These Design Stars & Powerful Execs Set to Talk About the Big Issues Redefining Footwear

Out with the old, in with the bold.

That’s the take-charge mantra footwear leaders are embracing to tackle some of the industry’s most pressing issues. No longer focused solely on the bottom line, executives are hammering out strategies to build more-diverse teams, develop sustainable products, ride the street fashion boom and keep pace with the rapid changes happening all across retail.

Many of the key industry powers will reveal how they are meeting today’s challenges head-on at the 2019 FN CEO Summit, which takes place May 5-7 at The Miami Beach Edition.

“This is a tipping point for leaders,” said Michael Atmore, editorial director of FN. “The issues at hand are beyond challenging, but the best minds see the changing landscape as a huge opportunity.”

In a special evening conversation, industry favorite Gianvito Rossi will talk about his design inspiration, growing up in a footwear family and the power of fashion influencers. The founder, creative director and CEO of his eponymous company continues to expand its product line — Rossi launched a range of clutches, belts and gloves to match his shoes last year. What’s more, his line remains a favorite with dozens of celebrities such as Amal Clooney and Kate Middleton.

Similarly, Allbirds’ Joey Zwillinger will share how he and fellow co-founder Tim Brown turned their eco-friendly direct-to-consumer label into one of the hottest stories in sustainable footwear (it nabbed FN’s Brand of the Year in 2018). The label, which sold 1 million pairs of its signature wool sneakers in its first two years in business, has also branched out with more styles and opened its own stores.

Also hitting the stage will be Debbie Ferrée of DSW Inc. This year, Ferrée, a longtime veteran of the retail chain, was promoted to vice chairwoman and president. With a similar spirit, Jeff Espersen, GM of Zappos.com, will discuss plans for the 20-year-old e-tail giant’s recent acquisition of sneaker boutique Concepts, plus other hot topics.

Diane Sullivan will weigh in on how she continues to redefine Caleres Inc. The CEO, president and chairman of the St. Louis-based company has rounded out her executive team with more women (naming Molly Adams in 2018 to lead retail powerhouse Famous Footwear) and has been expanding the firm’s portfolio (it bought rising comfort label Vionic for $360 million late last year).

Speaking of growth, Blake Krueger, chairman, CEO and president of Wolverine World Wide Inc., will offer rich insights into how he is speeding up the competitive metabolism and sense of urgency within the company’s dominant brands: Keds, Merrell, Sperry and Saucony.

Also slated to speak on the brand side are Josh Schulman, president and CEO of the Coach brand, and Dave Powers, president and CEO of Deckers Brands.

This year’s summit will feature panels with actress and businesswoman Tami Roman, who will join others in talking about the importance of having diverse ranks, particularly in key decision-making positions within the footwear and fashion space.

“We’ve assembled a dynamic group of speakers that are prepared to engage,” said Atmore. “They will not only talk about the real issues they are facing, but they will show how those initiatives are redefining their companies and, in the process, making the industry stronger.”

This year’s sponsor speakers include Greg Petro, CEO of First Insight; Jose Suarez, founder and CEO of Impactiva; Matt Priest, president and CEO of FDRA; and an executive from Klarna.

More speakers will be announced in the coming weeks. For more information or to attend, email Alexis Coyle at acoyle@wwd.com or call 646-356-4719.

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