While one side of the footwear market calls for aggressive athletic styles for Spring ’15, there’s another side that is finding success with lightweight, comfortable, earthy footwear.
Carl Blakeslee, creative director and co-founder of Portland Product Werks, the licensee for Woolrich Footwear, said the rugged heritage brand has seen more and more retailers looking for barefoot stories. “There’s a demand for somewhat naked and unlined product, as well we the usuals like flip flops and sandals,” he explained.
As Blakeslee puts it, “Summer means being as uncovered as possible, so it makes sense that consumers will be looking for footwear that feels good against a bare foot, which really inspired the Lane from our spring/summer line.”
Lane, the deconstructed lace-up chukka silhouette, has resonated with male and female consumers for both its traditional styling and practicality. The shoe, made with a Charles F. Stead suede upper, felted wool footbed and lugged rubber outsole, is water and stain resistant—making it a go-to shoe for summertime festivals and beyond.
Portland Product Werks president and co-founder Sean Beers added, “We are hearing from retailers that have adopted the line for Spring ’15 that they appreciate the quality of the materials in the line including Woolrich wools, oiled canvas and Charles F. Stead leathers that are core to the line and incorporated in our new styles.”
Likewise, EMU president of North America Dan Singer, said, “Buyers are still playing it safe to some degree, but they are willing to test emerging brands and new products from established brands. We’ve been in business for over 20 years, so buyers have confidence that our newer products are worth the investment.”
With the exception of a new shade of coral, Singer added that buyers have gravitated toward the sheepskin footwear brand’s more classic colorways. He said, “Retailers are looking for fashion forward but casual, every day shoes that are made with quality materials and EMU’s Spring ’15 collection fills the niche.”
Still, Singer understands that trends as huge as fashion’s current obsession with sport cannot be ignored. For spring, EMU has found a happy compromise between its comfort heritage and athletics with its Balance Collection, a new pre- and post-sport inspired range of women’s footwear that pairs easily with leggings and other activewear.
The Numeralla boot, in particular, has resonated with buyers for its perforated sport-meets-street look, while its contoured wrapped EVA footbed and a lightweight EVA cork midsole with arc-shaped flex groove delivers comfort. Singer noted, “Our customers lead an active lifestyle, and they are styling their athletic wear outside the gym more and more.”
As for Fall 2015, Singer said the company expects another strong selling season. “We are the only brand offering waterproof footwear in sheepskin, and it’s our fastest growing category,” he explained. EMU is also adding a snowy collection, a range of waterproof heels that can go from the office to the evening, and athletic-inspired footwear that is designed for pre- and post-sport wear in wet and snowy conditions—ideal for the apres ski consumer.