Alessandro Michele’s vision for Gucci has contributed to many fashion trends — heavy-handed embellishment; gargantuan eyewear, and a Seventies élan included. This has also helped generate renewed excitement for the Italian house’s accessories, including its seminal shoe, the loafer.
The style — first introduced by Gucci in 1953 and adapted for women circa 1955 — has been reinterpreted by Michele in a variety of shapes, fabrications and trims.
Their popularity among consumers has now sparked a renewed interest in the loafer. High-fashion labels have raced to introduce their own takes on the style while retailers such as Saks Fifth Avenue and Neiman Marcus are featuring loafers as key fall items on their e-commerce sites — creating a new category of shoe that could rival the ballerina flat’s success.
“Our buy for loafers has doubled [in the last year],” said Net-a-porter fashion director Lisa Aitken. “It is definitely a growing category. We are selling product from Gucci incredibly fast — the first loafer launch sold out within a matter of days and it hasn’t slowed down.”
Aitken said many other brands have quickly introduced their own loafer style to capitalize on the moment. “We have seen other brands, everyone from Mansur Gavriel to Prada have gone for the loafer as well. There is much more diversity in the offering, whereas when Gucci first stood by the loafer, there was more of a monopoly.”
Resale web site The Real Real logs search and purchase data — often yielding results that can reflect behavior in the full-price market. The company’s chief merchant, Rati Sahi Levesque, said Gucci sales on the site have increased 63 percent year-over-year. Loafers beyond just Gucci have increased 100 percent. “Besides Gucci, [loafers] by Chanel, Prada, The Row and Tod’s are moving really fast right now. Contemporary brands like Tibi and Roger Clergerie are performing well,” Levesque said.
Gucci loafers — which retail from $595 to upward of $1,100 — clock in on the higher-end of the loafer spectrum.
“Our ladies’ sales went up 15 percent in the last year,” said Fratelli Rossetti president Diego Rossetti. The Italian brand’s basic loafers sell for about $550. “As you know, an important brand like Gucci represents that kind of trend — we are not jealous at all, it’s good for us. [Loafers] are pretty much in our DNA. This is something we’ve always done — more androgynous styles for women.”
Heritage brand G.H. Bass & Co. is also feeling the effects of the loafer’s newfound popularity. “Fashion trends come and go, and it’s come to us — we haven’t gone to it,” said Steven Palmer, chief executive officer for Overland Shoes, the European licensee for Bass. The label’s loafers retail for about $100 in the U.S.
The brand, acquired by G-III from PVH Corp. in 2013 in a $50 million cash deal, had already been building its distribution in the U.S. and across Europe in the lead-up to Gucci’s moment. “We only relaunched the brand two seasons ago and every season [sales] are doubling,” he said.
Cole Haan has been working to elevate and generate new attention to its classic pinch loafer — priced from $150 to $250 — for the last year. The label’s general manager of business development, David Maddocks, said: “Yes, we are certainly in the middle of a loafer moment, and in that regard we are part of that conversation.”
The brand has been pouring resources into rebuilding and reenergizing its loafer business, making it “hard to track,” sales and interest generated by the Gucci buzz. Said Maddocks: “We are enjoying this moment as well as Gucci.”