While on a business trip to Nevada, Geox Founder and President Mario Moretti Polegatto went for a hike through the desert, only to find (perhaps unsurprisingly) that his rubber trainers had started to overheat. But it was then, like a mirage, that the idea for Geox came to him. He pulled out his pocket knife and carved holes in the bottom of his shoes, finding immediate relief. From that moment Geox’s patented Microporous Membrane system was born, forming the backbone of what would become a globally recognized brand.
Having already established itself throughout Europe and around the world, Geox is now putting greater focus on its U.S. efforts, hoping its hybrid sport/dress styles resonate with athleisure-minded consumers.
Vamp recently spoke with Geox VP of Sales and Marketing James Rowley on how the Italian brand is bringing its “shoes that breathe” to more feet than ever before.
VAMP: Geox is greatly expanding its U.S. business. What challenges does the U.S. market present?
Rowley: In our business overseas we have an extremely high percentage of unaided brand awareness. However at the present moment there’s still much ground to cover in this [area] of the U.S. market. This puts us in different marketing cycles than our counterparts overseas. Our aim is to build that awareness the right way with retailers with tried and true business models who are experts in sit-and-fit. These industry specialists will help us build the Geox brand here in the U.S. It’s a mutual relationship where they support us and we in turn support them.
VAMP: What sort of growth have you seen here so far?
Rowley: In the last few seasons we have found great support and partnership from key industry leaders. Top retailers—all of whom have long standing business in our nation’s most prominent cities—have come to the table and now are carrying Geox. Comfort One in Washington, DC, Benjamin Lovell in Philadelphia, Little’s of Pittsburgh, Hanig’s in Chicago, and Harry’s in New York City, just to name a few. It is this level of distribution which is of the utmost importance in a building a long term and sustainable brand for Geox here in the U.S.
VAMP: What does Geox offer that’s unique?
Rowley: From the beginning every model we have produced has been centered on our proprietary patented technology. The ‘shoe that breathes’ is not simply our slogan, it’s the life blood behind our conceptual design. Everything is based on this innovative technology. We have dedicated teams who tirelessly work towards taking the foundations we have built and making them better for every upcoming season. Our shoes don’t simply look good, they do something, they breathe.
VAMP: Geox’s Kids appear to be very popular. Is kids’ a large growth area for you?
Rowley: Kids shoes are part of our genesis. When we first began it was producing our technology for the little ones. The breathability of our shoes is all about health and wellness which is a vital consideration when shopping for children. Guardians of all backgrounds have appreciated what Geox offers the kids in their lives. This has allowed for Geox kid’s shoes to be a cornerstone in our business development.
VAMP: Who is the Geox customer?
Rowley: Geox as a global brand is ’33/33/33′; men, women, and kids. Truly we are a family brand. Our Italian design captures the eye of the millennial generation. Yet, we also have a core of styles that are tried and true which suit the needs of the baby boomer generation. Everyone appreciates a shoe that both looks good and does something.
VAMP: What trends are you noticing in the market now? How is Geox responding?
Rowley: The most notable trend is athleisure. People are looking for that item that offers the most wearability. Health and wellness is promoted every corner you turn and it has made its way into the shoe business. For this reason we continue to focus on technology and innovation. Our Italian design and heritage offers the style and aesthetic. Our innovation and technology offers substance and functionality.
VAMP: What styles have been your biggest sellers this year?
Rowley: Nebula. Sneakers are a big trend right now as people are looking for the casual active everyday shoe. Our answer is the physical embodiment of all of our innovations and technologies, Nebula. With our patented Net Breathing System we offer breathability throughout the entire last of the shoe coupled with our Inner Breathing system which lines the upper. We’ve created 360-degree breathability. Its flexibility offers the capacity and comfort for all day walking, while the various offerings for the upper make it suitable for many occasions.
VAMP: Geox also sells clothing. Is this an area you are working to grow?
Rowley: The ‘x’ in Geox is for the universal symbol of technology. Above all else, our desire is to be known for our innovation and technology. At the moment we are more widely known for our developments in footwear but we have carried over our research to make apparel that’s equally as breathable. Presently here in the U.S. apparel is exclusive to our retail stores and our Shopgeox website. We have had much success globally with our outerwear and look to do the same in the U.S. market with key wholesale partners beginning in 2018.
VAMP: Geox is known for its technologies such as Nebula and Amphibiox waterproofing. Do you feel like consumers now demand special features like this?
Rowley: Living in an age where technology is part of every facet of life, [we now] demand this from even the shoes and clothing we purchase too. Geox has long been ahead of the curve with our R&D department who run batteries of test on past products and future concepts. Simply put we own breathability, it is our past, present and future. For us it’s all about taking what we have made that’s good and making it better. Once we make it better we ask ourselves, how else can we use this? Where else does it apply? For example, Amphibiox was born out of taking our patented technology from the sole of the shoe, placing it in the upper to create a shoe that is equal parts breathable and waterproof. No other manufacturer can stake that claim.
VAMP: How important is sustainability to Geox? Why did you decide to work with Treedom?
Rowley: Geox is all about breathability. Yet we realize that before our shoes can breathe, we need to. Our partnership with Treedom in March of 2015 was in an effort to give back to the redeveloping island-nation of Haiti. We were able to plant 6,000 trees which allowed us to substantially offset our CO2 emissions. More importantly, it gave us a chance to empower the local communities with fruit trees aiding in the stimulating of the Haitian economy.
In an effort to further sustainability as a company, Geox has taken on two projects. We voluntarily sought out a third party agency, TUV-SUD, to audit all of our production and manufacturing. This was to ensure that we abide by the highest of standards. In turn, we have become TUV-SUD certified. Secondly, we developed a product, New:Do, which is 98 percent recyclable, and features uppers that are organically tanned without chemicals and an outsole that is harvested naturally from the Hevea tree in South America.
VAMP: What’s new for Spring ’17?
Rowley: For the upcoming Spring ’17 season we are still very heavily focused on Nebula. For all the Geox stands for, breathability, innovation, technology, it is the one product that encapsulates it all. Nebula is the best representation of us as a brand—fashion meeting functionality. It’s a shoe that promotes activity and calls for a story to be told. The story is of a partnership; ‘Geo’ representing the best materials on Earth coupled with ‘X’ technology and innovation. All of this comes together to allow us to do more and breathe more. Of all the shoes we’ll have for Spring ’17, Nebula is the product that will best tell that story.