Fashion evolves with the times – and for the current mood of the footwear market, that means stepping into the outdoors bearing a highly stylish, utilitarian aesthetic.
The explosive growth of the outdoor category is much more than a yearning for nature. In 2020, an overall greater emphasis on the “outside” lifestyle – which included socially-distant-friendly activity-related products such as grills, coolers, recreation tents, hammocks, and paddle boards – led to widespread changes in consumer behavior and an enduring attraction to the outdoors, according to a report by NPD Group.
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And it follows that footwear brands are exploring said trends and meeting changing demands with product that reflects what consumers want and need now: a multi-purpose, all-encompassing shoe “built for everyday extremes.” That’s why footwear brand Wolverine is eager to introduce the Torrent, a classic duck boot for women that’s slated to officially launch in September.
Made with premium waterproof full-grain leather and a vulcanized rubber shell that keeps feet protected, the Torrent lives up to its promise of delivering practical, highly stylish design and all-weather function. Its aggressive rubber outsole grips whatever surfaces are walked on; its fleece lining provides that warm, cozy feeling when temperatures drop; and it’s completely waterproof – so when the weather turns, feet stay dry.
After a soft launch in late 2020 and early 2021, the Torrent was warmly received by retailers and a slew of early consumers and influencers testing the product. Upon closer inspection of the Torrent, the boot lives up to the hype – the Torrent’s allure lies in its feline, ultra-feminine contouring, replete with a short heel that is both sensible and stylish.
Here, Denise Trella, Director of Sales and Michael Boss, Digital Marketing Manager, Wolverine, talk to FN about the debut of the Torrent, the brand’s evolving, strategic approach to consumer engagement, and emerging trends in outdoor footwear.
FN: Tell us about the Torrent. How is this shoe differentiated in the market? What are some of its most unique features?
Denise Trella: It’s the ultimate example of fashion meeting function. We took our brand DNA and heritage and brought them to the classic duck boot. The result is a pair of boots that are comfortable the second you step into them.
FN: What can you share about retailer feedback from the Torrent’s virtual presentation last fall? What sentiments or insights have retailers shared thus far?
D.T.: The response from retailers has been that the Torrent is a fresh take on a classic. They’re excited to bring a new style into this growing category and thrilled that it is coming from a brand they can trust. They’re familiar with Wolverine, and they agree we have a right to play.
FN: What about consumer feedback? What has the response been on the early pairs you sold at the tail end of winter / beginning of 2021?
Michael Boss: “Stylish and sturdy,” “the perfect boot for winter,” and “super cozy with great support” are just a few of the review headlines that we’ve gotten thus far from early sales. The response has been overwhelmingly positive. Early reviews have raved about the quality, comfort, and versatility of the boots, with one praising the ability to “wear the boots with jeans or leggings, in rain or snow, or just because I want to.”
FN: How has Wolverine Boots worked with influencers to popularize the Torrent? What was its social media strategy?
M.B.: We’re partnering with a wide variety of female influencers to help us spread the word about Wolverine entering the women’s seasonal boot business with the Torrent. From fashion lifestyle bloggers in Washington D.C. to entrepreneurs in Montana, we’ve found women across the U.S. that will help us launch the collection once the weather starts to turn this fall, driving consumers to our social channels and website where they can explore and purchase the full offering. Partnering with these women helps us gain a sense of credibility in this new category for us.
FN: What are some of the emerging trends you’ve seen in the outdoor space for women? How has the market changed in the past year for female consumers?
D.T.: The outdoors is trending across the country. It’s no longer regional. Everyone (including women) is spending more time outside, across a variety of activities. With women in particular, we’ve seen color play a key role in what they want. They’re not afraid to experiment with color in their footwear, whereas browns and neutrals have dominated the outdoor market of the past. They want options, which is why we’re launching an additional seasonal color collection closer to the holiday, and we’ll build on this initial offering next year with more patterns, colors, and silhouettes.
FN: In what ways is Wolverine Boots taking a more fashion-oriented approach to footwear?
M.B.: It all starts with the Torrent. We’re tapping into colors and design details we’ve never used before, and we know they’ll be successful because we’ve invested in more research than ever in the end-consumer. Wolverine has tested everything from colors to silhouettes to messaging to make sure the package we’re bringing to the market is on trend and aligns with consumer wants.
FN: How would you describe the current landscape of outdoor footwear? Where is the market headed?
D.T.: With more people getting outside in casual ways, they don’t need overly specialized gear for multi-day trips. They need something that will stand up to the elements if the weather turns on a dime while they’re out. Outdoor footwear needs to span multiple activities. No one wants to look like they’re going to climb a mountain when they’re simply headed to the subway to go meet friends or get to work. They want something they can slip on quickly that looks good and will protect them from the elements. With the Torrent, you get a boot that can be worn at home, spending time on a trail, and grabbing a bite in town after.
FN: What’s next for Wolverine Boots?
D.T.: Follow along at @wolverineoutdoor. The Torrent launches this September, and we have some additional seasonal colorways dropping closer to the holiday. In 2022 we’ll look to build on that success with even more colors, patterns, and iterations. We don’t see this category going anywhere – and we plan to evolve with it while staying true to who we are.
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