Remote work is not just a trend—it now has an aesthetic.
Cole Haan, a footwear company, is collaborating with messenger app Slack to release a limited-edition collection of shoes for the corporate worker who uses Slack.
The all-white shoes, built on the existing Cole Haan Generation Zerogrand shoe model, features the tech company’s logo on the sides and a lining that corresponds to one of the four colors—green, blue, red, and yellow—of Slack’s logo.
The shoes, which will be sold both online and in select stores in the US and internationally, will be priced at $120. The collection will be available in “extended men’s sizing.”
The men’s sizing label evokes the stereotype of the Allbirds-wearing, tech bro worker living in San Francisco. The company clarifies that while the shoe is in US men’s shoe size, the sizing will be communicated as “unisex style.” (There will be a size guide chart for relevant conversions, according to the company.)
With a large part of the white-collar workforce on Slack, the shoe release is timely. According to Slack, more than 12 million people use its product actively every day and, among paid users, spend more than nine hours a day on the platform. The release is also timed with the annual Slack’s Frontiers conference (held virtually this year). Cole Haan’s brand president David Maddocks told Quartz the collection is for the “Slack users” and for the “20 somethings.”
“You’ve got a footwear brand people are passionate about and a software platform people are passionate about,” says Maddocks.
Maddocks is a big fan of Slack. He says Slack has helped the retailer, which was part of Nike until it was sold to private equity firm Apax Partners in 2012, “modernize” itself to be nimble like a tech company. The company, which began using Slack in 2017, had designed shoes for Slack’s CEO Stewart Butterfield and chief technology officer Cal Henderson to wear at the New York Stock Exchange the day the company went public, according to Maddocks. The design process in part takes place via Slack, reflecting how prevalent work online has become.
The logo of tech companies being sold on merchandise is unusual, according to Beth Goldstein, a fashion footwear analyst at NPD, a market research firm. With the Silicon Valley uniform consisting of the hoodie, t-shirt, and jeans, the tech industry is not necessarily known for aspirational aesthetics. Instead, tech companies are more likely to partner up with retailers to provide swag for their employees to wear (e.g., Patagonia creating corporate vests). When the fashion and tech worlds collide, what’s more common is a fashion label collaborating on the tech product, such as an Apple Watch with a Hermès band, or tech enhancing fashion, such as Levi’s collaborating with Google to create “smart” jacket, according to Goldstein.
Collaborations are meant to create a “buzz,” which is why collabs between footwear brands and non-footwear brands are common, she says. (Food partnerships, in particular, tend to be a big hit.) Goldstein adds that collaborations tend to target niche audiences, pointing to Croc’s collaborations with Kentucky Fried Chicken or rapper Bad Bunny that successfully sold out. In Cole Haan’s case, she says, “this is definitely going after that Allbirds consumer out there in the tech world.”
The target audience is clear, but will this appeal to consumers? As Goldstein points out, one must think that person is not just a Slack user but a Slack enthusiast. Someone choosing these shoes is demonstrating not just loyalty to a tech product designed to maximize productivity but also signifying their allegiance to work, for better or worse.
But since most workers don’t have a choice about what messaging software their employer provides, it may be hard to imagine anyone so excited about Slack that they would pay to wear its logo.