K-Swiss is out to prove it deserves a spot in the rotation of sneakerheads everywhere this year, and collaborations are a key part of the heritage athletic brand’s strategy.
To start its 2022 collaboration push, K-Swiss teamed up with renowned Chicago retailer Leaders 1354 last month on a two-shoe pack inspired by the Windy City.
Looking ahead, Scott Boulton, K-Swiss director of product and energy, confirmed with FN that another collab with Leaders 1354 will arrive before year’s end. Also, Boulton revealed several other collaboration partners for 2022, including Stadium Goods, Rowing Blazers and Corridor.
Below, Boulton breaks down the K-Swiss collaboration push for 2022.
What made Leaders 1354 the ideal first collaboration partner of 2022 for K-Swiss?
“When you start to build a brand, or you try to bring a brand back to life, you need to legitimize the brand. The city of Chicago has always been a hotbed for K-Swiss. Back when it was at its peak in the early 2000s, Chicago — especially with Leaders — was a real hotbed for K-Swiss. For me, to legitimize a brand you have to go back to its roots. Leaders has always supported K-Swiss through the years, so for me, it was an easy decision to kick off 2022 and start to legitimize the brand with Leaders.”
What does this collaboration say about K-Swiss’ position in the sneaker landscape?
“The sneaker consumer, they’re always looking for something new, they’re looking for the next thing. Heritage has always been constant, the heritage store within sneakers has always stayed constant — it will ebb and flow, but icons are constant. K-Swiss is blessed because we have an icon with the Classic 66 or the Classic LX with that three-piece toe. A consumer decides what’s an icon and K-Swiss is blessed because we have a true icon with the Classic 66 LX. For me, it’s about making heritage relevant for today. For me, it was talking to that Leaders consumer and educating them on K-Swiss as a brand.”
What were your goals with the Leaders 1354 collaboration?
“Collaborations aren’t for the masses. It’s really about disruption. This was about awakening them, making them aware of our brand. We had an amazing creative direction. We took the city of Chicago, the Chicago flag and that famous saying that goes along with it, ‘I Will,’ and it was something Leaders could get behind and something to really proud of. It’s an iconic store with an iconic city such as Chicago.”
Where does K-Swiss have the strongest following today?
“Currently, it would be on the West Coast. K-Swiss is a California classic brand since 1966, and now we’re starting to look back but look forward. We really need to start to build our trend equity again. That’s my goal, to start to build our trend equity across the globe. Currently, our hotbeds would be L.A. because it’s our backyard, but we’ve also got touch points in Chicago, New York and Miami.”
Are there regions K-Swiss is targeting this year?
“We’ll be targeting three macro markets. One will be New York, one will be Chicago because we will return to Leaders again at the back end of the year, and also Stadium Goods. And then we’ll look to bolster with some more localized collabs in the L.A. area.”
What is the K-Swiss collaboration strategy for 2022?
“K-Swiss has been a sleeping giant for so long. The strategy is to educate the consumer. Collabs are key for brand elevation and reaching our target consumer. Brand collaborations utilizing key partners will help us engage and connect through the clean executions of our products. That will build our trend equity.”
What would mark success for K-Swiss in the greater sneaker landscape this year?
“Becoming more visible in that top-tier distribution. That is my goal because whilst dropping collaborations, I also want just to have a presence 365 days a year. Collabs are in and they’re out, they educate the consumers, but then underpinning that is a true top-tier collection that these stores can hold from K-Swiss 365 days a year.”
What gives you confidence that the sneaker consumer today, who buys from a small group of major brands, will buy K-Swiss?
“I truly believe we have some true iconic models — not just one, we have a plethora of models, which we can bring out and we can have a full rollout program. That will then cascade down to the mass market. We’re moving into a world that is more personalization, customization, and the consumer is starting now to look outside of the big brands. They want something different, they want something unique. That’s why customization, personalization is becoming such a big part of not just sneaker culture, but also of the fashion landscape. As consumers look outside of the big brands, K-Swiss will be a true heritage viable option for that for that consumer.”
Where is K-Swiss well positioned? And where does the brand need to improve the most?
“We’re obviously well positioned in performance tennis, we’re the No. 1 Number performance footwear brand in the U.S., so we’re definitely cemented there. For me, it’s all about this upper tier. That’s where we really need to penetrate because that will have a cascade effect down to the Tier Two and the Tier Three accounts.”
The SI-18 will be featured through all of your collaborations in 2022. What makes this an ideal medium for collabs?
“It’s a model that has been untouched, and it has some unique K-Swiss features: the D-ring system, and the ’90s is currently on trend, it allows for great color blocking, it’s for sure one of the top three shoes that K-Swiss owns from an iconic point of view. It also has a lot of branding windows, so the aesthetics of the shoe allows for some really good branding. And it was a shoe that all the accounts gravitated to when I showed them a menu of shoes. Some collaborations will have additional models, but the SI-18 will be constant with every collaboration this year.”