January 24, 2018
Season after season, Spanish footwear brands remind the European comfort market that designs can be colorful and full of character.
“We hate when people ask for a solid black shoe,” laughs Joe Pickett, president and principle of Casitas, the U.S. distributor of Spanish brands Wonders, Wanda Panda and Toni Pons. “Unless it’s combined with a metallic or other color, which helps bring the shoe to life.”
It’s that creative design direction and point of distinction that has helped Wonders, Wanda Panda and Toni Pons expand their footprint in the U.S.
Founded by Pickett and Anne-Marie Longpré 10 years ago, Casitas specializes in the importation and distribution of European footwear brands—mainly from Spain and the Mediterranean—to independent shoe stores, full service department stores and e-commerce sites. The company operates in both Canada and the U.S.
“We pick the right samples for the U.S. market—the right materials and colors,” Pickett said.
In particular, Casitas excels at pinpointing the styles that will help better independents compete with online businesses. “We’re always look for boutique styles, unique lines and styling that they can have and it won’t be all over online,” he said.
The independent base has been key in telling (and selling) Spanish footwear brands’ stories.
“We promote the leather quality and craftsmanship,” Pickett said to help justify the higher price points that come with Spanish footwear. The Wonder’s slogan is “Made with Love in Spain,” which Pickett says remains a strong selling point.
Each brand Casitas offers reveals an area of expertise in the Spanish footwear industry. Wonders serves the women’s fashion comfort category with on-trend sneakers, platform sandals and Chelsea boots, as well as lightweight and flexible constructions. Or with “hidden comfort” as Pickett described.
Wanda Panda is best known for its cork and latex footbed sandals, chrome free natural leathers and burnished treatments—a hallmark of classic Spanish footwear.
Meanwhile espadrille purveyor Toni Pons, has blown up in the U.S. The third-generation business has an edge in the espadrille category with silhouettes that break out of the classic espadrille mold and address both the comfort and fashion markets. For instance, Toni Pons will introduce an on-trend wool felt clog for Fall ’18 with an espadrille bottom.
“The brand is on fire. Volume wise, it’s our biggest line and show huge growth going into its sixth season in the U.S.,” Pickett said.
Having sold a lot of traditional German comfort shoes in his footwear career, Pickett says Spanish footwear continues to feel new and full of opportunity.
“When we brought Wonders to the U.S., people were looking for something fresh—something that wasn’t the same boring comfort shoe that made up most of the market for the past 20 years,” he said. “We see Wonders coming into its own. We’re working really hard to develop the right sample set and right leather materials and looks. In the last two seasons, we’ve done a good job and it’s showing at retail.”
Wonders will likely be Casitas’ biggest area of growth, but Pickett points out that Fall ’18 looks strong across the board.
“The quality is there. All the pieces are in place,” he said. “Just look at Spanish food, architecture and lifestyle. The Spanish really have a flair for things. It comes out in their footwear and it fits well with the U.S. market.”
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