Western & English Today

Spring 2016

W&E Today provides retailers and manufacturers with education and ideas that provoke innovation in the Western and English markets.

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20 Western & English Today SPRING 2016 package into the women's San Saba Collection. Durango, which celebrates its 50th anniversary this year, is bringing mainstream infuence to its Cabin Collec- tion of lace-up winter cozies with faux shearling linings, as well as to its Austin Collection of 3-inch boot heels that can be dressed up or down. Durango's Westpadrille Collection puts a wedge heel on a bootie, while the Crush Collection is expanding its "customizable boot bling" (removable straps, harnesses, and a bottle opener) designs for fall to include shoe boots, booties, and tall Western boots. In addition to expanding its sandal oferings, Rocky's 4EurSole (in European sizing) shoe collection will ofer a three-part system that allows women to exchange inter- locking insoles to fashion a backless slide, swivel-strap, or full-back shoe. Yet fashion isn't always the driving factor at Western- shop in Brussels, Belgium. "Young people will go more for what we call the biker style with a square toe because it's in fashion," store owner Fran├žois Chladiuk says, but "most of our good customers like the Western style and don't worry about fashion. Tey will wear boots every day. Tey have 15, 20, 30, or 40 pairs." Chladiuk's most popular brands? Old Gringo ("for qual- ity and price") and Lucchese ("for a wealthier customer"). Bling is strong at Denver-based Rock Star Boots, where owner Pamela Orth also works with Kippys. But comfort is the key ingredient. Rock Star's insole features several layers of calfskin and a layer of deerskin. "People don't want to have a break-in period," says Westerhausen, whose Stetson women's boots explore equestrian-fashion blends and Western-fashion looks with distressed leather and basket weaves. "Tey don't want any quality issues. Tey want comfort. Te fashion piece is what's going to sell it. What will keep people coming back are those other pieces." In Camarillo, California, Bed/Stu has been the fashion division of Oak Tree Farms, whose signature line is fo- cused on Victorian period boots for the Western market. But company owner Tony Sugden has introduced a boot that bridges the gap, combining Victorian-infuence with a bit of contemporary favor. Te boots, fully welted and made with beautiful leathers, had their wholesale price jump more than $40. "Nobody balked at it," Sugden says. Jason Wiese, who oversees the Bed/Stu line, jokes: "I want it for Bed/Stu, but he won't let me have it." Distressed materials, embroidery, and studs are in de- mand for women at Corral Boot Company, while Chula Vista, California-based Old Gringo Boots continues to mix vintage and contemporary design elements, including studs, fringe, Swarovski crystals, and distressed leathers. In addition to new looks with heirloom and hombre fnishes, Lucchese is having success with women's booties, says marketing director Mario Vega. Lucchese is far from alone in the short boot market. Booties are also popular at Durango, Bed/Stu, and Smoky Mountain Boots. "It seems like a lot of business has shifed to shorty boots," Bed/Stu's Wiese says. It's a trend Scott Neighbors of Van Alstyne, Texas-based Liberty Black Boots has been seeing for the past couple of years. "Te most asked question we get is, 'How are your short boots selling?'" he says. "It's almost like they want to be coached into it. It's well-accepted by our account base and isn't something we just started doing. At the end of 2014, we were doing a lot of short boots. In 2015, 50 per- cent of our line was short boots." Says Vega: "For a while now, we weren't sure if it was just a fashion trend. But I think it's going to stick around. We're selling a lot of booties. I don't think it's going to go away." Fashion products will always be in, says Dan R. Pon- der, director of product development for Dan Post Boot Company. "It changes and it changes a lot faster," he says, "so it's just trying to keep up with what's going on and keeping it fresh." So what are some other trends? "Te snip toe maybe isn't quite as strong this year," says Diane Moen, who handles the Sonora fashion label for Double-H Boots, whose Carly, Mandi, and Shelli styles of fashion-forward, Western-infuenced boots are selling to Western retailers and boutiques. "Te narrow square toe seems to be doing real well, and our accounts are saying gray is popular. We hear that over and over: gray." Because Sonora is also producing purses in the same color leathers (brown and black as well as gray), Moen rec- ommends that retailers display the merchandise together. "It makes a great display," she says. Other manufacturers are going the exotic route. Dan Post Boot Company has introduced a new line of women's exotics, while Lucchese is epanding exotic leather oferings for both men and women to include styles made with giant alligator. "Tis is a 15- to 20-foot-long American alligator," Vega says. "On the women, we use the huge tiles on the top of the boot and the arm area on the bottom. For the men, we go all out, use the big tiles all along the bottoms." Blackjack Boots is expanding its color oferings for its boots made from pirarucu, an Amazon predator fsh that produces an exotic skin that is sof and stunning. Filbert Guijarro, founder of Hondo Boots, however, is returning to a classic. "What's selling for us are cowhides," Guijarro says. "Tey're popular with everybody. Exot- ics are quite expensive, and a lot of people wearing exotic boots were working for oil companies. And now many of them are out of work." But overall, most manufacturers are optimistic about the promise 2016 holds. "Te opportunities going on right now are amazing," Dan Post's Ponder says. "It all starts with the product and salesmanship. Tat hasn't changed." (continued from page 17)

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