5 Questions for Oetzi3300’s Ludovic Malmoux

When it comes to comfort, Oetzi3300 reveres a time when things were more straightforward. Named for the prehistoric man Oezti, whose body was discovered wearing a pair of simply made shoes, the Malibu, Calif.,-based brand highlights the comfort aspects of its sneakers.

“We’re very lifestyle driven,” said Ludovic Malmoux, creative director and co-founder of the unisex brand, which launched in fall ’09. “We have that freestyle sneaker aspect that defines our mentality, while the comfort describes the technology.” Built around a basic anatomical cork footbed, the shoes are made to deliver a barefoot feeling while allowing for muscle activation in the foot.

And Malmoux, who previously worked at K-Swiss and Royal Elastics, is committed to a deconstructed look. The fall collection includes Oetzi’s signature espadrille and an over-the-ankle lace-up boot, retailing for $75 and $235, respectively. And its unisex designs have attracted the attention of celebs such as Jennifer Aniston, who requested styles to wear in an upcoming film.

The brand’s funky approach to comfort has earned it shelf space in 150 accounts in countries including South Korea, Japan and Israel. Here at home, trend-driven stores such as Bodega in Boston and Conveyor in Los Angeles have picked it up, as well as core comfort accounts that include Birkenstock shops. “It makes sense for us to be [in comfort],” said Malmoux. “It was a beautiful moment to be accepted as a brand by [this] core footwear community. Not only did they feel the product was legitimate, [but] the comfort was legitimate.”

Here, Malmoux weighs in on Oetzi’s approach to the comfort category.

Why is the Oetzi collection so small?
[For years], I designed product and managed brands that were fashion driven, and every season it drove me insane. You create beautiful product and just because it [came out] last season, you have to drop it. With retro styles coming back the last several years, people are rejoicing. They can buy the same things they had 20 years ago. That’s what we’re doing: maintaining a nice little number of SKUs, not going too crazy and [continuing to] bring them out.

How do you sell younger consumers on Oetzi’s comfort angle?
I’ve spent the last 15 years driving the youth market, and [comfort] terms were taboo and frowned upon. I’m still thinking that way, but I’m now 40, so I’m going into a more comfort-minded zone. We use sneaker comfort on everything we do. We recently collaborated with Anthony Johnson, a professional skateboarder. He was psyched about our shoes, so I sent him a pair to skate in. He put a video together for us. He loves the brand and wants to be part of it.

How important are unconventional media outlets to your brand?
It’s all about viral marketing, letting the truth come out and giving people a chance to talk about things rather than feeding them potential lies. It’s definitely true [with] youth-oriented brands, but it’s also becoming more [necessary in other] scenes. There are lots of blogs in the geek worlds of running and comfort. Consumers want to read what someone else said about the shoes or company. It’s a more truthful way of marketing, and people appreciate that.

Was launching in a tough economy especially challenging?
For us, it was the best thing. [During] economic difficulties, people look for items of better quality that have longevity and are more real. Retailers loved the fact that we weren’t a me-too brand. We weren’t trying to be another Supra or Nike. [Retailers said], “Wow, [Oetzi is] a new category that doesn’t exist.”

Does Oetzi seek celebrity endorsements?
I don’t give shoes to celebrities. [Jennifer Aniston] got ahold of them because, I think, her stylist picked them out. It’s such a beautiful organic experience. I’m not begging people to talk about our brand. I’m not trying to find celebrities because I need them to get the brand rolling. I just love the fact that [they’re] coming to us and discovering it themselves. It’s such a truer way of doing business.

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