Fila President Jon Epstein On The Brand’s Most Successful Categories

The president of Fila North America opens up to FN on collaborations and the brand’s most successful categories.

What is the strongest area of Fila’s business?
The biggest category is running — it’s where we sell the most units. In the U.S., that business is close to 20 million shoes. [And] we have a wide business today [including] our top-end product featuring Energized rubber, positioned in the marketplace as an authentic performance product. It’s also the category where technology is launched first.

Fila Aspect 2 Energized
Fila Aspect 2 Energized.
CREDIT: Courtesy of brand.

Which category is growing fastest?
Our heritage business is exploding right now. We have shoes from the 1970s and ’80s that are starting to re-emerge and resonate with consumers who want that retro, authentic look. Because of that [interest], we’ve opened many new trade channels for the brand. These products carry high price points and they’re narrowly distributed, so we keep them in high demand, and we think we’re at just the beginning of the bell curve.

Fila BX-100 Boxing Dusty Hernandez-Harrison
Fila’s BX-100 boxing shoe.
CREDIT: Courtesy of Fila

Does your affordable pricing give you an advantage?
In the running category, we’re positioned at a better value than for instance Nike, but we don’t have brand credibility in performance like we had in the 1970s. Our sell-through has been strong, [though], and that’s partially because of the way we build it and the value it represents next to bigger brands that cost more and give less.

Fila Korea Mega Shop
Inside a Fila mega shop in South Korea.
CREDIT: Courtesy of brand.

You’ve launched some interesting collaborations recently. Any highlights for you?
We’ve partnered with interesting companies like Sweet Chick — a cool restaurant in Brooklyn, N.Y. They connect with a consumer who understands sport and fashion. You’ll see Fila in the most prestigious places in the world. Some important designers have contacted us and said, “How do we get involved? We see the trend coming and we want to get in on this early.”

fila cage sweet chick chicken waffles
Fila Cage x Sweet Chick sneakers are sold exclusively at the New York City eatery.
CREDIT: Courtesy

What are your views on new media versus traditional advertising?
New media is important because our consumer is getting younger and is definitely connected. [But] most cities in the U.S. are not walking cities — you have to drive. Because everybody has moved to new media, we took advantage of pricing for old media [like billboards], which give us an opportunity to show up in a big way. We do connect with consumers through social media, [and] while we don’t boast the biggest position there, one of our major initiatives will be to start advertising on sneaker websites.

Fila Grant Hill II
Fila Grant Hill II sneaker.

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