Skip to main content

FFANY Brands Eschew Trends for Spring 2020 Footwear

Working with retailers to determine the best strategy for the upcoming seasons, brands at FFANY are beginning to get a feel for what the Spring ’20 cycle will bring—however, according to several brands in attendance, the next big market driving trend has yet to appear.

For many brands participating in FFANY’s Market Week in New York City this week, the most challenging part of the process is finding a working assortment for buyers and retailers over the next month, all while attending to a fast-paced event schedule.

According to Barbara Lefkowitz, the general merchandise manager for French Sole and its collaboration line with Nicky Hilton, this can pose a problem for brands without a clear trend to follow.

“If people are looking for a trend, they can get it any price point. But you need to make it unique enough so that it becomes a trend that they want to come to you for,” Lefkowitz explained to Sourcing Journal. “But, there isn’t something out there where everyone says ‘That’s it.’ There’s a lack of direction, no first animal in the pack. It isn’t there right now. But, the idea is to have, at least for the consumer, whatever they don’t have in their closet.”

For French Sole, that means following the popular pattern trends, snakeskin and leopard print, and infusing them with the brand’s personal charm. While not eschewing the easy win of a well-made snakeskin pump, French Sole is also offering the same patterns with bright pops of blue and green.

Still, operations manager Nisim Frank said there remains a great deal of indecision from buyers and retailers as to which direction to go in the coming seasons. That means brands may be asking more from producers and factories, too.

Related Stories

“We’ve seen 12 to 14 people [at FFANY], I would say no more than two people have picked up the same shoe, which is very interesting for production,” Frank said. “When people keep picking up different shoes, it’s good for them, but it’s not always the best for us.”

For the brands that do have a plan, most of the currently successful designs are from past seasons and have simply been updated for 2019.

Lines of Denmark, the American distributor of Ilse Jacobsen footwear, said it has found one shoe so popular that it could end up becoming its own brand. It’s a travel shoe, of sorts, with a whip-stitching, recycled upper, and a wear-anywhere kind of appeal.

whip-stitching and a recycled upper on line of denmark's best-selling shoe
With whip-stitching and a recycled upper, this breezy silhouette has been a winner for Lines of Denmark for a half-decade. Sourcing Journal

“We’re riding the tide of the shoe, which is just been unbelievable. It continues to grow with no slowing down. We’re seeing just unbelievable growth,” Dan Butler, the distributor’s national sales manager said. “But we’ve worked hard for it. This coming Spring 2020 will be the fifth year for this shoe. And it started five years ago in just latte and black.”

Now the focus for the brand is to find a way to continue to capitalize on that success by bringing in new materials and patterns. However, for Butler, there remains no one, clear reason for the excitement around the silhouette. Instead, he thinks it’s the versatility and comfort that the construction offers that will continue to bring consumers to the style.

“We kind of take the approach that, that there’s not just one piece of it that is is the difference-maker,” he said. “It’s the combination of all the things. It’s the recycled upper, to begin with. It’s the whipstitch, so there’s no glue in the construction. It’s the ultimate travel shoe. But the reality is, regardless of where people are, it’s their shoe for that purpose.”

All Black has found itself in a similar situation. After finding success with both clear, plastic constructions and perforated uppers, the brand has worked to infuse that success into as many different categories as possible.

“We had a big run with [clear and perforated uppers] last spring, and it was an enormous success,” Marty Rose, an agent and distributor for the brand, explained. “So we’re continuing with it.”

Sustainability has started to creep into the world of high-end wholesale, too. For the past few seasons, All Black has pushed fish skin as a sustainable alternative to cow leather, which gives the brand a chance to create new and interesting styles with what would have been considered a waste product in the past.

“Fish is now having another resurgence because it’s considered sustainable. It’s like a form of recycling,” Rose said. “We actually buy skin from the fishery after the fish has been harvested. Rather than discarding it into garbage and waste, we take the skin and then we back up with pigskin and it becomes a form of leather.”

For other brands, like high-end Donatello, its designers have focused on simply adding to the existing collection, instead of looking for the next big trend. For an “old-world” brand like Donatello, trends can be deadly.

Scott Prentice, a partner with Donatello-owner Mainsail Management and representative for the brand, allowed that there remains one trend his brand can’t afford to ignore: comfort. But, that doesn’t mean Donatello won’t solve that problem in its own way.

“We see the whole trend in comfort not just being a genre of ‘Oh, we’ll make it comfortable.’ You make it comfortable by constructions,” Prentice elaborated. “It’s an expensive way to do it. We’re using the leather that Chanel uses, things like that. But its something that lasts a long time and offers the same comfort features all the way through everything we’re doing, from a flat to a penny loafer.”

That focus on construction gives Donatello an “elegant sensibility” to pair with its focus on high-end comfort, notable considering the $400 to $500 price tag that normally accompanies a pair of the brand’s shoes.