Sole Stories: An Introduction to Warrior Shoes
Everyone knows about Nike, adidas and Vans, but there are some new footwear lines emerging in the industry. In our series, Sole Stories, we’re taking a look at the new kids on the block making sneakers, boots, and other footwear styles you should take notice of.
Warrior has a successful two-decade history of producing lacrosse and hockey sneakers, but has recently decided to take their footwear game to the next level by creating a lifestyle line of shoes. We spoke with the Lead Designer at Warrior, Jonathan Grondin, to talk about why Warrior decided to embark into new territory, how they’re getting the word out about their new lifestyle line, and what differentiates their lifestyle footwear from all the other brands out there.
Why did Warrior decide to launch a lifestyle footwear line?
Jonathan Grondin: Warrior’s movement into lifestyle felt like a natural progression. The lifestyle market has changed drastically in the past 10 years, and Warrior is combining style and innovation in a unique way. We have built our brand on making the most innovative products for lacrosse and hockey, and that sport authenticity informs our lifestyle product.
What is one of the biggest challenges for Warrior as you enter into the lifestyle footwear industry?
JG: Finding our stance as a brand wasn’t easy, but it was fun. The challenges didn’t really start until after that. Our Sports Lab, great designers, and an established factory/supply chain is a luxury very few start-ups have. Technically, it doesn’t make us a start-up since we’ve been around for over 20 years, but we are designing product with that passion. I would say for Warrior, it comes down to exposure. The shoes are awesome, and anyone who puts them on will tell you that. Getting them out there is the hard part.
How is Warrior making its presence known more in the footwear industry?
JG: We are metaphorically picking a fight with the biggest guys out there with our cleats, which are the best in lacrosse. The competition is known and doesn’t really change, but the lifestyle landscape is completely different. It’s a sea of brands and products all trying to make a name a different way. Our Coxswain shoe needs to be worn to fully understand what we are trying to do. It’s something that doesn’t connect on a computer screen. Our team is at events every weekend getting the message and experience out there.
What do you think are some of the benefits for the brand heading into this relatively new territory?
JG: Warrior is an established brand in lacrosse and hockey, but the majority of our new lifestyle consumers have never heard of us. This is a gift and the curse. I believe it’s okay not having a preconceived feeling on the brand. I would much rather be unknown than fighting a bad rep.
"Once a shoe is designed and developed, inspiration can shift greatly from colorway, season, or collection. Designing a shoe is only the first half of the process." — Jonathan Grondin
What sets Warrior apart from other footwear brands out there?
JG: Our Research and Innovation group is a clear differentiator for Warrior, and we’re fortunate to have that be powered by New Balance. There is as much science going into our lifestyle product as there is in our cleats. We are going beyond style. Putting on a Coxswain is an experience. Do it after a run, snowboarding or whatever sport you play, and you will get it.
Tell us about the materials and technology that goes into Warrior's footwear.
JG: The Coxswain has to do three things: be lazy, and by that we mean slip-on, have recovery technology such as compression, massaging, airflow, etc., and be washable so that you can wash them in the laundry machine and dishwasher. We are constantly innovating new ways to do all three. I can’t get into too many specifics, but we are pushing coatings, fibers, and engineered textiles on the material front.
Where do you draw design inspiration from for this line of shoes?
JG: The standard designer response is that inspiration comes from everywhere. Although true, we focus on balancing our history with where we want to go. Innovation is our grounding principle. We try to sidestep the term “mash-up” as much as possible, but sometimes it is inevitable. Once a shoe is designed and developed, inspiration can shift greatly from colorway, season, or collection. Designing a shoe is only the first half of the process. Applying the material, color, and graphics is a new design challenge for each style and has unique inspiration. This inspiration can come from an event, style report, research trip, etc. It really never stops.
What's the highlight of Warrior's most recent collection of lifestyle footwear? Is there any specific model that is your favorite?
JG: The Coxswain really defines us right now. It’s a totally new, totally authentic idea in footwear. Seeing them on people in airports or on celebs — like Jerry “Turtle” Ferrara walking on the beach in Miami with them on — it’s awesome. And in the office I’m surrounded by the future of Warrior Lifestyle, so my favorite will always be the next shoe to drop.
Where do you think the footwear industry as a whole is going?
JG: Man, I could go on and on about the future, or the past, of the footwear industry for days. The days of start-up brands making crazy colorways of knock-off styles appears to be safely behind us, and the authentic brands lived to tell the tale. I’m bummed by the fall of so many great skate shoe companies and the current landscape of action sports footwear. The line between lifestyle and classics has been more defined while the line between performance and lifestyle continues to blur. I hope better products can compete with big brand marketing dollars.