Allen Edmonds is marking its 100th birthday with a new campaign lensed by portrait photographer Billy Kidd, where he documents 100 people, each wearing the Allen Edmonds’ best-selling Park Avenue cap-toe oxford dress shoe. It’s a style that is still handcrafted in America at the brand’s Port Washington, Wis. headquarters.
Photographed over three days in New York City, the campaign features an eclectic group of subjects including classical violinist Filip Pogady, NAACP activist Wisdom Cole, model and shoe designer Armando Cabral, para-athlete Billy Davis, photographer and sommelier David Sawyer, artist Bill Donovan, restaurateur Ashwin Baldani and many more.
“We are using this incredible 100-year milestone to celebrate our loyal customers, our associates, and our shared passion for creating beautiful shoes,” David Law, SVP and general manager of Allen Edmonds, told FN in an interview. “Without question, the world was a much different place in 1922. Photographing 100 people in our iconic Park Avenue was our opportunity to celebrate the people who have made Allen Edmonds an enduring, important brand.”
And the celebrations are just getting started. According to Law, Port Washington’s Mayor Ted Neitzke has proclaimed May 4, 2022, as “Allen Edmonds Day.” What’s more, the brand also plans to toast its anniversary with a special event hosted in its Rockefeller Center store in New York City. Plus, all 59 Allen Edmonds stores nationwide will be raising a glass with their VIP customers to commemorate this moment at 6 pm EST on May 4, Law said.
Founded in 1922 in a small town in Wisconsin by American inventor Elbert W. Allen, the men’s footwear brand continues to make the majority of its shoes where it all started in Wisconsin. According to the company, it has produced over 12 million pairs of shoes over the course of its history.
Over the years, Allen Edmonds has found itself under several owners – most recently being acquired by Caleres in 2016 from private equity firm Brentwood Associates in a $255 million deal.
At the time of the acquisition, Caleres said the brand would become the “cornerstone” of the firm’s growing men’s business. And, it has, according to Jay Schmidt, president of Caleres. “Today, Allen Edmonds is a cornerstone of our portfolio,” Schmidt told FN. “We believe its legacy, values, superior product and strong consumer loyalty coupled with the ongoing momentum in its underlying business will reinforce its position as a lead brand within our company.”
While under the direction of Caleres, the brand debuted a new identity aimed at a broader, youthful demographic in 2018. At the time, Caleres CEO Diane Sullivan said that the updated Allen Edmonds was more focused on inclusivity than exclusivity. The refresh encompassed all aspects of the brand, from a new logo and maker’s mark to energized promotional imagery, packaging, and store design.
And like most companies, Allen Edmonds was put to the test during the pandemic. But, according to Law, the brand’s American manufacturing gave it a “competitive advantage” as it was able to align its production to customer demand. “Coming out of the pandemic, we are now seeing increased demand for our iconic styles like our oxfords, monk straps and loafers as we see a re-emergence of special occasions, social events, and a return to the office,” said Law.
Looking ahead, Law said that Allen Edmonds is investing in four key areas to further its differentiation including extended sizes and widths, sustainability, customization, and limited-edition reboots.
“We want to ensure our customers have a healthy range of sizes to choose from,” Law said. “Take, for example, our classic Park Avenue oxford, which comes in over 150 different size configurations. We also offer many of our casual and sport styles in wide sizes.”
And its limited-edition “Reboot” program, which launched in February with the MacNeil oxford, will continue throughout the year. “We have a new version of the McAllister coming out this month,” Law added. “The year will bring many more limited-edition drops to our consumers, including a collaboration with another 100-year-old brand.”
That collab tease aside, the company is forging ahead. “No one builds and maintains a legacy by standing still – This is our life’s work, and we are just getting started,” said Schmidt.