When thigh-high Ugg boots walked down the runway of Y/Project’s fall show on Wednesday, for many it signified the latest piece of footwear to receive a chic overhaul.
Following in the footsteps of Teva, Birkenstock and Crocs, Ugg is using irony to regain the good graces of fashion elite.
Their work is not over. Today, the brand will unveil a collaboration with Sacai at the label’s fall men’s runway show, an Ugg spokesperson confirmed. Follow-up women’s designs will also grace the Y/Project women’s shows during Paris Fashion Week in March, they noted.
For Andrea O’Donnell, president of fashion lifestyle brands for Ugg holding company Deckers Brands, fashion represents a larger opportunity for the company to reposition itself and expand overseas.
“We are doing many things at the moment on a macro level — building our spring-summer business, men’s is incredibly important. We want to protect what we have, which is a special classic franchise, but we are also doing a lot to focus and reimagine Ugg with a fashion spin,” O’Donnell noted.
While often regarded as its mea culpa shoe, Ugg only attributes 20 percent of overall sales to its classic boot franchise: The very styles that rendered it a fashion wet blanket and helped spur a generational fashion stereotype — the much-derided “basic.”
That said, O’Donnell noted that this understanding of Ugg is very region-specific: “It’s a very North American view, in no other region is this the understanding of the Ugg brand. Now there is a really great opportunity to create the brand the way we want to create and control it in other markets. In the U.S., a lot of what we are focusing on is creating new conversation with new designs and innovations.”
Ugg aims to regularly introduce high-fashion collaborations, grow its spring and summer sales, expand its international and men’s businesses and overhaul its brick-and-mortar blueprint.
“One of the things I’m really focused on is bringing in real shoe-making expertise to make sure we elevate the offering outside the classic franchise,” O’Donnell said of recent hires.
While the spring collection represents 22 percent of Ugg sales, O’Donnell hopes to double that share in the next three to five years. This spring, the brand introduced a premium fashion collection that leverages shearling as a design accent. These new in-house fashion collections will be joined by approximately two designer collaborations per season. This fall, Ugg introduced tie-ups with Phillip Lim and Jeremy Scott.
Men’s sales account for 15 percent of brand sales, which O’Donnell also aims to double. She also looks to instigate a massive overhaul of Ugg’s business outside the U.S. Noted O’Donnell: “China is just the beginning, I’d say. Europe for a long time was considered a mature market, but recently we’ve seen a lot of positive response to our new spring-summer collection and lifestyle offering.”