Hyp­ing the Hike

How Kith founder Ron­nie Fieg and out­door brand Vasque re­tooled hik­ing boots for the streetwear set.

Footwear News - - CONTENTS - By Hi­lary Ge­orge-Parkin

The in­side scoop on the Kith x Vasque col­lab col­lec­tion.

so much in fash­ion to­day, Ron­nie Fieg’s re­la­tion­ship with Vasque Footwear started in the 1990s. ➵ The Kith founder was work­ing as a stock boy at the famed footwear re­tailer David Z at the height of the hik­ing boot trend that reigned among New York City’s youth. He re­stocked the brand’s Sun­downer and Sky­walk boots as fast as they flew off the shelves.

➵ “To­day’s hype and ex­cite­ment for sneak­ers was for boots and brown shoes back then,” said Fieg. “Vasque was at the fore­front of that move­ment, es­pe­cially since their [boots] were known for their Gore-Tex lin­ing. Ev­ery­one wanted the Gore boots, and Vasque was mak­ing the most pre­mium ones.” ➵ Founded in 1964 and owned by Red Wing Shoe Co., Vasque has been renowned among back­pack­ers and out­door en­thu­si­asts for its long-wear­ing hik­ing boots and trail run­ners, but the brand has also found fans among city dwellers who ap­pre­ci­ate the same level of dura­bil­ity and com­fort off the trails.

For Kith’s fall col­lec­tion, Fieg worked with Vasque to re­vamp two of its most pop­u­lar styles from the ’90s, cast­ing the Sun­downer in mauve leather with oxblood and bur­gundy de­tails and of­fer­ing the Sky­walk (re­named by Fieg as the “Sky­walker”) in two colLike

or­ways — tan/ olive and navy/ red — us­ing pre­mium suede and tough ny­lon mesh for an el­e­vated take on the clas­sic style.

The boots also fea­ture a co­branded logo — a first for Vasque — and de­buted last month in Kith stores and on the re­tailer’s e-com­merce site. Ac­cord­ing to Joe Peters, Vasque’s head of mar­ket­ing, there has been a resur­gence in de­mand for sev­eral styles the com­pany launched in the ’80s and ’90s, com­ple­ment­ing the peren­nial in­ter­est in its new­est and most tech­no­log­i­cally ad­vanced mod­els.

But the la­bel’s pri­or­i­ties have not changed, Peters em­pha­sized. It’s more the case that new cus­tomers have dis­cov­ered what it has al­ways of­fered. “I wouldn’t con­sider us push­ing into a life­style cat­e­gory,” he said. “From our per­spec­tive, the life­style cat­e­gory has found the out­door in­dus­try.” Across the fash­ion spec­trum, many brands in­tro­duced hik­ing-in­spired styles to their line­ups for fall, though few fea­tured the kind of per­for­mance el­e­ments that would ac­tu­ally make them func­tional be­yond city side­walks. Vasque, mean­while, has in­cor­po­rated Gore-Tex wa­ter­proof­ing in its boots since 1984, and the com­po­nent fea­tures promi­nently in the new Fiegde­signed mod­els. The Kith founder noted he was drawn to the com­pany’s con­ti­nu­ity. “What I re­spect most about Vasque is their ded­i­ca­tion to con­sis­tency,” he said. “A lot of brands feel the need to de­vi­ate from their strengths and at­tempt to rein­vent them­selves, but Vasque hasn’t changed their for­mula. They are one of the few brands who have main­tained their qual­ity through con­struc­tion and ma­te­ri­als since the 1990s. That’s why they’ve built such a strong and loyal fol­low­ing.”

At first glance, it may seem there is lit­tle over­lap be­tween Kith’s sneak­er­head shop­pers and back­coun­try trekkers, but the two groups do have some things in com­mon: Both are ob­sessed with de­tail, ap­pre­ci­ate func­tion­al­ity and want the best in terms of ma­te­ri­als.

Peters ex­plained, “The lines be­tween life­style and out­door have blurred to the point where they can be used in­ter­change­ably. … Those core out­door cus­tomers are branch­ing out and ac­quir­ing more [clas­si­cally] de­fined life­style gear, and the tra­di­tional life­style con­sumer is ac­quir­ing some of the most tech­ni­cal out­door prod­ucts on the planet.”

He added that while the Kith part­ner­ship has been an ex­cit­ing devel­op­ment for Vasque, the brand is main­tain­ing its fo­cus on its core out­door re­tail­ers and cus­tomer base — but will wel­come new fans.

“We hope that the life­style as­pects of our prod­ucts that have piqued in­ter­est might be ve­hi­cles that in­tro­duce a larger pop­u­la­tion to the in­cred­i­ble magic that can be found out­doors,” said the exec.

“The lines be­tween life­style and out­door have blurred to the point where they can be used in­ter­change­ably.” — JOE PETERS, VASQUE

Ron­nie Fieg’s take on the Vasque Sky­walk hiker

Styles from the Kith x Vasque col­lab­o­ra­tion

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