How Salomon Sportstyle Emerged as a Favorite of the Fashion Elite

Rihanna turned heads last month during her Super Bowl performance, not just because of her baby bump reveal, but also because of her choice of footwear.

The “Work” hitmaker wore the MM6 Maison Margiela x Salomon Cross Low sneakers, a style-driven look with trail running DNA, executed in red and pink with a ripstop shroud and Quicklace system. A bold choice, especially considering Rihanna last week revived her partnership with Puma.

“It’s the biggest validation we can have that the work we are doing in every region of the world is paying off,” said Kristof Cavazzana, global Salomon Sportstyle director.

But Salomon Sportstyle was hot well before that buzzy halftime show. According to StockX, Salomon was the fastest-growing sneaker brand on the marketplace, experiencing 2,277% trade growth in 2022 over 2021.

Salomon launched its Sportstyle category in fall 2018, but George Egan, Salomon North America director of Sportstyle, said the blueprint for the business unit began when The Broken Arm reached out in 2015 to do a project around the SpeedCross.

From there, the brand appeared on the runway with Boris Bidjan Saberi in spring ‘17, earned the GQ Sneaker of the Year distinction in 2019 for the XT-6, and according to Egan, “It’s been buckle up and hold on ever since.”

The work to create a fashion-focused division at the performance brand has already paid off. According to Cavazzana, Salomon Sportstyle has doubled its sales target every year.

Egan credits that to a natural approach. “If you look at Salomon on the traditional outdoor performance wall, we’ve always been a bold and expressive brand compared to traditional brown leather hikers. That’s what fashion is. Fashion is expressing yourself through what you’re wearing,” he said.

Although the looks are trend-right, what makes them special is utilitarianism. Using the XT-6 Gore-Tex release from 2022 as an example, Egan said consumers touted the look as one of the best daily wearing shoes on the market.

“We’re not putting guardrails around what Sportstyle is. We’re not trying to shy away from our performance heritage, but we’re also letting consumers know of the performance benefits in your daily life,” Egan said. “You don’t have to climb a mountain. You can be walking to and from the subway.”

He noted that sneaker culture uses this same formula. “Nike, Jordan, Asics, New Balance — every major player has something to do with performance. The difference is our athletes are not in arenas with 100,000 people watching. They’re running around mountains and put different demands on shoes,” said Egan.

The ascent of Salomon Sportstyle has taken place during a strong period for the outdoor industry. The participation boom brought on by the pandemic has created a new group of enthusiasts, and Gorpcore, a genre of fashion defined by functional outdoor-inspired gear, is on trend.

As a result, the Sportstyle unit has become a hit in major cities. “New York is our fastest-growing city globally, and we’re really focused on Paris, London and Shanghai. We’re seeing some incredible momentum there,” said Jenny Taylor, Salomon North America VP of marketing.

In terms of distribution, the brand is sold in select mass market doors such as Foot Locker and Nordstrom, however its focus is on Tier 0 core fashion retailers globally. Cavazzana said Salomon Sportstyle is in 250 of these doors, a list that includes Kith, Dover Street Market, End, Slam Jam, Haven and others.

And executives are building that retail roster carefully. “We want to keep the partners we have and maximize those relationships. We are focused on making sure those partnerships are successful. We are not in a hurry to expand,” Cavazzana said.

Egan added, “There’s plenty of opportunity for growth with our existing partners. Sportstyle is a unisex category, and we were delayed in rolling out the smaller, female-based sizes due to COVID and supply constraints. 2022 was the first full year where we had those sizes available, and a lot of our accounts have been seeing a demand for it.”

As for product, while remaining tight-lipped on details, Egan said Salomon Sportstyle will introduce an update to an existing silhouette for the fall, and double-down on the looks that its fans love.

“The XT-6 is our showstopper, it’s the shoe that put us on the map, so you’ll see some expansion around that,” Egan said. “Similarly, we’ve seen traction with the ACS franchise — it’s becoming our No. 2 silhouette. There are a lot of exciting twists to that yin and yang of Salomon’s past and future that will continue this year, especially with new drops for the fall.”

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