Evolving an 87-year-old shoe brand associated with boating – WWD

For Sperry, it’s been 87 years of caring for boaters, deckhands and those who love the laid-back sailor look.

Now it’s about updating the image from preppy to modern preppy and expanding the audience.

“Sperry is a brand with a great heritage and feel, but we’re making great strides in evolving the brand to be more inclusive and offer more modern styles. We’re evolving our visual identity. We’ve introduced a new logo and updated the website, and have a new creative direction,” Katherine Cousins, Sperry Global Brand President, told WWD.

Sperry was founded in 1935 by Paul Sperry, who created the first non-slip boat shoe. He noticed that his dog did not slip on his boat and developed a wavy lamella based on the physiology of his dog’s paws, which provided gripping characteristics.

“We respect and celebrate heritage while becoming more forward-thinking and modern. We have a lot of opportunities for great storytelling to engage with the brand,” Cousins ​​said.

She joined Sperry 10 months ago after serving as vice president and general manager of several outdoor lifestyle and workplace safety brands at VF Corp. Prior to that, she worked at Timberland, leading global strategy, consumer research, licensing and accessories and previously led the brand. investor relations and business development.

Katherine Cousins

While Sperry primarily captures customers in the 25 to 50 age bracket, “We’re definitely targeting a younger customer base,” Cousins ​​said, particularly those in the 18 to 34 age bracket, calling collaborations with brands and designers, sustainable development efforts and involvement in social and environmental causes.

There is a new purpose-driven brand platform, “All for Water, Water for All”, conveying efforts to be more environmentally conscious, inclusive and community-driven. Sperry also launched its first consumer-facing brand campaign since 2018, called “Make Waves.” It was launched at the end of February.

Sperry’s goal is that by 2024, 50% of footwear designs produced will be part of its SeaCycled collection with sustainable materials in many styles across all categories: boots, sneakers, boat shoes, loafers and sandals.

Sperry, based in Waltham, Mass., will be involved in beach cleanups and other clean water initiatives this year through a partnership with Waterkeeper Alliance, a large nonprofit organization. Sperry has also partnered with PFLAG, a national organization supporting the LGBTQ community, and Claima, a podcast supporting entrepreneurs of color.

In addition to the staple and iconic Topsider style, Sperry releases new designs, collaborating with what Cousins ​​describes as “cool” brands such as Pleasures, the Los Angeles-based skateboard brand, and Rowing Blazers, a skateboard brand. clothing and accessories.

Among the collaborations to come in 2022:

  • Herschel, with releases in May and the holidays, incorporating design elements inspired by Herschel bags into Sperry boat shoes and chukkas.
  • Warm and Wonderful, with sheep print trainers in four colorways launching this summer. The British knitwear label’s shearling jumper was worn by Princess Diana.
  • Who What Wear, with two limited-edition styles launching in the fall.

Last week, three SKUs with Sunspel, the British luxury essentials label, were launched.

Evolving an 87-year-old shoe brand Associated

The Sperry “Plushwave” shoe.

Cousins ​​said she saw a big opportunity to grow sandals, currently a relatively small part of the business. The “EVA Float” slide sandal was launched at the end of February. It’s lightweight, constructed with a new foam process for a strong outer skin while keeping the interior soft and comfortable, and offers better coverage and support than the standard sport slide. The outsole combines a modified version of Paul Sperry’s original 1935 adaptive wave sipe mixed with a snow tire-like construction to wick water away from the foot, increasing traction in wet conditions.

In September 2021, Sperry launched a collaboration with Rebecca Minkoff, blending the designer’s downtown New York aesthetic with classic Sperry styles featuring a black studded platform boat shoe and high-top sneaker in a choice of two. animal prints coordinated with the Minkoff collection. . There will be a second release this spring with the Studded Platform Boat Shoe in white and high-top sneakers in three colorways.

Sperry shoes are included in seasonal Rowing Blazers campaigns, and Rowing Blazers apparel is often seen in Sperry photo shoots. Shoes from Sperry’s Cloud collection are sold on rowingblazers.com.

John Legend served as Sperry’s 2020 Global Brand Ambassador and in September 2021, Legend collaborated on three styles ⁠—a modern take on the classic Sperry boat shoe; a casual suede boot and a tall leather boot.

And Sperry continues to be the sponsor of New York Men’s Day, the biannual menswear event.

Officials at Sperry, a division of Wolverine Worldwide, declined to disclose the brand’s volume, but said revenue rose 25% last year. Wolverine acquired Sperry through its 2012 purchase of PLG Group from Collective Brands Inc., which also added Saucony, Stride Rite and Keds to the portfolio.

“There is tremendous momentum in the boat market. We have 70% of the boat market. We bring more and more consumers to wear boat shoes. It was great trying to evolve Sperry to reflect modern sensibilities and recruit new consumers. With boots, boat shoes, and sneakers, in those three categories, we have plenty of wiggle room.

When asked if Sperry could go beyond shoes by offering sportswear, Cousins ​​replied, “We don’t have any concrete plans, but we are talking about it. There are just a lot of trails with shoes.

Evolving an 87-year-old shoe brand Associated

Sperry “WaterStrider” slip-ons.
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