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Footwear Brands Look to Transitional Styles to Mitigate Weather Risk

Tall boots were in short supply at the Fashion Footwear Association of New York (FFANY) New York Shoe Expo this week—largely because of the weather.

As FFANY footwear brands courted retailers with their next big collections for Fall ’19, the scarcity of boots with taller shafts was apparent.

“As a fashion trend, we see much more in the low bootie area than in the high boot area, as far as demand, because of the popularity of denim, leggings and narrow-fitting pants,” Marty Rose, a brand representative for All Black, told Sourcing Journal. “Plus, there’s a desire for a more walkable heel. So, we’re seeing a combination of a lower heel and an ankle high—or just slightly over ankle—bootie being in a greater demand than the more traditional higher boot.”

Current fashion trends may have led shoe brands toward the silhouette anyway, according to Rose, but, when combined with erratic weather now seen all over the world, the bootie and other transitional styles could simply make more sense to today’s consumer.

“Because we sell nationally, we’re finding that more people, particularly in the southern and southwestern area are more inclined to go to the lower bootie. We still find some demand in the Midwest and Northwest for winter boots, but they’re not necessarily the high boots, they’re the storm boots,” Rose said. “Within our mix, if we do a fashion boot, maybe it will be one or two items.”

All Black will also introduce a slim, comfortable upper for many of its products for the upcoming season on all of its booties.

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“The other focus that we have is to the narrow upper,” Rose said. “We know it limits us a little bit. But, we’re seeing a demand for a boot or a bootie that doesn’t gap too much.”

The bootie’s staying power was apparent throughout the Shoe Expo.

Secret Celebrity’s stock was full of mid-sized booties in a mix of styles ranging from platform wedges to ankle-highs decked out in shearling and floral print textiles, and the selection of full-sized boots were few.

At Dansko, full-sized boots make up a very small percentage of its overall collection, a rep told Sourcing Journal. The company has started completely revamping its leather sourcing efforts for booties, specifically focusing on slim, supple uppers that will not rub or irritate the wearer.

Across the board, retailers are finding that the value of transitional footwear in an industry where the consumer wants their products to do more and the weather patterns are constantly shifting.

Many FFANY brands highlighted the “newness” factor that makes transitional shoes so attractive to both customers and retailers. The ability to shift styles throughout multiple seasons, without having to introduce new silhouettes, seems to be giving booties the edge over their higher counterparts.

And, thanks to innovations in materials that have opened up new possibilities when it comes to durability and weight in footwear, plus the near-dominance of comfort trends, sacrificing fashion to succeed in creating comfortable footwear may be a thing of the past.

As Rose put it, “Wearability is a big deal.”