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Tiffany Montgomery
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OluKai expands into closed-toe for men's, women's, kids

By Tiffany Montgomery
October 17, 2011 6:57 AM

We posted a press release the other day about OluKai’s debut of closed-toe shoes for women, including some fashionable-looking boots.


It seemed like an important new development for the brand, which changed the sandal market a few years ago with the success of its high-end – and higher priced – sandals.


I was intrigued by this new direction, so followed up with Marketing Director Kerry Konrady.


It turns out that OluKai is expanding into closed-toe shoes for women, men’s and kids.


Below, Kerry answers some questions about developments at OluKai.


OluKai is coming out with several closed-toe styles. Tell us about the thinking behind this expansion.

OluKai men'sOluKai Men's styles for Fall 2011

OluKai has created a true premium brand for the ocean lifestyle consumer. We began by taking a handcrafted footwear approach to design and manufacturing of sandals. We offered comfort, quality and a new choice for footwear that was on par with high-end wetsuits and hand-shaped boards that surfers seek out at core shops.


This really changed the landscape of sandals in the surf channel, pushing price points higher and creating a conversation about comfort and quality in our category.


Ultimately consumers give permission for brands to successfully expand categories. We intently listened to ours. Our consumers have a desire for comfortable and authentic footwear but cannot always wear sandals, for example while at the office or during winter seasons. And in fact, they leave the surf shops to buy these products elsewhere.


By staying true to our consumers’ needs for quality, comfort and authentically inspired closed toe products, we are seizing this opportunity to expand the premium category again at the core shops and keeping the surf consumer wearing lifestyle products all year round.


How many styles are your offering and for what gender, ages? What are the price points? 

We offer two categories of footwear for men’s, women’s and kids. Our Makai Collection (“Towards the water”), features sandals and shoes which are water-friendly for active lifestyles around the ocean. Our Mauka Collection (“Toward the land”) blends high character leathers with handcrafted designs for comfortable and sophisticated styling. We are focused on 3-point sandals, casual shoes as well as chukka, desert and upcountry boots. Price points range from $100 to $300.


Did moving into closed toes requiring hiring more people and/or additional design expertise? Did you have to find new factories to make them? 

OluKai’s core competency is design and manufacturing premium footwear. As we expand product categories, we’ve built and surrounded our core team with fresh talent and proven experience. Our process is very collaborative and driven by inspiration from the ocean and island lifestyle, for example we partnered with Hawaii’s lifeguards to research and develop a performance training shoe that meets the lifeguards’ island performance needs.


We also create our footwear using the most environmentally methods possible, including sourcing leathers from one of the greenest tanneries in the world. The tannery is LWG Gold-Level Certified and unique because it uses a closed-loop system in which nearly all resources and byproducts of the tanning process are reduced, reused and recycled within the tannery.


What aesthetic are you going for with closed toes?

We want to make products with the sophistication of a luxury brand but with an approachability that more people can relate to. Our aesthetic is inspired by a relaxed and healthy life lived in an island or ocean environment.


We also use technical innovations to make our shoes more comfortable. For example our Moloa and Ohana styles feature collapsible heel design so they can be worn as a shoe or slip-on. People love this versatility.


See Page 2 for more, including details about women's styles



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