The future of luxury fashion sneakers is small — and that’s a big deal.
At least that’s the word from Wayne Kulkin, former chief executive officer of Stuart Weitzman, whose new company, StreetTrend, is focused on grabbing a piece of the burgeoning sector by pushing Italian craftsmanship, quick reaction times and scarcity.
“We’re trying to create a group of big little brands,” Kulkin, who leads the company as ceo, told WWD. StreetTrend has inked distribution partnerships with two Italian sneaker lines — P448 and Meline — that cover North America, the Asia-Pacific region and the U.K.
The company is also launching its own line in January, PS821, which will feature very limited runs — 250 to 500 pairs total per style – and sell in the $295 to $450 range. Each pair and the box will be numbered and the styling will offer leather or suede, a high-tech textile or feature and something to surprise, in perhaps a trim or color. The “PS” stans for Project Social.
StreetTrend, a joint venture between Kulkin and Hilco Global’s chairman and ceo Jeffrey Hecktman, is a shot at something new in a rapidly changing market.
The venture takes its cues more from Supreme than Nike — vying for big-time cool over big-time orders. And the company will have both direct-to-consumer and wholesale distribution but not too much of either.
“The days of being able to produce 500,000 pairs or 300,000 pairs — it isn’t so interesting,” Kulkin said. “But when you can make it so it’s easy to do storytelling, I think it will resonate. And it’s fun, it’s fun for us. We don’t take ourselves too seriously to try to do new things.”
Kulkin said it’s typical for shoe factories to require orders of at least 5,000 pairs and seven months of advance time. But he said the industry needs to be more flexible and reactive to rapidly changing preferences from customers.
“How do you create products in this new world seven months in advance?” he said, noting size isn’t everything. “The companies that are doing in the volume range of $70 million to maybe $200 million are these cool brands that are really dictating fashion. You can’t be exclusive and unique if you’re selling so many shoes.”
Kulkin knows of what he speaks, having spent over two decades at Weitzman, which he led as ceo both before and after the brand’s acquisition by Coach Inc., now named Tapestry Inc.
After helping build Weitzman, Kulkin is clearly enjoying being in start-up mode. Shipments are under way for P448, which will soon land in Neiman Marcus, Nordstrom, Bloomingdale’s, Shopbop and The Shoe Box NYC.
StreetTrend has a New York showroom to present the three brands.
“I wanted to have a lot of different concepts for retailers to come and almost think of StreetTrend as a candy shop for sneakers,” Kulkin said. “The concept is to create a living laboratory for footwear.”
That laboratory will feature only Italian-made footwear that’s keeping up with the style on the streets instead of the runway and is focused on building momentum with high-quality products and not over the top marketing.