Why Wellness Consumers Present a Big Opportunity for Comfort Shoe Brands

Aetrex Worldwide’s new VP of footwear design, Amy Egelja, has spent decades in the shoe business.

Here, she talks about targeting today’s wellness movement with tech-driven comfort looks and what inspired Aetrex’s spring ’20 collection, her first with the brand.

What has been the fundamental change in the comfort category over the past decade?

Amy Egelja: “About 10 or 15 years ago, cushioning was one of the key attributes. Think of all the brands that have the name soft or a variation of the [term]. It was the big message that went out to consumers. While it’s still an essential feature, underfoot support has become increasingly important, one that consumers are now aware of. Additionally, there have been material innovations and new technologies, allowing us to build beautiful footwear with comfort features.”

As more fashion brands use comfort, how has that impacted core players like Aetrex?

AE: “[Advances] in materials and manufacturing have blurred the lines. However, what makes brands connect with consumers is their ability to tell an authentic message. Aetrex’s has always been about providing support. It’s a 70-year-plus tradition of building product based on an understanding of the anatomy of the foot. We tell our story through information and videos on our  website, as well as our sales team, which works closely with accounts to train sales associates.”

Amy Egelja Aetrex
Amy Egelja, VP of footwear design, Aetrex Worldwide.
CREDIT: Aetrex

Consumers are becoming increasingly wellness conscious. Can that help broaden the demographics for comfort shoes?

AE: “The trend can absolutely resonate with a broad consumer base. If you think about people who pursue yoga or pilates, so many of them are about body alignment, which Aetrex [addresses] with its insoles. Brands limit themselves if they stick to an age. Younger consumers have grown up wearing sneakers and flats. There are generations that never had to wear [traditional] school shoes and pumps. They’re not all of a sudden going to give up what they’ve known for something that’s restrictive and uncomfortable. You also have people working later in life, as well as traveling. They want to spend their money on product that’s versatile and high quality, which resonates with consumers aged 35 to 75.”

With Aetrex’s companion after-market orthotics business, how much focus do you place on insoles when designing the footwear? 

AE: “Our orthotics are the foundation of every shoe we make. Each style includes some form of our signature Aetrex Arch Support. In sandals and some closed shoes, it’s not removable, but we have a contoured technology built into the midsole that delivers on cushioning and support. We also have a range of styles that do have removable orthotics based on a hybrid of our best-selling over-the-counter insoles.”

For spring ’20 — your first collection for Aetrex — what inspired you most?

AE: “This season, we’ve focused on celebrating natural materials and elevated premium details for that handcrafted, artisan feel. We’ve amped up the hardware, so the shoes have a little more lift and shine, giving consumers more wearing occasions. Espadrilles have been strong, so we have a great wedge program with a jute wrap. Since we’re known as a casual brand, we added a few dressier styles, as well as a great flat collection. The Shelia sandal, in the line for a while, has been given a facelift with new colors, hand beading and embellishments.”

Aetrex Spring 2020 Sandal
Aetrex spring ’20 espadrille wedge sandal.
CREDIT: Aetrex

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