All the Shoe News You Need to Know from FN Platform

Cecelia New York

From brand new product lines and expanded collections, to an emphasis on all-day comfort, footwear brands at FN PLATFORM in Las Vegas (Aug. 14-16) presented ways to renew the sales floor and rebuild retail.

Newness from familiar names
Footwear brands are vying to build deeper distribution with their retail partners.

While Birkenstock is not looking to open new accounts, the brand would like to nab some more retail space. In addition to styles with thinner straps, more vegan options, bright colorways and an interplay of materials, Birkenstock is expanding its range of EVA sandals. The waterproof, lightweight line adds new colors and a Giza version for Spring ’18. The brand is also introducing a new buckle option with rounded edges and a polished finish.

In upcoming seasons, Birkenstock USA VP of Marketing Scott Radcliffe said to expect to see more closed-toe basics and sneakers from the brand as it works to grow its men’s business and become a year-round brand. The company rolls out updated canvas sneakers for men and women. Birkenstock is also launching its first ballet flat for spring, outfitted with its iconic cork footbed. The shoe is offered in blush, taupe and black.

Samuel Hubbard is working to maintain its momentum in the independent channel. The comfort brand is growing its existing business by offering more widths, new waterproof options and dress shoes with a sleeker toe profile. The brand is testing out new styles for women, including the first Sacchetto construction ballet flat with built-in arch support.

To build its year-round business, Washington Shoe Company is dabbling in sandals for both of its brands, Western Chief and Chooka. For Spring ’18, Western Chief complements its line of licensed children’s product and LED rain boots with a range of colorful jelly sandals for boys and girls. Women’s sandals feature some of the same playful prints and vibrant florals found in the rain boot and clog collections.

Meanwhile, Chooka keys into the sporty slide trend with a new collection that will retail for around $25. The new line includes lightweight foam sandals with printed footbeds and slides with both printed and flocked uppers for a velvety look.

Even a casual sneaker brand such as Keds can’t overlook the active lifestyle. The brand debuts Keds Studio for Spring ’18, a new line of minimalistic shoes designed for pre- and post-workout jaunts. Shoes are made with breathable, lightweight and stretchable uppers, including jersey with DriFreeze lining. Molded footbeds offer contoured arch support, while lightweight foam footbeds have breathable perforations and a foam outsole features breathable channels for ventilation and extra arch support.

The collection, which taps into popular colors in the activewear market like blush, black and gray, includes lace-up sneakers with mesh inserts, slip-on sneakers with printed outsoles and the Moxie mule, a backless version of the Champion. A line of sport slides with the Keds logo front and center rounds out the collection.

Crocs takes on athleisure with its new LiteRide Collection. The men’s and women’s product line uses LifeRide foam, a Crocs innovation made with a revolutionary closed-cell material that is lighter and softer than Croslite foam. The underfoot feeling is a mix of support and sink-in softness. The collection includes clogs, slides and slip-on and lace-up sneakers.

Aerosoles rolls out two new product lines for Spring ’18. The women’s footwear brand bows its first special occasion collection, offering metallic slides embellished with pearls and satin sandals with electroplated heels.

For a higher price point, the brand is testing Aerosoles Collection with select accounts. Through the collection, the brand aims to raise the bar by introducing higher heel heights, upgraded materials and Purefit technology, a memory foam with superior reverb. Styles include platform sandals with embroidered cork heels, block heel sandals and suede multi-strap heels.

As United Nude moves its headquarters from Amsterdam to Los Angeles, the brand introduces its first line of vegan footwear for men and women. The collection, which will retail for under $100, uses ethically sourced materials and no harm glues. Uppers are made mostly with elasticated textiles, delivering sporty sneaker and sneaker-boot hybrids.

Flipping for flip-flops
Comfort is a starting point for Minnetonka. The company introduces a new women’s flip-flop hanging program for Spring ’18. Designed to be a “summer slipper” with ultra-comfortable insoles, Minnetonka Director of Marketing Kalyn Waters says the self-merchandising collection brings new opportunities for Minnetonka and existing clients that wouldn’t normally carry a traditional surf flip-flop brand.

Minnetonka’s collection includes the Hallie, a flip-flop with black or tan leather braided straps, and the Hedy, a flip-flop with textile uppers offered in blue denim, multi-color Southwestern stripes and taupe woven diamond fabric. Flip-flops wholesale for $16.

Ipanema continues to find success with beach-to-street sandals. The collection has increased from three styles a few years ago to 10 for Spring ’18. For the new season, Ipanema focuses on simple toe post sandals with knotted details and gold beading. The shoes are offered in wearable shades of matte black, olive, cream and burnt orange colorways.

The brand also brings back the Ipanema with Stark collection for a third season. The collection—a favorite of actress Halle Berry—zeroes in on minimalistic silhouettes with thin straps and Mod-inspired circular toe posts in black, white and gray. The brand makes a fashion statement with a flip-flop that cradles the foot like a boat, a style that will likely appeal to specialized retailers like Opening Ceremony.

Fellow Brazilian flip-flop brand Rider diversifies its collection with retro designs. For women, the brand offers a range of muted-hued flatform slides with old-school branding. The company brings back its original logo for men across a line of vintage-inspired surf slides.

U.K.-based wellies brand Joules is broadening its reach with a new collection of flip-flops on branded hangers. The brand’s newest style for ladies, a rubber flip-flop adorned with a whimsical pom-pom, is based on a popular kids’ style. Joules also introduces a flip-flop/espadrille hybrid for summertime comfort.

Vionic is discovering a younger market with Vionic Beach, a new line of flip-flops for men and women. After a successful summer tour to Californian surf, yoga and other health and wellness events, Dave Ortley of Vionic Beach said the brand is tweaking its messaging. “What we really have here with Vionic Beach is a sub brand,” he said. “We’re finding that the message is more active lifestyle than medical.”

The brand has found that its playful prints, colors and ergonomic footbed resonate with 25- to 45-year-old consumers seeking a comfortable sandal to slip into pre- and post-workout. Pineapple and floral prints have been popular and the brand has introduced an all-black style per consumers’ requests. Vionic Beach has opened new accounts with yoga and spin stores as well as Carnival and Princess cruise lines, tapping into the spa space.

Ortley noted that Vionic Beach is also presenting an opportunity to go after the men’s market in a new way. “They are living in flip-flops that are not good for them. You can’t change the style people wear, but you can make it make it more comfortable,” he added.

Conversation starters
Casual sneakers, millennial pink, bows and slides continue to be on trend for Spring ’18. However, brands are sourcing inspiration from fun and unexpected places—including food and beauty trends—in order to spice up collections.

Carrano taps into the demand for Instagram-worthy footwear with a new colorway for its popular ombre pump. Nicknamed the “unicorn” shoe, the stiletto features a patent pale blue and pink gradient upper, much like the unicorn lattes, food and hair that populated social media feeds this spring.

Other brands roll out sweet colors and candy-inspired details. Shellys London made a statement with espadrilles that resembled a birthday cake, complete with multi-colored, 8-layer soles. Cecelia New York put a twist on sandals with uppers inspired by candy buttons. The dots added a punch of summertime color to the brand’s Spring ’18 collection that spanned sandals with gold snake ankle wraps, to block heel sandals topped off with a flurry of beads and oversized orchids.

Oversized palm leaves and big red hearts add a touch of fun to Guilhermina’s spring collection. Hearts popped up across many collections, including Frances Valentine, the new footwear and handbag brand founded by Kate and Andy Spade. The first-time exhibitor at FN Platform toys with clusters of heart-shaped leather charms on a range of flat sandals.

Meanwhile, rubber shoe brand Zaxy takes style cues from the makeup world. The brand balances its range of glossy flatforms in hot pink, lime and nude colorways with matte finish multi-strap sandals and ballet flats.

Ipanema keys into its vibrant Brazilian roots with a series of slides with kitschy tropical uppers featuring an embroidered look. A brand rep said that the style is so “unhip that it’s hip” and has become a clear bestseller for the season.

Vicenza plays up its kitsch factor with a range of sandals embellished with red, blue or green bandana print bows. The sandals come with a matching bandana bracelet.

The brand keeps the conversation going with simple leather slides with mismatched appliques. Styles include white slides with a sun and sunglasses motif and metallic gold slides with a strawberry and banana theme. Vicenza’s brand rep said conversational footwear has been a hit with European customers and beginning to pick up momentum within the U.S.

Novelty sneakers are a hit for Aerosoles. Brenden Kennedy, Aerosoles creative vice president, said styles like slip-on sneakers with “Girl Power” messages resonate with younger consumers, while an older demographic appreciates their whimsy.

The conversational styles are part of Aerosoles’ new youthful look, enhanced further by a collection of bumble bee-embellished footwear. Honeycomb patterns, flip-flops with bee ornaments and heels decorated with bee embroidery help tell the novel story. The brand is planning to tie-in a philanthropic opportunity to support the dilapidated bee population.

Brands like Bill Blass and French Sole New York are bugging out, too. French Sole incorporates insect embroidery into its collection of ladylike ballet flats, while Bill Blass adds silver and gold ladybug ornaments to white wedge sandals for the season.

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