The Comeback of Crocs: An Unexpected Success Story
Crocs has been through a rollercoaster of a journey in the last 2 decades. Read on to find about the rise, fall, and unexpected resurrection of the 'loved to be hated' brand.
Crocs - the colourful plastic clogs with holes are one footwear trend that everyone loves to hate. For a majority of the fashion-forward population, Crocs are the perfect shoes to wear - as long as no one sees you in them. For the other percentage of the population, these clogs are the ultimate go-to footwear solution and are even considered a bold fashion statement.
They are known for being easy on the feet, but less so on the eyes, and if Crocs weren’t half as comfortable as they are, they’d make no sense at all.
Michelle Poole, President - Crocs
Crocs was founded by Lyndon “Duke” Hanson and George Boedecker Jr. in Niwot, Colorado, who originally developed the silhouette for ease when it comes to boating. Debuting at the 2002 Fort Lauderdale Boat Show, the subsequent popularity of the shoe led to an exponential amount of sales.
Soon enough, the news about the shoe's comfort factor along with its durability spread, and Crocs ventured out of the 'boat shoe' category entirely, becoming the first choice of people whose lifestyle and occupations required constant to and fro on foot and eventually selling over 700 million pairs world-wide.
Sales skyrocketed reaching peak in the mid 2000s, and in 2007, Former President George W. Bush was photographed sporting a pair, concluding that Crocs had made their way in to the White House as well!
Statistics showed that in 2008 the company's revenue circled somewhere in the ballpark of $847 million USD. However, around 2009, there was speculation that the company was in major financial trouble with production not being able to keep up with the high demand.
Additionally, in an ironic turn of events, the brand’s long lasting and sturdy designs eliminated the need to purchase another pair - even after multiple years - thus leading to a gradual decline in sales overall. When production eventually caught up, the demand due to the aforementioned reasons had declined and the company was left with a large surplus of product with no one wanting to buy it. Struck by the economic downturn, the company incurred major losses and stood on the verge of bankruptcy.
It was when John Duerden was appointed at the helm in 2009 that Crocs started demonstrating a gradual comeback. Leading with a strategy that was strikingly original, Duerden began the company's resurrection by, interestingly, closing down factories around the world - cutting nearly a third of the company’s work force and simultaneously getting rid of all the excess dead stock. He shelved a majority of the brand's apparel line and high-end women’s shoes and, in a stroke of sheer genius, turned them into archives instead.
Having restructured and rebranded Crocs, Duerden’s tenure came to end early in 2010 after getting the company afloat and on the slow rise to profitability.
John Duerden for Women’s Wear Daily
The company began growing at a rapid pace after John McCarvel was appointed CEO. McCarvel opened back up retails stores across the globe and pitched for new scopes of products apart from the classic clog silhouettes such as boots, heels, flats, and even croc sneakers in an attempt to be established as a “four-season” brand. By 2014 Crocs had finally regained their stance in the industry with statistics showing searches for the brand had increased by 32% each month.
It was only after Andrew Rees took the reign in 2017 that the resurfaced fame and rise of Crocs saw an exponential and steady growth. Rees re-centered the focus to ‘clog reverence and sandal awareness’, along with a change in the marketing strategy, by targeting the Gen Z, one of the biggest markets to cater to.
Working towards steering out of the simple functional shoe genre, Rees encouraged collaborative campaigns with brands like Christopher Kane, Balenciaga and many more, while also tapping artists and other creative enterprises. The brand also partnered with UNICEF, donating 5000 pairs of crocs to the underprivileged sect of society, building on the sympathetic bridge with the audience.
Over the last few years, the love-hate-relationship with the clunky clogs has been in full swing constantly showing massive user engagement. The company has projected a somewhat surreal resurrection from almost going bankrupt to being openly accepted in all capacities of fashion, but mainly penetrating into the streetwear culture in the recent years. It has also been spotted being worn by designers, artists and celebrities not just casually but at red carpet events and even runways.
Crocs have been promoted from being named ‘one of the 50 worst inventions’ to having uber successful collaborations with some of fashions big league names. The company has served as a blank canvas to brands and celebrity icons such as Chinatown Market, Pleasures, Justin Bieber, Bad Bunny, Post Malone and even fast food chain KFC, driving up their traction more than ever before. Take a look at some of these notable collaborations below.
The bold Balenciaga five-inch platform Crocs created quite the buzz within the fashion industry when the high-end clog debuted in 2017, in Paris.
The design maintains the classic clog with its signature upper with a five-inch platform and an addition of fridge magnet-inspired Jibbitz charms. The platform Crocs come in a colourway portfolio of pink, tan and blank and the collaboration was a surprising success - selling out upon release.
Continuing to take a plunge into high-street fashion, Crocs tapped Scottish designer, Christopher Kane for another collaboration in 2017. The pair made its debut during his Spring/Summer runway show for London Fashion Week. The slip-on style was luxuriously bejewelled with shimmering, volcanic rocks or semi-precious stones, finished with a royal marble effect.
On of the more recent celebrity collaborations, the Justin Bieber x Crocs came out with a limited edition co-branded Clog that sold out within minutes. The pair draws design cues from the singer’s clothing brand, Drew House. Keeping with the signature yellow colour of the clothing label, the clog comes with eight custom Jibbitz charms that are a nod to both the brands identities.
Post Malone and Crocs have had multiple collaborations in the past few years. The fourth collaboration, however, between Post Malone and Crocs is the Crocs Duet Max Clog that sold out within minutes of its drop.
It features the classic silhouette in a navy blue and black camo pattern with an exaggerated chunky sole and a back strap with an adjustable hook and loop closure.
Accounting to be the third collaboration between the labels, The PLEASURES x Crocs Classic Lined Mossy Oak Blaze Clog portrays the warmth of fall colours on the classic Clog silhouette. The shoe also features a black sherpa lining, adding to the comfort factor while being amped up with PLEASURES customized Jibbitz, rounding off the look of the shoe!
Crocs teamed up with fellow LA-based streetwear label Chinatown Market for a unique spin on the classic clog. The front body and insole of the pair features a soft green turf appliqué to give the wearers the feeling of walking on fresh grass. The rest of the clog is done up in black and is complete with Chinatown Market’s branding and signature yellow smiley face seen on the strap and hinge.
The first ever Crocs collaboration with Pizzaslime included a one-of-a-kind limited edition range of crossbody bags made from foam clogs. Coming in a yellow and black colourway, the bag features a zip closure, adjustable belt-strap and seven custom Jibbitz charms that resonate with Pizzaslime’s youthful design sensibilities.
One of the most unusual partnerships, the Crocs x KFC collab was one of the biggest head turners to date. The clogs display an all-over print, featuring KFC’s signature fried chicken, on the upper complete with red and white stripes on the sole that are reminiscent of the fast food chain's brand colours.
The back of the clog showcases a print of the fast-food giants founder, Colonel Sanders and the highlight of this collaboration is the removable fried chicken-scented Jibbitz charm.
Crocs, if nothing, have proved to be the most practical footwear solution during this lockdown. With its extremely distinctive and bold design, potential for personalised decoration and constant ambiguity on whether it is a unique statement or straight up ugly - Crocs have made a definitive foray into the streetwear community.
Although the brand has had a truly interesting journey - from the streets, all the way to runways, the age old question remains - has the iconic rubber clog finally earned fashion’s seal of approval? Tell us your verdict!