Technology is driving the footwear market today, and Kenneth Cole is getting in on the movement. For fall ’17, the company is introducing a line of men’s and women’s styles that incorporate 37.5 climate control technology for an enhanced comfort experience.
Greg Tarbell, president of men’s footwear for Kenneth Cole Productions, discusses the importance of technology in casual to fashion looks.
Footwear News: How are you incorporating technology into your collections?
Greg Tarbell: For a couple of years, Kenneth Cole has been asking, “What technology can we infuse in the shoes that’s not simply cushioning, that would change the wearing experience?” We started collaborating with [Cocona Inc.’s] 37.5 division on some of our men’s apparel, then asked if they had done footwear before. Their [climate-regulating] technology was used in high-performance hiking looks, so we partnered with Cocona on developing fashion-friendly styles.
How does the 37.5 technology differ from other options on the market?
GT: It creates a microclimate [inside the shoe] that helps pull moisture o the foot. You never get that damp feeling that can get hot or cold. There’s also no odor or perspiration. The beauty of the technology is that we can weave it into any textile lining. We currently have a mesh microfiber we use in our sport shoes that people find comfortable. The shoes will fall under our new Techni-Cole [umbrella], which includes styles featuring comfort and performance technologies.
How is the 37.5 series being marketed to consumers?
GT: The technology is the real deal, so product needs to have a hangtag or bottom sticker [to highlight its presence]. All shoeboxes will include a card with details on 37.5. We’ve also created an online video that retailers such as Zappos, Nordstrom and our website will feature. A lot of marketing will be in store. Most likely, for fall, there will be a print, digital and social campaign. However, that will play up the product rather than call out all the 37.5 attributes. For instance, the Kam sneaker for men and women is the No. 1 shoe [in the line], so consumers will see it everywhere.
Kenneth Cole has been known for its fashion point of view. Will comfort and performance be more prevalent moving forward?
GT: Kenneth just came back from the Consumer Electronics Show in Vegas and was excited about the things we can do. This is a passion of his. We’re constantly looking at ways to layer in additional comfort features. Right now, we’re hyperfocused on what 37.5 brings to the [wearer] since it truly creates comfort in the shoe that’s different than padding or support.
You recently partnered with The Walking Co. for a co-branded line under its Abeo comfort label. Why the decision to branch out?
GT: Abeo gives us reach to a mature consumer who might not see us through our other [retail channels]. And we didn’t want to play in the artificial cushy-comfort space. We wanted the meat behind it [that the Abeo technology represents]. Our business continues to grow rapidly, and Kenneth and our CEO, Marc Schneider, want to see it continue. This is a way for us to add value to the product and take market share from other vendors.