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Reuters/Toby Melville
Sneakers at Jimmy Choo.
IF THE SHOE FITS

Sneakers are great business for high-heel maker Jimmy Choo

By Marc Bain

Jimmy Choo is best known for the sort of fancy heels celebrities wear down red carpets. But another part of its business is also thriving right now: sneakers.

Jimmy Choo’s new Raine sneaker, which it featured as part of a campaign with model Kaia Gerber, quickly became a bestseller for the brand, John Idol, the CEO of Capri Holdings—parent company of Jimmy Choo, Michael Kors, and Versace—told investors on a call today. The company’s recently launched Diamond sneaker was “also an instant success, and quickly sold out in many styles,” Idol said.

Both the Raine and Diamond have been exceeding expectations, contributing to a 29% jump in sales for Jimmy Choo this quarter. In the year ahead, the brand plans to continue innovating on its glamorous red-carpet styles, but will also put emphasis on building out its rapidly growing “fashion active” category, Idol said.

The success of sneakers was practically a theme of today’s call. At Michael Kors, “fashion active” drove footwear sales, led by the Skyler and Kendra sneakers—both popular sock-like styles in the vein of Balenciaga’s Speed Trainers—as well as the Felix. The new Olympia sneaker, a chunky model bearing a resemblance to Louis Vuitton’s Archlight, “rapidly became a bestseller,” Idol said. Still, Michael Kors’ sales dipped slightly in the quarter compared to the year before, largely due to a major slump in its watch business. Footwear was one of the bright spots.

At Versace, which Michael Kors acquired last year to form Capri Holdings, “footwear performance was led by the continued expansion of fashion active,” Idol noted. The brand’s Chain Reaction sneaker was a top seller; Versace even collaborated with rapper 2Chainz on several versions. Idol also called out Versace’s collaboration with influential sneaker retailer Kith, which included clothing and, of course, sneakers. For the quarter, clothing and footwear helped Versace achieve sales growth in the high single digits.

Athletic shoes have been a lucrative market for luxury labels to jump into, particularly as sneaker-centric streetwear gets more popular. Most people likely aren’t wearing sneakers to play sports anyway, so brands don’t have to be experts in making performance shoes. To younger customers, the right sneaker can hold as much status as an “it” bag.

Michael Kors, in fact, plans to pull back on some on its bag business, noting that the North American market for so-called affordable luxury accessories has been weak. Instead, it plans to push into more clothing and footwear, which will almost certainly include more sneakers.