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How Vera Bradley Translated Its Unique Aesthetic Into Its First ‘True’ Footwear Collection

For the Vera Bradley brand, patterns are a reflection of personality. And the label’s fans now have another vehicle to express who they are.

Last month, the popular lifestyle brand made its first foray into what chief creative officer Beatrice Mac Cabe calls “true footwear” with the VB Cloud collection. The line launched with four slip-on shoes featuring water-repellent uppers, memory foam insoles and molded arch supports. And this week, in time for the holiday season, Vera Bradley expanded the selection with the addition of a soft, fleece-lined mule.

Best known for its bags and accessories, Vera Bradley has dabbled in footwear over the years. It offers slippers and flip-flops as a complement to its home goods, and it debuted a multi-season collaboration with Crocs in 2019. But for this new initiative, developed in-house, Mac Cabe said the brand took a very intentional approach. “We talk about being a very data-driven organization, so this launch has been informed by our customer and what she’s looking for,” she said, adding that apparel and footwear are the two categories that customers say they want more of from the brand.

The Vera Bradley team spent four years developing the footwear collection, starting with an extensive listening period and focus groups with customers. “The first year and a half was really pulling together all those customer insights and looking through various iterations in terms of sketches, and then going back to the customer and saying, ‘Here’s what we heard from you. Is this what you’re thinking?'” recalled Mac Cabe.

Ultimately, the customers asked for a shoe that was functional, lightweight and casual, but pretty enough to wear anywhere and still look put together.

Vera Bradley VB Cloud Sip-On Shoes
A head-to-toe look from Vera Bradley.
CREDIT: Courtesy of Vera Bradley

For the next stage, Vera Bradley’s footwear specialist, Roy Yun, had to translate those ideas into a design, while staying true to the brand ethos. “We have a consumer profile that is very much comfort driven, aesthetic driven, price driven, and we have to appeal to her sense of total being,” he said. “When you capture all that with the prints, the details, the inside beauty, the outer beauty, and you put it together with technology that’s understandable, I think it’s a great recipe for success.”

He pointed out that while the VB Cloud collection does feature sneakers, Vera Bradley is not an athletic brand, so there was no need to develop cutting-edge innovations. “I’m not going to use Adidas as my benchmark because that’s not the customer we’re going after,” Yun explained. Instead, he tapped into existing materials and technologies with performance capabilities.

Once the samples were in-house, Vera Bradley began wear testing the shoes internally and with customers, with help from Greg Jaeger, director of PR and social media. As part of that process, he said the brand shared the shoes with health care workers, hairstylists and other professionals who spend a lot of time on their feet. “We got a lot of great feedback from them,” Jaeger said. “It’s a great shoe to wear for 10 hours a day and stand on your feet.”

Overall, he said the brand has been pleased by the response since the launch, though surprised at some of the results. “We thought the black and navy styles would sell at a higher rate, but our customer truly loves their patterns,” Jaeger said.

Vera Bradley VB Cloud Sip-On Shoes
The VB Cloud Cozy Mule launched in time for holiday 2022.
CREDIT: Courtesy of Vera Bradley

The VB Cloud shoes are available for purchase in women’s sizes 5 through 11 on Verabradley.com and in Vera Bradley stores. Prices range from $70 to $80.

Looking ahead to spring ’23, Mac Cabe said there are plans to add sporty sandals to the VB Cloud line, but ultimately the brand will focus on introducing new prints and patterns to the footwear collection rather than a lot of different silhouettes.

“We want her to get very comfortable with this footwear and continue returning to us for the reliability, the comfort and hopefully the new patterns,” she said.

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