Robert Capener

Skaters are a tough crowd to woo.

These are guys who accumulate a lot of likes on social media posts when they flip a vulgar finger gesture to the camera, according to Robert Capener, brand president for Supra and Kr3w at K-Swiss Global Brands.

Still, the way to grab the hearts of these consumers is by being personal and giving them something in which to believe. It’s very similar to a marriage proposal, he said, recalling his own tale of striking a partnership with his wife.

“This is an engagement,” Capener said at WWD’s Digital Summit. “We want to think intimately about what we want to achieve, which is having a lifetime relationship with this consumer.”

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Supra, which marked its 10th anniversary this year, is owned by South Korea’s E-Land Group, which also has Palladium in its portfolio. It sits between skate competitors such as Vans and DC Shoes and athletic brands like Nike and Adidas. Its ethos incorporates catchphrases such as “go now,” “born on the streets” and “shoulders back.” Its muse is a man between the ages of 17 and 19.

“Our Supra kid is a creative hustler,” Capener said. “That mantra of style is so important because it’s so personal. They want to buy in something they can believe in. They don’t want to buy in to buy in. Those days are gone.”

Supra went to the streets to establish a common language and recognizable symbols with its customers. For one style called Slappy Curb, it ringed the sole in red to match the red curb where little groms learn to skate because cars aren’t allowed to park in that zone. It sold close to 10,000 pairs, a major accomplishment for Supra.

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Collaborations also have to pass what Capener said is “that litmus test of being brand right.” The ones that did included a trio of models inspired by “Assassin’s Creed,” and a style tied to the comic book-based flick “X-Men: Apocalypse.”

Big-name skaters and celebrities also lend their street cred. Adapting similar techniques from his art, Chad Muska created shoes for Supra’s Decade X line. While Supra doesn’t make shoes specifically for women (85 percent of its business is in men’s, 15 percent in kids), Rihanna and Cara Delevingne have been snapped around town in its kicks.

The Westlake Village, Calif.-based company plans venture into the women’s market by 2019. Also on the agenda is opening 200 stores in the next two-and-a-half years in Asia. The goal is to have a big business online and direct to consumer.

“It’s going to be a major focus,” Capener said. “It’s something we’re building right now.”

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