“I never do this, but can I ask…where did you get those shoes?” It was last winter, and I was outside a friend’s bar in Union Square, shivering under the awning while icy rain pelted at my coat. I was desperate to go inside and cozy up with a drink, but the young woman sauntering down the street had caught my eye. While everyone else was running and slipping on the icy sidewalk, this lady, with purple-ombre hair, ripped black stockings and what seemed to be high-heeled, rubber rain boots—with a red horizontal racing stripe across the front—didn’t seem to be in a rush at all.
“Sorry?” I thought I heard her say.
“I said, Where did you get your boots?”
“SOREL!” The lady laughed. “It’s the name of the brand. They’re actually super comfortable.” I eyed them enviously as I felt the sleet turn my socks into two wet, lumpy packs of ice. I’m not much of a shoe person—to be honest, I’m not much of a fashion person, period (my idea of a work outfit is a T-shirt, jeans and funky sneakers)—but those shoes hit some sort of serotonin trigger in my brain. I was practically salivating. If I had cash, or anything to trade, it was likely I would have tried to barter my way into the pair of boots this woman was wearing.
“They have this store in Chelsea,” the lady continued. “You should check it out.”
I went the very next day, where I fought against a riotous slew of Meatpackers, all impatiently yanking SORELs off the shelves and begging the salespeople to tip them off when a certain pair arrived in their size. Christmas mobs give me a panic attack, but I doubled-down in my hunt for the exact same pair of shoes I’d seen the young woman in the night before.
There was one pair left of SOREL’s Medina III High-Heeled Rain Boot with the red racing stripe. They were exactly my size, it was a real Christmas miracle. I bought the shoes and tossed my sneakers into the box so I could wear my new boots out. Even though there was still freezing slush on the ground, my feet remained toasty and dry…and highly complimented. To this day, I don’t think anyone’s commented on any item in my wardrobe more than they do on the SORELs. They are my most coveted winter item.
I emailed SOREL’s product line manager, Marion Minary, to help me understand what makes SORELs so special. For the shoe horse in your life—and especially for those who aren’t—giving the present of SORELs is sure to put you on Santa’s good list.
SOREL began as a Canadian brand in the early 1960s. How has the look and style evolved in the last five decades?
Marion Minary: SOREL started in cold weather performance, but our evolution has been inspired by our customers who are looking for more than function and style. As a result our design team has explored ways we can bring SOREL’s unique intersection of protection and style to a new generation and audience.
Beginning in 2011, we expanded the collection to offer more fall and year-round styles for women and men. The union of outdoor functionality and luxurious style in what has become new franchises for the brand resonated with consumers, and today, our year-round, day-to-night, ready-for-anything styles have become some of our most popular offerings.
How do you honor the legacy of the original SOREL style in your current products?
SOREL was born of the belief that style and functionality go hand in hand, and our goal is to honor that with everything we do. Every SOREL product, from boots to outerwear to accessories, features the functional attributes and superior craftsmanship SOREL is known for, without sacrificing style.
Many of our iconic SOREL boots continue to inspire new collections year after year. The classic Joan of Arctic evolved for year-round wear, with the introduction of the refined Joan of Arctic Wedge Mid. And in our upcoming Spring 2017 collection, you’ll see the Joan silhouette deconstructed for warmer weather with the Joanie Lace.
SOREL combines functionality with street fashion: for example, the women’s 1964 Premium Wedge boot, which is both waterproof and stylish enough for any Manhattan party, or women’s Tivoli II boot, which has both a sporty “sweatshirt” look while still being durable enough to track around in the snow. How do you balance those two priorities—high style and functionality—without sacrificing quality?
We work hard to ensure even our most style-forward boots are grounded in functionality. Take our wedges, for example. The wedge silhouette is feminine and adds height, but the platform we use is also one of the most comfortable and durable in the market. The same goes for our heel constructions, where we obsess on footbed comfort and heel stability, even on our highest heel to date, the Medina. Another example is our rain product, launching in January—we combined our iconic wedge silhouette with functional attributes of waterproof vulcanized rubber, breathable air-mesh lining and siped outsole for a great traction.
What are some of the designs you’re the most proud of this season?
For winter, we’re really excited about the new Cozy Carnival collection. The Cozy Carnival is a bold sneaker-style boot, perfect for all-day winter wear. It is lightweight but still offers the insulation and waterproofing you need for city slush.
We are also delighted to introduce our Conquest Wedge, which features a waterproof premium leather in the haute hiker style, a breakaway trend for the season that has been popular on both coasts.
Why do SORELs make the perfect present?
SOREL truly has something for everyone. With year-round, all-weather styles, SOREL has offerings for a friend in NYC, your sister in L.A. and your family ski trip. All SOREL products are also built to last, so it is a gift that keeps on giving.
What can we expect to see in the future from the brand?
In the upcoming seasons, you’ll continue to see SOREL grow into an even more expanded year-round brand, with footwear, outerwear and accessories options from toe to head.
This January, we’ll be launching our newest line of warmer-weather styles, including our first RAIN collection and a wide variety of lightweight boots and sandals. While some might feel like warm-weather wear is a departure, true SOREL fans will be able to easily see how our winter and fall collections have been a major part of the inspiration and construction of this year’s spring collection. We love that we can use our heritage in utilitarian footwear to offer that same protection and style in a fun way for spring. SOREL has a lot of exciting things in store.