Retailers Seek Newness at Project Sole, Capsule

NEW YORK — Retailers at last week’s Project, Capsule and Liberty trade shows in New York were on the hunt for new labels to spice up their product offerings.

“We’re looking to offer more brands that give us the unique point of view to become a destination for footwear,” Chris Brand, buyer for Urban Outfitters, said while shopping Project’s newly debuted Project Sole section.

Citing labels All Black and H by Hudson as examples, Brand said a few of the spring shoe trends he noticed were black-and-white and chunky ripple soles.

Rebekkah Finnigan, buyer for Canadian-based Holt Renfrew, noted color was on her radar for fall ’13 and spring ’14. “Everything is very bright and it looks good,” she said. “I’m buying a little bit more fashion than basics.”

Also shopping color was John Craig Clothier associate Shelly Ficarra, who was bullish about men’s shoes with contrast stitching and rubber soles.

“We’re trying to get a little bit younger in our shop, so [our strategy] is a little different this year,” she said.

But not everyone was willing to take risks on new brands and styles.

Henry Li, buyer for Alumni in New York, was mostly keeping to the vendors that have shown results. “We sell a lot of classics, so we stick to the brands we know,” he said. “Occasionally we’ll bring in something different to give it a chance and to see if it can start a new lane of customers.”

At the Capsule and Liberty shows, buyers said they noticed both classic-athletic styles and boot brands getting updates.

Thomas Cykana, buyer for New York-based boutique Kith, pointed out companies such as Grenson and Thorocraft are adding new materials to their offerings.“There’s so much more tech innovation being applied to classic silhouettes,” he said. “A lot of brands that have history have been reaching into their archives, and it’s an exciting contrast.”

Brooklyn Circus co-owner Ouigi Theodore was swaying toward higher-end, conventional footwear vendors and listed Armando Cabral, PF Flyers and Oakstreet Bootmakers as a few of his picks.

Theodore said he was feeling optimistic about the back half of 2013.

“The holiday is going to be strong,” he said. “It’s really in how we prepare for it. With the winter coming, it opens up room for us to do more with boots.”

Chesapeake Bay Outfitters President Ilene Morgan wasn’t as upbeat, noting that unfavorable weather translated into a difficult business climate. “The strategy for me is to definitely cut back on pre-spring buys for next year,” Morgan said. “We’re a little bit overloaded with product right now.”

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