Carol de Leon is injecting a bit of comfort into fashion footwear — literally.
The designer merged a wood-bottom clog with the cushioning of a flip-flop for Flogg, a fashion-comfort collection that launched for spring ’13 in partnership with Huntington Beach, Calif.-based Titan Industries. (De Leon also maintains her role as creative director of Blonde Ambition, another women’s shoe line inspired by the California lifestyle.)
“It’s a silly-sounding name, but so is Crocs and Ugg,” de Leon said of Flogg, which was created for people who demand both fashion and comfort. “Amazingly, we sell Flogg across the board to moms and daughters buying them at Nordstrom. Bohemian-chic bloggers requested them on Instagram. We [also] got a request from actress Vanessa Hudgens, who wants to wear them to Coachella in April.”
The brand more recently expanded from its original clog design into alternative constructions such as lightweight EVA platforms and wedges, retailing from $89 to $150.
For fall ’14, de Leon has focused on retro looks of the 1980s and ’90s grunge, punk and glam movements. One example: military-style ankle boots in novelty material mixes. And as the brand expands, de Leon said, it will continue to offer product based on the original concept. For fall, a series of bohemian-esque mid-heel clogs also are planned.
Flogg is carried by Nordstrom, Bloomingdale’s and Macy’s, in addition to boutiques such as Lori’s in Chicago and Koko & Palenki in Miami. The label is in 36 countries, including Israel, Italy and China, with a store set to bow in the Philippines next month.
Here, de Leon talks about marking moves, connecting to young consumers and why she’s inspired by California.
The line has a California aesthetic, but sells all over the world. How do you merge the different fashion cultures?
CDL: The California lifestyle is easygoing fun in the sun. [However], we sell well in New York and Chicago, too. People in those fabulous cities have an affinity for getting away to a relaxing space. The comfort and styling of Flogg allows them to do that. If you’re comfortable, you’re more relaxed and confident, no matter what you’re doing. Although I’m based in Los Angeles, I travel to different locations for work. I was on vacation in the Philippines, where I was born, and what I felt and saw turned into a raffia shoe now selling at Nordstrom. When I [recently] went to Como, Italy, we researched fabrics because the city’s known for printing on silk. There we worked with a company to develop [exclusive] prints.
How will you grow the brand from its original concept?
CDL: The name Flogg always will be connected to the product and lifestyle we sell. I introduced an EVA bottom for fall ’14 as an alternative to wood. EVA remains an integral component for Flogg whether it’s used on the insole or outsole. We have a pending worldwide utility patent [for the concept]. It’s different from a design patent because it protects a useful idea or invention. The function of Flogg is that there’s a comfort factor to it. There’s an improvement and end benefit for the user.
What has been the biggest challenge in marketing the collection?
CDL: The fact that the product is a hybrid [of fashion and comfort]. The major stores buy for specific departments with separate buyers, but is Flogg fashion or comfort? Those are the labels that perplex buyers and get blocked at the corporate level. [Therefore], our marketing materials do not [use] those words. I specifically wanted to promote the benefits of the shoe and how it makes one feel. [Going forward], our goal is to expand our distribution by increasing sales to independents and other market sectors such as surf and bikini shops.
How do you know that Flogg appeals to a global customer?
CDL: Great distributors in other countries dedicate a lot of time to researching the next big thing from America, and they’ve come to us. They see Flogg online, on our website, learn about its hybrid quality and lifestyle and are hooked. I’m excited about the Flogg store set to open in April in Manila, Philippines, through our distributor there. We’re helping with its design. We also are planning two pop-up shops there — one on Boracay Island.
What’s next for product extensions?
CDL: We’ve had a lot of requests. For example, my distributor in Israel is pregnant with twins and keeps bugging me about doing a girls’ line. It’s all in the works. We will be entertaining some licensing [projects], and I’ve already dabbled in some bags. I also want to do a swimwear line. My idea is to have a concept store where we can sell the Flogg lifestyle, [complete] with a juice bar. It [would allow me] to express the DNA of the brand.