Hush Puppies Retailer Pivots as Consumers Embrace Fashionable Sports Footwear

The convergence of casualization, comfort, and personalization has become a potent force, reshaping the way people perceive and interact with brands. 

The modern consumer is seeking more than just clothing and accessories — they seek a reflection of their values, needs and identity. The intersection of casualization, comfort and personalization has given rise to a new paradigm in the fashion industry. Brands that understand and embrace these values are not only gaining customer loyalty but also paving the way for a more customer-centric future. 

In an interview with PYMNTS, Mike Maloney, VP/GM – Lucky Brand, Hush Puppies, Crown Vintage, Le Tigre at Designer Brands discusses the company’s latest acquisition of Le Tigre, Keds and Topo Athletic, leaning into the trend of casualization but also leaning into insights, heritage and storytelling to gain consumer loyalty. 

“Part of the brand journey for us is anticipating where we need to be able to take our brands to solve those needs for customers,” Maloney said. 

Maloney said Designer Brands has identified that its optimal positioning lies in the realm of sportswear. “No spoiler alert, no secret. One of the big things is athletics and athleisure. It’s one of the largest opportunities in the marketplace,” Maloney said.  

“When you look at that market, athletic and athleisure is the lion’s share of the addressable market. And when you looked at our portfolio, that was an area of opportunity to grow,” he said. 

Athleisure Gains Traction 

Since the pandemic, comfort has become more than just a preference; it has become a necessity. Prolonged periods of remote work and limited social interactions underscored the need for clothing that was not only stylish but also conducive to the new realities of life. Restrictive clothing was no longer just an inconvenience — it was an unnecessary burden. 

Footwear, an integral part of personal style and comfort, naturally underwent a transformation. Brands that recognized this shift and adapted their offerings accordingly experienced a surge in demand. The market saw an influx of sneakers, slip-on shoes, and hybrid designs that merged the best of both worlds: style and comfort. 

These footwear options incorporated ergonomic features, cushioning technologies, and breathable materials to ensure a pleasant walking experience. From casual outings to working from home, these shoes became versatile companions. 

Evolution of Sportswear and Athleisure 

A related trend to sportswear and athleisure is casualization, a space in which casual footwear company Crocs has successfully captured a larger market presence. 

Maloney pointed out, “If you went to a wedding five years ago and you went to a wedding now probably half of the people that are attending are wearing sneakers.” 

Solidifying this notion of casualization is Crocs. In the early months of the year, PYMNTS reported that Crocs grew 53%.  

Read more: Crocs Sees 53% Growth by Meeting Consumer Demand for Casualization 

As consumers have sought out casual clothing, Crocs has responded by enhancing its visibility through collaborations. This strategy has played a pivotal role in the company’s journey to their latest earnings report. In July, PYMNTS wrote the company’s revenue surged to $1.07 billion. 

Read more: Post-Barbie Collab, Crocs Reports $1.07 Billion in Revenue 

Another footwear brand to benefit from casualization is Birkenstock. Last year, Birkenstock revenue surged 29%, to €1.2 billion, with its earnings reaching €394 million. 

The success of Birkenstock’s sales has also been propelled by the “Barbie” movie, where Barbie faces a choice symbolized by two shoes: the stiletto heel of Barbieland and the Birkenstock of the real world.   

Read more: Barbie Mention Bumps Birkenstock Ahead of Anticipated IPO 

Additionally, the sandal manufacturer has embarked on collaborative projects with luxury brands such as Dior, Manolo Blahnik, and Valentino. These endeavors have reportedly positioned the company for a potential listing in the U.S. as early as September. 

Where Le Tigre Fits In 

Maloney said Le Tigre’s expansion into footwear encompasses not only affordably priced options ranging from court shoes to running shoes to platforms, but also a narrative that resonates with a consumer segment valuing brand legacy and nostalgia. 

Designer Brands decided to join forces with a digital agency in Brooklyn to enhance Le Tigre’s mission of offering a “preppy style” with a distinctive flair. Designer Brands and Le Tigre aim to attract an audience that aligns with vintage-inspired and American heritage aesthetics, coupled with a contemporary view on design. 

Le Tigre footwear is available via DSW and The Shoe Company’s direct-to-consumer (D2C) outlets and online platforms, alongside specific wholesale partners and the website.