Datta Looking for Comeback With CCILU

NEW YORK — Killick Datta is getting back into the U.S. footwear game with CCILU.

The former head of Global Brand Marketing Inc. — which went out of business in 2007 amid significant turmoil — is bringing his Singapore-based label stateside after establishing it in Asia, Europe and the Middle East.

“We tested the brand first in Japan to see if [that market] found it cool enough,” Datta said of CCILU, which the president and CEO launched last year through his 2-year-old distribution firm International Brand Partners Ltd. Now he is targeting the States. “The goal is [for the U.S. to constitute] one-third of all sales.”

CCILU has a presence in 145 countries and covers the men’s, women’s and kids’ categories. And while the label operates 21 of its own boutiques internationally, it will focus solely on men’s and women’s wholesale in the U.S., according to Datta.

The brand (whose name roughly translates to “liberate” in Japanese) focuses on lightweight, athletic-influenced fashion footwear that combines injection-molded EVA with other materials such as canvas and leather. The made-in-China offering comprises three groups — Active, Sporty and Style — with retail prices ranging from $25 to $150. Target retailers include independents and major department stores.

Datta could face some challenges as he re-enters the U.S. market. He previously helmed Diesel footwear for 10 years, via a licensing deal with his firm GBMI, until Diesel took shoes back in-house in 2007. The aftermath of that separation was tumultuous, followed by legal tussles and ultimately the demise of GBMI.

Datta — who relocated from California to Singapore to be closer to factories in Asia when launching International Brand Partners — now faces a changed playing field.

The competition could be tough as several brands are fighting for share in the space. Specifically, Melissa, on the contemporary side, and Crocs, in comfort, are international players focused on injection-molded product.

Still, Datta said CCILU’s proprietary, eco-friendly material, Ccilucell, combined with its unique aesthetic, sets it apart. “I used to think of injection-molded shoes as just oversized comfort or beach wear and not really sexy or cool-looking product,” he said. “Everybody is [using EVA] on the performance side, and we are taking it into the fashion side.”

To help make a splash in the U.S., CCILU plans to kick off a New York-centric marketing campaign in March.

In addition to tapping past retail partners and amping up promotional efforts, Datta has reunited with several core people from his Diesel days to work on CCILU.

Returning team members include Fiona Adams, EVP of product design, and Todd Lemere, EVP of global operations, (both held the same titles at GBMI). “It’s a different product, different brand and different technology, but it’s nice to go to work and have people you’ve known for many, many years,” Datta said.

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