Bloch has been the go-to brand for the dance community for more than 90 years. Now, the Australia-based company is introducing a shoe targeted to the Pilates, yoga and Barre community as well as an activewear collection.
Bloch traces its history to 1932, when Jacob Bloch, a shoemaker from Lithuania, emigrated to Australia. He quickly discovered that the demand for high-end footwear was limited, but was able to chart another path after he met a young dancer who was in search of a pair of pointe shoes to help her stay up on her toes.
“My grandfather was a shoemaker but not a ballet shoemaker,” said David Wilkenfeld, the third generation to run the family-owned business. But once he created a shoe for the dancer, the rest is history.
Since then, Bloch has grown to become the leader in the technical dance market around the world. In addition to shoes for professional and amateur dancers, the company also offers technical dance apparel such as tights, leotards, warmups and tutus.
Today, 90 percent of Bloch’s sales come from outside Australia and the company has 47 patent applications around the world for its products. The line has been available in the U.S. since the mid-1980s and that market is now its largest, Wilkenfeld said.
Now Bloch is turning its sights to the lucrative activewear market and it will introduce a full assortment of women’s leggings, bike shorts, tops, sports bras, loungewear and sneakers.
Wilkenfeld said because of Bloch’s heritage and its commitment to producing quality products, he believes the brand will be able to carve out a niche among the Nikes, Adidases and Lululemons of the world.
“We realize how crowded the market for apparel is,” he said, “but that doesn’t mean we shouldn’t be a player.”
He said Bloch is “not coming at it from a fashion perspective,” and will lean heavily on its authenticity as its way into the market. He pointed to the aerobics dance craze of the ’70s when Danskin, a dance brand, was the apparel of choice. Fast-forward to today when Lululemon has grown to become the largest activewear brand for women despite the fact that it started as a yoga brand.
Bloch will launch its activewear collection direct-to-consumer on its e-commerce site and is also hoping to secure some wholesale accounts. Prices for the collection will start at $59 for shoes, $55 for tops and sports bras, and $62 to $130 for shorts and leggings. There are no plans to offer menswear.
In addition to the activewear, Wilkenfeld is perhaps most excited about the Studio Shoe Bloch has developed that will launch alongside the apparel. The shoe will be constructed from Bloch’s signature Hexabloch material, a breathable hexagonal-weave power mesh that sculpts the foot with DRT2 coating for ultra-strong grip support.
The Studio Shoe, which will retail for $64, looks like a sock, but is washable, sturdy and helps feet not to slip during classes, on the Pilates reformer or the ballet bar. “It hugs your foot and is sticky on both sides,” he explained. “The sole sticks to your foot and the floor so it allows you to feel stable.”
This collection will have a “new identify” within the Bloch brand and the marketing launch will involve video and social media content that will include the use of celebrity athletic trainers.