4. In this tough economy, are you playing it safe or taking chances?
HH: We have to do both. We have styles people are accustomed to: travel shoes and washable footwear. It’s best not to [tinker] too much with those. But then we also have to introduce more stylish and modern things. That way, there’s a chance for people used to our basics to warm up to the fashion, and for the stylish people to understand what the heritage stuff is about. I’m encouraged when I see 20-year-olds looking at heritage, as much as I’m inspired by women in their 80s who say, “Of course I wear heels.”
5. What are the key looks for spring?
HH: We’ve brought our boat shoe back, but we modernized it. Next, we looked at the [professional] woman and her career shoes. There are ways to do heels without challenging her. We kept the pitch quite low, but [made the shoes] modern. The third — my favorite — is a rain boot. We built our non-skid technology into the bottom and added AdiPrene [cushioning] and a [temperature regulating] lining.
6. Are there specific colors women are drawn to?
HH: Women are always intrigued by pink. It’s no surprise it’s the most enduring color in the last 20 years. In footwear, we’ve also seen tons of red. It’s like the Dorothy shoe — everyone loves the idea of it. When we talk about sexy shoes, we always talk in terms of red.
7. What celebrity do you envision as Rockport’s poster girl?
HH: We imagine the Rockport woman has children, a husband or lover, and is working and living a full life. I’d love to get Julia Roberts. And Kate Moss — people forget she’s over 30 and a mother. Also, Jennifer Garner: She’s [the perfect example] of what we think that Rockport lifestyle should be.
8. How is Rockport evolving its accessories offering?
HH: We brought accessories in-house for the first time with the philosophy of engineering function into [the category]. We made sure the handbags have practical details, such as phone pockets in the right sizes and places. We’ve also created a system that contains all of one’s paraphernalia in a [separate inside] bag, so it can easily be switched from bag to bag. And we have a bag with two separate compartments for a woman’s work life and real life.
9. How important is connecting with consumers one-on-one?
HH: We go out and talk to women all the time. We have a system for foot sampling, getting shoes out to the public and hearing their [feedback]. We already organize [focus] groups in Asia Pacific, Europe and the U.S. who will not only fit our shoes but take them home and see what it’s like to live in them.
10. You’ve lived in Korea, Africa and the U.S. What part of the world most influences you?
HH: New York. It’s [a city about] women. Women dress for women. We like each other, like stories about one another. In New York, you see so many styles. And we tolerate every one. It’s not like other cities where people would stare at you.