It was 1980 and the New York transit strike was in full swing when an executive at the former U.S. Shoe Co. noticed women walking to work in sneakers while carrying their pumps.
It didn’t take long for the company to come up with a solution — a collection of fashion-driven looks with built-in comfort features. Today, the Easy Spirit brand is under the umbrella of New York-based Marc Fisher Footwear Co., which is refreshing the label for spring ’18 with updated product and a marketing campaign that embraces everyday women.
“The design direction for Easy Spirit has been an evolution, not a revolution,” said Marc Fisher, who acquired the brand from Nine West Holdings in January. “We’re going back to building these shoes from the inside out.”
He added the core mission is to improve women’s lives. “That means delivering product that meets and exceeds customer standards in comfort and fit, with new uppers, materials, colors and design elements,” Fisher said. “It’s all about looking more modern while maintaining the original DNA and the guiding principles of the brand.”
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To go along with a design refresh, the brand has launched new marketing with the tag line “Makers of Easy.” According to Fisher Footwear president Susan Itzkowitz, the firm partnered with brand strategy consultants Graj + Gustavsen to develop the strategy. “It takes Easy Spirit to the next level and celebrates real women, everyday life and making it easier,” she explained.
While Easy Spirit’s new management team is focused on adding trend-driven looks designed to attract a younger audience, it remains cognizant of its core customers: women over the age of 50.
“It’s about a shared spirit [among all consumers],” said Quynh Dang, brand strategy director. “It’s less about an age group or demographic. [Our customer] is a woman in her 20s who’s pregnant and needs something to kick on or a senior with health issues who needs supportive shoes.”
One style that continues to resonate with consumers across the board is the label’s now-iconic Traveltime clog, an easy-to-wear open-back casual introduced in 2005 that to date has sold millions of pairs.
That look will remain a brand mainstay. And for spring ’18, Easy Spirit’s casual series will also include mocs, ballerinas and sandals.
“Active is a key category for spring,” said Fisher. “The product features our signature anti-gravity footbed with four layers of cushioning.”
While Fisher Footwear acknowledges that today’s customers embrace a casual lifestyle, it doesn’t plan to abandon Easy Spirit’s offering of tailored and dress styles. “Our customers still look to us for pumps and dress shoes,” said Dang. “A lot of people still need to dress up for work.”
In terms of distribution, the collection, which retails from $69 to $89, will continue to be sold through department stores, chains and e-tailers. In addition, about 30 percent of sales are generated from the brand’s e-commerce site, and a chain of Easy Spirit stores are still operated by former owner Nine West.
But going forward, Dang said, the brand sees an opportunity to build relationships with independent retailers.
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