While St. John has delved into the footwear arena before, it’s been many years since shoes were part of the heritage brand’s lineup.
In the last decade, St. John has focused on its knit wear, but British designer Zoe Turner took the helm as creative director for fall ’20. And now the label is embarking on a new strategy.
With that comes shoes — specifically two styles for spring ’21 — that will allow the consumer to dress from head to toe. “We are creating beautiful luxury products that really are designed to be complementary and cohesive with the collection,” CEO Eran Cohen told FN. (He previously helmed marketing at Payless ShoeSource.) “Working in footwear for as long as I did you become deeply aware of how passionate women are about shoes and how important footwear is and complementing and completing the look. Knowing that we didn’t offer footwear simply made it imperative that we that we launch.”
The launch, however, has come under challenging circumstances, given the coronavirus crisis.
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“Given our current global situation, I think everybody is changing their strategy. Our collection this year was tighter, it was smaller, it’s more focused and that allowed us freedom to react more quickly with the consumer needs,” added Cohen. “We’re inserting pieces as they feel appropriate.”
For the made-in-Italy footwear, which includes a loafer and sandal, editing was key. “We’re being thoughtful about how much product we’re introducing into the market at any given point in time and making sure that it’s part of the vision. We’re not rushing down the path to to try to fill a hole,” he said.
The shoes will launch exclusively through St. John boutiques and its e-commerce site, Cohen said, adding that digital is a key focus across the board.
While St. John does have relationships with partners including Nordstrom and Saks Fifth Avenue, the brand’s direct-to-consumer channels account for the majority of its business.
With stores closing due to coronavirus shutdown in March, online sales saw a double-digit uptick. “This is not new news,” he said. “[Digital] is something most people have been working towards for quite some time. And we all have different different roads ahead of us.”
Cohen said the physical store experience will still be important, but it is quickly evolving. “I don’t imagine that it will be the same physical experience that we were all talking about twelve months ago,” the CEO said.