This week, two Deckers brands announced new partnerships aimed at pushing their businesses toward more inclusive products and operations.
Australia-born footwear brand Ugg is furthering its commitment to disability inclusion with a newly minted partnership. On Tuesday, the label made famous by its shearling-lined boots, slippers and slides announced that it is joining the Valuable 500, a business initiative that urges private sector corporations to make disability-focused initiatives a major part of its leadership agenda.
In a bid to foster equity throughout its operations and its product offerings, Ugg will now join 500 other influential brands that have pledged to prioritize the economic, social and business value of the 1.3 billion people living with disabilities worldwide. Launched in Davos, Switzerland ,in 2019, the Valuable 500 represents the largest community of brands committed to disability inclusivity.
“By partnering with The Valuable 500, we are making a promise and putting disability inclusion as a fundamental focus,” Andrea O’Donnell, president of Ugg and Koolaburra, said in a statement. “We must do our part in ensuring the world is a more inclusive place for those with disabilities.”
With the partnership comes a new agenda, and the company has committed to six specific areas of focus, O’Donnell said.
First, Ugg will update a number of its core silhouettes with specialized modifications for ease of wear—adaptations that the brand first unveiled through its partnership with online shoe and apparel retailer Zappos last October. The two companies launched a capsule collection featuring three boot styles revamped with discreet features to accommodate wearers with disabilities and those who wear prostheses or braces, from oversized double zippers, rear pull tabs and stretchy, toggle-adjustable laces that eliminate the need for tying. Ugg will continue the Zappos Adaptive partnership, it said, while bringing those features to its own core assortment, dubbed Ugg Universal.
By the end of this year, the company plans to host dedicated innovation workshops to train its design staff on the importance of diversity and inclusion, and will work alongside Deckers’ “Deckability and Allies” employee resource group, which supports employees and their family members with disabilities, Ugg said.
The brand will also continue to upgrade its website and social media presence by adding closed captions to videos, along with alternative text, which helps screen-reading tools describe images to those who are visually impaired. Across those platforms, Ugg will push forward in teaming with accessibility advocates and influencers to amplify their stories.
Finally, Ugg has committed to augmenting its efforts to represent diverse communities through its marketing, with a pledge that 60 percent of the models and influencers featured in its marketing materials will be diverse in their body types or ability, or are members of underrepresented communities like people of color and LGBTQ individuals.
Fellow Deckers subsidiary Sanuk on the same day announced an initiative to bring all-gender footwear to market in a collaboration with the Pacific Pride Foundation, the largest LGBTQ center on California’s central coast. The Goleta, Calif.-based brand, known for its sandals and easy-wearing slip-on styles for men and women, said the Sanuk x Pacific Pride Foundation collection aims to celebrate the underrepresented community through both inclusive product and difference-making donations.
Dropping just in time for Pride Month in June, the collab brings two new styles to Sanuk’s line. A version of its best-selling Yoga Sling II women’s sandal, reimagined as the all-gender Sling ST, features yoga mat-inspired soles and stretchy slingback straps. The style, made from vegan materials, features a new high-rebound soft top foam for more support.
The brand also relaunched its You Got My Back lightweight outdoor slipper style under a new moniker: We Got Your Back. According to Sanuk, the all-gender summer slipper features a woven cotton saddle blanket upper with responsibly sourced leather vetted by the Leather Working Group. Both styles “declare allyship” with their rainbow-inspired color ways, reminiscent of the LGBTQ flag.
To further its support of the LGBTQ community, Sanuk will donate $10,000 to the Pacific Pride foundation in June, along with an additional $3 per pair on each collab product sold, for a guaranteed donation of $40,000. According to the company, the funding will be used to bolster educational programs, counseling services, competency training, community events, advocacy efforts and AIDS awareness. The group provides access to these services and programs for more than 10,000 individuals, including both youths and adults.
“Inclusivity and diversity are at the heart of Sanuk, and we’re committed to ensuring our footwear is made for all,” director of marketing Seth Pulford said in a statement. He noted the “incredible work” the Pacific Pride Foundation has done to “create an equitable, healthy and welcoming environment for the community, and we’re proud to give back in support of Pacific Pride Foundation’s ongoing efforts to drive positive change.”
“This year’s vibrant and inclusive campaign comes at a time when we are all longing to feel connected and seen,” Kristin M. Flickinger, executive director at Pacific Pride Foundation, added. “This collection demonstrates Sanuk’s commitment to celebrating diversity, inclusivity and acceptance and the brand’s authentic investment in the wellness of the LGBTQ+ community.”
The styles, which launched on sanuk.com on Tuesday, retail for $45-$55.