Some of the footwear industry’s biggest power players gathered in New York on Monday for a series of presentations and conversations about the hot topics impacting the business today. Here are a few of their comments:
Patrik Frisk, coalition president, Outdoor Americas, VF Corp.:
On Timberland’s brand realignment: We decided we needed to slow down to speed up. With regards to the timeline, we needed to get organized, get to work and get results.
On the biggest roadblocks ahead: Our biggest challenge is balancing our history or heritage — which centers on authenticity and durability — versus our future, which focuses on style, fun, youthfulness and green. We need to pay tribute to the past while looking to the future.
Ivanka Trump, founder, Trump Collection
On reaching customers through social media: “There’s this idea of a supermodel in a suit, straddling Park Avenue with her hands on her hips — that’s not what professional women look like. That’s not how we perceive ourselves. We’re dynamic, our days our fluid. We move from mornings with avocado on our bathrobe — because we’re feeding our children — to meetings in a boardroom to dinners with our husbands, and all areas in between. I can really show all of these different elements. It’s great and it’s unedited.”
On ambition: “It’s interesting because the culture that my father has cultivated at the Trump organization, and the culture that I’m cultivating at my own company as well, is a very entrepreneurial one. You can be as ambitious as you want to be, and there are never boundaries.”
Peter Harris, president, Pedder Group
On the China consumer: “In China, the middle-class customer upgrades to luxury very quickly, which is a big challenge for us. By being a part of the fabric of the community and on the ground, we can reach them. The customer in China is modernizing, not Westernizing.”
On the firm’s “Beyond Desire” motto: “We think excellence and innovation is expressed in “Beyond Desire.” It’s our internal mantra we talk about at the start of any new project, in our business daily and use it in how we speak to each other.”
Rick Ausick, president, Famous Footwear
On brand/retailer relationships in tough times: “You would hope [the relationship wouldn’t change]. It is about being a partner, but not just in the good times. It’s about understanding how we get through a problem, and how do we make it so that when we all come out the other side, we keep doing business in some profitable way. If it only wins one way or the other, then that relationship is going to stop. But if we can get to the other side in a way that leaves us a little bloody but not dead, we have an opportunity to make things better.”
On what’s selling now: “We’ve had great success in our canvas business. It’s a business that we’ve invested in for 10 or 12 years. So we built that customer around the idea that the key brands would be represented in our stores, with new product and colors and sizes. And the customer recognizes that. Sometimes you go get the trend and sometimes it comes to you, and that happens to be the case here.”
Rob DeMartini, vice chairman, American Apparel & Footwear Association; president & CEO, New Balance Athletic Shoes Inc.
On AAFA’s big wins: “[New Balance] will benefit from the recognition that a law called the Berry Amendment, passed in 1941, stopped being followed in 2001 with regard to running shoes, on claims there were no companies in the U.S. that had a way to make all the shoes’ components here. The law stipulates that American soldiers must have American-made uniforms, including footwear. [About one quarter of running shoes sold by New Balance carry ‘made in U.S.A. labels.’]”
On how AAFA can make itself heard in D.C.: “We started making noise about the Berry legislation and we used the AAFA to make that drum beat louder and louder. The result was press in the Wall Street Journal and advocacy through the AAFA. The AAFA was helpful in working the back channel to further a business issue that impacted 4,000 jobs.”
Louis Leeman, creative director, Louis Leeman Paris
On his mentors: “Producing in Italy, [I have met] such a great generation of artisans there. They can tell you so much. We even work with a metal factory [for our hardware] where there are four generations.”
On celebrity placement: “We’ve built relationships with stylists in L.A. It’s important that they know what the brand is about. We met one of Justin Bieber’s stylists through a friend [and he later wore our shoes].”
Edgardo Osorio, president & creative director, Aquazzura
On battling copycats: “Some say imitation is the sincerest form of flattery, but it’s a problem for a young brand. We registered patents and already won a couple of lawsuits. The government in Europe protects you more. In the U.S., you can’t copyright a shoe so easily.”
On the role of the designer these days: “You have to be a businessman and designer to be successful today. Nowadays you have to know what’s selling and working, but you also need supportive partners.”
Sam Edelman, president & founder, Sam Edelman
On why he has the best job in the world: “More than a million women walk into their closet in their underwear and there is one man they are thinking of.”
On retail lessons: We opened up a store in downtown, [in New York’s Soho neighborhood], and designed it as a dream apartment of a girl working in New York. We are trying to evoke emotion and we’ve done that. I learned that the customer is always right.”
Marshal Cohen, chief industry analyst, The NPD Group Inc.
On trends: “Trends [in the past] would come and go. We need to recognize they don’t go away [entirely] today. They linger around.”
On seasonal buying: “We must take some key items and allow the consumer to continue to buy them when they want in-season.”
Rania Masri, GM of own fashion retail concepts, Chaloub Group
On having the biggest footwear store in the world: “It is the largest [footprint], but everyone states the number of brands. We are looking at not the number of brands but how comprehensive the selection is. The more consistent and large the offering is for a designer, the more it helps us. We are the largest store, but not the largest number of brands.”
On giving emerging designers a chance: “The customer today knows quality. New designers like Paul Andrew have been a hit. His is not a known brand, but it’s targeted to people obsessed with shoes.”
For more coverage of the FN Summit, check out Monday’s issue of FN.