Brands at FFANY Focus on the Independent Retailer

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Unique product is the lifeblood of independent footwear retailers across the U.S. New exhibitors at FFANY’s New York Shoe Expo this week shared distinct footwear designs and unique brand stories.

Relax Shoes aims to translate its long-term success in Europe to the U.S. The Italian comfort shoe company prides itself on offering casual comfort with pizazz to traditional brick-and-mortar retailers.

The collection spans wedge slip-ons and man-tailored loafers, to wedge ankle boots, Chelsea boots and double-zipper booties.

The company doesn’t sell online—a decision U.S. sales rep Stan Parkanski said supports independents. “So many brands have their own website. It’s tough for independents to compete. With Relax Shoes, we’re offering retailers a product that customers have to come into the store to get,” he said.

Retailing for $99 for shoes to $199 for tall boots, the women’s brand pays close attention to details. Lacquered leathers are flexible, no PVC or vinyl is used and you won’t find a visible spot of glue.

Voile Blanche’s fresh take on fashion sneakers adds an instant wow factor on the sales floor.

The first-time FFANY exhibitor is eager to grow its business with footwear-only retailers. The brand currently has a following with apparel boutiques who buy the collection as an add-on accessory.

Voile Blanche’s signature look—a fashion forward retro runner with micro-injected rubber heel details—makes a bold athleisure statement. Decked out in splashy Italian leathers, chunky glitter materials and wool uppers, the sneakers retail for around $300.

Red Tape, the house label of Mirza Ltd., an India-based footwear factory, has turned its expertise in creating private label collections for brands like Dune and Next into a full-fledge trend-driven collection for men and women.

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Having established a strong business in the U.S. with its men’s casual collection over the last several years, the brand was at FFANY to spread the word about its diverse offering for women.

Red Tape offers sleek and sophisticated interpretations of current trends, including low heel booties, slides, man-tailored loafers, as well as leather sneakers and boots with more aggressive block heels.

The integrated nature of its manufacturing facilities allows the company to offer a versatile assortment, according to Bertrand Guillaume, Mirza Ltd. vice president of business development in the U.S.

From lasts, outsoles and injections, to producing 4 million square feet of leather per month in its own tanning facilities, Guillaume said the company has garnered a reputation for changing preconceived ideas about India’s footwear sector.

Mirza has been one of the leading Indian suppliers of leather footwear to global brands in the last 15 years. Private label goods account for 85 percent of the company’s overseas sales—an achievement made possible by Mirza’s ability to deliver goods on time, offer quality and maintain prices.

The communication between each step of the manufacturing process has been streamlined and digitized. The company controls its timeline and offers a superior price-quality ratio, Guillaume reported. On par with Brazil or Spain, the factory can turn around a sample in three days.

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