5 Questions for Old Navy’s Sun Lee

Old Navy is upping its footwear game.

The mass retailer, owned by Gap Inc., continues to expand beyond its core line of flip-flops. For fall, look for menswear-inspired loafers, flats and booties.

Here, Sun Lee, VP of design, concept and trend for the firm, talks with Footwear News about shoe expansion and the finding the right price.

1. What are your sources of inspiration?
Working for a big company like this, being able to influence such a broad audience, you have to do the research. We start every season with color and travel around the world to various trade shows for the right fabrics, prints and materials. We research the market on the biggest trends. We generate ideas with our vendors in India, Hong Kong, etc.

2. How does Old Navy take a mass trend and put its spin on it?
It all has to tell a story. Let’s say for fall, the apparel is a little more cleaned up and menswear-inspired. The way we make that at Old Navy is color and material. We have a vision of our brand as classic American essentials, and being that, we have filters of feminine and modern, and we use those filters to build the footwear line. So it can’t be some crazy trend.

3. So what is your formula for the right mix of shoes?
When I started, our heritage was flip-flops — and we still have flip-flops — but to grow our business we have to expand. We want to offer [our customer] shoes to wear to work, as well as going out. Our goal is to be that destination for the customer. The world has a certain budget, and we want to make it easy for her to come and get a versatile offering: the loafer, the bootie.

4. What challenges do you face with footwear design?
The biggest challenge is keeping it affordable. That’s the thing we take pride in. We get such joy out of capturing trends and not costing a lot. We buy in volume, which helps bring down the cost. When we really stand behind certain materials and quality, we push ourselves there and we might have to sacrifice some detail, but I don’t ever feel it’s a [complicated] issue.

5. Any future goals for footwear?
Particularly in accessories, we’re excited about the opportunity of shoes. Going from our flip-flop heritage, we see no boundaries. Shoes are the most affordable way to get into a trend. Instead of taking the risk of buying a printed pant, a floral-print shoe is much more accessible.

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