Our consumer would like to wear Sorel more than twice a year and wear it more than just commutes, so that’s why we expanded the fall line — so they can shop for it in July and August.”
On the sportier end, Sorel is betting on the Medina III, its waterproof, vulcanized rubber boot with a neoprene bootie for warmth. The high heel rain boot features a sport-inspired logo band in splashy colors like laser lemon, bright red and hyper blue. The brand’s new 1961 Premium Wedge, a sneaker-like wedge ankle boot with a canvas coated shell available in bonfire red and purple is getting a lot of play, too. A Sorel logo patch on the outside adds a sneaker vibe. “Women love that style because it’s casual, easy-to-wear and has the Sorel DNA,” Minary said.
In general, wedge silhouettes, which have been in the line since the Fall ’13 debut of fan favorite Joan of Arctic wedge, continue to have good traction. Minary said Sorel is building on that platform, allowing its designers to revisit the icons from past winter seasons, including color updates for its popular Cate the Great wedge and Joan of Arctic wedge.
By tapping into its own archive and tweaking designs, Minary said the brand has been able to extend the life of key styles. For instance, the new oiled suede Toronto collection features a wedge platform slightly lower than the 1964 Premium, making it more wearable and comfortable. “They barely feel like a wedge,” Minary added, while the new Meadow lace and zipper suede boots are built on the Tivoli outsole — one of Sorel’s core winter bottoms. The biggest difference being the Meadow boots are not insulated making them appropriate for fall wear.
And in other instances, Sorel sees no end to the amount of wear and appeal of some styles, only updated materials and colors. Minary said the brand is introducing new material stories for its popular suede and felt pull-on boot (renamed the Newbie collection for Fall ’15), including a gray and bubblegum pink blanket material with a Chevron print and quilting details. Minary said there is more color and pattern that what the brand has played with in the past. “You’re still seeing college girls going to class wearing this shoe,” she added. That same pink story is carried over to the Glacy Explorer Shortie, with pink laces and icy blue straps. The Tall Glacy gets a color makeover as well with sporty, color contrasting laces.