Exhibitors at Magic and Project Are Embracing a Hybrid Between Dressy and Comfort

After almost two years of upheaval, trends in the footwear industry appear to be returning to normal.

Vendors at the Magic and Project trade shows showcased everything from hiking boots to platform heels at the Feb. 14-16 showcase at the Las Vegas Convention Center. The three-day Las Vegas event, which unites buyers, brands and retailers, went virtual in February 2020 amid COVID-19 health concerns but returned live in August of 2021.

In general, vendors at the event showcased a return to pre-pandemic footwear trends, especially in the evening and party categories. But pandemic influences were still prominent, a testament to its everlasting impact on footwear styles. Specifically, a focus on comfort was ubiquitous across all brands. Many vendors also showcased styles that blended comfort with durability outside the home, emphasizing dual needs for the many consumers who are still spending most of their time at home.

Here’s what some brand representatives from the trade show floor had to say about their product lineup for 2022 and why comfort will be key amid a return to normalcy.

Emmie Graulich, associate account executive, Franco Sarto/Caleres Inc.

Glam, equestrian and menswear are the three biggest trends that Franco Sarto expects to resonate this season, Graulich said. 

The menswear trend will show up in the form of a “British invasion” in the loafer category. Evening is an area that is picking back up as more people return to parties and corporate life.

“You have metallics, sparkles, gold — just something to elevate peoples’ evenings out in fall of 2022,” Graulich said.

Despite the changes, comfort will still be key for Franco Sarto, no matter the occasion.

“In most of our shoes, we still have the comfort soles where we do a double padding,” Graulich said. “Before we even capture a trend, we try to make sure that comfort comes first and then we’ll play into the trend.”

Edna De Pamphilis, marketing director, Lamo Sheepskin Inc.

Representatives at Lamo Sheepskin Inc. are leaning more heavily into hiking, a category that has grown throughout the pandemic. At the same time, the brand is also focusing on its casual and lifestyle assortment, introducing corduroy for the first time this season in both men’s and women’s shoes.

The assortment is meant to represent a shifting consumer that wants a hybrid between something durable yet suitable for relaxing — or working — at home.

“We’re excited to be able to offer the silhouettes that actually resonate with the consumers, given everything that’s going on in the world and going back to work and all that,” said De Pamphilis. “I think most of our silhouettes have that sturdy outsole that can play both parts.”

Johnston and Murphy shoe
This Johnston & Murphy shoe represents a cross between active and formal.
CREDIT: Shoshy Ciment/Footwear News

Dave Moore, VP of wholesale, Johnston & Murphy

Johnston & Murphy traditionally plays in the dress shoe category, but the brand has made notable shifts to casual athletic, especially with the recent introduction of its TR1-Sport Hybrid shoe. This style represents a cross between a true athletic training shoe and something a bit dressier.

“What’s a trainer that can actually be a true legitimate trainer that you can take to the workout room in the morning, but then put on a pair of five pockets and a great navy sports coat and look amazing?,” said Moore. “This is kind of the do-it-all type shoe for today’s busy individual and traveler that doesn’t want to have to manage two or three pairs of shoes where one can do the job.”

The brand has also introduced a launch of hybrid golf shoes that can be worn on and off the course.

Bernie Richfield, account manager, Cougar Shoes Inc.

The footwear brand advertised a variety of fur-lined slippers as well as more weather-specific styles. A slip-on shoe, Richfield said, was wildly popular during the earlier days of the pandemic — when people wanted something comfortable to wear while hanging out at home.

This need for simplicity and comfort has permeated post-lockdown styles as well.

“COVID has changed a lot of things in many different ways,” Richfield said. “Obviously, the fact that people aren’t going to work every day the way they were before, commuting, going into offices and getting dressed up. It’s a much more casual society today and even when I go out to dinner in a nice restaurant, I don’t see people dressed up like they used to be. It’s a much more casual, laid-back kind of atmosphere.”

Veronica Esposito, brand manager and VP of sales, Kenneth Cole

Kenneth Cole showed classic dress styles as well as looks representing a cross between cozy and active.

“What we saw as [the pandemic waned] was a true resurgence in dress,” said Esposito. “But I think the difference is kind of the desire from the consumer to have a little bit of that sneaker feel with the dress component.”

She added: “Hybrid is still very important, although I do think dress is definitely on the rise.”

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