Allen Edmonds Celebrates 100 Years of American Shoemaking

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Allen Edmonds, the men’s fashion footwear brand, celebrates its centenary, having been founded in 1922 in Belgium, WI. It honors its past by drawing on its archives to release limited editions of collectible models, such as the classic Mora Double Monk model, and looks to its future by offering the Mora in a sneaker version.

Now based about ten miles up the road in Port Washington, Allen Edmonds has a storied past. It gained a generation of lifelong followers after supplying footwear to the US Army and Navy during World War II. And it was the choice of every president on the day of the inauguration of Ronald Reagan, George HW Bush, Bill Clinton and George W. Bush until Barack Obama broke the tradition. To date, it has sold over 12 million pairs of shoes.

Still made in the USA, it’s one of only 200 American shoe companies to manufacture here, up from more than 300 in 2002. And it’s been the undisputed leader in American-made men’s shoes since Johnston & Murphy, founded in 1850, closed its last United States. factory five years ago.

With no less than 99% of the $86 billion worth of shoes sold here imported, American shoemakers are a dying breed. Today, only about 11,000 people are employed by shoemakers, down from more than 20,000 in 2002, and not all of them work in factories.

Allen Edmonds does not intend to pass up its secret sauce of craftsmanship and American-made quality. “Allen Edmonds has a 100-year legacy of American craftsmanship, quality and authenticity,” said Jay Schmidt, president of Caleres.
CAL
, which acquired the company in 2016 for $255 million. “We have a proven formula that works and works well.”

The company employs 135 artisans, including many 2nd and 3rd generation manufacturers, who help train the next generation through an apprenticeship program.

“It’s a centuries-old tradition for our company, because ours is a very tactile model where each shoe goes through a 212-step process and is touched by up to 60 hands,” he said.

Schmidt also says that Allen Edmonds supported sustainability long before it was fashionable. Customers always have the option of returning a pair of worn-out shoes for a full refurbishment.

“On average, some 26,000 pairs of shoes are refurbished each year and we have put more than one million pairs of shoes back into circulation,” he explained. “Our shoes are a lifetime investment because a pair can usually be remade up to four times.”

Personalization is another important part of the Allen Edmond formula. When redesigning, the customer can modify the features of their existing pair, such as adding rubber or colored soles, and the company also offers fully customized shoes when purchasing a new pair.

“We do everything. We design it, we make it, we sell it and we manufacture it. We are as connected with our customers as a brand can be,” continued Schmidt.

In keeping with its historical heritage, Allen Edmonds maintains selective distribution. It operates over 60 stores and a website and is offered by exclusive retail partners like Nordstrom
JWN
. Its direct-to-consumer sales are split roughly 50/50 between its branded stores and website.

Although Caleres does not reveal details of every brand in its brand portfolio report segment, including Sam Edelman, Vionic, Naturalizer, Ryka, Blowfish and more, its brand business grew 20% year over year. on the other to contribute $1 billion to the company’s total. Revenue of $2.8 billion in 2021. Famous Footwear, with some 900 outlets, is its other reporting segment.

As much as Allen Edmonds celebrates his heritage, he’s stepping into the future by reinventing his classic styles for the next generation of fashion-forward men. For example, his Park Avenue cap-toe oxford dress shoe, originally introduced in 1982, remains his best-selling style, but now also comes in a more casual, contemporary lug sole.

“Given our heritage, we have a great wealth to draw from. We see the next generation of customers rediscovering the classics, but we can quickly pivot to reinventing these classics in different materials and soles that can range from dress to casual to weekend, including sneakers, boots, loafers and of course, dress shoes for business. and formal wear,” Schmidt said

When the company spotted people returning to social events post-pandemic, it quickly introduced its classic Carlyle peep-toe oxford with a patent leather upper that immediately hit one of its top ten styles last spring.

“People tend to think of male customers as some kind of Neanderthal, but the truth is our customers really care about their looks and we have something for each of them,” he continued.

To show just how stylish you can be in the Park Avenue oxford, the company commissioned famed photographer Billy Kidd to record 100 famous and less famous but all remarkable people wearing a pair. And in keeping with today’s inclusive culture, women, children, and even dogs feature in the catalog.

“Nobody builds a legacy brand by standing still,” Schmidt said and is confident that the future of the Allen Edmonds brand will be even greater than its past.

“They say, ‘What goes, comes back,’ and we see people coming back from the pandemic wanting to own less, better stuff. Our shoes don’t come cheap – the Park Avenue oxford is $395 – but it’s an investment that lasts and lasts.

“We are connected with our past, connected with this moment and we will remain connected in the future for the next 100 years,” he exclaimed confidently.

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