Along with warmer temperatures and sunshine, summer also brings unpredictable rain storms like this morning's terrifying torrential downpour. In a city like New York, rain means you can expect to see a lot of people trying to carry umbrellas without crashing into each other and probably just as many people wearing Hunter rainboots.
The ubiquitous brand has expanded tremendously over the past few years, most recently with the well-received introductions of outerwear and handbags. Their ever-increasing success can be attributed to a few things, not the least of which are the current popularity of heritage brands and the company's U.S. CEO of the past four years Wendy Svarre. Last week, Svarre invited us over to her lovely upper east side digs for a British-themed cocktail party (it's a British brand, after all), where we chatted about the brand's heritage and how they became so damn ubiquitous.
Fashionista: What would you say, if anything has been the secret to Hunter's success? How has it become that boot that everyone has? Wendy Svarre: It’s fun, function, and performance. We are literally an ageless brand. We're a family brand. My daughter, who’s 12, all of her friends have Hunter boots.
You’ve started to expand into different categories like outerwear and accessories. What's next? Well I think we’re expanding in the outwear and we’re innovating in the rubber and that’s really important because that’s our DNA, but I think outerwear is also a natural extension for us, and when we launched outerwear last year, all of the stores were on board and we rolled it out across the country at Neiman’s, Saks, Bloomingdales. That really is a growing category.
What are the rubber innovations? We’re just innovating in terms of what different things we can do with the rubber. We’re coming out with a new boot this fall called the Tour, which is soft, so you can just roll them up and pack it.
You used to work at Armani and, before that, Chanel. How would you say that working with Hunter compares to working at a high-end designer brand? In terms of the product, it is a little different, but when you’re building a brand it’s more about a formula, and it’s sticking to the integrity of the brand. And I think Hunter is not luxury in a way that Chanel or Armani is, but people think of us as a luxurious brand. It’s really something to think about: a $125 boot being luxurious. I mean, women that wear Chanel are happy to put on their Hunter boots when it’s raining.
Can you talk about your own Hunter collection? How many pairs would you say that you own? I bought my first pair of Hunter boots 20 years ago at a show. It was muddy and raining the entire time and I walked into a nearby shop and bought a pair, and it’s so funny because when I wore them to work [at Chanel], people thought they were Chanel boots. I have a broad assortment but I love the original. My favorite Hunter boot is the original in white.
For a classic brand that’s been around for so long, how do you keep it new and fresh? Colors, switching up fabrics and doing canvas uppers with the rubber and just staying on top of the trends. And everyone wants a heritage brand; it’s like Ray-bans. They’ve expanded their collection, but you always go back to that original aviator.
We always see a lot of celebrities wearing them, do you think that’s helped? Yeah, you know, people are influenced by influencers who do well, but I think people just see us as the go-to rain boot and we’ve also become fashionable.