Spring ’16 Predictions: What Will Be the Hot Shoe Styles?

Rupert Sanderson
Rupert Sanderson.
Steve Eichner

Will it be a vibrant spring ’16 season for the footwear industry?

Buyers who got their first look at styles across all levels of the market last week were generally upbeat about their prospects.

“After a dark fall, I’m glad to see that the designers injected lots of color into their collections,” said Alberto Oliveros, head of buying at Level Shoe District in Dubai, who cited Rupert Sanderson, Aquazzura, Oscar de la Renta and Paul Andrew among the labels that stood out as early favorites.

Sanderson, who was fresh off a plane from London last Wednesday, said his resort line — which makes up a major part of his spring business — was a “collection of individual stories.”

Key inspirations included Japanese anime, specifically the film “Ponyo,” as well as bathing caps. “We ended up sourcing the latex in London and taking it to Italy,” he said of his striking pumps and sandals with latex flower-petal details.

Other brands exhibiting at FFANY also experimented with fresh styling. “We’re having a lot of success with our new prints. We’re getting great response to our new spring ’16 materials that move that trend forward,” said Scott Silverstein, CEO of the Silverstein Co. “Printed snakes mixed together, as well as fabrics and animal prints. When it’s done right, they’re easy to wear. This will give [the shopper] a reason to buy, as she doesn’t already own this trend.”

Which brands and styles stood out for buyers scouring the market last week? Read on to find out about their strategies for the season ahead.

Alberto Oliveros
Head of buying, Level Shoe District

Trend Watch: “Pre-spring ’16 collections are off to a colorful start. The styles are fresh and vibrant — perfect for our global clientele. There was a strong representation of evening styles for the holiday season. During fall, we saw the round toe make a comeback, and it looks like it might be here to stay, making an appearance at Aquazzura and Nicholas Kirkwood this season.”

Brand List: Aquazzura: “I am obsessed with Edgardo’s pre-spring collection. It’s extremely powerful and colorful. I loved his rainbow styles and sandals with multicolor studs.” Oscar de la Renta: “The jewel-heeled sandals are exquisite and perfect for the holiday season.” Rupert Sanderson: “The flower-petal details in the rubber texture are so unique and somehow so very feminine. I particularly love the nude-and-light pink combination.” Paul Andrew: “Paul’s Chinese-inspired collection was majestic — my favorite being the colorful jacquard-fabric wedges.”

Maurice Breton 
President, Comfort One Shoes, Manassas, Va.

Spring ’16 Strategy: “I’m looking for fewer SKUs and more depth from brands. I’m seeking freshness and reviewing our [current] basics to see if they may be too basic.”

Overall Outlook: “We’re up by double digits year to date. I’m planning on 5 percent to 8 percent growth for [spring] comp-store sales. My prediction is that it could even be higher.”

Brand List: BeautiFeel, Arche, Birkenstock

Birkenstock A spring ’16 Birkenstock sandal Stephen Sullivan

Stephanie Quen
Buyer, Zappos.com

Trend Watch: “I’ve seen a lot of interesting athletic, white-bottom, lug-outsole-type styles. I don’t think it’ll be the core of the business, but it’s fun to see those kinds of updates. I’m seeing lots of perforation and lots of contrasting color combos.”

Top Challenge: “The weather is always kind of a crapshoot. In the past few years, we’ve seen such a variation in weather patterns that it’s hard to determine what to bring in at the right time. That’s really going to be the trick [next year]. It’s key that people have a good four-season business so they can have that transitional product take them through those softer months.”

Brand List: “It’s still early in the week, but I’ve seen some Born and Ecco that look fantastic. And I just came from Pikolinos — they always have exciting and fun stuff, so those are my top three.”

Tamara Franko
Senior footwear buyer, FootSmart, Atlanta

Spring ’16 Strategy: “I’m looking to make sure we’re picking the best item from multiple vendors instead of a lot [of styles] from one brand. [Key looks] include espadrilles, stretch and mixed media.”

Top Challenge: “To be different in the marketplace by offering unique products so we’re not competing [with other e-tailers].”

Brand List: Easy Spirit, Clarks, Vionic

Vionic A Vionic spring ’15 sneaker Stephen Sullivan

Isack Fadlon
President and CEO, Sportie LA, Los Angeles

Spring ’16 Strategy: “I’m going a little broader within the brands we [currently] carry [as well as] new ones. We’re noticing [fashion] trends going in the same direction, so we need to deviate from the norm with an extra sense of freshness.”

Key Opportunity: “We just relaunched our online business. This one will be bolder and speak to our consumers in the way we try to speak to them in our store. We didn’t do it well over the past few years, so we’re taking it head on for spring in a bigger way.”

Brand List: Nike, Adidas, Converse. “We also plan to take a look at K-Swiss and Supra, as well as [sister brands] Otz and Palladium.”

Temelly Bailey
Creative director, DoseofVitamin.com

Spring ’16 Strategy: “We’re trying to find pieces that aren’t too eccentric. We’re looking for pieces that follow the trends now through spring of next year and have a fresher or updated take.”

Trend Watch: “The lacing trend is huge. Also the gladiator style, and not just on flat sandals. It’s on heels and boots or wedges and platforms. We’re also seeing more with the jelly trend.”

Jessica Roman
Buyer, Forman Mills, Pennsauken, N.J.

Spring ’16 Strategy: “We’re seeing things sell, so we’re repeating what we did this year. If anything, we’re looking to upgrade some of the styles we have for next year — the gladiators, the Birkenstock-type shoes.”

Trend Watch: “Gladiators are doing well across the board, women’s and girls. Anything canvas does well: high-tops, low-tops, twin gores. Athletics does quite well too — the regular high-tops are doing great. We are hoping it continues, and I think it will continue for a while.”

Adriana Lima in gladiators Adriana Lima wore gladiators — a hot style — after the 2015 Met Ball Getty Images

Amber Grace
Buyer, Sage, Center Valley, Pa.

Spring ’16 Strategy: “We’re still in the fall mindset, but it’s nice to get ideas for spring. The big thing in our area is to start taking the weather into consideration, with all the long winters we’ve been having. So something we’ll do differently is keep our eye on the weather and the delivery dates and bring things in a little bit later because we now know our spring shopper doesn’t come out until March and April.”

Key Challenge: “We’re moving to Allentown, Pa., in August, so we’ll be in a new place, and our biggest challenge is not knowing how new customers will respond.”

Brand List: Hunter Boots, Pikolinos, Birkenstock: “We see [Birkenstock’s] resurgence continuing into next year.”