The American footwear and accessories brand has recently launched its flagship Dubai Mall store
Cole Haan is on the lookout for regional brand ambassadors in the Middle East
If running in heels is part of your daily grind, then the latest collection from American footwear brand Cole Haan is worth more than a cursory glance.In a range in which fashion meets function, top seasonal picks for women at the newly refurbished store in Dubai Mall include block heel almond-toe pumps in an ocelot print and bow-embellished ballet flats that will plié neatly into your handbag. Bags for this autumn/winter are equally practical and pretty, taking the form of woven leather totes, studded saddle bags and cross-body clutches.
Fronting the campaign for the range, under the slogan of Extraordinary Women, Extraordinary Stories, are models Christy Turlington and Karlie Kloss. “What any of us do on a daily basis is very ordinary, very routine,” Turlington says. “Extraordinary is really born from being your best possible self in any of those given moments.”
The 48-year-old was deemed a good fit with the brand, given her long-standing commitment to providing essential maternity care to underprivileged women around the world though her charity Every Mother Counts.
Kloss, meanwhile, caught the brand’s attention through her Kode with Klossy initiative, a free summer camp for teenage girls that enables them to learn code and become tomorrow’s titans of the tech world. The organisation was born from Kloss’s own talent for coding and her desire to help women be at the forefront of a digitally advancing society. “When someone is extraordinary, they are being genuine to their unique passions and chasing their dreams,” says 25-year-old Kloss.
Cole Haan’s shoes, much like the models who wear them, have much more to them than meets the eye. The company’s raison d’etre is to design chic, adaptable shoes that women and men can wear comfortably all day – be it from boardroom to beach, meeting room to mall or school run to sophisticated supper.
As for how they have been achieving the utopian ideal of a hardworking shoe since Trafton Cole and Eddie Haan first went into business in 1928 – the secret is in the science. Kloss’s preferred Grand Evolution shoes are a perfect example, appearing to the untrained eye to simply be on-trend, versatile footwear. Yet the inside tells a different story with dual-layer cushioning, soft-heel shock-absorption components, stabilising forefoot firmness, a moulded sock liner and Achilles padding all contributing to the perfect fit.
The good news for buyers is that this front-line technology doesn’t break the bank, with most of Cole Haan’s shoes costing from Dh500 to Dh800.
“There are a lot of brands around the world that are elegant, but few that are truly innovative,” says Greg Dinges, international executive vice president and president of Cole Haan Japan. “Innovation can be defined in a whole range of ways from flexibility and breathability to comfort, being waterproof and lightweight, for example. But it has to be backed by science. You have to notice the difference and go ‘wow’ when you pick up the shoe.”
Shoes available in-store with the wow factor include graphic knit sneakers and feather-light, leather-upper tennis shoes that weigh a mere 250 grams.
The sporting life and outdoor pursuits are integral divisions of Cole Haan’s footwear offering, and even shearling hiking boots take pride of place in the wood-panel display cabinets of the Dubai Mall branch this month. Regular shoppers will notice the boutique’s recent refit, which has brought its interior style in line with the brand’s flagship stores around the world. The result is a crisp white-and-smoky-grey walled space, with splashes of modern art and a gold geometric sculpture suspended from the ceiling. The store is one of four that Cole Haan currently has in the UAE, in addition to its wider regional footprint, which extends to locations from Saudi Arabia to Lebanon.
“The Middle East is extremely important for us,” Dinges says. “The UAE is unique in so many ways, and as a city, Dubai is very cutting-edge, which plays into the innovation side of our brand.”
Catering to local tastes, in recent years, Cole Haan has rolled out limited-edition Grand Pro sports shoes in the colours of regional flags and sandals with a distinctly Arabian style, designed to be teamed with kanduras. To further tap into the psyche of Middle Eastern shoppers, the company is also on the scout for regional ambassadors.
“We’re a brand that’s about storytelling and we want to continue to add to the Cole Haan family of extraordinary women, and extraordinary men,” Dinges says. “I’m sworn to secrecy, and it’s premature to talk about names in the Middle East, but one thing I’d love to do is work with some regional collaborators to do some co-branding – that might mean another brand or a designer.”
As a work-hard, play-hard globetrotting executive, Dinges seems to fit the profile of many of Cole Haan’s customers in the region and beyond. During his fly-through visit to the UAE, he greeted VIP customers at the Dubai Mall relaunch event dressed in a dapper dark-blue suit and a tangerine tie, paired with statement two-tone grey trainers with Oxford wingtip detailing.
“Thankfully, I’m lucky to have a whole portfolio of comfortable shoes to choose from,” Dinges says. “Every product we put out is both elegant and innovative, and that’s because we brought in sneaker heads who understand the technology of creating a better shoe, and merged them with a fantastic New York-based fashion team. ‘Hideously ugly’ simply doesn’t go hand in hand with comfortable shoes anymore.”