Across the footwear and retail industry, 2019 was a challenging year — challenging in the sense that sales pressures escalated due to changes in technology, consumer habits and global trade conflicts, igniting major change throughout the business.
But there were also existential challenges, as leaders grappled with internal issues surrounded diversity and inclusion, and took big risks by weighing in on larger cultural and political topics.
In the midst of this sea change, a number of executives and influencers shared their insights in conversations with FN. Here are a few of our most engaging interviews published during 2019.
Several months before he was named CEO of Under Armour (replacing founder Kevin Plank), Patrik Frisk sat down with FN managing editor Neil Weilheimer to explain how he was changing things at the athletic company after a string of poor sales and worse headlines. But despite any pressures, the 30-year veteran said he’s playing the long game.
Roughly 10 months after being released from prison, rapper Meek Mill spoke with FN’s senior athletic editor, Peter Verry, about his Reform Alliance, an organization he created with Jay-Z and Michael Rubin of the Philadelphia 76ers, to change the criminal justice system. Another key partner in the mix: One German athletic brand that has helped amplify the message.
With the Trump Administration waging trade wars around the globe, Matt Priest, president and CEO of the Footwear Distributors and Retailers of America, was busier than ever this year representing the interests of the U.S. shoe industry. In May, he caught up with FN senior editor Barbara Schneider-Levy about the terrible impact of tariffs and all the ways FDRA is helping shoe firms prepare for the future.
Though Farfetch has taken its share of criticism this year from investors, the company’s Browns Fashion division has been on a growth streak under the leadership of CEO Holli Rogers. Shortly after adding the title of chief fashion officer at Farfetch to her duties, Rogers spoke with FN’s European editor, Stephanie Hirschmiller, about her approach to leadership and how the #MeToo movement has changed business.
Their friendship spans decades and so do their personal commitments to charity and activism. But in 2019, designers Donna Karan and Kenneth Cole combined their philanthropic efforts in Haiti by collaborating on an artisan shoe collection to aid the communities. In a candid conversation with FN women’s editor Nikara Johns, they opened up about their past endeavors and what it’s been like working together.
From becoming carbon neutral to doing away with plastic bags in its stores, the Aldo company this year took a lead role in defining what it means to be a modern, eco-friendly fashion organization. FN executive editor Katie Abel visited the firm’s Montreal headquarters in August and sat down with CEO David Bensadoun to find out how it’s possible to go green and keep raking in the green.
While many shoe chains have struggled in recent years amid the so-called retail apocalypse, Foot Locker has been a bright spot — at least until recently when it has fallen short of market expectations. So in August, CEO Dick Johnson opened up his playbook to FN senior athletic editor Peter Verry to explain his long-term vision for the company, which overseas expansion but with a local flavor.
Throughout the year, athletic brands were forced to face their inadequacies on the diversity and inclusion fronts, sparking tough but crucial conversations throughout the industry. To highlight some of the key issues, FN gathered three thought leaders from the sneaker world, inviting them to take on D&I head on. See what retailer James Whitner and shoe designers Melody Ehsani and Frank Cooke had to say.
When Chinese Laundry set out to launch its elevated shoe collection 42 Gold for spring ’19, it found a willing muse in actress and mega influencer Jamie Chung. Ahead of the line debut, the multihyphenate star spoke with FN women’s editor Nikara Johns about the “nerve-wracking” process of creating something new and how she’s using her platform to inspire other women and take on important issues.