The Footwear News Achievement Awards have a reputation for recognizing greatness, both at its peak and at its ascendency. This year’s crop of honorees doesn’t disappoint, from the passionate entrepreneur to the Italian master with a penchant for glam and the white kick that kept on going.
The 2014 awards cross all corners of the market — as well as the globe — and give a clear indication of the direction of the industry this year.
“At a time when the lines between fashion and athletic are blurring, and retailers are innovating with game-changing strategies, this year’s Achievement Award winners represent the best of what’s happening today,” said Michael Atmore, editorial director of FN.
Leading off the list of winners is Person of the Year Kevin Plank. In a relatively short time, the founder and CEO of Under Armour has built a nearly $3 billion athletic brand that is now a fierce competitor in the footwear world, thanks to its line of Speedform sneakers. And the firm nailed its reintroduction into the women’s market this year with its “I Will What I Want” campaign. The series of ads, starring longtime partner Lindsey Vonn, ballerina Misty Copeland and Gisele Bündchen, spread a message of empowerment and scored 5 billion media impressions.
Another honoree generating major buzz right now is Skechers USA Inc., winner of Company of the Year. The California-based player has posted quarter after quarter of sales gains this year, aided by stong product releases and savvy marketing. Take, for instance, its sponsorship of California Chrome, big win at the Boston Marathon, potential bid for the Los Angeles Clippers, and stream of deals with pop singers and sports icons.
A legend in his own right, Giuseppe Zanotti marked his brand’s 20th anniversary this year and proved that some things do get better with age. The Designer of the Year continues to wow consumers with his bold, rock ’n’ roll look and has scored big in the men’s market with those aggressive designs — not to mention a little help from famous friends like Kanye.
This year’s Retailer award goes to a company that also understands the importance of relationships. Level Shoe District burst onto the scene in 2012, making a name for itself as the world’s largest footwear store. It stood out this year by supporting both young design talent and the major global labels and focusing on the customer experience.
Brand of the Year Vans has proven to be equally adept at winning over new audiences. The VF Corp.-owned label racked up 12 percent sales growth in the third quarter, the latest in a string of financial successes. Behind its recent boom is an expanded strategy that looks beyond the skate park to encompass youth culture as a whole, including the simply young at heart.
Stuart Weitzman nabbed the title of Marketer of the Year not only for his racy new ad campaign (featuring a barely dressed Bündchen), but also for his brilliantly executed red-carpet strategy. The designer’s Nudist sandal was the staple item for well-dressed celebrities, including Rita Ora, Jennifer Lawrence, Solange Knowles and Diane Kruger.
When it came to grabbing headlines, though, Jimmy Choo was clearly the Newsmaker of the Year. As soon as the British luxury shoe label announced its intention to file an initial public offering, media outlets around the world descended, tracking every rumored move. Meanwhile, the firm also drew attention when it debuted its largest global flagship this fall and proclaimed plans for a string of store openings in Asia.
While she’s no newcomer in the shoe world, Sarah Jessica Parker’s eponymous footwear line made serious waves in 2014 and is the Launch of the Year. Parker smartly teamed with two powerhouses for the debut — George Malkemus and Nordstrom — and then whipped up excitement through social media and a cross-country tour.
Like SJP, Nicole Richie has turned her love of fashion into a successful business. And FN’s pick for Style Influencer of the Year was back in the limelight this fall as she returned to reality TV in “Candidly Nicole,” a perfect showcase for her unique ensembles, sharp wit and ever-changing coiffure.
A brand-new award from FN, the Shoe of the Year, highlights the must-have item that flew off shelves. The inaugural recipient, the Adidas Stan Smith, is a resurgent classic that ignited a trend for the white court sneaker and was seen everywhere, from the catwalks to the sidewalks. An estimated 100,000 pairs sold in the U.S. alone.
Over the years, FN’s annual Vivian Infantino Emerging Talent award has recognized a number of young designers on the verge. Alessandra Lanvin has been crafting her luxury collection, Aperlai, since 2009 but is finally receiving the widespread attention she deserves. With a new store in Paris and a perfectly honed aesthetic, hers will be the next name on everyone’s lips.
Two men who know quite a bit about developing a strong reputation are this year’s Hall of Fame inductees, Joe Moore and Sonny Shar.
Moore, a longtime fashion exec who got his start with Neiman Marcus and Charles Jourdan, spent the latter part of his career at FFANY bolstering the New York shoe industry and helping to raise millions in the fight against breast cancer.
Shar, meanwhile, has followed a transformative path that took him from working as a motor mechanic in his home country of Namibia to being the stateside face of British powerhouse Pentland Group Plc and one of the most beloved figures in the industry.
All the award winners offer testament to the undeniable power of the footwear business.
The event is being sponsored by FFANY, FDRA and Zappos Couture.