How Corkys Creates Footwear Designed to Sell

Corky's heels

Corkys has come a long way from its EVA start 12 years ago. The North Little Rock, Arkansas-based women’s fashion comfort brand is building on its EVA sandal business and strong South and Southwest following with a deeper range of styles that spans rain boots and elastic footwear, to hand-painted sandals. And according to Corkys SVP Sales Carmen Wilke, all categories are in growth mode.

The brand launched Boutique by Corkys two years ago, its most forward collection to date with an emphasis on comfort. “The collection is very fashion, but with comfort features built-in and that has been a huge focus of growth for Corkys,” Wilke said. “However, EVA is still a huge business for us.”

With an arsenal of moderately priced styles that spans rain boots, booties, shoeties, sandals, wedges and athleisure silhouettes, the brand aims to be a one-stop shop for retailers. “We have several looks within the brand and we offer something for everyone,” Wilke said.

The brand’s Featherlite collection has garnered a following with professionals who are on their feet all day with its comfortable elastic uppers and cushioned gel insoles. Elite by Corky’s distinguishing factor is the line’s hand-painted leather uppers. The brand also has a growing rain boot business.

By including features like hidden Velcro closures and EVA footbeds for instant comfort, Wilke said the brand is proving that comfort can look good. The key, Wilke said, is to listen to retailers’ feedback, provide understandable fashion and focus on footwear that performs at retail.

“Once we hear buzz, we go after that,” she said about Corkys’ design strategy. “We’re not looking to be the first to show the trends, but we’re a fast second. It’s a good formula because it makes our product very understandable and that’s what makes it work at retail so well.”

Wilke believes the brand’s fashion and comfort stories have the potential to resonate with retailers outside of its core South and Southeast demographic. Already available in over 8,000 boutiques, the company plans to use the upcoming FFANY, Nov. 29-Dec. 1, to reintroduce major accounts to its full line of footwear. “FFANY is a good opportunity to expand our distribution on a broader geographic scale and expose it to retailers that may not be aware of the brand,” she said.

At FFANY, Corkys will preview a Fall ’18 collection that includes booties, shoeties and ballet ballet flats. Wilke said combinations of textile and leather will be a strong theme, as well as laser cutouts, embroideries, tapestry prints and metallic booties with a Western influence. “We’re seeing a resurgence of Western looks with metallic and hardware treatments,” she added.

The company will also offer Spring ’18 styles for retailers that want to add wedges, footbed sandals and vulcanized sneakers to their mix. Wilke said animal prints, muted camouflage, shades of olive and khaki and rose gold are some of the brand’s best-selling trends. She’s also seeing the return of bling on footwear.

“I think we are growing, but we are a company that will listen to what our customers want. That is what brought us to this point,” Wilke said.

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