We spoke with Holo Footwear co-founder Rommel Vega about the young brand, the brand’s market positioning of “outside” vs “outdoors,” and the new partnership between the brand, KOA and Nordstrom.
Tell us about what’s going on in Austin?
Rommel Vega: We’re activating at Nordstrom in Austin on Saturday, August 19. We have two KOA-branded shoes that go on sale nationwide at select Nordstrom stores, and also online at koa.com and holofootwearinc.com.
It’s more than that, though. It’s a three-year partnership to do branded KOA shoes and bring them to consumers through Nordstrom, as well as at KOA stores and online. For us, partnering with KOA and Nordstrom on this launch, we’re bringing different brands that mean something to us together to offer something special.
Nordstrom, they’re a fashion brand, known for fashion-forward aesthetics in their stores.
Then when you think of KOA, that’s the real Americana! It’s iconic. Who hasn’t seen the big yellow KOA campgrounds sign on the side road when you’re on a summer trip?
And then Holo Footwear, we think of ourselves as the original outside brand. We say outside, not outdoors, because outdoors to us is one-dimensional, all brown and black and heavy footwear. The consumer likes the outside aesthetic and they want to wear it everyday, everywhere, outside.
How did you match up with KOA and Nordstrom?
Rommel Vega: We were in a marketing meeting and they asked us, “If you had a dream partner, who would it be?” We were like, it would be awesome to partner with KOA. We’re members, we stay there in the summertime, all three of our kids enjoy staying in the cabins.
Our marketing firm at the time RWEST reached out to KOA and told them, “Hey, there’s this cool sustainable footwear brand that would like to do a partnership.” We went up to Billings, and KOA is transforming to be more sustainable, with EV charging stations, solar panels, and it was a great fit, it made good sense. They took two of our best styles, the Maverick and the Credimus, and we agreed to do a partnership of KOA branded Holo Footwear.
And Nordstrom has been an incredible partner, they were the first to launch us three years ago. We met with their buying team, told them that we want to bring this collaboration to Nordstrom, and they were saying, “Oh we know KOA … We’ve seen them on the side of the road … I used to stay there as a kid with my parents.”
So for us it is a natural thing. The buying team made sure that where to do the launch was meaningful, and for us the Austin location is one of our best performing Nordstrom doors, plus it’s a vibrant city with a lot of outside recreation – parks with families being outside, not necessarily outdoors.
Are there other pieces to the partnership?
Rommel Vega: KOA has a program they call Care Camps, that brings kids with cancer a chance to relax and have fun. So, we’re partnering with KOA on that, too. Every pair of shoes that we sell, $1 goes to Care Camps. For us, this is our first give-back, and it’s really important to my wife Yuri and I, we like to give back in some way, so we’re not just selling shoes, but selling shoes and giving back.
You like to say you’re an “outside” brand, not “outdoors.” Tell us what that means to you.
Rommel Vega: My background, and my wife Yuri’s background, we’ve worked in the Outdoor industry for more than 20 years each. And we really feel that the outdoor industry really only talks to itself, and ignores younger consumers. I mean, look at the growth of running, versus Outdoor.
When we started Holo, we really wanted to hammer this idea of getting outside, you shouldn’t feel like you have to have all this expensive gear that you only use once or twice, and never again.
We want our shoes to be what you wear on a trail, yes, but also when you go to the bar, or the grocery store, or to pick up your kids from daycare.
We want to change the face of Outdoor. We realized that there’s a real opportunity at the intersection of lifestyle and outdoors – that’s outside. Outdoor is heavy and dull; Outside is light and colorful. From a business perspective, it opens up the runway of what we can do. We want the consumer to wear our shoes whenever they’re outside their homes, and it doesn’t always have to be outdoors.
Holo Footwear is based in Grand Rapids, and was launched by co-founders Rommel Vega, Yuri Vega, and Joseph Malone. Their shoes are distributed in the US in more than 20 Nordstrom doors, plus REI, Macy’s, Paragon Sports, Von Maur, and more, with international distribution coming to Canada, Spain, Portugal, New Zealand, and Australia in fall 2023 and in 2024.