“We’ve had retailers ask us for some time now to do boys’ shoes,” said Alan Johnson, corporate president of the New York-based firm. “But anytime you step beyond your core business, you want to be cautious and make sure you do your homework first and that the timing and product are right.”
To gauge the market, Nina quietly tested a small capsule collection of boys’ styles last year with a select group of retailers. Alan Paulenoff, who helms Nina’s kids’ division, said the test gave the brand the confidence to move forward with a full rollout of the collection this fall. “The reaction was even better than we expected. Feedback from our consumers indicated a void in the boys’ market for updated, fashionable, nonathletic product,” Paulenoff said.
Taking styling cues from the men’s world, Elements’ assortment includes boat mocs, wingtips, penny mocs and hiking-inspired high-tops, in materials such as distressed twill and canvas, suede and tumbled polyurethane. A classic color palette of navy, army green, gray, black and brown is accented with pops of neon yellow, orange and green on laces, eyelets and footbeds.
“We wanted to create a collection with a little attitude, a little edge. The shoes are very much influenced by skate, music and urban themes,” said Chief Creative Officer Nina Miner. “We’ve taken the latest trends and interpreted them in a way that’s understandable and age-appropriate.”
Transitioning into holiday, Nina will add a selection of dress looks to the offering. But Paulenoff said the shoes will not be quite as formal as the party shoes offered in the girls’ line. “Boys tend not to get as dressed up as girls. They wear more multipurpose styles [that can go from casual to dressy occasions],” he explained. “You might see a cool, polished oxford but built on a rugged lug outsole.”
Priced from $35 to $55, Elements will be available in toddler and youth sizes. The retail distribution strategy will follow that of the Nina girls’ line, with a focus on department stores, independents and e-tailers.
Daughter of Nina Footwear founder Stanley Silverstein, Nina Miner (below right, with EVP of kids’ Alan Paulenoff), serves as the firm’s chief creative officer. Paulenoff joined Nina in 2008 following a post as president of Nine West’s kids’ division.
“Launching Elements is an excellent move for Nina. The boys’ [nonathletic] shoe market has always been overlooked, so it’s nice to see a vendor addressing it,” said Ivan Castro, buyer and manager at Harry’s Shoes in New York. “The collection’s cross between casual and athletic is a great approach. It’s fresh and hip.”
Nina looked to trends in men’s footwear to give Elements a grown-up, fashion-forward feel. “Whatever is happening in men’s, we’re bringing it down to the boys’ line,” Miner said. “But the details and styling are still very ‘boy.’”