Footwear Insight

November / December 2018

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44 • Footwear Insight ~ November/December 2018 Striding Into the Next Century By Jennifer Ernst Beaudry I t's a select club, the brands that get to celebrate a centenary . But as far as Stride Rite is concerned, blowing out the candles on a century is just another reason to keep moving forward. The brand, founded in 1919 as Green Shoe Manufacturing Co. in Boston, MA, has seen a number of changes over the years: its name (the Stride Rite moniker was purchased, for $1000, in 1933), its headquarters, its styles and even its ownership. Bought in 2012 by Wolverine World Wide, Stride Rite entered a new phase in 2017, when the license rights were snapped up by New York-based Vida Shoes International. Under Vida, the brand has refocused, making great fit and mom-friendly style its drivers, according to Brian McManus, EVP and GM at Vida Group. "We need to make shoes that are great for kids, with exceptional fit and excep- tional quality. But it's a different mom today and the shoes have to appeal to the moms," he says. Part of that fashion-forward outreach is the Heritage Collection, which puts a modern spin on some of Stride Rite's most iconic looks. The three $50-to$55 styles – the SRT-Quinn bootie, the SRT- Charlie oxford, and the SRT-Nell T-strap – will debut for Fall '19 and will be updated seasonally with new colors and materials. Vida is also modernizing the entire fit process. This summer, the brand rolled out the first Fit Zone by Stride Rite digi- tal fit system in a Pittsburgh Stride Rite store. The centerpiece is a 3-D modeling system that measures the child's foot size, instep and arch height and makes recommendations about what Stride Rite styles best suit the child's needs. Parents can leave the fitting with a 3-D model of their child's specific anatomy and a record they can access as he or she grows. Here, McManus and Naly Lee, director of design at Vida Group, reflect on turning 100, getting inspired and what it takes to appeal to today's Millennial moms. What kind of research did you do to channel Stride Rite's history in the Heritage Collection? Naly Lee: "We have some catalogs from the early '90s, but we also were in con- tact with lots of the sales reps who used to work at Stride Rite. We got a lot of insight from them and even got to see some shoes that some of the reps had kept in their basement for years. Now they're in glass cases in our showroom." Brian McManus: "We've also been able to sit and talk with Myles Slosberg, whose grandfather started the brand. [We've been] talking to the people who worked at Stride Rite, and talking to the Stride Rite store owners to get a feel for the line — we call them our brand partners, they're the ones who are in the sit-and-fit environment. So many have been with the brand for 20-plus years. The amount of information and the wealth of knowledge they have has been amazing. They're the heart and sole of the brand. And to have Naly and her team interpret the older styles for today [in the Heritage Collection] and go back to them and show them a proof of con- cept, it's been a great process." What makes it modern? Lee: "Stride Rite has always been iconic for classic white baby booties, so for Vida Kids is looking to the future as it celebrates the 100th anniversary of Stride Rite. Q&A

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