How a former Nike designer created the Sperry Sport Performance shoes – footwear news
While many Sperry consumers appreciate its shoes for fashion appeal, the brand’s roots are in performance. Early next year, Sperry will once again draw on its watersports heritage to deliver its most adventure-ready collection yet.
Launched in March 2022, Sperry Sport, a line of performance-oriented footwear designed for ambitious outdoor enthusiasts. The line was led by Sean McDowell, a 22-year-old Nike veteran who joined Sperry as senior vice president of product creation in June 2020.
McDowell told FN how the pandemic, which hit the United States just months before assuming his new role, led to the creation of Sperry Sport.
“I love the lifestyle, but I feel like the collections work well when you have one foot in performance and one foot in the lifestyle,” McDowell said. “COVID was starting to escalate and so many people were participating in outdoor activities. It was a great opportunity for us to reawaken our roots of innovation and performance and harness this trend that is happening, where people are investing more in fun and adventure, hiking, running and boating. pleasure.
After discussing the idea for Sperry Sport with Blake Krueger, president and CEO of Wolverine World Wide Inc., the design veteran quickly got to work. “I sketched out all the shoes in the collection over that first weekend and started to identify who the target consumer was, some of the different activities,” McDowell said. “We wanted to make sure that we had a broad offering with a lot of versatility in each of the silhouettes.”
Creating a range with something for everyone was possible thanks to McDowell’s design history. During his 22 year career at Nike, McDowell said he worked on several Nike Running products as well as iconic shoe styles and franchises including Kukini, Pegasus and Tailwind. However, it was his time as Nike’s creative director for Olympic shoes for the 2008 Beijing Olympics that most prepared him for Sperry Sport.
“I was able to work in all 28 sports including all of the water sports,” McDowell said. “I was very familiar with the activities. I had done a lot of research, a lot of consumer focus groups, so it was easy to rekindle those roots and talk to new consumers today and then create a product for them.
McDowell admitted that launching Sperry Sport was one of the fastest projects he’s ever worked on, although it wasn’t without challenges.
“I’m used to focus groups where you sit around a table or go on the boat and have an afternoon where you go through things, but we had to switch completely to Zoom focus groups, which I did. had never done before, “McDowell said.” People FaceTiming on their boat and walking around through their different activities. It was a very different experience. “
He continued, “But there were also advantages to that. I was able to connect with dozens of people around the world. Normally, the focus groups would be held in one place and we would invite six to 12 people. Now I could have 12-20 people on the phone from Brazil, Spain, Australia, and New Zealand, and they could all jump in and say, ‘This is a problem that I need someone to talk to. one to solve. Can you help me with this? ‘ In the future, we will still be doing in-person discussion groups, but I will absolutely do the digital groups as well, because your reach goes much deeper.
Sperry Sport will launch in March 2022 and debut with seven looks. The price range is from $ 55 to $ 120 and will be sold on Sperry.com and at some retailers.
The cheapest look in the line is the Water Strider, a family all-purpose water shoe priced at $ 55. The lightweight slip-on was created with a size and shape that hugs the foot during all activities. It also features Adaptive Wave slats for traction and hydrophobic materials which do not absorb water.
Of the, Sperry Sport will offer the Harbor Master ($ 80), a stylish shoe equipped with leather and mesh upper combined with mesh linings to allow it to dry quickly; the molded rubber Cutwater Deck Boot ($ 90), designed to protect against water and rinse to clean; and the 7 seas ($ 90), an ideal sneaker for sailing and waterfront life, featuring the brand’s 360-degree lacing system and Razor-Cut Wave-Siping Technology for optimal fit and grip.
The line also includes shoes above a price of $ 100, like the Eagle Ray sandal ($ 110), designed to go “from surf to scramble ”and described as a rugged utility sandal that can withstand “through the rigors and demands of a day on the sea and on the shore”. It features molded EVA midsoles to cushion repeated hits from the hull and rocks, straps designed to lock in the foot and Adaptive Wave Siping for traction on both deck and slippery rocks.
And the Sea Hiker ($ 120) is a look that the brand claims is “the latest pure performance hiking shoes that work for the Olympic level as well as high school and college sailors.” To create the style, Sperry said he worked with the US National Team athletes “to create the right balance of protection, comfort and durability to achieve peak performance in open water.”
However, the hero shoe of the range is the Wave Rocker. The look, which will retail for $ 120, is aesthetically bold and tech-laden, with Adaptive Wave Siping to disperse water for optimal traction, mold EVA midsoles for cushioning, hydrophobic breathable mesh and dYnamic sock uppers with molded PU support harness for a custom fit.
“There are so many activities that take place on a motor boat. Whether it’s wakeboarding or waterskiing, you’re constantly in and out of the boat, ”McDowell said. “You can easily put these shoes on and take them off and they dry very quickly. It has a great cushioning system, and when you are on the boat and it is going up and down, it is more comfortable, so there is less wear and tear on your body during the day. And it has incredible wet traction.
He continued, “We also wanted this particular shoe to look great. If you were to go for a beer afterwards, you will look great walking into a pub. “
Beyond the Spring 22 debut, McDowell has confirmed that the Sperry Sport collections for Fall 22 and Spring 23 are in the works.