Shoes are something that impacts the experience of a person’s day – especially business people, who travel from point A to point B to point C numerous times during their working time. Cole Haan is the very company to bring a totally offbeat solution with the aim to improve people’s lives with their innovative and super comfortable footwear.

“We all come with a single purpose: how do we change lives?” – says Scott Patt, Cole Haan’s VP of design and innovation. The company has been in fashion business for more than 80 years, since 1928, and has acquired a respected brand image that associates with quality, durability and credibility. Cole Haan’s innovations and contribution have started from its early years of establishment, and continue to flourish nowadays with their deep research and development into bringing new things to the market, and most importantly, delivering the products that are above and beyond the customers’ expectations.

Cole Haan has always focused on customers’ desires in terms of the comfortability of their footwear. The company starts its invention process by imagining the course of the day of their typical customer – how much do they have to travel by feet, their need to change from cozy sneakers to office shoes or 12-inch heels, the pain caused by the uncomfortableness of the shoes they might encounter. With those things in mind, the Cole Haan team starts making up numerous options of how to design the shoes that would meet consumers’ two main requirements – look good and feel good. By combining craft, style and engineering, they create an elegant innovation that is breathable, extremely comfortable and stylish.

Last September, the company launched its most profitable shoe line – GrandRevolution, which is a reinvention of the dress shoe and pump that combines traditional craft and modern engineering along with provision of flexibility and comfort. The innovation is centered around three core functions: cushioning, ergonomics, and flexibility. The shoes’ tongue and Achilles padding generate ready-to-wear comfort, while anatomically engineered footbed is designed to cradle each step and reduce moisture. “We basically took the bottom of a leather men’s dress shoe and we cored out the leather,” explains Patt. “The areas that we took out, we filled with our Grand.OS energy foam.”

Located in Greenland, New Hampshire, Cole Haan’s innovation lab works with 20 employees that come from different backgrounds – they have designers from fashion industry, talents from sport and performance brands, people who previously worked in automotive design, and 3D designers from animation space. However diverse the team is, there is one thing that unites them – they are all people who understand modern engineering, industrial design and the way to bring products to market that are completely unique. “When you give a group of people a permission to push against the status quo, you can end up with something extraordinary,” – says company’s CMO and General Manager, David Maddocks.

In their strive to reinvent the products into the future, Cole Haan recently introduced another shoe collection – ZERØGRAND Stitchlite, a stylish transformation of the traditional leather oxford dress shoes. The new shoes are a classically-crafted knit style Oxfords, but reinvented in a way that the footwear has the sole of a sneaker, which supports weight distribution and moist control, and gives the wearer extreme lightness and comfortability of a pair of running shoes. ZERØGRAND Stitchlite was designed as a next frontier in innovative footwear – they are highly versatile, easy to slip on and off thanks to knit stretches, and their look is undoubtedly elegant and professional. This is, as Cole Haan’s website says, an innovative upgrade on tradition, as the new-generation Oxfords integrate craftsmanship with athletic innovations. “We took out what you didn’t need from a men’s dress Oxford and replaced it with what you do need. For multiple generations men and women have been raised in comfortable, flexible sneakers, so in 2017, why we should accept antiquated experiences and expectations with dress footwear?”  – Patt told CNBC in an interview.

As for the team and the production process, between setting up a goal of crafting a shoe and actually making it lies a time frame, from six months to two years. The Cole Haan team always seeks a room for improvement in the products they design – this is why Scott Patt constantly suggests that the shoe lines are somehow updated each season. Along with their two next-generation collections of lightweight dress shoes, team members are currently working on a new heel prototype for women’s shoes that would make wearing heels no pain and discomfort anymore. The company’s designers have all different design approaches – it can be digital or analog, or the combination of those two. No matter which approach they choose, the use of 3D modeling allows the company to easily and rapidly produce the prototypes of the future shoes.

 “Many innovation centers are just a bunch of brilliant people, huddled in a corner, coming up with random ideas,” – says Patt. “I just don’t think that’s the best use of talent. I’d rather have my team focused on solving specific problems. Within those guardrails they can go crazy, but you need to have method in the madness.”

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