GOLA: CELEBRATING 110 YEARS OF RICH SNEAKER HERITAGE

May 08, 2015 3:42 PM

110 years is a long time by anyone’s standards, but for a sneaker brand’s existence, it’s virtually unheard of. That is of course with the exception of U.K. label Gola, producer of athletics-inspired, fashionista-approved footwear and bags. Through a commitment to quality, dedication to its storied history and a keen understanding of where it fits in the marketplace, Gola has been able not only to withstand the test of time, but also to grow consistently while remaining true to its treasured heritage.

May 22nd of this year marks the big 110th, and to celebrate, Gola will be hosting a pop-up at world-renowned luxury retailer Fred Segal’s Santa Monica location. The sneakers can already be found at high-end shopping destinations like Nordstrom, but the Segal collaboration marks yet another step for the brand’s ever-growing popularity.

In a recent chat with Gola CEO Tony Evans, I brought up the unique niche that his brand occupies. I expressed to him that when I see someone rocking a pair of his trainers, I know that they’re into fashion, but that they didn’t empty their bank account on the purchase; it’s a strange but awesome dynamic. The label isn’t nearly as ubiquitous as some of the top sneaker brands in the U.S., but that’s allowed it to retain a boutique appeal crucial to attracting those who appreciate exclusivity.

With the way things are going, these slick sneakers are set to make waves in the industry for yet another 110 years. Check out some Gola history and upcoming special editions above, and read Twelv’s exclusive interview with the brand’s CEO, Tony Evans, below.

 

 

Jason Greenspan:  Gola’s 110th anniversary is coming up on May 22nd. What do you think has led to the brand’s enduring success?

Tony Evans:  I think that we’re very privileged that the brand has a long heritage and back catalogue that we can call upon. We’re always looking at the iconic styles that we’ve developed over the years for footwear and bags, and making sure that they’re updated and relevant in today’s market. But I suppose it’s really the heritage that a lot of brands these days don’t have, especially going that far back.

  

JG:  What are Gola’s best-sellers in the American market right now?

TE:  Probably the number one seller over the years has been the Harrier. And we’ve done it in so many different materials and colorways. I mean, we’ve done literally hundreds of colorways and we continue to bring back relevant versions of that shoe. Wherever we go around the world the name Harrier seems to be synonymous with Gola. And Comet is particularly popular as well.

  

JG:  The Hibiscus collection is vibrant, evocative, and just all around awesome. Where did the idea for the retro floral pattern come from? What was the inspiration?

TE:  It’s really sort of an L.A. look combined with our classic silhouette. We saw this hibiscus print and thought that it would be very strong for the season. We started working on it about 15 months ago, and the response has been phenomenal so far. But once again, it’s about taking classic styles and combining them with up-to-date looks.

 

JG:  The brand isn’t as ubiquitous as some other sneaker brands in the U.S., but that gives it a boutique, in-the-know vibe. Is that something that you’d like to preserve? Or would you like to have a larger presence in the market? 

TE:  Specifically in the U.S., we’re built on the platform of boutique appeal. Obviously we’d like to increase sales, but that will only work hand-in-hand with the right distribution. There are a number of cool retailers that we’d like to work with out there that we have dialogue with, but rather than going to the wrong distribution channel and turning certain people off, we’d rather stay true to our values.

 

JG:  And even with its boutique vibe, the price point has remained appealing. Is that difficult to maintain? 

TE:  With anything in this space, it’s a combination of having a cool product, the right distribution and the right price point. If we had two of the three, it wouldn’t work. We work very hard talking to our colleagues in the U.S. to develop an appropriate price and I think we’re seeing great results. We haven’t got aspirations of grandeur in this area.

 

JG:  So to celebrate the 110th, Gola will be setting up a pop-up shop at Fred Segal in Santa Monica. What can we expect? Any special surprises? 

TE:  Within our museum archives over here, we’ve got a number of pieces that go back many years. We’re looking into displaying some of these historical products to give people insight into the brand’s heritage.It’s cool because you forget how heavy some of these old items are. Everything nowadays is light, and you wonder how people put some of these older shoes on their feet (laughs).

  

JG:  Fred Segal is synonymous with careful curation and luxury. A collaboration with the retailer is in and of itself a testament to Gola’s status. How big is this for the company?

TE: It’s a very big deal. We’re honored to be invited into their Santa Monica store. There’s definitely a global elite of fashion retailers, and I’d certainly consider Fred Segal to be part of that group. 

 

JG:  Will there be any wild parties in celebration of the anniversary over at Gola headquarters?

TE: (Laughs) We actually had a huge party for the 100th. I mean, we could have a party every five years, but the hundredth was a really big to do. We had people like the Spice Girls and the guys from Oasis; it was great. Other than that though, there aren’t going to be any wild parties unfortunately. But I think that when you’re involved with a brand with this kind of heritage, you feel lucky to be the custodian that keeps watch for the period of your involvement, and that’s really important.

 

 

INTERVIEWED & WRITTEN BY: JASON GREENSPAN

PHOTO CREDIT: GOLA

 

 

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