Kinzu Brands is the business behind successful Australian shoe brand Sol Sana, whose leather boots, mules and sandals are sold by leading retailers around the world, including David Jones, The Iconic, Nordstrom and Revolve.
Earlier this year, Kinzu Brands added another shoe brand to its portfolio with the launch of St. Sana. The new line of footwear is made out of recycled polyurethane (PU) leathers and polyester and organic linen and cotton blends.
Despite hitting the market just six months ago, it’s already stocked in major retailers, including Myer, Surfstitch, The Iconic and Revolve, as well as dozens of specialty retailers across Australia and New Zealand. And it’s set to launch on Showpo and North Beach, online retailers in Australia and New Zealand, in July.
We asked Kinzu’s head of brands Chris Perkins about what’s driving St. Sana’s success and how it’s using offcuts to make fast fashion more sustainable.
Inside Retail: How did you come up with the idea for St. Sana?
Chris Perkins: The inception of St. Sana came from in-depth market intel we collected from its big sister, Sol Sana. We wanted the ability to fill a gap in the market but did not want to confuse our loyal customers by incorporating the designs into the Sol Sana brand. We are always listening and learning from our customers to identify markets that are undervalued in the industry.
We wanted to cast a net to a new and more diverse customer base, those who were demanding consciously-made and stylish footwear. As the consumer has access to endless information and content, the notion and impact of fast fashion and its effect on both the environment and labourers is common knowledge. This made us realise the idea of repurposing existing plastic rather than creating new materials is how we can evolve with our customers. We noted many of the current players do not use recycled or repurposed materials, including off-cuts or leftovers and saw this as our opportunity to embody the ideals of the modern conscious consumer.
IR: How long did it take from idea to launch? And how did Covid impact this process?
CP: Twelve months. Covid-19 did not greatly impact St. Sana and we have seen only minor delays in exit dates for goods.
We have strategically placed enough time and additional buffers to ensure our deliveries are not delayed or impacted to our wholesale and online customers during the initial stages of Covid-19. Interestingly, the buffer came into play for our freight rather than production.
The only alteration we had to review was the fact that we were unable to physically go to the production offices in China. This meant we were unable to be there for the initial sampling process ahead of the season. However, in saying that, we were able to quickly adapt by doing the process remotely.
IR: What have sales been like since you launched earlier this year?
CP: Sales are well above our projected expectations. To date, we have surpassed our targets for St. Sana. We started St. Sana with two smaller seasons to test the waters and are now launching our largest season to date in July.
In our first quarter of operation, we have secured 41 new independent retailers in the New Zealand market which is on par with the current retailer count Sol Sana holds. This is a part of our international expansion, and we attribute this success to the strong brand presence Sol Sana has created in New Zealand over the past several years, along with St. Sana’s vigour and energy of youth while being consciously created and sustainable.
IR: What do you think are the main reasons for the brand’s success so far?
CP: The key to our success is that we put the focus on our customers, creating shoes that the market demanded. We understand the individual’s desire to make a conscious effort to be circular, while encompassing expression and personality. Our customers have responded to our ethos of sustainability and design, and we ensured it was accessible to everyone through the price point. We built accessibility into our pre-order function which is a key contributor to our early success.
With the strong backing from strategic partnerships with major retailers, St. Sana will continue to evolve and grow to provide our customers with what they desire.
We took an organic approach to marketing and the results have spoken for themselves.
IR: Tell me a bit more about the sustainability offer. Where does the recycled PU come from? Can the shoes – when they can no longer be worn – be recycled again?
CP: St. Sana champions the use of recycled PU leathers and polyesters; and where full recyclability is just not possible, no-nonsense environmentally conscious PU leather is ready to tap in. The materials come from offcuts and leftovers of existing fabrications that the producers have access to, allowing us to bring new life in the form of a statement footwear.
Strong attention is placed on the recyclability of materials, resulting in a dramatic reduction in energy and water usage during the production process – all without having to compromise on the superior finishes and buttery softness that come with exceptional quality materials.
With feet firmly planted in the future of the industry, St. Sana takes things one step further by making a commitment to using only organic linen and cotton blends.
Organic variations are grown without introducing toxic chemicals, and ultra-resilient fibres like linen require substantially less water when cultivating, often thriving without the need for damaging pesticides or fertilisers.
We are working on a recycle program to launch in 2022 to adhere to our commitment to operate within a circular economy.
IR: A lot of customers are concerned about greenwashing. How do you make sure your sustainability offering is truly impactful, and not just about marketing?
CP: We formulate our designs around what raw materials are already available or remain from previous collections in order to mitigate any excess and wastage. From the get-go we have been transparent about how and where we source our materials in order to be responsible. The inception of the brand was about listening to our customers and understanding what they want; our footwear has been created for them and remains our focus.
IR: What’s next for the brand?
CP: It is only the beginning for St. Sana and we have a number of exciting launches and initiatives coming soon, from our full season launch in July to our recycling program. The brand will launch into new markets and continue to produce personality driven designs with unexpected prints, colours and perfectly padded footbeds.
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