Insider: Skechers at the Bell….Santana Brings Unity

At the Bell
There’s little rejoicing on Wall Street these days, but Skechers USA Inc. found reason to celebrate at the New York Stock Exchange last week. Company President Michael Greenberg and COO David Weinberg marked Skechers’ 10th anniversary as a publicly listed company by ringing the closing bell at the stock exchange on June 9. “From a personal point of view, it’s a milestone,” Greenberg told Footwear News, just after his 11- and 13-year-old sons helped him lift the gavel. “We would not have been able to get here without the desire and passion to succeed, and we have so much talent within the organization that has helped us.” Since first listing the company as SKX on June 9, 1999, when it had just $425 million in sales, Skechers has grown to $1.44 billion in sales in 2008, with 10 brands sold in more than 100 countries. Greenberg, who also rang the closing bell when Skechers first went public, is already looking forward to his third bell ringing. “I hope I’m back here 10 years from now, repeating this event,” he said.

Santana Brings Unity
Brown Shoe Co. showed off the newest addition to its portfolio during FFANY last week: Unity by Carlos Santana. The line is intended to be a lower-priced, more casual, extension of the Carlos by Carlos Santana collection, with a nod toward sustainability. Ronald Fromm, Brown’s chairman and CEO, said at an analyst conference in New York last week that Unity is a “price point opportunity, without diminishing the Carlos Santana name.” Retail prices range from $39 to $69, versus the average $110 price for the flagship label, with a focus on fabrics instead of leathers. Rick Gelber, GM of Carlos by Carlos Santana, called Unity “an expansion of the lifestyle of Carlos. It allows us to reach a younger customer and get into the casual, more value-priced market.” Spring styles include a crocodile washed-canvas skimmer and an EVA-foam platform flip-flop.

High Times
It was the week of the High Line. Not only did New York snip the ribbon on its newest city park, a 1.5-mile-long elevated railway formerly used to carry freight trains through the Chelsea area, but a new footwear company unveiled its showroom high above the tracks. Highline United — which began meeting with buyers in August 2008 and draws its name from the park below its 25th Street penthouse — held a soirée last Thursday to fête its brands and designers, including Miss Sixty, Tracy Reese, United Nude, Ash and Luxury Rebel. “We’re basically taking the curtain away and saying, here we are,” said Highline President Matt Joyce, who has worked with Nordstrom, Nine West and Steve Madden, and christened his new space with a FFANY-week party that included performances by Juilliard students.

Irish Eyes
Irish footwear designer Eileen Shields hit The Local 269 pub in Manhattan last week for the first of her “Shooze and Booze” shopping events. Over the next two weeks, Shields is hosting three more cocktail parties across the city, selling her Italian-made shoes, normally about $500, for 65 percent off. She’ll make stops at the Montmarte store on the Upper East Side, Charles Nolan in the Meatpacking District and end in Williamsburg, Brooklyn. No details have been leaked for the Brooklyn party, but Shields told Insider she’s hoping to convince her friend Moby to perform.

Live from New York
Frank Zambrelli is ready for his close up. The designer, who works alongside Silvano Banfi to create the Italian-made Banfi Zambrelli women’s footwear line, has teamed up with QVC to launch a fall ’09 diffusion line. Zambrelli told Insider the Brazilian-made BZ collection includes four to six styles priced between $175 and $250, and will begin selling during New York Fashion Week in September, with Zambrelli making on-air appearances from the tents. But don’t expect to see Banfi at his side during the broadcast. “I don’t know if I’ll be able to convince him,” Zambrelli said. “He’s too shy.”

Fitness Circus
Reebok will have gymgoers literally hanging from the rafters this week, as it debuts its Jukari Fit to Fly workout at the Equinox gym in New York’s Union Square. As part of its women’s fitness initiative, Reebok partnered with Cirque du Soleil to produce an hour-long cardio class that replicates the training techniques used by the show’s performers. “Reebok owned the world of women’s fitness in the 1980s, and we really want to get back into that world,” said Leslie Calvagne, Reebok’s training director. With its new marketing tagline, “Make Fitness Fun,” she said Reebok found in Cirque du Soleil “a partner with a global brand that was really different. And they get to bring their brand to the masses.” To coincide with the workout program, Reebok also launched two lines of footwear and apparel: On the Move and Reebok-Cirque du Soleil, which features a Cirque du Soleil boot with hidden seams and a longer-length, semi-fitted profile. Although the exercise class launched exclusively in the Union Square Equinox this week, the circus act is ready to travel. Jukari Fit to Fly will soon expand to gyms around the world, and the program’s footwear and apparel can be found in Nordstrom stores and Reebok’s own retail locations.

Bid for Blahnik
Selfridges, the London-based department store, has customers flipping over its new take on Havaianas. Following the debut of a Havaianas pop-up shop inside the department store last month, where customers could customize their own sandals, Selfridges decided to ramp things up. The store, which celebrates its 100th anniversary this year, approached big names including Manolo Blahnik, Paul Smith, Alex Wek, Jade Jagger and Alice Temperley to get creative with the flip-flops as part of an auction to raise money for children’s cancer charity CLIC Sargent. The customized Havaianas will go up on display in Selfridges’ Oxford Street window on June 15, when the auction goes live. Customers can place their bids via a silent auction on Selfridges’ Website, which will be active until midnight, June 26. The pop-up shop runs until the end of August.

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