Reef

Selling three million dollars-worth of flip flops in 1993 was certainly means enough to support the surf lifestyle for Reef founders, Fernando and Santiago Aguerre. But they had their minds set on higher aspirations. With the goal of creating an internationally recognized brand, they enlisted the support of Concept 21 to expand their business.  

The team began by increasing the quality of Reef’s flip flop line. At the time, all of their products were built in a Brazilian factory filled with polypropylene webbing trimmings that were susceptible to combustion caused by a a miss-calculated deposit of ash from any one of the hundreds of cigarettes being consumed by nearly all of the factory workers. Despite these somewhat unsafe conditions, this factory had a webbing loom that was capable of producing custom designs, and is attributed to the unique weaving style that Reef became known for. 

 An original convertible sandal

An original convertible sandal

During the course of their five-year relationship, Concept 21 lead the design process for all products, and introduced many new sandal styles to the market. One sandal in particular became known as one of the most innovative sandals the market had seen: “The Convertible” utilized a quick-release heel strap allowing it to function as a slipper or a technical sandal. 

Concept 21 also helped address some of the growing pains the brand felt as it grew out of it’s retail sales spaces. At the time, most of the stores that Reef sold their products in were surf shops that were used to selling surfboards. This generally meant that the stores had little infrastructure to handle backstock, nor the ability to display footwear product. The solution that Concept 21 helped devise to address the issue was the “Money Tree”, a free standing and self-serving point-of-purchase display capable of holding 144  pairs of sandals. 

 The first Reef shoe

The first Reef shoe

Eventually, the brand expanded beyond solely sandal design, and decided to introduce a line of shoes to help diversify their product offering. Concept 21 designed, developed, and produced this new shoe line. Strategically positioned, these shoes targeted the surfing niche, rather than the skate industry, as many of other competitors had exclusively appealed to.   

During the five years of their engagement, Concept 21 helped the brand reach $70 million in annual sales and developed a lasting relationship with the brand's founders.

Anta

Anta, the premiere Chinese athletic brand, is one of the largest athletic brands the world has yet to discover. With a market value  of $3.87billion USD in 2014, Anta became the 5th largest sporting goods company (in terms of market value) in the world, after Nike, Adidas, Puma and Asics. Boasting over 8,000 stores distributed across China, Anta sells tens of millions of pairs of shoes each year.

Since 2008, Concept 21 has been a strategic partner of Anta, providing a full spectrum of services including design, brand strategy, and innovation services. Each quarter Concept 21 meets with the leadership team to review initiatives and set high-level direction as part of C21’s brand strategy services. Concept 21’s main goal with regards to brand strategy is to position Anta as a more internationally competitive brand. This is being achieved strategically through a number of measures: A quarterly and annual in-depth international trend analysis, creation and operation a US-based design school to broaden Anta’s design team capabilities, and an internal corporate restructuring to allow product teams to be more agile. As a result, Anta has become the number one athletic company in China. 

Concept 21 also plays a significant role in Anta’s basketball program. This includes managing the relationship with their NBA sponsored athletes as well as designing and developing athlete’ footwear models for Kevin Garnett, Klay Thompson, Rajon Rondo, Chandler Parsons, and Luis Scola. 

In 2013, Concept 21 secured and managed the NBA mark for use in the China market through Anta. This required the development of an intensive product strategy, as well as the design of entire line of product.  Concept 21 also leads the innovation process for the company by bringing cutting edge technology from the industry to the brand. This included the introduction and implementation of new design processes, manufacturing processes, and materials.  

The strategic partnership between Concept 21 and Anta has proved both lucrative and inspiring, opening doors for the brand to diversify its offering and expand into the international market in the strongest position possible.  

Supra

Having recently launched one of fastest growing skate apparel brands in the world, the founders of Krew, a high-end skate apparel line, were interested in diversifying their product offering, and so decided to launch Supra as a separate footwear brand. 

Ordinary skate shoes did not meet the founders ideal level of performance for the demanding sport, and so they set out to produce the most high-end, high-performance skate shoe on the market. In order to handle the excessive impact that skaters subject their feet to on concrete surfaces, Krew designers incorporated neoprene in the toe cap and utilized an integrated polyurethane footbed for increased shock absorption.

Certainly Supra’s demand for quality set them apart from other skate brands, but what was most striking was the use of vibrant colors and exotic materials. Not only was this a complete departure from the norm in the skate industry, their unique styling also rocked the entire footwear industry, grabbing the attention of the top brands and celebrities. 

Concept 21 worked with Supra from the inception of the idea, eventually serving all of their commercialization needs, including sourcing factories, product development, sampling, and logistics. Over the course of the eight-year relationship, Concept 21 served the brand as it grew from $0 - $140 million in annual global sales.

Nike

The discount shoe retail market had grown exponentially in the late 90’s and early 2000’s, with retailers such as Payless and Walmart selling a high volumes of footwear to a nation-wide consumer market. When the industry saw the increase in discount stores, Nike became interested in creating a program that would allow them to sell to such retailers and thereby reach a new customer segment.

Concept 21’s diverse capabilities made them the ideal consultancy to help Nike experiment with establishing relationships with such notable retailers. Once the project was approved by Nike’s board, Concept 21 worked in conjunction with a team lead by Clare Hamill to develop two separate brands, Tailwind for Payless and Starter for Walmart. 

Charged with the responsibility of developing a product line with Nike, as well as managing the entire development and manufacturing process, Concept 21 was able to produce results that impressed the leadership team at Nike. The footwear represented a quality product that resembled some of Nike’s top shoes, but at a fraction of the cost. This was achieved while still meeting all of the strict corporate responsibility guidelines that Nike has when working with any factories. To further ensure the success of the project, Concept 21 oversaw all China-based operations as well. 

Nike’s marketing engine swung into full effect for this project, bringing in pro athletes to promote Tailwind and Starter, which helped give the new project an excellent start. Yet, despite this initial boost, the team found that building a lasting relationship with this particular consumer was challenging. The values of these markets were transactional based and thus had to compete with lowest prices rather than brand value, a value set that Nike was unfamiliar with. 
 


After being on the market for only two years, Concept 21 gained Nike’s admiration and trust by executing such an ambitious project.  Concept 21 delivered a product that represented unprecedented value that impressed Nike’s leadership team, developing even deeper relationships with this industry leading organization. 

Brooks

The development of technical running shoes that were created specifically to serve the running community was an entirely new category of footwear in the 1970’s. During this time, Brooks emerged as the dominant brand in this category, receiving top honors year after by Runner's World Magazine. 

Despite their early success, this iconic brand started to see dramatic decline in sales in the early 90’s, going from $360 Million in annual sales down to $17 million.  During this 15-year decline, Brooks became a brand known for its casual sport-inspired shoes found in discount stores, a drastic shift from the brand’s early legacy. 

In 1993 Concept 21 was called upon to help identify new opportunities for Brooks, and to re-establish the brand’s technical running category. The first thing that stood out to Concept 21 was that, despite the brand’s prominence in the running industry, only a handful of employees regularly ran themselves. Thus it was a running brand run by non-runners.

 A late model example of the 'Adrenaline'. First designed in the early 90's when working with Brooks. 

A late model example of the 'Adrenaline'. First designed in the early 90's when working with Brooks. 

This incongruity was an obvious point of departure for Concept 21, who found that there was a disconnect between the Brooks’ running legacy and its people - whose job it was to deliver the vision for through the product. It was evident that a running culture was needed inside of the organization itself in order to transform the business as a whole. 

With the support of leadership, Concept 21 organized an immersive experience where employees volunteered at local running events. Additionally, all managers and customer service representatives spent time working in their local running store, Super Jock’n Jill, which Brent founded alongside his mother, to develop a closer relationship with consumers in the technical running segment. These experiences transformed Brooks and helped re-establish the running culture that is still very present today. 

To further aid Brooks, Concept 21 managed the design direction by mentoring their designers and product line managers to create footwear that was geared toward more technical runners. Concept 21 utilized their expertise to modernize and advance Brooks’ styling and technology to be competitive with the dominant brands in the category. 

In the process they developed several iconic product franchise styles that are still in production today. These shoes incorporated a new silo based on a supportive trainer shoe that ultimately became wildly popular throughout the industry. 

After a few years, Brooks was re-established as the go-to technical running shoe company and saw an $85 million increase in annual sales by 1998. To this day, Brooks credits Concept 21 for the inspiration and creativity that made the brand what it is today.


Year: 2006

The new millennium came right in line with a new trend in the footwear world that was controversial and intriguing: The introduction of barefoot running. As influential leaders in the running world, Brooks was grappling with the ethics behind this new wave of minimal footwear. When reminiscing about the past, they recalled how miserable shoes were back then because of the insufficient few millimeters of rubber between their feet and the pavement.

Their instincts told them to dismiss this trend, but with customers demanding such a product they were conflicted and so sought consult with Concept 21 on the matter. The result was a new line of shoes called Pure that adopted some of the principals of barefoot/minimal running, such as zero drop and a wide toe box. But unlike other brands, Brooks applied plenty of cushioning to protect the consumer. The result was a product line that has lasted a decade and allowed Brooks to adopt to this trend in their own unique way.


Year: 2010 - Present

After several decades of growth in the technical running segment and becoming the top contender in this category, Brooks recognized that they had hit their ceiling. Eager to continue their growth they turned again to Concept 21 to help diversify their product offering and provide the vision for where to go next. 

Rather than compete in other athletic segments, Concept 21 urged the brand to stay authentic, diversifying into a lifestyle line that celebrated the heritage of Brooks. Based on a single black and white photo, the team set out to recreate their most notable shoes from the 70’s. Meticulous detail was given to this process - similar to what would be found during a restoration of a classic car. Even the old manufacturing processes were employed to bring a truly authentic style to the shoe. 

Working closely with the sales team, Concept 21 oversaw all the design, development, product line management, and manufacturing of this new project. The new collection enjoyed strong sales and received enthusiasm from devoted customers, ensuring the project's success into the future.