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Design Intervention

First off, Holo Footwear’s new Troy collection doesn’t look like the typical hiker. The palette isn’t dull brown and dreary black, nor is the collection of mid-height boots (and one low-cut style) overbuilt with heavy leathers, bulky overlays, and needless bells and whistles. To the contrary, the Troy is a less-is-more, athletic-inspired, clean look that Holo CEO and Head Designer Rommel Vega says ushers in a fresh alternative to a stale shoe wall. Hence the name Troy, which is in reference to Greek mythology’s Trojan Horse.
“Troy means Holo has shown up with something really different,” Vega says. “As a newer brand, we wanted to target the burgeoning athleisure hiking space. So, we’ve created a clean, super-lightweight, versatile hiking boot that offers all the support, traction, and comfort needed to go on a hike, or a walk around town.”
A strong test run at REI and Nordstrom this past fall convinced Vega that the collection has big potential as the Grand Rapids, MI-based company expands distribution, beginning this fall, at Scheels and other select retailers. “It’s been performing really well,” he reports. “It’s one of our best sellers, and it’s sitting right next to the Merrell Moab and Keen Targhee. Customers immediately see how different the Troy is—our recycled knitted uppers in striking colors, 60 percent recycled rubber outsole, and Honest Foam midsole for all-day comfort.”
Vega attributes the Troy’s success, in large part, to the design team’s ability to know when to say when. “Oftentimes designers don’t know when to put the pencil down,” he explains. “Whereas our emphasis is on including everything you need but nothing beyond that. Designing a shoe is not a drawing contest; it’s about solving problems.” Over-designed products, Vega says, can lead to unnecessary costs that are passed on to consumers. “Just putting more stuff on a shoe can also be offputting to a lot of consumers,” he says, noting that the SRP for the Troy is $100 and $95 for the low-cut version. “They’re turned off by brands that take themselves too seriously, because not everyone is going to Kathmandu to hike the Himalayas. They’re just looking for something that looks and feels good that can be worn from the local trail to the bar, or as an everyday shoe.”
That everyday versatility is Holo’s sweet spot, according to Vega. “We aren’t trying to be a top-of-the-mountain company,” he says. “Our focus is on being sustainable and attainable, making sure we don’t over-design, yet the durability, traction, and fit are great.”
The Troy collection’s palette is a fresh, attention-grabbing alternative that pops on shoe shelves.A key part of Troy’s alternative hiker recipe is the popping unisex color palette of Sundown red, Moon off-white, and Absinthe green. “We didn’t include black and brown on purpose,” Vega says. “The shoes pop on the shoe wall—consumers are picking the boots up because the colors are so rich and vibrant.” Vega notes that Moon is one of the most popular colors. “Who ever thought a white hiking boot would be a top seller?” he laughs, but the dirtier it gets, the cooler it looks. “It shows you’ve been out doing stuff. You’re telling a story about where you’ve been and what you’ve done.”
Troy’s target demographic is men an dwomen 25-35 years old. Or, as Vega says, the consumer who grew up wearing sneakers. “Troy has a cool sneaker feel; it’s not the Hummer of boots. It’s faster and lighter—more like a Tesla.” He likens it to the gasoline car, which “was only good until the electric car came around. The Troy feels and looks like that.”
Vega, who has been a footwear designer for nearly 20 years (stops have included Merrell, Keen, and Columbia), knows of what he speaks. In fact, he longed to infuse freshness into the category even in his early days. “I’ve always wanted to design something younger, faster,” he says. “But it always came down to the organization saying this was working and let’s not disturb it.” He believes brands can talk themselves out of potential great ideas because of that approach. Not anymore. Vega is the boss and Holo’s foundation is product-first. “Holo leads through the lens of product, and our team believes that product is king.”
Holo is also nimble and quick. “I can make the decisions if we need to change, and we can move fast,” Vega says. “We like to zig when everyone else zags, because we must offer something different—and better.” This requires researching what the market opportunities are and what’s not being done, then creating something new. That’s the best way for Holo to get on the shoe wall. “Retailers and consumers don’t want or need more of the same,” Vega says. “Holo’s entry into the market is lightweight, colorful, clean, made responsibly, and at an attractive price point.”
Vega is excited about Holo’s future. The brand is expanding distribution into Canada this fall, then Australia and New Zealand in Spring ’24. The race is on. “We’re going to continue to press on the gas,” he says. “We’re young and ambitious. We’re not going to slow down.”
The post Design Intervention appeared first on Footwear Plus Magazine.

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