Ipanema is ready for 2014.
The flip-flop brand, owned by Grendene S.A., based in Farroupilha in Rio Grande do Sul, Brazil, is making a U.S. push, launching in all Nordstrom doors this year. Ipanema, which sponsors Mercedes Benz Fashion Week Swim in Miami through 2015, also has two new collections on deck: the Premium and Pair of 3.
In 2013, the brand’s U.S. sales grew 40 percent over the year prior. The line debuted stateside in 2011.
“The main goal for Ipanema is to continue to grow brand awareness,” said Grendene USA VP Angelo Daros, who started with the company in 1990 and manages the business in the States. “We are steadily walking into the U.S. market, and it’s important for us to keep reaching more consumers.”
Ipanema also is slated to open its first flagship — fittingly — in the Ipanema neighborhood of Rio de Janeiro during the first quarter of this year. Daros described the store look as “conceptual” and said he aims to tell the story of the brand, which was founded in 2001 with Ipanema and its beaches as inspiration. “We will be able to show the [entire collection] and what the brand represents,” said Daros.
Daros described his strategy for future store openings and overall growth as selective. In fact, the executive said, he has a New Year’s resolution for 2014: “In one phrase: successful and attainable growth.”
Further expanding the collection will help. The Premium line launches early this year with more embellished looks, and the Pair of 3 concept consists of a three-pack with the ability to mix and match for multiple looks.
“This was our first year showing the Premium collection, and it gives the brand freedom to fly a little bit higher and be more sophisticated with the embellishments,” said Daros. “It is something a little more special.”
A strong celebrity following has helped the label, with stars such as Jennifer Lopez, Gwen Stefani and Kate Hudson considered loyal fans. Supermodel Gisele Bündchen has even collaborated on collections in the past.
Here, Daros talks about becoming a year-round brand and nurturing the Brazilian heritage while pushing for U.S. expansion.
What are the benefits of manufacturing in Brazil?
AD: Ipanema represents the soul of Brazil and a way of life, and the glamour of Ipanema. All of the Brazil thinking goes into the [style] of the shoe and gives it flavor. It gives legitimacy to the brand, so it’s very important that we have everything made in Brazil.
As you expand in the U.S., what is your strategy for managing the growth?
AD: Our strategy is to grow sustainably and take it step by step. We know it will take more time to get on the feet of consumers. We are very careful with our distribution. That’s why we go with the channels that understand our proposal and what Ipanema represents. Our ideas are translated in product [display].
What are the major challenges for a sandal brand today?
AD: The biggest obstacle is to find a way to be a 12-month brand. That’s really a challenge. We try to create product that always brings something new to the line. In a way, we [aim to] create a situation in which a consumer sees Ipanema and has to have it now. It becomes more of a fashion statement than seasonal product.
How has the Mercedes Benz Fashion Week Swim sponsorship impacted the label?
AD: It’s a very important step for us. We feel comfortable in an event like this, and it has translated well with our brand, creating a summertime-fun ambiance. Our interactions, with models, guests and clients, [has showed us that] doing fashion week just creates more awareness. The idea for 2014 is to make the event even better and [enhance] the experience.
What are your expectations for the upcoming product launches?
AD: Ipanema is reinventing itself all the time. We try to make the line offering something out of the ordinary. With Pair of 3, we are answering the question “Why not?” Of course, all new ideas represent a risk, but we know they are necessary for a brand that wants to renew itself all the time.