Pierre-André Senizergues is speeding up — and doubling down on innovation.
The CEO and founder of Lake Forest, Calif.-based Sole Technology Inc., parent company of skate brands Etnies and Emerica, clothing brand Altamont and snowboard line 32, has been busy. He’s made personnel changes, including the May hiring of a new COO, that have let the company truncate the production timeline on styles from 18 months to nine months.
And the company’s longtime focus on technology resulted in the release this summer of Evolution Foam, a lightweight cushioning product with ultra-high rebounding properties, which the brand will use in both performance and lifestyle products.
Here, Senizergues sounds off on speeding up, skateboarding culture and what to wear to the beach.
1. What’s changed about Sole Tech’s approach to business?
PAS: The market is much quicker than ever in the digital age, and it’s moving every day. I decided to set the company to be on this new model of being very fast, very agile and very quick. I elevated Diem Brown, our former GM of the U.S. to be COO of company. She’s very fast herself, but she’s also been in product for the last six years, starting with apparel and footwear. When it comes to product and footwear, she had the capacity to bring [to market] what the kids need. And we did hire new designers on the team to help with speeding things up. Before, we were on a year-and-a-half timeline [for product], start to finish. Now we’re able to fast-forward [select] styles that are relevant nine months earlier. And that’s a big challenge to how we’ve been operating the last 27 years.
2. Has the quest for speed influenced your line in other ways?
PAS: We’re definitely watching our SKU efficiency to make sure we don’t have too many and that we focus on the ones doing really well. But it’s difficult to have a model like Apple, where you have one [main] product. When it comes to footwear and apparel, you need diversity, too. We want to bring this variety that customers are asking for.
3. One of your standout shoes for spring ’14 is a lightweight, lifestyle-oriented shoe called the Scout for wearing around town or in water. How do your lifestyle and performance lines coexist?
PAS: In making shoes for 27 years, we’ve made technical shoes for skateboarding, but we know 90 percent of people don’t skate. They just like the aesthetic and they like that the shoes last a long time and are well made. Skateboard culture is pretty broad now; it’s reached everywhere. So even in our core demographic in skateboarding, [skaters] want to do tricks, but they also want some shoes to just chill in. For me, I was thinking [with the Scout], we need to add something that has a cool feel for the beach. When I see things on the beach, I don’t think it’s too cool.
4. Is there any crossover between performance and lifestyle?
PAS: For the Scout, we brought a lot of ideas from our best-selling Jameson shoe and also applied our new Evolution Foam technology. It still keeps its integrity with the Etnies brand.
5. What’s your outlook for 2014?
PAS: The U.S. is becoming stronger again in general. We’ve seen the retailers really stepping up. But the market hasn’t evolved as much in footwear and has been stagnant. We decided to take it upon us to bring a lot of innovation into the market, because we feel this industry needs a renaissance. It’s been commodity driven and it needs a bit of a kick in the ass.