By 2012, stagnation had driven Creative Recreation co-founder Rich Cofinco away from the label he’d built for a decade. But Rocky Brands, which acquired the label in 2013, lured him back last September in a bid to recapture the inspiration that had made Creative Recreation a favorite of sneakerheads.
Now, Cofinco is forging ahead with a relaunch for spring ’16. In his second stint with the company, he plans to infuse technology into the new product lines, including Vibram outsoles, which will be featured on the brand’s first chukka boot, the Dragna, making its debut in spring ’16.
In addition to the Dragna, the brand will focus on the Scopo, a cross-trainer with the sleek toe line of a running silhouette and a multipart EVA outsole, and the Nitti, a casual court shoe.
The revamp is already resonating with retailers: Nordstrom, Bloomingdale’s and upscale specialty boutiques such as California-based Blends have signed on for next spring.
Cofinco also wants to shake the brand’s association with the midsole strap, once a feature that was atypical to fashion footwear but is now the norm.
“It’s a mainstream market piece, so how do you stand out from a market that has mid-straps everywhere? I want to challenge myself on what can be that new DNA for the brand. The strap was embraced, but we’re beyond that and have to prove that.”
Cofinco formed Creative Recreation with Robert Nand in 2002 with a vision of crafting athletic silhouettes with a fashion-forward look.
The brand became synonymous with innovation and quickly gained fame, in part for its most recognizable silhouette, the Cesario, a sleek shoe with a prominent strap across the midsole. But after the success of the Cesario, the company’s forward-thinking ways gradually faded, leaving Cofinco frustrated.
“In the beginning, we were creating a niche in the market and knew exactly what the vision was,” he said. “Eventually, for me, being the creative and passionate partner, I felt stale, like we weren’t pushing the brand anymore.” After Rocky Brands purchased Creative Recreation, the parent company reached out to Cofinco in hopes of bringing his vision and designs back to the label.
Rocky Brands, known for manufacturing Western, work and hiking boots, had never before had a stake in the athletic-footwear market. The company wanted to expand its portfolio and believed the established reputation of Creative Recreation would give it a proper introduction in the industry.
“We did a lot of research on the brand and learned that there was incredible loyalty to it,” said David Sharp, CEO of Rocky Brands. “While leaving intact the sales, marketing and product development in L.A., we felt that with our logistics, back-office capabilities and access to capital, that we could build the business back to where it was three or four years ago and beyond.”
While Rocky Brands is investing significantly in the brand, Cofinco and his team are spearheading day-to-day operations. “We’re a very process-driven company,” Sharp said, “so we put process into what they do and some financial discipline around what they do, but in terms of the creativity in product development and marketing, it’s entirely up to them.”
Since Cofinco’s return, the CEO has noticed increased momentum at the brand. “The creative direction is articulated extremely well,” Sharp said. “There’s an energy there today that wasn’t there before.”
[Editor’s Note: This story first ran in print, 06/08/2015]