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The “Futurists” who will take the stage at this year’s FN Summit in New York stand out in a crowded marketplace thanks to their forward-thinking agendas, hot product and savvy marketing tactics.
They will share valuable lessons at the event, set for June 6 at the Asia Society in New York. The summit will coincide with FFANY market week and the CFDA Awards that evening.
Representatives from two major retailers will be on hand — Dick Johnson, Foot Locker president and CEO, and Jeff Espersen, general manager of merchandising for Zappos.com.
Both companies have undergone significant transformations in recent years. In the athletic market, Foot Locker is firing on all cylinders and has aggressive growth plans in the works.
“[I’m not looking for just] one big opportunity but a year of multiple ones to drive performance across our core business, expand our position in kids, pursue opportunities in Europe, build our apparel business, [expand] our powerful digital business, deliver growth in our women’s business and work with and build the best team in retail,” Johnson told FN earlier this year.
Zappos, which is forging ahead with its controversial holacracy corporate structure, is working to become a bigger player in the high-end space with its renamed Zappos Luxury site (formerly Zappos Couture) and continued focus on offering the best assortment of brands across the footwear arena.
In addition to top names from the retail world, several key designers will also speak this year. Marchesa design duo Georgina Chapman and Keren Craig, who have built the label into a major fashion force, will discuss how they plan to make a big splash in footwear.
At New York Fashion Week in September, Chapman and Craig sent models down the runway in shoes of their own making for the first time since the brand’s inception in 2004. “We’ve dreamt about this for such a long time. Seeing ourselves as a lifestyle brand, shoes were something we’ve always wanted to do, but we needed to find the right people to do it with,” Chapman told FN, referring to the designers’ partnership with AKH Group.
While Marchesa is just starting out in the shoe business, Pierre Hardy has been a defining force for decades. The Parisian designer, who also has been the mastermind behind Hermés accessories for the past 25 years, will talk about his unique approach and longevity in a high-end business that has seen so many people come and go.
Hardy is an inspiration for many emerging talents in the industry, and some of them will be onstage: Sarah Flint, APL’s Adam and Ryan Goldston and Aurora James. They will participate in a special panel that examines the challenges they face as young brands trying to break into a competitive business.
It will be a particularly big day for James, the winner of FN’s 2015 emerging talent honor who is vying for the Swarovski Award for Accessory Design at the CFDA Awards that night. “My shoes are very different-looking,” James told FN last year. The 30-year-old designer — who produces her women’s, men’s and kids’ shoes in South Africa, Ethiopia, Morocco and Kenya — stays true to regional styles by using natural materials in looks such as her fur Babouche mule and tire-sole sandal.
While unique designs are important in the fashion market, strong product is crucial in the athletic arena, too.
Brooks CEO Jim Weber will talk about fueling Brooks’ momentum in the running market. The brand garnered the top spot in specialty running in 2015. “We believe a run can flat-out change a day, a life, the world, and we are committed to bringing more runners into our brand and this sport,” Weber said earlier this year.
At Supra, president Cape Capener is charging ahead with growth at the skate brand, now under the K-Swiss Global Brands and E.Land umbrella. He will discuss the intricacies of the ever-evolving skate market and fueling the next phase of growth through social media and buzzy marketing.
Speaking of evolution, Caleres Inc. continues to transform, and the firm is now eyeing growth in the men’s arena. Gordon Thompson, the well-known Nike and Cole Haan alumnus, is working with Jay Schmidt, president of Caleres’ brand portfolio, on this new effort.
Lucie Greene, head of the innovation group at J. Walter Thompson, will present exclusive findings from the company’s “future of retail” report about hot markets.
Sponsor speakers include Rob DeMartini, president and CEO of New Balance, who will discuss the AAFA’s critical role in a huge election year. Greg Petro of First Insight will unveil his observations about the shifting industry.
And True Fit’s William Adler will sound off on how retailers and brands can leverage the company’s first ever “genome” for shoes and apparel.