In a year that has already revealed serious business challenges, the footwear industry has clearly felt the reverberations. But the wise, the hip and the forward thinking are taking most of these hurdles in stride.
This year’s FN Summit, the first one-day gathering in New York, will host a clever, canny group of innovative leaders determined to blaze their own trail. From relative upstarts (Blake Mycoskie, Rebecca Minkoff, Tabitha Simmons) to mass success stories (Kevin Plank, Debbie Ferrée and Ken Hicks) to legendary talents (Stuart Weitzman), each of the power players that grace our stage has changed the industry as we know it.
They haven’t just tiptoed in the door, they’ve kicked it down.
In fact, we have never assembled such a defining group on one stage in all the years we have produced our summits. This once-in-a-lifetime gathering demonstrates the incredible level of diversity and talent among us, and proves the footwear business leads the rest of the fashion industry on many counts.
From sourcing issues to social media, from product evolution to grassroots marketing, shoe people play harder and faster than the rest of the pack.
While the mix of leadership styles on view runs the gamut from new age to old guard, this group is pushing the boundaries with unique brand stories, evolutionary product and buzzy marketing. They share a mix of street smarts, sensitivity and the killer instinct needed to thrive in today’s tough climate.
It should come as no surprise that the back-stories of our summit leaders are true passion plays. Blake Mycoskie’s passion for giving back led to one of the industry’s biggest and most rapidly growing brands and a revolution that shifted the idea of product marketing, customer engagement and philanthropy. Kevin Plank has turned passion into hit styles that changed the athletic business forever.
Stuart Weitzman’s passion for both the creative and business aspects of his brand is unparalleled. He is the quintessential shoe man and showman rolled into one.
The newer names are creating just as much buzz with their determination and commitment. Laurence Dacade, Tabitha Simmons and Alessandra Lanvin represent a heady new wave of female designers juggling multiple brands and collaborations. They are the ones to watch.
So, too, are our social media experts at the FN Summit: three unique case studies — from Rebecca Minkoff, Vince Camuto and Leandra Medine (aka The Man Repeller) — that prove social media strategy can be more about measurable results than buzz for buzz’s sake.
Also hitting the summit stage are two of the shoe world’s biggest and most influential retailers — DSW and Foot Locker — led by two of the smartest, most respected leaders in the business. Debbie Ferrée has taken consumer connectivity to a higher level at DSW, and Ken Hicks has parlayed Foot Locker’s past successes into a modern, forward-thinking athletic powerhouse.
Every one of our speakers is finding success at a time when the demands of the business have never been more intense, complicated by global economic instability, escalating sourcing pressures and competitive forces that are eating into already thin margins.
But shoe people, as I have always said, are the most resilient of all the fashion tribe, having weathered many of these issues before. As an industry, we know how to survive and thrive.
That is why I am so thrilled about the cast of this year’s FN Summit. To a person and to a brand, they represent a new class of warriors that have taken the current business and transformed it with great product, great marketing and great leadership.