Palladium Boots may be my favorite shoe of all time. I discovered them at OAK years ago, and have been wearing them ever since. The love child of a sneaker and a boot, they are the perfect shoe for city goers, nature lovers, and adventurers of all kinds.
They've gotten me through hikes, bike rides, boating, strolls in Manhattan, concerts, fashion week, one crazy trip to Montreal in a snowstorm, and the majority of college. My beloved pair of slate gray canvas Baggy boots is suffering from two giant holes in the heel, but I love them too much to stop wearing them. (Also, I can't find the slate gray canvas anywhere!)
Since I love my Palladiums so much (I'm wearing them right now!), I decided to find out more about the brand that plays such an integral role in my style. So I interviewed Barney Waters, the company's VP of Marketing, and found out all I ever wanted to know about Palladium.
Fashionista: Can you tell us a little about Palladium's brand history? How did the company start and how has it changed? Barney Waters: Palladium was founded in 1920 in Lyon, France and made aircraft tires. Tires were made by layering canvas bands underneath rubber. After World War II, the demand for tires dried up, and so Palladium decided to put its canvas and rubber expertise to use by making boots. The first contract was in 1947 from the French government to supply the legendary French Foreign Legion. The Foreign Legion at the time was mostly stationed in the North African desert, so they needed a durable and comfortable boot that worked in those hot conditions. As Palladium’s boot was canvas, it was breathable in hot weather.
What were some goals with the relaunch of the brand? The company that previously owned the brand had focused on other shoes and left the classic Pampa boot gathering dust. Our goal was to dust the cobwebs off this iconic boot and breathe new life into it. We felt good that it would be a hit, but you really don’t know until it goes up on the shelf. Luckily, the first signs are that people are really responding to the boots. Palladium has a great history, but what modernizations were made (if any) to keep the brand from simply being another heritage brand banking on its history to sell to new consumers? In terms of the product, we kept the design the same. It’s a timeless classic design that is just as relevant now as is has been over the past 60 years. We re-engineered the rubber sole to make it lighter and more comfortable. Plus, we’ve updated the materials we use, preferring premium leathers and stonewashed canvas. We’ve also got some great material combinations coming for Fall ’10. From a brand communication standpoint, having an authentic heritage is a major asset, yet I didn’t want the brand to look and feel like a museum. Once people know the boot is real, then you have to answer the question, ‘So what does it mean to me today?’
Palladium has a really cool marketing campaign. How did "The Explorers" idea originate, and what is the goal of with this campaign? With our aviation and Foreign Legion background we have adventure, discovery and travel in our DNA. Our current brand platform of urban exploration stays true to our past but allows a much more contemporary point of view. Our brand communication is based on a series of real urban explorations of cities around the world. Partnering with Vice Media, we shot film of each exploration and we brought New York based photographer Peter Sutherland along to document the trip with his photography. We picked an explorer to find each location and to unearth the stories from these amazing places. We’ve been in the tunnels underneath New York, found hidden oil drills in Hollywood, explored old espionage sites in Berlin and gone onto London rooftops to find pirate radio stations. Our explorations became the brand campaign. How are Palladium boots designed? How did the original ideas for the Baggy and Pampa originate? It’s the exact same design as the original 1947 boot. It’s classic, timeless and it works. The key was to leave the design alone. Most of our work is on colors and materials. How are Palladium boots made? What are the materials used? The classic Palladium materials are rubber and canvas. That’s what we’re best known for, although we have now added lots of new upper materials to the range, including waxed canvas, oiled suede and distressed leathers.
Where are Palladiums most popular? What markets is the brand trying to expand to? We first relaunched the brand in the US market in mid 2009, and then opened Germany, Holland and the UK this year. Most recently we added Canada and Japan. Next is Italy and Australia, and then many more countries after that. We probably have the most existing brand awareness in Europe, as Palladiums were huge there in the early '90s, but people all over the world remember the Palladium brand. What is Palladium's most popular item? The first people to find us, which are always the more fashion forward customers, prefer the Baggy with the fold over collar. Canvas in the summer and leather in the winter. Will there be any new styles in the future for Palladium? Yes, we have some new heights coming soon. For Fall 2010 we have the Pampa Parade, which is a knee high version, and the Pampa Peloton which has a high collar and two straps with buckles. All of the styles are on the rugged rubber Palladium outsole. There will be lots more to come as our momentum builds.