Arts & Leisure

BY SAM L. MARCELO, Senior Reporter

The 1980s called, it wants its shoes back

Posted on June 27, 2011

UPON hearing that Swedish brand Tretorn opened its first freestanding store in Manila, also the first outside the United States, the 1980s called and said that it wanted its shoes back. Popular fashion of that decade was defined by the iconic white tennis shoe, gull-wing logo stitched on the side, along with Don Johnson’s pastel suit jackets in Miami Vice and Joan Collins’ “Dynastic” shoulder pads.

White with pink gull-wing Nylite canvas sneaker
Acquired by the Puma Group in 2001, Tretorn is being repositioned as a “modern outdoor brand,” one that is more leisure- than performance-oriented. “It’s for consumers who enjoy nature, those who enjoy being one with nature and living a relaxed life,” said Loris Spadaccini, general manager of Tretorn’s lifestyle division and Tretorn North America.

The brand’s new ad campaign and tagline -- “Swedish goodness” -- encapsulates the multifaceted image of Tretorn, which has a history that stretches farther back than the 1980s.

Founded in 1891, Tretorn began as a manufacturer of boots (as a matter of fact, boots still make up the largest part of Tretorn’s business -- around 51%); in 1918 it rolled out vulcanized canvas shoes designed for the military; and it was only in 1968 that the white canvas shoe (officially known as Nylite) was introduced and worn by tennis greats such as Bjorn Borg. Incidentally, Tretorn -- Swedish for “three towers” -- is the third largest tennis ball manufacturer in the world to this day.

“When you think of Tretorn, you think of the white tennis shoe,” said Mr. Spadaccini, “but it’s more than that.” Today, the brand’s lineup includes contemporary silhouettes bearing a design language that is recognizably Tretorn’s. Among them, the Skymra Canvas sneaker, a lace-less shoe with two crisscrossing elastic bands, that has become a fast-moving hit. These same elastic bands can be found in other Tretorn models, such as its boat shoes, providing a visual cue in addition to the already iconic gull wing.

Mr. Spadaccini also predicted that rubber boots, already a fashion item in the United States, Korea and Japan, would become a trend in the Philippines. Jumping ahead of competitors, Tretorn is already offering several in the newly opened store: Skerry boots for women and Strala boots for men, both in bright colors and olives. “It’s going to be big worldwide,” he promised. “We wanted to start designing cool rubber boots that would amuse younger consumers.”

In July, Tretorn’s Eco Ortholite collection will make its way to the Philippines. Partially made from recycled materials (hence “Eco”), the shoes in this category offer good rebound and soft cushioning.

Mr. Spadaccini, who is also part of Tretorn’s design team, said that they are continuously experimenting with materials such as unlined leather; goatskin; and ripstop fabric, whether made from nylon (such as the Reva Nylon sneaker) or 100% breathable cotton.

“We want to be unexpected,” he said. “We can do a lot of things with this brand. It’s really great and I’m excited.”

PhilGear Int’l., Inc. (PGII), a member of the Primer Group of Companies and exclusive distributor of Tretorn in the Philippines, has an aggressive plan for the brand. It plans to open two more stores in Manila by the end of the year in order to hit a sales target of 200,000 pairs.

“We believe that Tretorn is a good brand to add to the mix,” said Irene Nieva, assistant vice-president of PGII. Other brands under PGII include Ellesse, Sanuk and Kangol.

“Retro is in right now and old brands are coming back. We tested the market in 2009 and we were surprised at how high Tretorn’s acceptance rate was, especially among consumers in their early 20s,” she continued, adding that the brand’s affordability gave it an advantage (sneakers start at P2,700; boots at P2,400).

“Puma was successfully able to reposition itself as a high-end athletic brand under PPR,” she said, referring to the French multinational holding company run by François-Henri Pinault. “We’re confident that it can do the same for Tretorn [as a modern outdoor brand].”

Tretorn’s freestanding store is located at the 3rd Floor, Sports Loop, Robinsons Galleria Mall in Ortigas.