An Outdoor Standout, Keen Now Has Its Sights Set on the City Dweller

Keen has established itself in the U.S. as a reputable footwear brand in the outdoor space. However, this year, the Portland, Ore.-based company has its sights set on city dwellers.

To attract this audience, which has long been foreign to the label, it will use insights from its burgeoning business in Japan. Keen senior brand manager Stephanie Rankin said its positioning abroad is far different from it is domestically.

“Over there, it’s a lot more style-driven with a mix of festival fashion. Japanese fans are unique to how they like to dress, how they like to represent themselves,” Rankin said.

This year, Keen will bring the types of product carried by key Japanese boutiques such as Beams and Mita Sneakers to the states. This includes style-driven colorways specific to the region of its Uneek, Newport, Yogui and Shanti silhouettes, among others.

Although these models are available in outdoor retailers, the Japanese iterations will not be stocked by these accounts. Instead, they will be offered to top-tier boutiques. Rankin said Keen is targeting industry leaders such as Blends and Atmos New York.

Rankin likened the distribution plan to how major sneaker brands segment product, where the same model will be seen in different colorways and material makeups across a variety of retailers.

Although Keen is clear on the consumer it would like to attract, earning their trust won’t be easy.

“You can’t just get into streetwear. You can’t just be something without being something to the people,” Rankin said. “It’s a space where culture is important.”

To ingratiate itself with this consumer, Rankin said Keen will launch an online experience in April to showcase its product and direction, distribute the line by the end of May and appear at key industry events such as Liberty Fairs Las Vegas in February.

“This will show people in the U.S. who might only know us as an outdoor brand how other people would wear this,” she said. “We’re not trying to change [our audience]. We’re just trying to invite more people in.”

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