At Men’s Market Portuguese Footwear Out to Conquer U.S.
Over the last ten years, Portuguese footwear sales have increased over
60 percent, according to figures from the Portuguese footwear association,
APICCAPS, and each year over 82 million pairs of shoes are exported
worldwide from Portugal for a total value of over 2 billion dollars. But
Portugal has set its sights specifically on the U.S. for its next major
push. “Made in Portugal,” an initiative to promote the country’s
craftsmanship and manufacturing will take place during footwear trade
event, PROJECT Sole in New York. “But Portugal has set its sights specifically on the U.S.
for its next major push during next week’s MRket trade show.
To understand why Portugal’s eyes are on America’s feet, and in
anticipation of the launch, we speak to the two brains behind it: Luís
Onofre, the president of the Portuguese footwear association,
APICCAPS, and Leslie
Gallin, the President of Footwear, UBM Fashion which organizes the Men’s Market trade
show, a 3-day fair at the Javis Center later this month in New York.
How do you explain the growth of interest in Portuguese footwear in
Onofre: The Portuguese footwear industry has the ability to combine
tradition with the latest technologies and know-how accumulated through
generations, together with cutting-edge design. It is very sought after,
but for a long time Portuguese footwear invested mainly in Europe. However,
it is currently in 152 countries over five continents.
Gallin: From a manufacturing standpoint many companies are looking for
higher quality construction as they move production out of China. Portugal
has invested in their factories and are producing high quality men’s and
working on the same for women’s footwear. From a retailer point of view,
the country is open to buying groups, meaning 2-3 retailers working as one
directly with the brands to manufacture and provide better pricing, thus a
better margin for retailers.
When much of the current narrative revolves around ways to bring
back the “Made in the U.S.” label, why should consumers/retailers care
about “Made in Portugal”?
Onofre: There are enough opportunities for all. We believe in a logic of
free, fair, and balanced trade.
Gallin: Footwear is a complicated product. The cost of producing shoes
in the U.S.A. faces many issues––craftsmanship (the tradesman are just not
here) and then of course labor and materials. Shoes unlike other products
have always been made elsewhere and imported. Yes, there are brands
producing footwear here in the U.S.A. and we strongly support those
companies and help them promote during our shows.
This launch is taking place during the menswear market – do you plan
on a similar push for womenswear?
Onofre: Portugal is actually stronger in women’s footwear. Although we
already export 70 million euros in footwear to the U.S.A. we believe we can
consolidate our position in the next five years. We’re in the U.S.A. for
good. Our idea is to make a global presentation of Portuguese footwear.
We’re sure that when the American customers discover our quality they won’t
trade it for anything else.
Gallin: The entry point is in NY to create the awareness of products
from Portugal––apparel and footwear––Portugal will then have over 20 brands
exhibiting at FN PLATFORM, our shoe show in Las Vegas next month. The
footwear brands exhibiting during the dual-gender marketplace are both
Men’s and Women’s. The initial entry push is with footwear.
Do Portuguese footwear brands seek to compete on price, where China
has dominated, or luxury where Italy has traditionally led the way?
Onofre: Portugal has a solid and sustained footwear industry that has
been growing for eight consecutive years and presents a high quality
product at a competitive price. Our product is not very different from the
Italian. However, the price is much more interesting.
Are Portuguese brands addressing sustainability and responsible
processes in their sourcing and manufacturing?
Onofre: Unquestionably. Approximately 80 percent of the Portuguese footwear is
made with leather. However, in Portugal we also have one the most modern
technological centers worldwide and, therefore, we have been developing
several new, sustainable, and environmentally friendly materials, topped
with premium quality finishings. We have been investing a lot in that
It has been said that Portugal’s lack of a globally recognized
luxury house (France and Italy have multiple, Britain has Burberry, Spain
has Loewe…) has affected how it has been perceived in the past. Your
Onofre: We’re taking strong steps in that area. It’s difficult for a
small country like Portugal to have internationally reputed luxury brands.
However, we have several very, very interesting small brands, which just
need an opportunity to show their real value.
Gallin: The time is ripe for Portugal to emerge in both fashion apparel
PROJECT Sole will kick off the partnership during the July Marketplace,
which runs July 22nd through July 24th at the Jacob Javits Center and
follow with a showcase during MAGIC Las Vegas where over 20 men’s and
women’s Portuguese footwear brands will show their SS19 collections, many
for the first time.
Fashion editor Jackie Mallon is also an educator and author of Silk
for the Feed Dogs, a novel set in the international fashion
Photos by PRConsulting