Sole Commerce Vendors Talk Fall ’14

With the fall ’14 trade shows coming to a close, footwear vendors have a good read on what the next season might bring. Women’s brands exhibiting at Sole Commerce, which ran Feb. 23-25 at the Jacob K. Javits Convention Center in New York, sound off below on the biggest hurdles, most promising opportunities and hottest trends on tap.

ISABEL HOSTIN, general sales manager for André Assous
Biggest challenge for fall ’14: “Freshness in the marketplace. The consumer is looking for freshness, and that’s a strong challenge.”
Biggest opportunity: “Weather boots will continue, considering the severe weather situation that we had [this year]. Going forward, the consumer will have to have replacements for her boot wardrobe.”
Best-selling looks: “Soft, comfortable and weather-proof [styles].”

DANIEL BUTLER, head of The Butler Group Inc. (wholesale distributor for Ilse Jacobsen Hornbaek, Aspiga, Ivylee Copenhagen, Beyond Skin, Northern Cobbler and Marchez Vous)
Biggest challenge for fall ’14: “Securing open-to-buy. People want to spend their money closer to season.”
Biggest opportunity: “Capturing that open-to-buy [with] superior product.”
Best-selling looks: “From Ilse Jacobsen, the flip-flop. We are selling it now for March deliveries [because] people are holding onto their money until the bitter end. Rain boots are also doing very well.”

SAM CALVINO, president of Jacques Levine
Biggest challenge for fall ’14: “For me, the biggest challenge is balancing the different presentations we have. Our slippers are very focused on high-end, intimate apparel markets and high-end independent shoe stores that have the slipper customer, but we also have to make sure we give the proper attention and messaging to our [other offerings, including] our Whit collaboration and our Homers line, which skew toward much more high-end, progressive boutiques.”
Biggest opportunity: “The Homers line. It’s an untapped brand in the U.S.”
Best-selling looks: “Elastic oxfords that have a lot of the comfort components that a woman in her 50s or 60s wants but that are progressive from a styling perspective to attract that younger women in the core mid-30s.”

JAY LITVACK, founder & president of J/Slides Footwear
Biggest challenge: “The biggest challenge for anyone for fall ’14 is having something different for the consumer. In the past, we’ve been giving her something she had in her closet. Everybody is doing the same thing. Today, she wants to have something that everybody else doesn’t have. It’s the challenge of giving her that. The biggest void out there is footwear — not boots or booties — but to give her something she can wear other than boots.”
Biggest opportunity: “The biggest opportunity for us is the sneaker business, but it’s the novelty of materials that is going to set us apart.”
Best-selling looks: “The classic lace-up sneaker and high-top [faux fur-lined] sneaker. It focuses on comfort and warmth that you can wear into winter.”

ROMAN KHAN, VP of marketing & sales for N.Y.L.A. Shoes
Biggest challenge for fall ’14: “The challenge is to deliver on time. The weather has become a challenge because we can’t predict if we can deliver a spring shoe in spring — fall stuff is coming in spring and spring stuff is coming in fall.”
Biggest opportunity: “We have a longer season and that makes it very interesting. We have an extended window [to sell fall styles].”
Best-selling looks: “Vintage looks with chain and zipper detailing — more hardware.”

PAUL MAYER, co-founder & designer of Paul Mayer Attitudes
Biggest challenge for fall ’14: “Weather. Definitely on the East Coast, this fall has been pretty lousy for all retailers. When it’s cold, even in the city, it’s just hard to get women to [shop]. They’re not browsing.”
Biggest opportunity: “The way we have our deliveries scheduled, we can deliver very close to retail season. We also do a lot of personalized buys, which is an advantage [when it comes to] doing business with department stores. Also, retailers in Florida buy very differently than retailers in the Northeast, so we get a very good read on what is selling [on both coasts].”
Best-selling looks: “Wedges, plaids, embellishments like small chains, lug-sole ballet flats, some fabrics and embroidery.”