Embarking on its seventh year, Fitflop continues to walk the talk, offering shoes that are en vogue, comfortable and stand the test of time.
IN the picturesque island of Mactan, in Cebu, Philippines last month, feel-good footwear label Fitflop presented its Spring/Summer 2014 collection. Very much in the vein of the brand’s own core values of being fun, fearless and fresh, the two-day celebration was packed with delicious food and drink, a sun-soaked beach, glorious blue ocean, relaxing massages, laughter and yes, most importantly, lots and lots of new shoes.
The South-East Asian regional launch has become a staple in the brand’s annual calendar and many of the marketers present from Malaysia, Singapore, Thailand, Indonesia and the Philippines have grown accustomed to one another, making it a jolly “camp” of sorts, with everyone comparing sales notes, updating one another on the latest campaigns and strategies or just catching up on the latest developments. Everyone present, including the media, was encouraged to wear Fitflops throughout the entire event so we would enjoy the Fitflop experience firsthand ... or foot, in this case.
The recent launch featured a special tie-up with Anthill (a local charity based in Cebu) showing how the brand actively gives back to the local community, and an Instax Challenge for the media – we had to take instant snapshots of ourselves in our new shoes, think of funky captions to go with them, and guess what? Team Malaysia won! TV personality and blogger, Kim Jones (some of you may know her as the future Mrs Jericho Rosales) was also enlisted to host the dinners and emcee the presentation, bringing a touch of glam to the event.
The brand with humble beginnings – Fitflop was founded by Canadian former spa owner Marcia Kilgore – is marketed in over 50 countries. In most of South-East Asia, it is exclusively distributed by the Primer Group of Companies. According to Mark Chim, managing director for Primer International Management Ltd, the number of people using the footwear has grown rapidly. To give some numerical perspective, over 22 million pairs of shoes, sandals and boots have been sold worldwide. There’s a veritable “who’s who” clientele to boot – from the likes of Michelle Obama and Chelsea Clinton to Julianne Moore and Sam Mendes.
In his welcome note to the event, Chim shared that the inspiration for the Spring/Summer 2014 collection was drawn from the idea of carnivals and festivals. And, indeed, a first look at the collection – which boasts lots of beads, jewels and colours that jump out at you – brings fun and festivity straight to mind.
With over 30 fresh styles to choose from, Fitflop’s SS14 launch also revealed new ergonomic designs for underfoot pressure diffusion and comfort, the brand’s unique selling points.
The new designs include the leather Banda and De Loop sandals; the canvas Sunny, and two-tone, sneaker-chic Due Pop loafers; as well as the carnival-inspired beaded Cha Cha, festive Flora and (my favourite!) micro-studded Aztek Chada sandals. Fitflop didn’t forget about the guys either. There’s the new retro-cool Ffbuzz sneakers, Landsurfer walking sandals, classic Shuv clogs, and adjustable Sling flip flops for all the men out there who want to put their best foot forward.
Emma Saunter, International Marketing Manager who’d flown all the way from London for the event, was on hand to share a few trade insights. And as she showed off the latest from the range, she enthused that “what’s fantastic about this range is that it has a variety of styles and designs, so there is something for everybody!
“We have a design team back in Britain, with some very talented designers who look at trends. Our inspiration stems from the upcoming fashion shows and what’s on the catwalks, and then we take those trends and apply them to our footwear,” Saunter said, adding that there are six people in the design team based in Britain, but about 20 if you take into account the workers in China and Vietnam who are also responsible for all the quality checks in production.
The brand launches four major themes and seasons each year – Spring/Summer, High Summer, Autumn/Winter and a Cruise Collection. Saunter highlighted that each market takes different aspects of the range. “For example, in Autumn/Winter, the team out here in Asia would focus on the Cruise Collection which is predominantly a sandal range whereas our European markets invest heavily in the boots and the closed-toe products. So ultimately there is some localisation but we have got a complete range which is offered out to all the markets.”
Saunter also shared that the men’s market is steadily growing around the world. “We’ve seen a really strong opportunity. We already have a really strong female base and we’ve seen that the ladies are recommending the footwear to their partners and husbands,” she said, revealing that in Malaysia the breakdown ratio of women’s to men’s markets is 85:15.
The brand also magically seems to appeal to both the young and old.
Saunter said: “Take me, for instance, my mother introduced me to Fitflop. Word of mouth publicity is incredibly strong and we have sort of seen that cascade through the generations. We’re even featured in younger magazines so I think our style of fashion has really opened new doors to us.”
And perhaps that has something to do with Fitflop’s brand values.
“We’re all about being fun,” Saunter shared. “You can see that through our designs – we’re fearless, very tongue in cheek and really fluid in terms of design. There are a number of different things that are important to us. But I think that if you look at the brand, and look at the designs and read our product copy, even our tagline – ‘Sandals for superwomen’ – which is sort of fun and comedic, you’ll find that we’re quite an engaging brand.”
Saunter explained that Fitflop tries to keep its campaigns as consistent as possible worldwide. “We have a very identifiable brand handwriting. And you see that through our photography and copy. We are very strict in keeping that consistent across all our markets,” she shared, but admitted that they have to localise some things. “In some markets we have to be more sensitive to cultural needs in terms of photography.”
Because comfort is at the core of what Fitflop does, technology is a fundamental part of the business. So it’s no surprise that on top of the research already done by Suffolk and the South London universities thus far, more have been commissioned at the Calgary University in Canada.
The marketing people will bombard you with terms such as pressure diffusion, microwobbleboards and biomimetix. If you don’t quite understand how these shoes are biomechanically engineered for your feet, Saunter is certain that the proof of the pudding is the eating, as she queries every journalist in the room to see if his or her feet are hurting after wearing Fitflops for two whole days.
“This is the only shoe that I wear when I do trade shows because I am on my feet 24/7, and this is probably the only brand you can wear without wanting to chew your feet off.”
It’s no wonder then that they call it caffeine for your feet.
Fitflops are available at selected BratPack and Res|Toe|Run stores and leading department stores. For complete list of authorised dealers, go to facebook.com/FitFlopMalaysia