Titan Inks Deal With Upper Echelon

LOS ANGELES — Titan Industries Inc. is getting into the sneaker business.

Titan CEO Joe Ouaknine told Footwear News last week he had bought the high-end sneaker brand Upper Echelon Shoes. Though he declined to disclose the terms of the deal, it is expected to close June 1.

Ouaknine said he was drawn to the line for its fashion-forward designs and celebrity appeal. “It’s very cool stuff and expensive looking,” he said. “I let [Upper Echelon] show with us at the [last] WSA Show. The direction was so terrific that I said, ‘OK, I’m in.’”

Upper Echelon co-founder Seth Campbell said Ouaknine would provide the company — which will continue to be based in New York — with much-needed operating structure and distribution. “[Fellow co-founder] Nick Cohen and I basically have been doing everything,” he said. “Joe brings us a lot of structure and his sales force. He wants us to do what we do best, which is design great product.”

Ouaknine said that to grow the Upper Echelon business in department store accounts, Campbell and Cohen would have to drop the price points dramatically, from around $400 to $100 to $125, while still giving the appearance of luxury.

“A lot of the cost of the shoe comes down to the materials and the accents [we use],” said Cohen. “Going forward, we want a product that has a more competitive price … with the same look, same feel and same integrity.”

However, the duo said they would still develop high-end product for specialty boutiques.

Ouaknine added that given the label’s small distribution, the growth potential for the brand could be significant. “If it catches on, it could be a big business,” he said.