Falke might be best known for its luxurious hosiery, but its sports line is developing steadily.
Fusion Associates turned to Division Manager - Mike Kaier to find out what sets the range apart and which new innovations are shaping it further.
Falke launched the Ergonomic Sport System sports line in 1996 and it keeps expanding. What is its strength?
A company with 120 years’ of knitting experience has a lot to offer the sports sector. Equally, in a world of excess and mass production, quality and good design are key and Falke provides both – something that is reflected in the fact the end consumer repurchasing rate of a Falke product is 96%.
What goes in to the product development and what type of consumer is at the centre of the process?
Falke’s products are developed by a team of sport specialists, physiologists, textile engineers, psychologists and therapists. The foundation they lay together results in a highly functional breed of sports clothing that is in tune with motion sequences, giving support and preventing injuries while protecting from external influences. The range also meets the more intuitive needs of modern athletes. In their pursuit of health and wellbeing, they have a “silent dialogue” with their clothing, meaning that they’re very aware what they like and don’t. We consider the entire system carefully. Sports clothes are worn in layers and each one must complement the next. Falke combines all individual elements to create a highly functional and stylish ensemble.
Biking and running are two sports practiced by an increasing number of people and at widely different levels. How do you meet the needs of them all?
We have identified different type of runners – the comfort runner, fitness runner and performance runner. To accommodate them all, we have developed merchandise concepts to satisfy the needs of each specific group. The comfort and the fitness runners are often found in urban areas and increasingly so also cyclists. Biking is a category in which we only offer socks, but we’re keeping a close eye on it and might well extend the line in due course.
Please introduce us to your latest key pieces and technical innovations.
As the ski boot market has changed a lot over the last two years, we’ve tweaked the ski socks range accordingly, reducing the weight about 30%. Another key addition is the Skiing Air Insulation base layer – this is the world ́s first 100% seamless wrap-knitting construction and it’s worn by the athletes of the national German ski federation. We’ve also reinvented our Running Apparel collection, making it more ergonomic. As for base layer technology, we launched the Running Air Ventilation; again, this is constructed using a 100% seam-free wrap-knitting technology which is extremely lightweight. Meanwhile, the RU Achilles running sock reduces Achilles tendon problems during sports while the RU Stabilizing version prevents ankle twists.
Technical innovation aside, Falke’s mainline is know for its use of fine natural fibres such as silk, cashmere and even vicuna. To what extent do they feature within the sports range?
Silk and cashmere both figure in our ski sock line. Silk is characterized by its luster and durability; it acts as an insulator against heat and cold, which makes it an excellent sports fabric. Also, particularly brilliant colour tones can be achieved when dyeing silk. As for our use of vicuna, we’re currently carrying out different tests to establish if it might be beneficial to our sports pieces.
You’re about to extend the golf range, which currently offers socks for men and women only. What does this move involve?
For S/S ‘16, we’re launching a Golf collection from head to toe. We conducted a year a half's worth of market research before deciding to take this further and decided to specifically develop product for tow camps– the “weekend golfer” and the “performance golfer”. As this range targets a new distribution, we’ve also started to develop a separate sales organization for it.
What are the next steps in taking Falke Ergonomic Sport System forward?
The next big thing is still a secret, but on the whole we’ll continue to build the brand within the sports sector.