Fashionable Shoes Get the Job Done for Medical and Restaurant Professionals.
Just because folks work in the medical industry it doesn’t mean that their shoes need to look orthopedic. The same goes for service industry employees who would appreciate footwear that is serviceable yet stylish. We recently caught up with Vionic Pro execs Laura Nogueiro and Taylor Leaf to chat about creating fashion-forward footwear for professionals on their feet all day. “Our technology fits this need perfectly,” states Nogueiro, product line manager. “It’s not only the materials and color, but the range of product, too,” adds Leaf, senior designer. Here’s more from our conversation:
Where did the idea for the line stem?
Nogueiro: “I’ve been here for four years and this has been a request I have heard pretty much from day one. I used to work in marketing and consumers would be calling in saying, ‘I work in the service industry; do you have any slip-resistant shoes?’ We would always say ‘no.’ We never thought of it as a large enough group, more like a very vocal minority. But then we started doing more research and decided we had a shot.”
What industries do you serve?
Nogueiro: “Mainly medical right now; Secondarily, restaurants. Our price point lends more toward medical, along with our materials and features. The shoes are water resistant, and sometimes oil repellent, so they have a higher price point.”
Leaf: “Sometimes there are more restrictions in the service industry where you need to wear a uniform. In medical, this is a way to add a bit of fashion sense to your basic wardrobe. It’s the one place to play.”
Do people wear Vionic Pro beyond the work setting?
Leaf: “Yes. Some of these shoes are a lot lighter than our inline models. In service, the shoes can sometimes be heavy due to the full-length rubber outsole plate with the slip resistant technology. We’ve combined ours with an EVA compound so it is an overall lightweight shoe. It’s multifunctional because it’s also comfortable and has some cool, fashionable materials.”
Nogueiro: “We did a survey through our ecommerce site asking people in the medical industry if they wear their shoes outside of the office. An overwhelming majority said no. So, part of our goal was to make a shoe that you can walk out of the hospital [with it on], like a normal, cute shoe.”
Tell me about the materials in the shoes.
Nogueiro: “The Avery suede is water-resistant and oil repellent, as is the rose gold metallic suede. The Avery and Mable in other colorways are water resistant. These are great features when you think of things being spilled on shoes. Especially for suede, we wanted something you would pick up and say, ‘this isn’t a work shoe.’ It has almost been difficult to tell our story that this is water and oil resistant, because it does not look it.”
Leaf: “Laura did a lot of research on what competitors are doing in the market. We combined that with design themes for the season. Our Vio-Motion support is a continuation of what we have in our core line. We combined that with the new Vio-Grip technology, which is a repeating tread pattern where any type of water or oil is transferred out of the bottom surface so there is never any trapped. If you step in a puddle, you won’t slip.”
Nogueiro: “Interestingly, we found there is no OSHA compliance for shoes. We did ASTM F1677 (MARK II) testing through a third party with other shoes in the market (Crocs, Dansko). We put them on top of water and oil to see how far they move. Ours did really well in comparison.”
How are your shoes different from competitors?
Leaf: “It’s not only the materials and color, but the range of product. There’s a slip-on, a lace up and an alt closure. It’s not an all-black to the floor outsole. I also work on active and casuals for Vionic. Pro is great because it’s very clear whom we are designing for. There’s so much opportunity with technologies.”
How are you marketing the shoes?
Nogueiro: “We have a medical rep team. The goal is to market these more heavily in the next six months. Ratings have been really good, especially on the Simmons (athletic-looking) construction. We really want to target nurses with our line.”
Tell me about offerings for men.
Leaf: “The Landon came in August 2019. It looks like a running shoe. It has a runner’s toe and is more agile and quicker on the go.”
Nogueiro: “Men’s awareness of the brand is not as high as for women. Women buy a lot more shoes, follow trends and men are just harder to get to.”
What’s up for next season and the future?
Nogueiro: “For Fall/Winter, we have two new silhouettes for women on the active construction, one with an alt closure and then another lace up. Materials have a bit more depth, some mesh overlays. In the future, I would love to see water resistant meshes. Overall, there’s a huge need for Pro. If you walk around the hospital, you see people wearing Nike Free on their feet. You need more support. You walk eight miles a day in the hospital! We’re building awareness, building up the line with shoes that look cute and not like work shoes – and that are comfortable.”