First Look at Ryley Sky

Stride Rite this fall will introduce Ryley Sky, a more sophisticated, fashion-driven shoe collection aimed at girls on the cusp of tweenhood.

While Stride Rite’s core offering covers kids from birth through age 5, Ryley Sky takes the Lexington, Mass.-based firm into new — and more mature — territory.

“We saw an opportunity to create a fashion line for the emerging pre-tween, a new demographic of 6- to 10-year-olds who are outgrowing some of the younger-girl footwear options we offer but who are not ready for teen or juniors’ brands,” explained Dawn Phillips, director of design for takedown brands. “This is the girl who is already showing her independence and aspires to be 8 going on 13.”

Drawing inspiration from the women’s market, the collection, available in sizes 12.5 to 5, covers a variety of silhouettes, from moto and equestrian boots to embellished ballet flats. Decorative elements include buttons, metal hardware, quilting, animal prints and burnished and shimmer finishes. Some of the styles feature interchangeable details, offering girls two looks in one. The Libra boot, for instance, has a studded, braided belt that can be removed for a more toned-down option.

“We wanted to design a collection that gives girls a way to express their individuality and personality,” Phillips said, noting her 7-year-old niece served as her muse in conceiving of the Ryley Sky concept.

In a crowded market, Phillips said the parent company is banking on its 90-year heritage as a children’s footwear specialist focused on fit and healthy foot development to give the new collection an edge. “We know [these girls] can find fashion elsewhere, but our belief is that [women’s-inspired] fashion, combined with Stride Rite’s proven knowledge of fit and function, make Ryley Sky a clear winner over other takedown brands,” she said.

Priced from $45 to $65, the shoes will be sold in printed boxes with ribbon handles. With the premium packaging, as well as sassy in-store marketing imagery, Phillips said the goal is to “make young girls feel special, that there is a collection created just for them.”

The Buzz
The Ryley Sky line will be available this July at Stride Rite retail stores, Dillard’s and select independents around the country.

The Designer

Dawn Phillips, who studied industrial design at the Rochester Institute of Technology, has served as director of design for Stride Rite Children’s Group since 2010. During her 15 years in the shoe industry, she has developed kids’ product for brands including Saucony, Reebok and DC Shoes, as well as women’s and juniors’ private labels.

The Inspiration
“We looked to what is trending in the women’s market, because the Ryley Sky girl looks to the ‘big girls’ in her life — older sisters, cousins, babysitters and, of course, celebrities — for fashion inspiration,” Phillips said. “We want to offer some of what these cool, older girls are wearing, even if it’s just in small design elements or hints of a trend, in an age-appropriate way.”