Last weekend, Aerosoles CEO Alison Bergen hosted an intimate lunch in East Hampton, NY, where editors and influencers dined on vintage china and perused the Cottage Shoppe pop-up. Mark. The event was a celebration of Aerosoles’ new collaboration with iconic British brand Laura Ashley, whose floral patterns and feminine aesthetics have returned to the forefront of fashion.
Since the debut of the hit Netflix series “Bridgerton” last year, styles of the Victorian and Regency era (nicknamed “cottagecore”) have exploded on TikTok and Instagram feeds and are flying off the shelves.
And Bergen, who took charge of a struggling aerosol company almost three years ago, couldn’t be happier.
“[This cottagecore trend], everyone lives there and it’s quite practical and easy and feminine and universal, ”she said. “It seems fair. So we’re incredibly excited. And I think the team did an amazing job creating a story that really made it through this extremely difficult transition period – what we called before the fall.
Together, Aerosoles and Laura Ashley have created a Generation Z-friendly footwear offering that puts delicate floral prints and embroidery on modern silhouettes, such as gladiator sandals, clogs, sneakers and lug-soled boots. The vegan collection, part of the eco-friendly Aerosoles Aware line, launched on July 13 and some styles are already selling in line.
This collaboration marks a kind of renewal for Aerosoles.
In September 2017, the former parent company Aerogroup International Inc. filed for Chapter 11 listing. As a company heavily invested in physical stores, especially shopping malls, it suffered from the drop in traffic in shopping malls, an intense promotional environment and digital changes. But the brand was saved from liquidation when New York-based hedge fund Alden Golden Capital LLC acquired its assets for $ 26.2 million in early 2018.
Later that year, Alden recruited Bergen, whose background included leadership roles at Louis Vuitton and Michael Kors.
She told FN that her task for the past two years has been to completely reshape the business. “The first thing, of course, was to give the brand a modern direction, to think creatively and from a communication point of view and to rethink this universe and the world of footwear in which they find themselves, and to build a team that could get us there. “said Bergen.
A key part of her strategy was to become fashion-led. “We make comfortable shoes. But we’re not a ‘comfort’ shoe brand, ”Bergen said. “This is one of my main goals: to change this mindset directly with consumers. “
Beth Goldstein, accessories and footwear industry analyst at The NPD Group Inc., noted that Aerosoles has successfully evolved its images and products in the fashion space, although there are still opportunities with its roots of comfort. “Comfort shouldn’t be a dirty word anymore,” she said. “It has become a high priority for the consumer, especially after last year, and as it emerges, this segment has the opportunity to be the benchmark for consumers who wish to maintain comfort at the house they are used to. in the office, at social events, etc.
Indeed, in recent months, as social calendars have filled in, Bergen said Aerosoles has seen increased demand for its party-ready wedges and stacked heels, in addition to its mainline casual styles and sandals. .
An even bigger change at Aerosoles has been the distribution model. Before the bankruptcy, Aerosoles had 88 brand name stores; now he has none. The brand currently sells on its own website and wholesalers to major accounts including Macy’s, Nordstrom.com, Nordstrom Rack, DSW.com, Saks Off Fifth, and others.
And through a new partnership, Bergen aims to further expand its retail scope.
Last month, Aerosoles entered into a distribution partnership with American Exchange Group to collaborate on the design, branding and strategy of a new collection aimed at mass and low-cost channels, the launch of which is scheduled for spring ’22.
“The deal with American Exchange is exciting because they bring a real opportunity for volume to the business,” said Bergen. “We have a strong history in these distribution channels, but we really had to take a break and restart the more premium collection first for the more advanced distribution points. Now we believe we have enough history and momentum in the main collection to bring an exciting and value driven collection to these distribution points. “
Bergen, however, is careful to protect the brand image that it has worked so hard to perfect.
“There’s this idea that, you know, the X brand has an outlet and it’s some of the same styles, but they just use cheaper materials, cheaper factories and sacrifice quality in workmanship,” he said. said the CEO. “It was not at all something that I was willing to accept as a role model.” Instead, the two design teams will collaborate closely on styles that complement the more upscale line.
For the next season
Bergen also noted that by working with American Exchange, Aerosoles can better serve retailers by offering specialty makeups – and it can leverage the company’s supply scale to explore sustainable manufacturing options.
The brand’s environmentally conscious Aware collection currently features shoes made with vegan materials, but it’s looking to dig deeper. “As we make more EVA soles and constructions, for example, there are some great materials that are so much cleaner than the ones that are primarily used in industry,” Bergen said. “American Exchange, as a far-reaching manufacturing partner, can help us bring things into our universe that the unitary economy would have required us to move out of historically. “
When it comes to next steps for Aerosoles, Bergen wants to continue working with like-minded brands, especially in the ready-to-wear and lifestyle worlds. And it doesn’t rule out the return of branded retail stores.
“We’re just starting this exploration, but it’s a really good time, in my opinion,” Bergen said. “I’m very, very pro-brick and mortar, in a good way. And I think having this partnership with American Exchange to complement our pricing and assortment puts us in a great place to pursue these opportunities.
NPD’s Goldstein pointed out that competition in the fashion footwear category is stiff, so it’s wise for executives to get creative and find areas to strengthen their business. “As the market recovers and consumer buying habits change, brands are taking steps they may not have considered in the past, such as new retail partnerships,” he said. she declared. “It makes sense that Aerosoles is focusing on this.”