The new owner explains the successes, strategies and future of P448. The sneaker brand that for a few months now has been controlled by StreetTrend, an American company led by Wayne Kulkin (pictured), who has already been Stuart Weitzman ’s CEO for 25 years. StreetTrend owns, in addition to P448, the brand PS821 and has launched TheProjectSociety, a services company for the footwear sector based in Spain. What unites everything is the strictly Italian leather.
The word to Wayne Kulkin
Wayne Kulkin, why do you prefer to use Italian materials?
Simple, they are the best in the world. Everyone wants to copy Italian materials. Instead of buying copied materials, we prefer to go directly to Italy. You can’t find better ones.
In Italy you also founded two brands…
I bet a lot on P448. PS821 is about to be moved to Spain, under the control of Project Sustainability and with local production.
Let’s talk about P448: why did you decide to invest in this brand and in such a complicated year?
Because I’m a little crazy, but above all because it’s a small brand but with great growth potential. And then I said “why not?” Even in these difficult times, we must always look forward. Also, people seem to have gotten a little tired of big brands, big stores and the usual names. Look for something new, handmade, original and authentic. That’s what P448 is.
Do you have other acquisitions in mind?
No. Now I would like to focus on the development of P448, expanding the modelling (not just sneakers), popularity and distribution in the world.
How is P448 supply chain organised?
Everything is Italian. The creative team is in Forlì, where our headquarters are. The materials are Italian and the production is carried out in the Marche and Puglia.
Do you plan to move the production elsewhere in the future?
Today I don’t see a reason to leave Italy. Sneakers can be made anywhere and with lower costs than Italian ones, but we don’t only look at the cost. We look at the quality and therefore Italy is the best place.
What was P448 trend in 2020?
The pandemic forced P448 to become an online brand in no time. The brand’s DNA is still the same, but we had to find a different way to connect with people. We have seen that the brand is very attractive on a digital level. Online sales in North America grew by 400% and in EMEA countries by 150%. Overall, in 2020, sales grew by 120% compared to 2019, the year that ended with around 9 million euros.
What strategies are there for the future?
The brand’s focus remains on the production of luxury sneakers, introducing a few pieces of clothing every four months. When everything goes to normal, we will open single-brand stores. Investments in digital are inevitable, especially e-commerce, but they will be gradual. There is no magic pill to win new customers. In the past year, customer behaviour has perhaps changed more than in the last 50 years, and you need to be alert to these changes without losing brand authenticity.
How do you see P448 in 5 years?
I wish it would continue to grow at the same pace as it is now. It will be a brand with the same heritage as today, but better known in China and Asia.
How do you see the global sneaker market?
Today, 3 out of 4 purchased pairs of shoes are sneakers, but this will not always be the case. When it gets back to normal, maybe 2 out of 4 pairs will be sneakers. I also believe that comfort in footwear will be important in the post coronavirus era. People will buy comfortable and chic shoes. Maybe there will be some new model on the market.
Is there a memory linked to leather in your long career with Stuart Weitzman?
Twenty years ago with Weitzman we introduced a varnished leather with a turtle print. They said it was too strange. Now everyone has copied it.