Allen Edmonds Steps Into China With American Soul

Allen Edmonds Store

Allen Edmonds Store

Bruce Springsteen famously extolled “Born in the USA” with his rock anthem. Unfortunately, American apparel manufacturing hasn’t quite followed the boss’ creed when it comes to manufacturing, with many U.S. companies — particularly footwear brands — moving manufacturing offshore, particularly to China.

According to the American Apparel and Footwear Association’s ShoeStats 2011 report, over 98% of shoes sold in the U.S. are produced overseas.

But men’s footwear brand Allen Edmonds, an American Hertiage company with

We think there’s just incredible demand [in China] and it’s growing very rapidly for our American products

deep roots, isn’t taking its manufacturing overseas. Rather, the company, which has been in business since 1922 and is famous for proudly crafting shoes in its Port Washington, Wis., factory, is banking on the “Made in America” slogan as it expands its retail operation in China, where demand for goods made in the U.S. is stronger than ever before.

“China is the largest population on Earth with the fastest growing economy,” said Paul Grangaard, chief executive officer for Allen Edmonds. “Some of the world’s greatest cities are in China. We think there’s just incredible demand and it’s growing very rapidly for our American products.”

Allen Edmonds enjoys a cultlike following in America among guys with a penchant for classic styles and well-made shoes. (The company supplied boots to the armed forces during WWII, and some soldiers remained loyal customers after the war.) With classic American style at the forefront of men’s fashion, it seems that Allen Edmonds has hit a sweet spot in the world of menswear here at home and abroad, and the company found that Chinese men were already very aware of the brand, with robust online sales in China confirming the following across the Pacific.

Allen Edmonds new store concept

Allen Edmonds new store concept

The company has aggressive retail expansion plans overseas, with five stores slated to open in China by the end of 2013, including Shanghai and Beijing.  Said Grangaard, “We’re an entrepreneurial company still.”

In addition to its Chinese expansion, Allen Edmonds is debuting a new store design in the U.S., with New Orleans and Reston, Va., among the first to debut the new concept. The stores in China will be similar in look and feel to the new U.S. concepts. “They’ll be tailor made for China, but we’ll have a very consistent brand message there,” said Grangaard. “We believe the world’s a small place and want to have a very consistent message around the world.”

That brand message is clear no matter who you ask. Fans of the brand, who are vocal on menswear message boards like Ask Andy About Clothes and The Style Forum, know that Allen Edmonds is a go-to for shoes with a nod to tradition and forward-thinking styles in the mix. (Grangaard has gone on record saying the brand’s wingtips are the best in the world.)

Paul Grangaard, Allen Edmonds CEO Signing China Contract

Paul Grangaard, Allen Edmonds CEO Signing China Contract

During Esquire China’s Men of the Year awards, Allen Edmonds shoes were worn by a dozen of the honorees and celebrities on the red carpet. Some of the celebrities even admitted to choosing a suit to match their shoes.

What’s next for the brand? Grangaard said that he’s excited about the Chinese stores, but isn’t looking solely at Asia for brand expansion. “We’re looking into South Africa and Australia. There’s a lot of interest around the world for ‘Made in the USA’ products – especially Allen Edmonds.”

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Author:Christopher Luu for Fashion Trends Daily

Christopher Luu is a Fashion Trends Daily Senior Writer and Menswear Editor.