Keen fans are calling out Gucci for the luxury brand’s new sneaker-sandal hybrid, claiming it is a knockoff of the outdoor label’s popular Newport style. But Keen’s reaction to Gucci’s creation may surprise you.
“To be honest, we’re pretty honored. We’re honored to be associated with such an iconic brand,” Keen’s senior director of global marketing, Ashley Williams, told FN.
In an Instagram post, Gucci described the spring ’19 silhouette in question — the creation of Italian fashion designer Alessandro Michele — as “a new sneaker-sandal hybrid design with Velcro straps and elastic laces,” which will be featured in its #GucciShowtime campaign.
The look features what social media users have flagged as a striking resemblance to the Keen Newport sandal, an outdoor performance style that the brand has updated since its debut in 2003. The sandal features an outsole with a multidirectional lug pattern for traction and an ESS shank for lightweight support.
Despite the similarities, Williams told FN that he doesn’t foresee any kind of legal action.
Instead, the brand responded the only way Williams said it knows how to: with a parody of Gucci’s image of the shoe in question.
“We responded in the only way we know how: to have some fun with it,” Williams said.
The brand produced two images: one with just Keen workers and another with Dobb, the dog of an employee.
“We sent an email out to our employees and said, ‘Hey, we’re going to do this in our studio,'” Williams said. “A bunch of people came down, we rolled our trouser legs up, and one of the guys, his dog wandered over at the end of the shoot. We were like, ‘I wonder if the dog will put his paws in the shoes’ and he just did straight off the bat.”
Keen posted the photo to its social media accounts with the caption, “Dear @Gucci. We’re inspired by your inspiration from our inspiration. XOXO KEEN Team.”
“We’re not angry about it. We feel very confident in ourselves. We’ve been doing this for 16 years, we were the original design. If people want to copy it, that’s fine; we’ll take that as flattery,” Williams said.
Keen has also sees the moment as a sign of the next evolution of the outdoor market’s influence on fashion.
“As the population continues to shift more toward cities, we see a clear trend of people in those cities seeking more outdoor experiences. From urban outdoor parks to adventure travel, people are finding ways to be in, and connected to, nature and outside,” said Erik Burbank, GM of Keen’s outdoor, lifestyle and kids categories. “It’s not surprising that fashion has identified and followed this macro trend. We’re humbled to be recognized as a leader of a movement that we believe will only continue to gain momentum.”
Despite the aesthetic similarities between the shoes, one thing that will likely not be the same are the prices. Gucci’s shoe will likely carry a hefty price tag, but Keen’s sandal retails for $100 in men’s and women’s sizing and $50 for big kids.
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