Cole Haan

Tonie Ong

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What makes a luxury brand? Is it the exclusivity of their items? The height of their price points? Or the love is shown to them by clients as well as millions of consumers? In reality, it can either be just one, two, or all of the above. Luxury is defined, first and foremost, by quality. If the brand sells high-quality items, chances are it’s a luxury brand. Through the years, the price and the accessibility of items are no longer the only indications of a luxury, but of high quality. Whatever the prices or whatever it’s made out of, as long as it’s made well, it’s luxury. It’s with this principle that a brand like Cole Haan has become part of the luxury goods game.

Cole Haan is all about comfortable yet high-quality footwear. They produce pairs that are beautiful to look at and comfortable to wear. They depend on sportswear, which has since become a luxury market itself, for the demand of their items. A lot of people nowadays want comfortable yet stylish shoes they can wear for any occasion and for long hours. Previously, luxury shoes were all about style, disregarding the wearer’s comfort and putting too much emphasis on design. Cole Haan gives equal focus to both elements, making them a go-to brand for millions of consumers.

NYC-born brand

The company’s original name was Cole, Rood & Haan, after the founders Trafton Cole and Eddie Haan. Their third partner eventually left the company, changing its name is simply Cole Haan. It was established back in 1928 as a men’s shoe label, in New York City. They manufactured fine leather footwear for a number of society’s most distinguished gentlemen, and soon, they became the premier men’s shoe label in the early 20th century. As the years went on, they added other lines to the business, including a women’s shoe line, a ready-to-wear line, and a children’s line as well. They ultimately became one of the most prominent lifestyle brands in the US, but still focused heavily on footwear.

In 1975, the company was acquired by George Denney, who expanded the brand to new heights during the 1980’s. With Denney’s help, Cole Haan became a major player in the retail industry at a time when fashion was seeing one of it speaks in terms of commercialism. The company was then bought by sportswear giant Nike. Under Nike’s leadership, the company ventured into athletic sportswear, selling sneakers, and specific sports shoes. They gained the respect and interest of many sports stars, some of which collaborated with the brand to create subsidiary lines. In 2012, Apax bought Cole Haan. To this day, they run the business, which has expanded tenfold in the hands of its current and previous owners.

Sustainability

In 2008, Cole Haan announced that they will no longer be using real animal fur in any of their lines and products, signals a change in process for the company. They became one of the first lifestyle brands to publicly denounce animal cruelty through their decision to produce their products with sustainable materials. Two years later, in 2010, the company announced that they will no longer be using exotic animal skins for their leather as well. This news was spread by animal rights activists, PETA, who have long criticized and pressured brands to stop making use of animal fur and skins in their clothing.

Collaborations

Like many lifestyle brands, Cole Haan is open to collaborations with outside artists and stars. In 2009, Russian tennis superstar Maria Sharapova partnered up with Cole Haan to create a line of women’s shoes for both the Spring and Fall 2009 seasons. The collections consisted of pumps, ballet flats, and tennis shoes with highly-feminine touches and designs. The tennis star herself fronted the ad campaigns for the shoe collections. What followed was another collaboration with Council of Fashion Designers of America award nominee Todd Snyder for a capsule men’s shoe collection, featuring designs closer to the high-end origins of the label. The label also collaborated with dancers from the New York City BalletGretchen Smith, Sara Mearns and Megan Fairchild, and for a line of ballet flats.

Retail Expansion

With the help of its many owners through the years, Cole Haan has been expanding in the retail industry. They’re now available in a number of countries across multiple continents, including Mexico, Thailand, Mexico, Peru, Philippines, Guatemala, and China, among others. They also have 10 flagship stores, nine across the United States and one in Tokyo, Japan. Prominent retailers Nordstrom, Bergdorf Goodman, Macy’s, Lord & Taylor, and Neiman Marcus all carry Cole Haan items in their physical stores and e-commerce sites. They plan to expand to Europe in the coming years, as well as in Australia and New Zealand.

From what began as a men’s shoe business became one of the most known lifestyle brands in the world. Cole Haan has and continues to exceed expectations on how the American taste can work for other customers around the world. Their focus on quality above anything else is what has made them a full-fledged luxury powerhouse in the retail industry.

Cole Haan store on Fifth Avenue in Manhattan, New York, USA.
Cole Haan store on Fifth Avenue in Manhattan, New York, USA. Tooykrub

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