Trends come and trends go—but uncertainty over “the next big thing” loomed large at the Footwear Show New York Expo (FSNYE) during FFANY Market Week, held at the historic Warwick hotel this week.
For the past few seasons, animal prints have been the go-to in-stock items guaranteed to entice buyers and consumers alike. Snakeskin was an easy win for many brands in recent seasons, but now the energy surrounding animal prints has died down, transitioning the style from a trend to a staple.
Similar to the evolution of the ballet flat 15 years, animal print’s tenure as a trend has now morphed into a full-fledged category, Barbara Lefkowitz, general merchandise manager for French Sole, told Sourcing Journal.
That’s why French Sole working on the basics, which also happen to include the closet-staple ballet-flat style. French Sole has focused on improving their bread-and-butter category with patterning, ornaments and interesting materials, Lefkowitz said. However, the footwear brand is taking a “wait and see” approach to the upcoming fall season.
Other brands have begun to experiment with unproven styles and categories in an attempt to hit the big trend before the market is oversaturated. All Black, a maker of high-end women’s footwear, has taken a similar approach to French Sole in sticking to the basics and keeping its ear to the ground.
“We’re just riding the wave [of our previous successes] and we’re doing different materials,” Marty Rose, principal for All Black distributor M.J. Rose Associates, said. “We get a lot of inspiration from the big designers” like Balenciaga, Gucci and Valentino, he added.
Pulling influence from the runway is a tried-and-true way to keep abreast of trending styles. At FFANY, Gucci slides, classic Dr. Martens boots and a general grunge, punk aesthetic all stood out as major influences. All Black also experimented with taller boots, including a textured velvet number that has been attracting buyers.
Camo-style prints that deviate from All Black’s animal-print norm also feature in the brand’s new products, as well as new lines across the show.
“We’re always looking for new things,” Rose said. “We’re kind of famous for bringing out something different.”
Several brands are testing the waters in new categories. Aetrex officially expanded into athleisure and Bearpaw is looking to bolster its lineup with more year-round styles—and both carry camo-printed footwear into the upcoming season.
“We started off with just being in the sheepskin-lined business, which [is] still our core,” Edna L. De Pamphilis, global marketing director for Bearpaw, told Sourcing Journal.
A new look for Fall ’20 plays into the casual athleisure space with a “very retro angle,” she added.
In keeping with Bearpaw’s signature features, many of next season’s sneakers incorporate fleece or sherpa lining and some of these styles will feature in spring lineups, De Pamphilis said. Each Bearpaw “sneaker” has a Poron comfort footbed and a removable sock liner to add to its comfort features and the brand is experimenting with numerous colorways to see what draws interest.
“We have to continue to try to reinvent ourselves and not be necessarily pigeonholed to a certain look and feel,” Pamphilis said of looking for inspiration beyond Bearpaw’s “bread and butter” styles.
Other brands have looked to “glammed-up” classics, adding embellishments and decorations like sequins, glitter and accessories to traditional loafers, clogs and other dress styles. In fact, metallic colorways applied to recognizable silhouettes featured in nearly every FFANY collection.
There is a case to be made that there is no need to search for that “something new” when what has worked in the past continues to be successful.
“I think I do agree that it’s going to be more of a staple,” Vanessa Bolieiro, product development manager for Camtrade, said Tuesday of where the snakeskin and animal print trend will go. “I do see it everywhere still.”