For people with disabilities, finding footwear that not only fits, but is also fashionable can often be challenging — so Ugg and Zappos set out to change that.
Just this week, the sheepskin boot brand and the online retailer’s Zappos Adaptive platform debuted Ugg Universal, a collection that features functional iterations of two classic Ugg styles: the Classic Short and Neumel. In an interview with FN, the two companies shared the yearlong process behind developing their new inclusive line of shoes.
“[We] held a focus group where we worked together with diverse people with disabilities to help bring this collection to life,” said Andrea O’Donnell, president of fashion lifestyle at Ugg parent Deckers Brands. “The main feedback was that they wished they could wear boots, and they wanted to wear our iconic styles.”
Dana Zumbo, business development manager at Zappos Adaptive, added, “They told us, ‘Don’t create something special for me; create something for me that everybody else wears.'”
The focus group — held in Zappos’ hometown of Las Vegas — was comprised of seven adults and five children with different disabilities. While some wore prostheses, others had ankle straps. They described their experiences wearing various kinds of footwear, and the team got to work.
Based on the feedback, Ugg reimagined its men’s, women’s and children’s silhouettes: It added dual oversized zippers to the Classic Short boot for easier entry, plus removable insoles for those who may wear prosthetic limbs, which sometimes requires people to add a wedge into their shoes for a better fit. With the Neumel boot, the brand added a toggle instead of a lace, on top of the dual oversized zippers and removable insoles.
“We believe in the empowerment of people and crafting products that holistically align with that sentiment, [and] accessibility is a significant piece of the Ugg brand,” O’Donnell said. “We found that, in making minor design tweaks, we could make a massive difference and address a variety of needs.”
The line is now available exclusively on Zappos.com until 2022. The Classic Short comes in chestnut and black colorways, while the Neumel has an additional grey option. The range includes both adult sizes from 5 to 18, as well as kids’ product, from the toddler size 10 to children’s 6, at a price point between $130 and $170.
“It’s a pivotal time right now,” Zumbo added. “The Ugg team is the first we’ve worked with from start to finish on the product and involved people with disabilities from day one. We are setting the stage for the entire industry. The proper way to go about creating products that might be more accessible is utilizing people with disabilities to help create the product because they know firsthand what they need.”