8 November 2023

The Future of Footwear - Research & Development with Vibram


The future of the shoe according to Vibram. On the one hand, the macro trends that concern the entire world of fashion such as sustainability, repair and customization. On the other, specific trends in the footwear sector such as utility fashion, the outdoor universe which increasingly looks towards fashion, up to technical innovations for sport. The Varese company also notes poor planning on the part of its customers/brands. To innovate and try to satisfy the requests coming from brands, Vibram has a research and development team made up of around 50 people. Report by La Conceria.

The future of footwear

Vibram is able to predict the future of the shoe not with artificial intelligence but based on the requests of fashion brands. And from the results of the research and development activity of the company based in Albizzate (Varese). A macro-trend is that of sustainability. Combining the performance of the shoe bottom with the use of biomaterials was the challenge that Vibram undertook in 1994 with expanded compounds. Another difficulty is not only creating a green and high-performance product, but also at a cost compatible with the market.

The trend of utility fashion

“The footwear repair service is growing, even for private individuals, as is the customization of sneakers – Valeria Tobia, marketing coordinator of the company for the EMEA area, tells La Conceria –. Generally speaking, we see the utility fashion trend as very strong. The urban concept that Vibram has interpreted for some brands such as Moncler, Zegna and Herno, through technical and sustainable materials. A trend that we believe will continue in the future” says Tobia. In other words, the outdoor world is moving towards fashion.

A team with 50 creators

90% of Vibram outdoor turnover is made with products exclusive to the brands. Conversely, for lifestyle, the majority of sales come from products made by the company. “But requests for customization are growing in all divisions,” says Tobia who sees an increase in requests for technical products for sports use, such as for padel and tennis. The internal team of around 50 people carries out the research and development activity. “A single center for all our divisions. Because matter is transversal. In some cases we start from research aimed at the outdoors which then turns out to be useful for lifestyle and vice versa” explains the Vibram manager.

“Poor planning”

“Post Covid has seen a great demand for shoes for outdoor activities. And for this reason 2022 was a boom year for us. While in 2023 there was a slowdown. We will probably return to the numbers of 2019 – concludes Marco Lo Russo, sales area manager of the group –. The shoe of the future? In general, brands don’t know which direction to go. We perceive an inability to plan in the long term” states Lo Russo.

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