From Kmart to L.L. Bean, retailers of all ilks are trying to up their trendiness quotient (Teva stilettos , anyone?). Yesterday, the New York Times reported that Naturalizer, Aerosoles, Easy Spirit and Rockport– three footwear brands known for their extremely comfortable (and extremely uncool looking) offerings — have “have upped their style ante by interpreting current trends.”
Representatives from each brand have been careful to distinguish the difference between “stylish” and “trendy.” Said a chief executive at Aerosoles, “Are we a high-fashion brand? No. Are we fashionable? Every day of the week.”
Echoed the company president of Easy Spirit, “We are trend-right, not trendy.” It’s a tough balance to get right. While these brands should and do need to appeal to a younger audience, they cannot risk losing their core clientele–customers that are more concerned with keeping their feet pain-free than looking hip.
Companies like Talbots are struggling to get their new look right–chief executive Trudy F. Sullivan told the Wall Street Journal that while Talbots’ new fashion items sold well, the brand’s basics “weren’t innovative enough.” Their difficulties may also be due to the fact that it does takes time to attract a new customer base, and to change consumers’ opinions about a brand. As Simone Oliver wrote in the Times’ piece, “if you ask a younger woman wearing comfort shoes who makes her shoes, she will often respond sheepishly.”