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Haysun Hahn is aiming to reinvigorate Rockport.
Hired last September to head up Rockport’s women’s business — a new position that includes overseeing product, marketing, sales and distribution — Hahn is working to give the Canton, Mass.-based brand a stronger fashion focus.
“[Rockport CEO and President] Michael Rupp said [the brand] wasn’t sexy and [that the women’s styling] had become redundant,” said Hahn, most recently creative director for Fast Forward Trending, a consulting firm with expertise in the soft and hard goods markets. “Sales had dipped, and the image was confusing.”
Spring ’10 will be the first season to bear Hahn’s creative stamp. Although she is giving the women’s line a modern point of view, she remains committed to keeping the brand’s heritage intact. “Rockport has always been a New England brown shoe company, and it does that very well,” she said. “I’m trying to add a women’s image to complement the men’s.” In addition to stepping up the styling, Hahn plans to make spring the most performance-driven collection yet, borrowing technologies from German parent company Adidas.
According to Hahn, Rockport is optimistic that these efforts will grow the women’s business over the next three years to 50 percent of sales from its current 30 percent.
Here, Hahn talks about reinventing Rockport classics and catching up with the competition.
1. How is Rockport distinguishing itself in the crowded comfort category?
HH: We have invested heavily to make sure our fit is correct — it’s the first thing we tackled. It’s the integrity of being able to say you’re a comfort brand. We have enough engineering and technology that can get us the best fit. But when I see the use of technologies in a way that doesn’t necessarily enhance a woman’s comfort, that’s just technology for the sake of technology.
2. Who is Rockport’s competition?
HH: I have worked hard most of last year so that we can compete on technical comfort with a [company like] Geox. From a styling standpoint, we needed to address the femininity and charm we see in lines such as Nine West, Calvin Klein and Anne Klein. Rockport is now swimming in fashion waters with other brands that do Americana [styling].
3. How closely do you work with the men’s team?
HH: I don’t think women’s has a chance if we don’t work tightly with men’s. Dave Pompel, [head of the men’s business], and I discuss colors, materials and themes before we present them to the [design team]. For example, [to illustrate our brand’s seafaring roots] we’re focusing on nautical for spring ’10. It’s authentic for us. We wanted to show the different ways to approach traditional American looks.