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1 Sep

Luxury Footwear Is Standing Tall

Robust sales, sped by the comeback of dressier leather styles, promise to make the category a “third pillar” for more of Europe’s big luxury labels, and a boon for savvy high-heel specialists and fashion retailers, observers said.

Based on Bain & Company’s Luxury Goods Worldwide Market Study 2022, compiled in collaboration with Fondazione Altagamma, sales of high-end shoes are forecast to grow 7.5 percent this 12 months, mainly as a consequence of stores reopening and the resumption of international travel.

Shoes and leather goods were the fastest-growing luxury categories last 12 months, with the Altagamma-Bain Monitor valuing the footwear market at 23 billion euros, up 11 percent in comparison with 2019, based on Stefania Lazzaroni, general manager of Italian luxury goods association Altagamma.

“The ‘comfortable shoe’ trend — with designer collabs on sneakers, loafers, boots and ballet flats — continues to dominate the high-end segment, but there may be also recent interest in additional elegant styles, heels and special-occasion shoes, including embellished high heels,” she said in an interview.

In Italy, a key center for luxury footwear production, industrial production and exports registered double-digit growth in the primary quarter of 2022, based on Confindustria Moda Research Centre for the Italian footwear association Assocalzaturifici.

Exports grew 21.4 percent in value in the primary three months of the 12 months, when 58.7 million pairs were shipped with a price of three billion euros.

Confindustria Moda’s numbers show that the strongest recovery was registered in categories that suffered essentially the most from the consequences of lockdowns and restrictions in 2020, including classic men’s and girls’s shoes, which saw sales increase around 30 percent when it comes to each variety of pairs and value in comparison with the primary quarter of 2021.

Speciality retailers confirmed the buoyancy of the general category, and predicted more shiny times ahead.

“We’ve increased our investment in shoes as a segment and we’ve seen very strong growth, particularly driven by parties and occasions,” said Richard Johnson, chief industrial officer at Mytheresa, citing strength amongst designer brands like Valentino and Prada along with shoe specialists including Christian Louboutin, Amina Muaddi, Roger Vivier and Gianvito Rossi. “Shoes in lots of respects have the ability to redefine an outfit and lots of consumers find them particularly exciting.”

Amina Muaddi heels.

Courtesy of Mytheresa.com

Johnson described a “more balanced picture” across women’s footwear today, driven by leather styles, whether heels, sandals or flats, because the sneaker juggernaut ebbs.

He noted that some designer brands pivoted strongly towards sneakers amid the streetwear craze and the pandemic, seeing them as a “golden bullet,” and at the moment are playing catchup to supply a spread of other footwear options. “They forgot that buyers have a life-style.”

In contrast, Mytheresa took a more prudent approach, and never abandoned dressier footwear.

“We were all the time pretty careful with the sneaker trend. We saw a whole lot of competitors chasing it so hard,” he explained in an interview. “We actually focused on designers that had some cultural integrity within the space, redefining what sneakers are….We kept it narrow and deep.”

Now that sneaker sales are softening, Mytheresa finds itself in a great place.

“Our leather shoe business is larger than our sneaker business,” Johnson said, singling out Amina Muaddi heels amongst the most popular items on its site. “Our business with shoes is comparable to our business with bags.”

Ryan Kleman, divisional merchandise manager, accessories at Moda Operandi, noted that ladies’s footwear has historically proven “exceptionally resilient” in times of uncertainty. “A shoe quite literally changes the client stance and sometimes, her attitude. Footwear also parallels the wonder space, in that the product is feel-good in nature, and customers will checkout for a little bit of joy,” he said.

Based on Kleman, customers maintained their appetite for prime heels even throughout the pandemic, which kept the category on the core of Moda Operandi’s offering because it represents greater than half of its women’s footwear business. The demand continues to construct as shoppers have increasingly more reasons to wear them, with Kleman underscoring that “in some ways, we’re seeing the client ‘dressing from the feet up.’”

Styles from the Roger Vivier fall 2022 collection.

Kevin Tachman/Courtesy of Roger Vivier

“We’re seeing the pre-pandemic appetite for ‘more is more’ inside our footwear category [with] our shoppers in search of out shiny colours, satins, embellishments and an overall high-octane aesthetic,” echoed Hollie Harding, buying manager for non-apparel at Browns. “The appetite for party shoes is at an all-time high, with towering heels and chunky platforms performing incredibly well.”

“The shopper is embracing color, texture and print in ways she never has before,” agreed Jennifer Jones, Bloomingdale’s senior vp of center core, a cluster of categories encompassing fashion accessories, shoes and superb jewelry.

Jones said heeled sandals and evening shoes have been the fastest-growing classifications this season, which led the retailer to spice up inventory to support the demand. “Across the board, from contemporary to luxury, our customers are reacting to accessories which can be emotional and exciting. Embellishment with rhinestones, pearls, crystals and metallics have been a few of our strongest styles this season,” Jones continued.

“What we wear affects our mood and novelty in fashion can enhance how we feel. In footwear, we’re leaning into this idea of pleasure and balancing it with wardrobe essentials reminiscent of a classy loafer and a tall shaft boot,” she added.

As the need to decorate up again made a comeback, established names of the industry reminiscent of Manolo Blahnik, Aquazzura, Jimmy Choo and Gianvito Rossi experienced a resurgence, while top fashion brands also seized the moment to further beef up their footwear offering.

A Tequila sandal from Aquazzura

Marco Lambri courtesy of Aquazzura

“Brands are definitely strengthening their ‘high heels’ segment and constructing out this portion of their collection. Moreover, we’re seeing a sharpened deal with every [stock keeping unit] within the offering having a really clear client and end use. Every thing feels more intentional, but with a deal with shoes you could’t live without,” Kleman noted.

The spike in interest for occasion footwear also created space for newer brands to further speed up and compete within the shoe arena.

“We struggle to maintain newer cult labels Amina Muaddi, Mach & Mach and Haus of Honey in stock, with platforms and crystal details especially being successful with our shoppers,” Harding said at Browns.

Jones pointed to Chelsea Paris and Nalebe as recent brands launched at Bloomingdale’s, also describing Aqua as “an important resource for fun color, platforms and embellishment.”

“Iindaco is one to observe for his or her progressive designs, and we are able to’t wait to launch the brand this season,” Harding said concerning the Italian brand headed to Browns. She also mentioned Paris Texas as a brand in expansion, with the offering extending beyond the signature boots to incorporate platforms and heels, too.

Meanwhile, Arielle Baron is Moda Operandi’s one to observe, offered Kleman, who also highlighted that “from a trend perspective, ‘Cinderella slippers’ and heavily embellished/crystalized shoes proceed to dominate the selling reports. Platforms, flat mules (think: clogs and loafers) and thigh-high stiletto boots are ‘what’s next.’”

So what happened to sneakers, which had brought a lot heat to the designer footwear category?

Alexis Mourot, chief executive officer at Christian Louboutin, allowed that sneakers took market share from heels just before and in the course of the pandemic, though the Paris-based brand held its own as a consequence of its credibility within the category, and as a consequence of the recognition of its sneaker iterations just like the Loubishark.

“We were expecting a bounce back after COVID-19, but not the extent we saw,” he said, describing robust demand for mid-heel styles prefer it 85-mm Just Nothing style. “It’s doing extremely well, especially in the US.”

Christian Louboutin’s Just Nothing style has been a robust seller.

Courtesy of Christian Louboutin

Louboutin now sells a spread of lower heel heights, from 45- to 85-mm, that are proving popular and simple to wear.

Mourot declined to supply specific figures for the privately held firm, but cited double-digit increases for ladies’s shoes, which account for half of its business.

He credited the founder’s creativity, and modest price increases based on rising material costs only, for the corporate’s vitality.

Bullish about its prospects in luxury footwear, and limited by its production capability, Christian Louboutin plans to take a position in 15 recent factories, nine of them for ladies’s shoes, to its current complement of 32 sites.

“The category is getting more market share, so we’re in a great place to take some market share on high heels,” Mourot said.

In the course of the pandemic, many pundits declared the tip was nigh for prime heels, which Mourot took with a grain of salt, mentioning how the appearance of the Apple Watch didn’t supplant mechanical watches as so many had predicted.

“After the pandemic, people still want to decorate up, and it’s not going to stop,” Mourot said. “The pump has a very strong potential.”

To wit: At Net-a-porter, pump sales have doubled since last 12 months, based on Libby Page, market director.

“We’re seeing an ongoing appetite for dressier styles, particularly heeled pumps and sandals, which have been a few of our star categories,” she said, noting that “sneakers are also reigning supreme as a consequence of our varied assortment of cult, practical and on a regular basis styles.

“There’s been a bigger appetite for shoes and accessories overall, and for fall ’22, we’ve amplified our offering across bags, shoes and accessories by 65 percent,” she added. “We’re seeing a surge in customers choosing a heel height of 105-mm, a shift away from the flats that were trending last 12 months.”

Nevertheless, Net-a-porter expects a “normalization” in demand for dressy heels and a “return to the pre-pandemic balance between different subcategories,” Page added.

Not surprisingly, it’s a sweet time to be a shoe designer or industry specialist.

In the course of the pandemic, most European luxury players put recruitments “on the back burner,” but not for footwear, said Mary Gallagher, Paris-based associate of boutique recruitment firm FIND Consulting. “Shoe roles picked up — not only designers but in addition merchandisers and developers.”

She noted that salaries for top footwear designers are on the rise, and starting to rival the eye-watering compensation for top handbag creators.

“Shoe designers are very sought-after because there are fewer fashion schools churning them out than for ready-to-wear,” she said.

Backstage at Loewe RTW Fall 2022

Vanni Bassetti/WWD

Gallagher noted that some luxury brands that glommed onto the sneaker trend began poaching from activewear brands. And savvy ones are turning the category into a life-style business, offering every little thing from pool slides as much as glamorous evening shoes.

“For fashion brands, where once the shoe offering was a picture collection matching the catwalk’s trends and a larger one for industrial adaptations and carryovers, now they’re creating shoes for every activity and occasion,” she said.

“Many fashion brands see shoes as their ‘third pillar’ after ready-to-wear and leather goods,” she said. “If it was previously licensed out, they’ve brought it in-house as a business unit. Shoes are key because they could be an entry right into a brand, they complete a silhouette, a glance or an attitude, they usually’re technical: Should you achieve shoes, you possibly can produce anything.”

Based on the Altagamma Consensus Update report, sales of leather goods are expected to extend 9.5 percent this 12 months.

Data from Launchmetrics suggests the U.S. is the most well-liked marketplace for luxury footwear.

Yet appetite from other regions is growing, based on an evaluation by the info and insights firm, whose Media Impact Value (or MIV) scoring system assigns a monetary value to each post, interaction or article a couple of brand to measure its performance and impact, in addition to what aspects are driving them essentially the most.

“Interestingly, Christian Louboutin has generated significant buzz in India in the course of the first half of 2022 due to the designer’s inspiration from Bollywood and the country’s wealthy culture, with India rating because the second top region with $29 million in MIV, overtaking France, which ranked third with $16.3 million MIV,” said Alison Bringé, chief marketing officer of Launchmetrics. Incidentally, the entire MIV for Louboutin in the primary half of the 12 months was $122 million across 22,200 placements, and the U.S. was the primary market, accounting for $31.3 million in MIV.

Particularly, 80 percent of top 10 placements for the brand originated from Indian influencers and celebrities. Nora Fatehi, the Canadian actress and producer best known for her work within the Indian film industry, generated $1.45 million in MIV through two placements, similarly to Indian actor Shahid Kapoor. Shehnaaz Gill generated $965,000 in MIV through one placement, scoring the same impact Indian model and actor Sidharth Malhotra had for a Jimmy Choo placement, as an alternative.

“India doesn’t fall under the highest three regions for any of the luxurious brands,” noted Bringé about Christian Louboutin.

One in every of the important thing regions for luxury brands on the whole, China has a penchant for shoes, too. Based on Launchmetrics data, the country ranks third for Salvatore Ferragamo and Stuart Weitzman, having earned the brands $5.84 million and $1.37 million in MIV in the primary half of the 12 months, respectively.

Yet, “ a few of the hottest shoe brands, it’s interesting to notice the quantity of Media Impact Value these firms generate is just 10 to 50 percent of what a fashion luxury brands like Chanel, Versace and even Alexander McQueen generates inside the same period,” Bringé said.

Collaborations can come in useful to generate further buzz, grab attention drive sales in footwear.

Image from the Jimmy Choo Mugler campaign.

For one, the Jimmy Choo x Mugler tie-up generated $10 million in MIV across 1,700 placements in the course of the first half of 2022. The project gained significant attention on social media, with almost 80 percent of the entire MIV originating from different social platforms helmed by Instagram, where talents reminiscent of Dixie D’Amelio, Anitta and Italian singer Elodie spotlighted the product on their accounts.

“Interestingly, the collaboration received significant attention from online media as a consequence of Megan Fox’s attendance of the cohosted VIP launch party, which generated an extra $679,000 in MIV. Finally, the brands leveraged their owned media successfully, generating an extra $909,300 in MIV across Jimmy Choo’s and Mugler’s social media accounts, including RED for Jimmy Choo,” Bringé said.

This formula doesn’t apply to the high-heeled business only. Even when remaining in a comfier zone, the luxe Manolo Blahnik x Birkenstock collaboration was one other hit, generating an overall of $4.7 million in MIV across 2,100 placements in the course of the first half of 2022. “The collaboration accounted for 11 percent of the brand’s total MIV made in the primary half, with 61 percent of the entire MIV originated from online media sources,” Bringé said about Manolo Blahnik. Again, Instagram was the top-performing channel however the collaboration drew attention also on Chinese platforms, being mentioned across Weibo, WeChat and RED and earning the brands a complete of $240,000 in MIV.

High heels could also be back to their pre-pandemic level, but other categories still proceed to thrive. Based on Harding, one other wave of sneaker craze could be just across the corner. “As most trends go in cycles, looking ahead, I do think we’ll see a resurgence of the style sneaker. Currently we’re seeing iconic styles perform well on this category, but we’re missing innovation and hype newness from the designer brands,” Harding said.

Looking further ahead, observers see additional opportunities for footwear sales — and hype — via the metaverse and Web3.

“A recent trend we’re analyzing is the creation of NFT sneakers and footwear for the avatars that populate the metaverse and gaming,” said Altagamma’s Lazzaroni, forecasting that by the tip of 2030, the burden of digital assets and the metaverse will account for between 5 and 10 percent of the luxurious market, with an estimated value of 25 billion to 50 billion euros.

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