Q: Jillian and Danni, great to connect with you again about some of our new styles.  Noel, welcome back. What excites you the most for this coming season (Spring 2016)? 

Jillian: Spring is kind of a jazzy season.  If you take a look at the boat shoes and the suedes, there’s a softer, dustier, kind of sun bleached pallet.  And the pallet is not just shoes, Ready-to-wear apparel in the fashion world will be a softer with worn-in looks this season.  To this point, Allen Edmonds is offering sun-bleached 34 heritage jeans  and sun-washed polos to complement our footwear.

Our new woven package–the Lake Bluff slip-on and Leiden Weave

I am also excited about our woven package. We have a very specific customer who loves our woven shoes.  This year I think we did a really good job updating the patterns so that they look sharp and will satisfy our traditional customer but also will draw in a new guy too; somebody who might be a little younger and will play around with wearing wovens sockless.

Finally, I also really like the Acheson slip-on.  We see a lot of guys out in the cities wearing these with shorter pants and without socks. It’s a really traditional pattern so more conservative men will still wear these with a dress sock and traditional pants, but I think a younger guy is starting to notice this pattern too.

Danni: I like the lasts we’re using on the Boone (buck shoe) because it’s wider, simple, versatile and ready for a young guy’s lifestyle. These shoes look more youthful, it’s a great opportunity for spring because of the muted colors combined with the buck sole.

Holding the Brisbane dress sneaker

Noel: I’m pretty excited about our new sneakers.  We have taken our time on these and they are ready for prime time.  We have various textures such as suede or leather combined with our sneaker sole. I can see guys wearing them with jeans.  For those who like more of a sneaker look, these patterns are a classy way to dress up jeans vs wearing purely athletic running shoes for example.

 Q:  “Barefoot and sockless”– it seems to be the talk around here and in the fashion world.  Which shoes should a guy wear barefoot this spring/summer?  

Jillian: I think if you look in a fashion publication you’d see men wearing all of these shoes without socks.

Sea Island

The Sea Island

Q: What about a guy who hasn’t maybe tried the sockless look before and might be wary giving it a shot? What shoes would you recommend for him to try wearing sockless?

Jillian: A boat shoe would be a great entry to the sockless look because it’s easy, comfortable and less risky from a fashion standpoint. If you’re a little more experienced in the sockless arena, then the Sea Island suede slip-on would be a great step up.  The CF Stead suede on this pattern is arguably the finest suede in the world.  It’s incredibly soft and pliable making these shoes feel like slippers on your feet. If you’re a little edgier, try some of the lace ups like the suede Strandmok 2.0 or the Acheson.  Either style worn sockless would put you on trend.

The Maritime boat shoe and suede Sea Island slip-on

Q: Take me into your design process for a second.  When you were in the early stages of developing some of these styles, what trends were you looking at?

Noel: Dress sneakers.  Dress sneakers were everywhere.  You’re seeing them everywhere at retail.  Fashion forward consumers are in love with these right now.

Jillian: I think it’s becoming more acceptable to dress casually to work.  If you look at mainstream fashion websites or publications, you’re seeing guys in really sharp suits wearing dressy sneakers. I know it’s not a look for everyone or certain industries but it’s on trend for more fashion forward men.  We’re all becoming more active, more pedestrian, more relaxed at work.  Casual Fridays and beyond.  I think that people are ready for it. I think the formality of what you wear on top (shirt, jacket) can offset the more casual, comfortable look on the bottom and pull it together into a sharp look.

The Cheetah and Brisbane dress sneakers

Noel: The Brisbane and Cheetah sneakers are all pretty minimal looks; there’s nothing complicated, but they’re interesting… Less is more.

Q: What are two of your personal favorite shoes from the new styles this season and why?

Danni: I love like the Leiden weave.  I like that mixed texture of the weave and calf leather. It’s just a super looking, classy pattern.

Noel: Without a doubt, the Brisbane dress sneaker.  I am a bit biased as it was a personal project and pattern I worked on.  Sometimes it takes time for an idea to grow on us.  This was an example of that. And, it took more than a few tries to get it right. I like the fact that we used the same sock liner as the Road Warrior collection thus providing comfort and a lot of cushioning. I also have to mention the Boone (buck style). It’s a classic look and  we excel at classic looks.. The buck could be his “workhorse” this season.

Holding the Boone (buck shoe)

Q: What was the most challenging product to design this season and why?

Jillian: I think the Lake Bluff woven slip-on.  We worked on this shoe for a long time. It took long to even to convince the team that we could get the weave underneath the penny keeper. That’s the stuff that’s really cool about working on the line, it’s the problem solving, the little issues. We knew exactly how we wanted this shoe to look with that weave going all the way from the top of the toe to the top of the vamp and at one point we were sitting around thinking this isn’t going to happen, we’re going to have to put plain leather under the penny keeper but we decided that it’s not acceptable and so Danni made it happen. 

Danni: Thanks Jillian.  As you know, it was a lot of trial and error.  A lot of “oh you can’t do that”.  Well, I said let’s just try it and see if it works.  

Jillian: And that’s the fun part, figuring out how to be different and to get it just right. The Sea Island slip-on was also a challenge.  As far as an involved project goes, we built it a bit differently. We actually cut a piece of additional leather and put it in the toe of the shoe to prevent the wearer’s foot from rolling side to side within the shoe because the suede is so soft and luxurious. So we engineered it differently and it was a lengthy process, but a cool one, and it paid off because everyone in the office wore these all summer long.

The Sea Island

Q: Product development is continuing to push us and stretch our ability to reach more guys with different lifestyles.  Talk to me about that in the context of Spring 16.

Noel: Price points is one of them.  We have a number of shoes here with lower price points, making them more accessible to younger guys or guys who haven’t tried us before.

Danni: Last shape too. Younger, wider. It’s relaxed. It can accommodate more foot shapes. It’s casual and versatile. It’s a look we didn’t have represented and it comes across really well.

Q: I’m noticing more causal styles with rubber bottoms, lighter weight shoes in the line.  Sort of a casualization…what’s that about?

Jillian: Lightweight is a movement. Millennials are graduating from sneakers to dress shoes and prefer a lightweight shoe. So, the question is how you to design and build lightweight shoes while still keeping style relevant.  We spent a lot of time developing unlined shoes such as the Sea Island or rubber soles on patterns like the Strandmok 2.0 or the Boone .  These kind of efforts can really reduce the weight of a shoe. 

Danni: I like the rubber bottoms we’re using because, functionally, they give me more traction. So I like that when it’s wet outside in spring, I can count on them.

 Q: What was your favorite leather or suede to work with this season and why?

Danni: Personally the grey suede on the Strandmok 2.0.  I love the color and I think it goes well with a lot of looks.. 

The Strandmok 2.0 in grey

A: Jillian– I like the leather in the boat shoes.  It’s newer for us.  It’s called Outrigger from Horween in Chicago and it’s a suedey, soft nubuck-like leather. Really soft, it feels silky when you rub your hand across it. It’s self-lined and will have drying properties when it gets a little wet. It’s the great sun washed worn-in look.  It’s going to wear really well and collect character with age—which is one of our favorite properties of a good leather.

Q: What do you look forward to personally wearing from the spring collection this coming season and why?

Noel: the Brisbane sneaker because of all the work we put into it. I’d wear it with anything and everything.  Whatever you’ve got in the closet.  It shines up well and is an easy look.

Danni: I would say the Boone. I like it’s because it’s simple and classic.  

Q: From your perspective what do you think the Allen Edmonds man should start wearing, or wear more of this season?

Jillian: We’ve been talking a lot about our colorful suede shoes but I want to talk about the Schreier.  I think that our handsewns are all classics and we worked really hard to perfect the Schreier and Cavanaugh this season to make sure they’re the best fit and quality possible for our customer. And I think that the style is really relevant. You and I were talking earlier about how you know people on the East Coast who would wear these to work but also sockless with jeans on the weekends. I think for spring, these dress handsewns can really dress up an outfit or ensemble and there’s still a really high necessity in a man’s wardrobe for a dress welt, or a dress handsewn but these can also be worn more casually.  I love the look, I love that it’s a classic for Allen Edmonds.

The Schreier

Q:  What are some style tips you can give guys when they try to pull off the barefoot or sockless look this spring?

Jillian: The first tip is that you want a more slim-cut or straight-leg pant.  Nothing baggy!  We want to see a smidge of ankle. If you’re brave enough, roll your pants up a bit.  Cuffs are “in”.  If you’re not a guy who is comfortable rolling his pants though, just make sure your pant hits or breaks high enough so we see the most of the shoe. It shouldn’t be touching the ground, it should be a little higher. Don’t wear baggy pants and try to cuff those however—that will not execute properly. As far as what you’re wearing on top, business as normal, whatever you’re comfortable wearing.

The Acheson

As always, thanks to our awesome design team with a special thanks to Danni, Noel and Jillian for taking me into their world about these new spring styles.  Here’s to a successful launch of this collection in spring!