Like so much in fashion today, Ronnie Fieg’s relationship with Vasque Footwear started in the 1990s.
The Kith founder was working as a stock boy at the famed footwear retailer David Z at the height of the hiking boot trend that reigned among New York City’s youth. He restocked the brand’s Sundowner and Skywalk boots as fast as they flew off the shelves.
“Today’s hype and excitement for sneakers was for boots and brown shoes back then,” said Fieg. “Vasque was at the forefront of that movement, especially since their [boots] were known for their Gore-Tex lining. Everyone wanted the Gore boots, and Vasque was making the most premium ones.”
Founded in 1964 and owned by Red Wing Shoe Co., Vasque has been renowned among backpackers and outdoor enthusiasts for its long-wearing hiking boots and trail runners, but the brand has also found fans among city dwellers who appreciate the same level of durability and comfort off the trails.
For Kith’s fall collection, Fieg worked with Vasque to revamp two of its most popular styles from the ’90s, casting the Sundowner in mauve leather with oxblood and burgundy details and offering the Skywalk (renamed by Fieg as the “Skywalker”) in two colorways — tan/olive and navy/red — using premium suede and tough nylon mesh for an elevated take on the classic style.
The boots also feature a cobranded logo — a first for Vasque — and debuted last month in Kith stores and on the retailer’s e-commerce site.
According to Joe Peters, Vasque’s head of marketing, there has been a resurgence in demand for several styles the company launched in the ’80s and ’90s, complementing the perennial interest in its newest and most technologically advanced models.
But the label’s priorities have not changed, Peters emphasized. It’s more the case that new customers have discovered what it has always offered. “I wouldn’t consider us pushing into a lifestyle category,” he said. “From our perspective, the lifestyle category has found the outdoor industry.”
Across the fashion spectrum, many brands introduced hiking-inspired styles to their lineups for fall, though few featured the kind of performance elements that would actually make them functional beyond city sidewalks.
Vasque, meanwhile, has incorporated Gore-Tex waterproofing in its boots since 1984, and the component features prominently in the new Fieg-designed models.
The Kith founder noted he was drawn to the company’s continuity. “What I respect most about Vasque is their dedication to consistency,” he said. “A lot of brands feel the need to deviate from their strengths and attempt to reinvent themselves, but Vasque hasn’t changed their formula. They are one of the few brands who have maintained their quality through construction and materials since the 1990s. That’s why they’ve built such a strong and loyal following.”
At first glance, it may seem there is little overlap between Kith’s sneakerhead shoppers and backcountry trekkers, but the two groups do have some things in common: Both are obsessed with detail, appreciate functionality and want the best in terms of materials.
Peters explained, “The lines between lifestyle and outdoor have blurred to the point where they can be used interchangeably. … Those core outdoor customers are branching out and acquiring more [classically] defined lifestyle gear, and the traditional lifestyle consumer is acquiring some of the most technical outdoor products on the planet.”
He added that while the Kith partnership has been an exciting development for Vasque, the brand is maintaining its focus on its core outdoor retailers and customer base — but will welcome new fans.
“We hope that the lifestyle aspects of our products that have piqued interest might be vehicles that introduce a larger population to the incredible magic that can be found outdoors,” said the exec.
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