Sandals are a summer staple, and this season’s consumer is looking for a pair that can brave both brunch and beach. Versatility and easy wearing are two factors impacting the shopper’s choice in warm-weather footwear.
“Functionality seems to be key this season,” said Raven McClure, a senior buyer for Zappos, explaining that women don’t want to be held back from traveling and exploring by impractical footwear.
Instead, she said, “easy, simple silhouettes” like flats, mules, slides and platforms are trending for consumers of all ages. Reasonable heel heights are a must, with kitten heels making a resurgence along with low block heels.
Chunky platform sandals with an athletic influence are also trending heavily.
“Chunky sneakers were the stand-out silhouette in 2018,” explained Katharine Carter, analyst for retail analytics firm Edited, adding that “platform soles have transcended into the sandal category, giving further backing to the ‘ugly shoe’ trend.”
Brands are pulling influence from Teva, which once cornered the market on multi-strapped performance sandals with sizeable foam soles.
Lead Zappos buyer Dee Calderon said that the trend also works to the favor of comfort brands, which are finding their stride now that thicker outsoles are rising to prominence. “The hot button is memory foam, and everyone is talking about their cushioned footbed,” she said.
Calderon believes that the younger consumer’s gravitation toward comfy shoes could be more than fleeting, as comfort brands continue to edge into the fashion arena. “We’re not speaking as much to the technical aspects in trying to reach the younger consumer,” she said. “I think it’s hard to translate aggressive support to millennials, but the younger demographic is open to comfort, and cushioning is resonating with them.”
When it comes to strap configuration, the “naked” sandal has emerged as a key trend this season, according to Edited. Carter said that strappy, minimalist designs with “square toes, asymmetric straps and laced-up ankle fastenings” play a prominent role in the summer’s casual and occasion-wear styles.
“We’re obsessing over ‘barely-there’ sandals right now, in a range of heel heights,” agreed Megan Key, creative director for Dolce Vita, who said that the asymmetrical strap configuration is here to stay.
Cross-straps, slides and gladiator silhouettes are still popular with consumers, McClure said, adding that double-strapped slides are a “big style” this season.
There are two ends to this summer’s color spectrum, and they couldn’t be more different.
Carter summarized the dichotomy as “neons versus neutrals,” adding that the two palettes are dominating retailers’ spring arrivals.
“I’ve been seeing a lot of sand, stone and dust colors,” said McClure, explaining that earth tones are becoming this season’s preferred neutral palette.
Calderon cautioned that “a huge burst of neon” would be hitting stores in the coming weeks, and consumers might miss it if they’re not paying close attention.
“There are a lot of transitional or quick-strike deliveries coming up. Pops of neon like yellow, orange and blue are on their way,” she said. “It’s going to be in and out pretty quick.”
McClure explained that the trend might not have staying power because neon is tough to incorporate into the average wardrobe. “The trends that end up being just a moment in time are the ones that are hard to translate from one season to the next,” she added.
Conversely, metallics and exotic animal prints continue to stand the test of time, as many consumers consider them an extension of a brand’s neutral offering.
“Exotics are still very strong for our brand. Leopard and classic black and white snake prints are always winners,” said Key. She added that naturals tones, pastels and “touches of neon and iridescent futuristic materials” add something fresh to Dolce Vita’s spring collection.
“Leopard never really goes out of style,” McClure agreed. “It comes back in different ways that are unique to each season.” She added that metallics like gold, silver and champagne will remain a part of the style lexicon, having attained “classic” status in the minds of brands and consumers.
Even as these color ways look familiar, McClure believes there’s always room to innovate.
“It’s about doing it in a fresh way and reinvigorating it for the next season.”