Aldo, a Canadian brand that specializes in moderately-priced, trend-driven shoes, is a ubiquitous presence in malls around the U.S. But the company, which now operates more than 1,500 stores worldwide, wants to reach beyond a mass audience, and make a greater foray into the fashion world.
This desire came to light recently, when the shoe the chain announced that it was collaborating with six up-and-coming (but hardly well-known to the general public) designers — Frank Tell, Graeme Armour, Christian Cota, Erin Fetherston, Julian Louie, and Jonathan Simkhai — to create new styles for Aldo’s spring 2011 collection. Information about each designer, and photos of the shoes they designed with Aldo, is available on the brand’s Facebook page.
Aldo is not the first affordable shoe chain to look towards upping it’s “high fashion” street cred with consumers. Payless has had much success with guest-designed lines from Project Runway winner Christian Siriano and established designer Lela Rose. But Aldo’s project involves far more obscure designers, known to a much smaller group of people. Payless customers have likely heard of Siriano — the pull of reality TV is powerful — but we doubt that anyone aside from a very small circle of fashion insiders knows the work of Julian Louie, a protege of Calvin Klein designer Francisco Costa who had his first Fashion Week presentation in February of 2009.
Douglas Bensadoun, Aldo’s creative director, said in a statement, “While we enjoy being a brand for everyone, we also have the capabilities and desire to create premium product that many designers seek for their runway shows and collections. When ALDO was founded we knew that our mandate would always be to remain accessible while striving for the perfect spot on the axis of price meets quality…That being said, it’s always fun to flex our know-how and be bit more lavish by collaborating with emerging designers.”
Some of the collaborations, like Jonathan Simkhai’s (pictured at top), are available to purchase right now; as is Graeme Armour’s design, Gayner. The company is being vague about the distribution of the shoes they created with Fetherston, Tell, and Louie–a spokesperson told The High Low that “decisions about what will be produced haven’t been made yet.”
We don’t think that Aldo wants to stray too far afield from its current customer base — this small-scale collaboration project is a test of the high-fashion waters, a move that was mentioned in a recent Globe & Mail article (the efforts “to sharpen its fast-fashion advantage” are named, internally, “Project Sunshine”). Perhaps the brand is responding to the growing demands of consumers that the clothing and apparel they buy be “special” — the theory going that if consumers have less cash to spend, they are more likely to spend it on a more unique item of clothing or pair of shoes, as opposed to more generic staples.
If demand for Aldo’s “premium” line is high and customers respond, we expect to see more collaborations from Aldo, and most likely its competitors as well.