Each month, we’ll spotlight one of the shoemakers behind Rockport. This month, we’re excited to introduce you to Kelly Slavin, one of our many talented Product Managers. Born and raised outside of Boston, Kelly graduated from Framingham State University with a degree in fashion before starting her career in footwear. After five years of in the shoe industry in the U.S., Kelly packed her bags and took a new position in England to fulfill her dream of living abroad. After four years overseas, and taking every opportunity to travel around Europe, she made the journey back to Boston to join the Rockport team. Aside from footwear, Kelly’s passions include food, photography and working on her cooking blog, where she is able to share her recipes and cooking tips. Here, Kelly opens up about what she loves most about her job, what shoes she has in the works for Spring 2018 (!), and even shares a simple spring recipe for all you foodies out there.
Your official title is Product Development Manager for Women’s Essential. What does that mean and what do you love about the job?
As a Product Manager I work with all areas of the business to ensure the timely development of our collections each season. The process starts with our trends and materials team, who we work with to identify colors, silhouettes and details that will be important in the upcoming season. From there we meet with the sales teams to determine seasonal needs within their markets (for example, our New England team requires more transitional styles in the spring since weather is unpredictable). We then map out the product line.
The most interesting and challenging part for me is learning about all of the different markets – both domestically and internationally – and why a certain style, material or color can be successful in one market and unsuccessful in another. For example, the U.K. typically does not buy suede styles because of their damp weather and the perception that it’s less valuable than leather. Alternatively, in Spain, where the climate is much dryer, suede holds a higher perceived value than a patent leather. I am constantly fascinated by regional tastes, whether it is with footwear, food or music! (Speaking of suedes, we’re loving the Briah Gladiator sandal from our Spring ‘17 collection.)
How did you get into the footwear industry?
When I was in college, working on a degree in fashion, I waitressed at a brewery/pub part-time. One day, two women came in for lunch with a trend look book that one of them had brought back from Europe. Being the curious person I am, I asked what they were looking at. Turns out they worked for a local footwear company. We exchanged contact info and, after a couple of years of keeping in touch with them, a position opened up, I was invited in for an interview and was offered a job right on the spot. Moral of the story – ask questions and put yourself out there because it could lead to something great.
What is your favorite thing about working for Rockport?
My favorite part about working for Rockport is having the opportunity to work so closely with all areas of the business. Being in product development allows you the opportunity to work with every department, from engineering to the leather team to marketing. It helps to give me a broad understanding of the intricacies of operating a successful footwear business.
Tell us about a day in your life at Rockport…
One of the best parts about my position is that every day is different from the one before. My day is shaped by where we are in the development cycle. After the season’s line is designed, there is a lot of spec-ing and detailing shoes, followed by getting ready for the line finalization, where we show the first round of the seasonal collection to the sales team and hear their feedback. From there, the final round of product is presented to a larger audience at the Global Sales & Marketing Meeting, a week long event where the entire team, including all of the global markets, come together to view the new collection and marketing for the upcoming season. And, before you know it, we are off to begin work on the next season. Needless to say, I am never bored! (We’re currently working on S17, F17 and S18 – and soon F18. Here’s a look at our new S17 arrivals.)
What projects are you working on right now?
Right now, we are getting ready for Spring 2018 line finalization. Along with that, we all have our Fall/Winter 2018 hats on, starting to brainstorm for the upcoming development season.
Tell us about one of your favorite styles you are working on for Spring 2018…
I’m loving this really comfortable lightweight platform wedge we are working on, called the Briah Banded Sling. It will come in soft nubucks with a touch of shimmer. It is just so fresh looking for spring!
A sneak peek of one of Kelly’s favorite styles for the upcoming Spring 2018 collection. (If you can’t wait for S18, our Briah Woven sandal is similar to the S18 Banded Sling.)
What important trends are you seeing for Spring ’18?
The athleisure trend is still going strong. In fact, we consider it a category at this point; it’s here to stay. We’re still seeing the influence of sport and athletics in everyday fashion. In footwear it has allowed women to wear comfortable shoes but still look fashionable. We are also seeing tons of neutral tones along with metallics, which is great because they go with everything!
Neutral hues from our Spring ’17 Collection.
What are your three favorite styles from the current SS17 Collection and why…
Briah Perf Sling: for the perfect dress casual sandal in the neutral metallic khaki leather.
Cobb Hill Taylor in black: I lived in these last summer; they work great with everything from summer dresses to jeans.
Total Motion 75 MM Pointed Toe Pump in black suede: so timeless looking; I have suffered in a lot of high heels over my life and I can honestly say these are the most comfortable heels I have ever owned.
What else do you enjoy during your work week?
I have a healthy addiction to CrossFit and start every day at the 6:15 am class. It is such a positive way to tee off my day. The work-outs are tough not only physically, but mentally. After performing 100 burpees in a row (which we did last week) you realize that ANYTHING can be thrown at you in the coming day and you will be able to handle it because if you can do 100 burpees, anything that follows is a walk in the park.
What passions do you have other than shoes…
Cooking. Ever since I was young I have loved to cook; it is something that has always come naturally to me. I would spend hours reading cookbooks and envisioning cooking each dish. Eating healthy has always been important to me. I spend most Sunday’s prep-cooking for the week ahead; creating flavorful recipes that are also healthy has become my mission. I also have a little side business where I prepare healthy lunches for a few clients, helping take the hassle out of searching for a healthy lunch option during the work week.
My food blog (www.kels-kitchen.com) allows me to share my creations with friends and family. One of my favorite recipes, Spaghetti Squash and Meatballs, is a healthy interpretation on the classic. If you have never experienced the magic of cooking a spaghetti squash you haven’t lived.
Food photography is also a passion of mine so I am able to kill two birds with one stone with my blog.
I have a lot of ‘quick tip’ recipes on my blog too; like this one for Roasted Brussel sprouts cooked in bacon fat.
Where do you see yourself in five years?
In five years I hope to remain an integral part of growing the Rockport women’s business. It is amazing to see how far we have come since I joined the company a year and a half ago, so it’s exciting to think about five years down the road. I also plan to grow my audience in the food blog arena and be a ‘go-to’ website for healthy and delicious recipes for people everywhere.