Whatever you call them, retro sneakers or tennis shoes, the original gym shoes are on fire. They are having a huge fashion moment that has been gaining steam for several years. Vulcan was the god of fire. Vulcanized shoes (heat-treated rubber) are the original canvas athletic shoes that have been around for more than 100 years. The technique doesn’t really matter; these comfy retro kicks are the casual shoe of choice for urban hipsters, cool kids and suburban fashionistas alike. These quaintly low-tech shoes, appeal to the most tech-obsessed crowd. They offer a certain rebellious contrast to the uber-engineered athletic shoes. Retro sneakers provide hip comfort and are cheaper too, leaving vulcanistas with more cash for their techno toys.
Shopping in Soho last week, the Converse store midday, was almost as busy as an Apple store. It was the most active store on a long shopping trek around the neighborhood. The crowd was concentrated around their custom design bar and self-serve shoe window. Customization allows the customer the ultimate in sneaker self-expression.
Sizzling fashion sneaker brands include Converse (MA 1908), Superga (Italy 1925), Vans (CA 1966) and Uggs (CA 1978). There are many other wholesale and private label brands, too. Styles include high, low tops and boot styles for men women and children. There are sexy platforms and high heels in addition to the traditional flat eyelet and slip-ons. Unusual materials and color create newness. Uppers include solid canvas, metallics, leathers, prints, dip dyes, quilting, distressed and ornamentation such as studs. These red-hot styles are featured at major shoe emporiums like Nordstrom, Finish Line, Zappos, and just about everywhere else!
Dix&Pond is the blog of www.dixandpond.com Creative and strategic consulting for retail and wholesale apparel, shoe and consumer product companies.
Shoes and bags have been on a retail tear lately. The excitement in footwear and handbag design is palpable. As designers have taken style risks in colors, shapes and materials, consumers have rewarded them with ever-increasing sales. The Saks 5th Avenue flagship which has one of the most extensive and exciting designer shoe floors on the planet is expanding once again. Macy’s Herald Square is creating the largest shoe floor in the world at 39,000 square feet. There is a highly innovative period happening in athletic, casual, dress shoes and boots. In the shoe biz, the ante is up and it’s no time to bluff.
Shoes and handbags like the beauty area, are inclusionary of all sizes and ages, so all customers can play in the game. Plus-sized customers have under-sized apparel options so they turn to the democratic shoe floor for a fashion update. With shoes (with a few extreme exceptions), the forgotten male or female boomer can send a major fashion smoke signal, without looking like a desperate fool.
Women covet shoes and will reach beyond their means for status brands like Prada, Miu Miu, Valentino, Tory Burch, Brian Atwood and Christian Louboutin. They are also stuffing their closets with Uggs, Sperry, Kate Spade, Coach, Michael Kors, Nike, Converse, Hunter, BCBG, Stuart Weitzman, Cole Haan, Ivanka Trump, Tom’s and Isaac Mizrahi to name a few.
Here’s a run down on the best Fall 2012 trends:
Color and Patterns – Colors and patterns such as animal prints, are major drivers of newness in all categories of shoes
Lighter Than Air – Ultralight and colorful running and athletic shoes from Nike, Asics, New Balance Minimus, etc.
Retro Vulcanized – Retro sneakers are hot in new materials and colors from Superga, Uggs, Converse and other designers.
Glam Casuals – Casual has gone glamorous in boat shoes, slippers, boots, loafers and sneakers with glam styling such as metallic, sequins and glitter
Tough Love – Biker details such as buckles, straps and multi-studs on boots, sandals and smoking slippers
Oxford Grad – Classic and inventive oxfords continue in contrast colors and materials (Valentino even has lace tipped patent leather oxfords!)
Tipping Point – Ultra high ice pick heels and pointy toed pumps
Feminine Flats – The world is flat.. especially hot are smoking slippers in a wide variety of materials
Dix&Pond is the blog of Dix&Pond…creative and strategic consulting for retail and wholesale apparel, shoe and consumer products.
English fashion often has a quirky sensibility to it. It can range from dowdy, dipped-in-color royal style to avant-garde street wear. Proper classics touched with a whimsical twist are also a hallmark of British design. The fascinator hats, worn by UK women at festive, formal occasions are a perfect example.
There are many UK fashion and beauty brands invading American shores. Burberry is the international superstar, but gaining terra firma are Hunter (the famous Wellington boots, shoes and bags), All Saints Spitalfields (progressive street fashion), Thomas Pink (shirt maker for men and women), Barbour (classic outerwear), Butter London nail color (trend setting color), Illamasqua cosmetics (“makeup for your alter ego”), and many more. Some of these companies have decades of brand history and others are relative newbies.
One of my favorites is the irreverent, colorful, ladylike Ted Baker. The London-based Ted Baker , was started by the designer in 1987, as a men’s shirt company and now makes menswear, womenswear, accessories, fragrance, skincare, footwear, eyewear and watches. They are especially known for their feminine colorful sportswear, accessories and whimsical handbags. The unique personality of the brand stands out in a vanilla retail landscape. I’m especially enamored with his patent leather bags, clutches and printed vinyl totes.
Ted Baker has their own international retail stores and is found at better retailers like Bloomingdale’s and Nordstrom. Preferring not to advertise, they have grown mostly by word of mouth. Now you are in on secret!
Ralph Lauren is clearly among the greatest brand builders in the history of the fashion industry. It is no wonder why the Ralph Lauren Corporation purchased Club Monaco the urban casual, Canadian-born specialty wholesale and retail company. They have been quietly growing this little jewel in their portfolio since 1999. They currently have more than 65 stores in North America and locations in Europe, Asia and the Middle-East. They have yet to launch their e-Commerce site. Holiday 2011 sales at Club Monaco were up 17%.
The stores are filled with sophisticated, casual clothing suitable for the lifestyles of contemporary men and women. It is a textural collection with that mixes high-quality fabrics and neutrally based color stories. Modern and minimal pieces easily mix into the wardrobes of the tastefully hip, such as trench coats and pleated skirts. There is an unstudied sexiness to the chic pairings with a strong sense of identity. Even the accessories are distinctly on-trend, not the cheesy, key items blown out by most specialty retail chains. (See Club Monaco)
Club Monaco is far from a household name yet, and that is part of its appeal. They only have about 65,000 Facebook fans, but this” little engine that could” is judiciously expanding their reach. Ralph Lauren will continue to shepherd this brand carefully, so it is surely not going to lose its je né sais quoi.