Friday, March 23, 2012

the 'owling: an interview with Ugglebo's president

by frédérik

It seems that, purely by accident, it’s clog month here at The Fashionoclast. Last week I introduced you to Les Sabots d’Isa. Next week, I’ll most likely have a clog-related post featuring new acquisitions – unless other features come together and I feel we need a break from wooden footwear. And this week, we revisit Ugglebo for a more in-depth look at a venerable name in clog-making, beginning with a peek at the dependable styles of the Spring/Summer 2012 collection:

More pretty pictures in the S/S 2012 Lookbook, and of course, more at Ugglebo's website.

Of course, looking at pictures, moving and otherwise will only tell you so much. In case you missed it, do read Becky’s write-up of the lovely Koltur clogs Ugglebo kindly sent her to try out.

But as is traditional here at The F, I strive to offer you, whenever possible, a behind-the-scenes look at the fashion goodies I feature. Thus: an interview with Ugglebo president David Giese conducted via eMail.

Until Karl Lagerfeld peppered his Spring 2010 collection for Chanel with clogs, it seemed as if clogs would be relegated to the sidelines. It leads me to consider how some items of apparel and footwear - like flared or bell-bottomed jeans, for example - trend in, then trend out not to be seen again for many, many fashion cycles. Yet some items, like clogs, manage to keep a consistent presence despite neglect from the mainstream fashion industry. What's the secret to clog's longevity? 
Clogs are just such a universal footwear with and endless number of style and color combinations!   Clogs both feel and look great and that is what keeps customer demand strong.  Easy for me to say but… Clogs are just awesome and once people try them they wish they had years ago. 
From the classic style, like Ugglebo' Tokyo clog, to modern high-heeled sandals, how has clog design evolved over the years? Do you think there's still room to innovate new designs, or are we entering a period of trend-driven reinvention? 
Ugglebo has several different customer demographics.  First are our die-hard clog enthusiasts (which there are many) who stick with your more classic designs and tend to have been enthusiasts for a long time.  These clog enthusiasts will stick with clogs for their durability, comfort, look and feel regardless of fashion trends.  On the other hand clogs are in fashion as you have said.  Ugglebo certainly has captured many new customers likely driven by fashion but we know from feedback that our new customers quickly become enthusiasts which creates a long-term relationship for both sides.  Additionally, Ugglebo is a small, family-owned niche company and brand so we are simply not nearly as effected by overall trends as some of our competitors. 
Ugglebo describes itself as having been founded by Sven Carlsson with the intention of matching traditional craftsmanship with the latest fashion trends. How would you describe Ugglebo's relationship with the broader fashion industry both today and in terms of its history, and how does the company decide which trends to engage with when assembling a collection? 
As I said above, we are a small family-run business and we try to be the innovator rather than following larger trends in the market place.  Again, trends are trends and we at Ugglebo only care to grow a sustainable foundation of loyal customers who recognize us for what we are, A high-quaility, hand-made footwear brand that values building long-term customer relationships even if that means not jumping on the trend band-wagon.  With regard to your second question, everyone at Ugglebo takes a part in helping to develop our collection with final approval coming from my father-in-law Christer who has been Ugglebo's Clog Master since the mid-1970's. 
Ugglebo for Epaulet. Josie. Alderwood base with nubuc leather. $179 

An interesting omission from your web copy, if that's the right word, involves the orthopedic value of clogs. Of course, mention the word "orthopedic" and most people, rightly or wrongly, think of shoes for senior citizens. I suspect that's not quite the association a fashionable brand wants. Marketing aside, does Ugglebo subscribe to the orthopedic benefits of clogs? 
Great Question!  For legal reasons we can't call our clogs "orthopedic" but as I have eluded to in previous questions, clogs are comfy and are great for the feet, knees and back.  So, yes, although not written our customers absolutely recognize the health benefits our clogs. 
Despite the occasional mention of clogs for both men and women, there doesn't seem to be any dedicated men's clogs in your catalog. There aren't even any male models wearing clogs. Did you make a conscious decision to focus your design and marketing efforts towards women, or is this simply a response to market conditions? Does Ugglego have any plans to reach out to men? 
Our previous website did have a selection of Men's clogs but unfortunately, although on our radar screen, we haven't been able to get our men's line up and running online as of yet.  However, we absolutely have men's clogs and within the next several months you and your readers can expect to see a lively men's line available!

Bering. Alderwood base with vegetable tan leather. $169 

I didn’t just send over my questions to David, however.  Fashionoclast readers contributed a few Qs of their own. So I now turn over the (virtual) microphone to them...

Reader Mica asks: how long does a pair of shoes typically take to make when done by hand? How did you come up with the name Ugglebo? 
Mica, thanks for your question.  If you make just one pair at a time it take roughly an hour to make the clog and anywhere between 2 hours and 48 hours to dry the clog depending on the leather type.
Ugglebo is the region of Sweden where our factory is located.  We manufacture in the same location as we have since 1965 when the name Ugglebo Toffeln was created.  Ugglebo means "owls nest" in Swedish and Toffeln means clogs in Swedish. 
Jenny, who is not a clog fans, wants to know if you have a strategy for trying to make those pesky, non-clog wearers take a second look. Or do you embrace that clogs aren’t for everyone and design just for the modern day clog-wearer? 
We understand that our product isn't for everyone as many companies and brands do.  However, we always encourage potential customers to simply give us a try because we are confident that we can turn non clog lovers into enthusiasts and we love to do so one customer at a time!
Melisa would love to know more about how you put your collections together. For example, how do you decide how many shoes to offer? Do you have a core design team, or is it a company-wide effort? 
Melisa, thanks for the interest.  It really is a company wide effort.  We take a look at our vast clog archives and have many, many design meetings and trips throughout Europe to select innovative leathers, bases and accessories.  Although some companies embrace a modern high-tech design process we love our old-school approach that relies on our Clog Master's endless experience and a lot of trial and error!

There you have it. Many thanks to David Giese for his time and Fredrik Eklund – Ugglebo’s Marketing and Brand Manager –  for coordinating the interview. Also, many thanks to Mica, Jenny, Melisa, and June for contributing/suggesting questions.

Of course, images used by permission for illustrative purposes only.

And now, readers, I turn it over to you with a few questions for you to chew on: what do you think about Ugglebo’s Spring/Summer collection? If you’ve never been keen on clogs before, do you see anything that might make you want to give them a try? Let me know in the comments below!


stylish with a budget said...

i like the rio's a nice design. it's casual and feminine.
it's nice to read about they really take pride if their work...and not completely taken over by the trend. would like to check them out some time..

Frederik Sisa said...

The rio grande is a lovely design, I agree. I also agree about the pride; Ugglebo, along with other clogmakers who handcraft their shoes, have a special quality that mass-producers definitely don't have.

If you do check 'em out, I'd love to hear what you think. :)

Mica said...

Agree with Stylish with a budget - I really like the rio grande. Would be so cute with dresses, such a nice summer sandal with a difference :)

Thanks for passing on my questions - so interesting to see the responses! I'm amazed at the quick shoe turnaround.

I like their collection, and the lookbook shots :)

Frederik Sisa said...

Thanks, Mica! Clogs are supposed to be good for feet and body posture, incidentally...:)

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