With scores of buyers in town for Accessories Market Week, slipper manufacturer Dearfoams thought it an opportune time to unveil its new marketing direction and relaunch its product. Kicking off the week on Monday night, the R.G. Barry Corporation-owned brand gathered more than 100 buyers and editors from publications like WWD, In Style, Seventeen, and Ebony for an event at Openhouse Gallery that sought to communicate this new message. Using Project Runway star Tim Gunn, the former Parsons design department chair and current chief creative officer of Liz Claiborne, to lure guests, Dearfoams laid out its marketing imagery, products, and even a new signature color in a cozy room outfitted with a working fireplace, various white sectionals and ottomans, and red rugs, pillows, and tulips.
“We were looking at ways to relaunch a brand that's more than 60 years old, and really the mission of this kick-off was to reinvent this category [of footwear and accessories] that hadn't been reinvented in 20 years and make it exciting again,” said Greg A. Tunney, president and C.E.O. of the R.G. Barry Corporation. “The idea behind Tim Gunn was to bring a fashion guru to speak to our accounts and reinforce the brand's commitment to style. He really kind of fit the current Dearfoams brand—I don't think he was too far out there, like a Lady Gaga. He has a sense of fashion, he has a sense of taste, and a sense of style that people get. And at the end of the day, our core customers are between 25 and 54 years old. It's a big demographic, and he appeals to a big demographic.”
After throwing around a number of ideas for the evening's design, including a hippie-style sit-in, the marketing team settled on a a relaxed layout of lounge furniture centered around a small stage for Gunn's Q&A. The addition of a working fireplace and a backdrop of faux logs was intended to make the event even more inviting in the cold weather. Former MTV News correspondent SuChin Pak served as Gunn's interviewer, asking questions on topics like fashion, comfort, personal style, and taste.
For Dearfoams, Pak met another marketing goal. “She has interviewed a lot of celebrities besides Tim Gunn and represents a younger, more fashionable consumer. For the consumer we're really aspiring for in the future, SuChin really fits that idea,” Tunney said.
Gunn stayed beyond his interview, answering questions from the audience, posing for photos, and signing copies of his book, Tim Gunn: A Guide to Quality, Taste & Style—given to all attendees by Dearfoam. “There was some concern that the event would look contrived—we hadn't done this before, especially in this format. We've had bashes, but not like this where it was a sit-down situation and people could listen and interact with a celebrity. But it more than met our hopes and wishes,” said Tunney, who is now considering how this concept might work for the corporation's other footwear companies, like Italian sneaker brand Superga.