With a legacy that dates to 1928, Cole Haan has a rich history as one of the country’s best-known heritage brands.
But one peek at the wall of its New Hampshire headquarters proves the brand is not resting on its historical laurels. It reads: “Respect tradition enough to change it.”
More from WWD
With that as its marching orders, the American lifestyle brand continually works to straddle the past and the present. And Tuesday, it will launch a new global campaign titled “Reimagine Tradition” that celebrates its history while seeking to engage a new generation of customers.
The campaign was conceived and executed by multi-award winning creative agency General Idea — Louis Vuitton, Coach, Lanvin — led by Ian Schatzberg, chief executive officer and cofounder.
“We’ve known each other for more than a decade,” said David Maddocks, brand president of Cole Haan. “And I’ve admired General Idea since he founded the agency. So when we were ready for this moment, he was the only phone call I made.”
Maddocks described “this moment” as the right time for Cole Haan to reestablish is dominance, now that it is on a growth trajectory after several years of “ups and downs and twist and turns. But everything is now aligned, from a product, customer and brand sensibility. The only thing missing was how to bring it to life and communicate it to the marketplace.”
That task fell to Schatzberg.
“It’s been a privilege to work for such an iconic, American heritage brand,” he said, adding that Cole Haan is the shoe most people choose when they’re ready to “go out in the world. So we thought a lot about how to honor and respect a brand with this kind of history — with its American codes, its longevity, its sense of place — but also reinvent it. Cole Haan is always threading the needle between the past and present.”
Reimagine Tradition will be released in six monthly parts between February and July. It features model Grace Elizabeth, who Schatzberg described as “a great muse” for the brand because of her “versatility as a woman. She can be strong but also graceful and soft.”
The February chapter titled, “Master the Art of Walking,” features Cole Haan’s spring 2024 collection including the new women’s loafer styles and updated men’s Zerogrand Remastered Oxfords, which are celebrating their 10th anniversary this year. The women’s loafers feature intricate braiding, colorblocking, and high-shine hardware. The Zerogrand update includes a FlowerFoam outsole compound created with a minimum of 25 percent natural dandelion rubber.
“Cole Haan’s legacy of style is rooted in our tradition of craftsmanship, design and innovation. But that’s not what makes us iconic,” Maddocks said. “We believe traditions begin with the courage to take something existing and give it new life. With this campaign, as with our products, we continue to inspire our customers, both existing and new, to see things in a new light and celebrate life’s everyday moments.”
The campaign was shot by Theo Wenner and styled by Alice Goddard. The March campaign will be titled “Dress for the After Party” and April’s will be “Refresh the Morning Routine.” The campaign will be featured on Cole Haan’s social media platforms as well as in select magazines including Vogue and GQ.
Maddocks said taking a higher profile is increasingly important for Cole Haan as it celebrates the Zerogrand anniversary and works to build its women’s business. And the plan is to continue working with General Idea in the future to help it achieve its goals.
“We just got started,” said Schatzberg. “The focal point for us is to consistently build the narratives and this sensibility season over season.”
Maddocks agreed. “We want the thread to continue.”
Best of WWD