The sportswear hype is burgeoning and sneakers have been the top item in footwear for several seasons. Brands such as Nike and Adidas are riding the wave of success-in terms of style and image. But what’s up with Puma? A certain quietness has settled around the feline predator. That is supposed to change now.
What is the first thing you think of when you hear the word puma? What comes to mind for me is an image of my favorite bag-a fire-engine red handle, a big fat Puma logo in red letters on baby-blue nylon material. The only problem: That was back in 1997. Since then Adidas and Nike have set up camp in my shoe and clothing wardrobe. And if you have a look around the major fashion centers such as Copenhagen, Paris or New York, you quickly see what sneaker brands rule the streets-with Puma not among them.
What exactly is Puma’s problem? Not modern enough? Too set in its ways? Too retro? “What caused this was reinvestment in classic performance happening too late- the success of lifestyle was enjoyed for too long,” explains Matthias Baumer, general manager DACH Puma SE. Baumer is openly acknowledging that at the end of the day neither retailers nor consumers understood what the brand really stands for. “Now we would like to focus on our four categories teamsport, running, training and lifestyle and apply our resources in a targeted way to reach our target groups.“
Despite this, Puma is still relevant in the fitness and training domain and has also not fallen off the radar in the lifestyle area. The Herzogenaurach-based company is working hard on making structural changes to the brand. In sportswear Puma is still one of the top three global players. By 2015 the whole collection (lifestyle and performance) is to be reduced by over 30%. “We want to be relevant and faster and ensure that sport inspiration regains traction in the Select area,” says Torsten Hochstetter, global creative director Puma SE, in charge of design and development for the sport lifestyle collection as well as for the sports performance collection since mid-2013.
The partnership with French streetwear label BWGH first started in late 2013 was very positively received at retailers internationally and will continue next season. “There were solid order levels for BWGH; we got very positive feedback, especially at Seek and Bright,” says Hochstetter. With Solange Knowles as creative inspiration, Puma designed a new edition of the cult Puma Disc Model last year. Almost every day Knowles posts pictures of herself in perfectly styled outfits from her favorite New York designer William Okpo on her Instagram profile “Saintrecords,” followed by a whopping half million viewers. The matching shoes? Pumas. The marketing value of a #Puma posts with on average more than 20,000 likes and around 500 comments? It is beyond any number for the company. And in the summer of 2015 Puma will make a splash with its forthcoming collaboration. With almost 30 pieces, the next collection has been designed in collaboration with Vashtie Kola, creative director of Icecream Girl, designer, video director and downtown sweetheart of the New York party scene. In addition to varsity and track jackets, mesh tank tops and t-shirts with 1990s styling, the versatile Brooklyn native has also given design impetus to the Puma Trinomic, Suede and Sky Sneaker models.
Further collaborations with McQ, House of Hackney, Mihara Yasuhiro and Alife will be presented for the 2015 summer season. Puma is convincing when it comes to the quality and authentic selection of the artists and designers it works with and its cleaner look with Puma Select distances itself from its loud lifestyle image. Hochstetter says, “We have a much clearer focus when it comes to the lifestyle segment. We have a strategic ‘pillar’ based on Trinomic-running – plus one based on basketball, and one on tennis. The collaborations are the salt in the soup and give the Select line-up that certain something.” Hochstetter adds that these three strategic design pillars are somewhat variable. Even a World Cup tournament can provide inspiration, for example in connection with tooling. Hochstetter sees the trends in the sneaker segment centering more on bulky, wider sneaker silhouettes: “The bulky silhouette shown by the Trinomic will be a trend. What is important is to get more depth into the material. However, if we streamline, we have to make sure the material is interesting. In lifestyle, for example, we use very high quality leather, resulting in a compelling shoe right from the basic construction.“
Expressed in specialized fashion language that means: At the latest when John and Jane Doe discover their love for Stan Smith and Nike Roshe Run, it is time for Harry Hipster to look around for a new kind of sneaker, and that certainly won’t be all too long from now.