Aerosoles' new fit shop at Grand Central Terminal.

Aerosoles is kicking up its new 3.25-inch leopard-print heels. And 3-inch wooden-heeled clogs, and 4-inch snake skin-embossed leather platforms.

The brand, which has always been known for comfort, is asserting its style. Aerosoles’ walk on the more fashionable side is being spearheaded by recently hired creative director Mirco Scoccia, who learned about footwear at his family-run shoe factory in Italy and worked for many years as senior designer at Bottega Veneta, before moving in 2012 to New York City. Scoccia’s Stateside résumé includes Belstaff, Tory Burch, Cole Haan and M.Gemi.

The first Aerosoles collection with Scoccia’s imprimatur will be available in spring 2020, however, he’s already started to make a mark on the brand.

The label is embracing adjectives such as trendy, rugged, sexy, elegant and pretty, and all styles have proprietary technology such as diamond flex soles and memory foam insoles.

“Basically, we started with the archives and we’re working on the casual categories,” Scoccia said. “We’re working with new fits, material and colors, and we’re working on craftsmanship. We have innovations such as the foam insoles.”

“[The customer] is a little more dressed up and sophisticated in her sensibility,” said Alison Bergen, chief executive officer of Aerosoles. “We want to bring more clarity to what the brand stands for besides comfort. We’re infusing the brand with a more feminine style. It’s always stood for femininity, color and the dress casual space.

“In addition to the aesthetic, which we’re refining, how can we continue to push the limits and bring our product language, which is about light, soft, comfort and flexibility to the next level,” Bergen added.
Scoccia said Aerosoles will offer a new soft ballerina shoe with a more modern upper. “We’ll offer a strong hair calf story, a clog, a bootie and a driver. It’s important to put feminine details on a casual collection,” he said. “Sometimes it’s the material that’s feminine, with a causal construction. Sometimes it’s a feminine silhouette with casual details.”

Aerosoles, which in 2017 filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy protection, last year was acquired at bankruptcy auction by Alden Golden Capital LLC.

All of Aerosoles’ stores were closed in 2018. “When Alden acquired us, they let go of all the leases,” Bergen said. “There were several hundred stores at the peak of the business. It’s going to be a digital-first brand. We relaunched aerosoles.com. In fact, for the last year, the products have been available only online.”
A 400-square-foot fit shop on Monday was unveiled at Grand Central Terminal. It will give Bergen and her team empirical information about what works at retail, and what doesn’t. “We’re committed to the location through the holiday season,” Bergen said. “We have the option to extend [our stay]. We’ll create visibility for the brand. We want to see how the fit shop performs and really get to know our customer. It’s an ambitious project. We hope to expand the footprint eventually.”

Aerosoles’ boot selection features new materials, heel heights and styles. 

Located in the busy Lexington Passage of Grand Central, the fit shop stocks 20 core styles, including a wall of signature ballet flats in 15 colors. There’s a full range of sizes for each shoe. Orders are being fulfilled by e-commerce.
The judicious use of space includes displays of Aerosole’s ballerina flats; best-selling loafers, slides, drivers and closed flats; pony hair treatments, including tiger, leopard, zebra and snake prints, and the brand’s entire color palate. “She can come in and understand every type of silhouette,” Bergen said, adding, “she can be a little romanced by the brand.”

“In addition to aesthetics, we’re asking how can we continue to push the limits and bring our product language to the next level,” Scoccia said. Aerosoles is also pushing back on tradition in the store. Brand representatives wear casual denim uniforms designed by emerging direct-to-consumer brand Même Chose, and the decor features weekly presentations of flowers by florist Laurel St Romain of Dead Flowers, whose first variety is Anturium.

Bergen is looking at pricing at both ends of the spectrum. “We found she’s willing to pay for the novelties,” she said. “It’s all about better products, not more markdowns. She’s willing to spend $15 more for pony hair. We’re increasing the value. We’re looking at a [lower] opening price point and bringing an even more luxurious tier of products priced a bit higher. We’re stretching our bookends.”

When Aerosoles launched in 1987, armies of working women trekked to their offices wearing puffy white sneakers, which they exchanged for shoes when they got to their offices. The brand’s new digital campaign makes the point that women still seek comfortable footwear.

#Showup features women from all walks of life and highlights how they #showup for themselves and what they believe in. The campaign is built on the idea that women can #showup at their best if they’re wearing comfortable shoes and not distracted by aching feet.

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