After selling its 18 millionth pair in a span of six years, one footwear brand has no intention of coasting along. It recently launched a patent-pending technological breakthrough that creates soles that are relatively thinner and slimmer than earlier iterations.
Styles featuring the Biomimetix midsoles from Fitflop should be a hit in the Philippines; the country is still the biggest market of the brand in Asia. If volume sales are combined with those of other countries in the region, Asia is an even bigger market than the US, said Katie Neiman, the brand’s International PR manager.
“The Fitflop brand is very popular among women in Southeast Asia because we are blessed with tropical weather the whole year round,” said Jimmy Thai, chief executive officer of the Primer Group, which distributes Fitflop and other brands.
“We tend to dress down—hence the continued popularity of the brand’s open-toe styles—but we still want to look put together.”
With the new technology available in some of the styles this season, customers now have more options. The science behind the Biomimetix midsoles is different from the original Microwobbleboard technology, because the former can be made into narrower shoes like the ballerina-inspired flats that were part of the Spring-Summer 2013 collection launched in Malaysia last week.
Lifestyle writers and editors from Thailand, Indonesia and the Philippines were flown in for the press presentation and launch party at Publika, a new mall near the tony residential district of Mont Kiara in Kuala Lumpur.
So much has changed, design-wise, with the UK-based brand since its founder Marcia Kilgore worked with biomechanists Dr. David Cook and Darren James. In 2007, the first Fitflop style for women, the Walkstar, was introduced to the market.
The response was immediate and positive. Women gushed about how comfortable the sandals were, how much they could accomplish in a day, and how it seemed they could walk for miles in their Fitflops.
This was exactly what Kilgore wanted to achieve when she began imagining that first pair. As a young mom and entrepreneur, she wanted to include exercise in her daily lifestyle but found herself, like many women, time-poor. The result of her collaboration with the two biomechanists was the world’s first muscle-activating flip-flop.
Neiman recounted how Kilgore would tell them: There are millions of shoes out there. Why do we need another?
“The answer is because so many of us, men and women, are professional jugglers trying to make the most of our lives. When we wear shoes that fit comfortably, we feel like we can do so much more,” Neiman said.
This way of thinking is now the brand’s current slogan: Wear the shoes. Rule the world.
From originally coming up with flip-flops for women strapped for time, the people behind Fitflop are now intent on creating designs that will appeal to the fashionable crowd as well.
“Let’s face it. Every time someone mentions ‘functional footwear,’ the first thing that comes to mind are ugly, clunky shoes,” Neiman said.
While many women are fierce supporters of the brand—labeling themselves “Fitfloppers”—there are still some who wouldn’t be caught dead wearing a pair.
“That’s why we’re continually looking at ways to improve our product,” Neiman said. “After all, fashionistas want to feel good, too.”
Credit for any inroads made with the fashion flock goes to the makeup artists and stylists who are always on their feet.
“A lot of the models who saw makeup artists and stylists sporting Fitflops during Fashion Week asked what they were wearing and whether they were comfortable wearing them. When they found out how comfortable they are, some of the models went out and bought their own pairs,” she added.
Neiman hopes that the fashion flock will like the selection in stores.
To further build the brand, Fitflop has been collaborating with designers, fashion schools and boutiques to come up with limited editions.
Neiman, who has been with Fitflop from the start, listed successful collaborations with Anna Sui, Kirna Zabete, Net-a-Porter, the Wola Nani Cooperative in Cape Town and the London School of Fashion.
For Spring-Summer 2013, quite a number of floral and jewel-like details adorn the women’s range, but one will also notice an expanded men’s line that now includes boat shoes, brogues, sneakers and slides.
Canvas and patent ballerinas for women are also available, while men’s sneakers in yellow, navy and royal blue add a punch of color to any outfit.
Neiman said that they want to grow the men’s market since it makes up only 10 to 20 percent of volume sales.
“Six years ago, we offered one sandal for women. A lot has changed since then. We’re now a footwear brand delivering the epitome in biomechanical engineering and ergonomics that look great for men and women the whole year round,” she said.
PHOTOS BY RAOUL J. CHEE KEE