Material Girls

Chooka Street stretches beyond its rubber roots.

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Chooka Street stretches beyond its rubber roots.

CHOOKA STREET, A division of Washington Shoe Company, has branched beyond its rubber rain boot roots with the introduction of two new fashion collections for Fall ’12. CEO Rob Moehring says the incorporation of leather and Neoprene into rubber-based constructions is nothing short of a technical breakthrough. For starters, teaching rubber manufacturers the production nuances needed to incorporate these materials involved months of training to get the line just right. But the finished collection, he notes, was more than worth the effort—for the Chooka brand extension as well as for women seeking warmth, comfort, protection and style in their footwear.

“Many women are wearing sheepskin boots in the snow and cold, which are not durable enough for those inclement conditions. Or they are wearing chunky, clunky heavy snow boots and suffering the fashion consequences,” Moehring offers. “Chooka Street brings style to warm and waterproof footwear.”

Specifically, Moehring describes Neoprene as a “wonder” material. It’s lightweight, comfortable, durable and flexible. In fact, Moehring says its properties were a well- kept secret being used in a range of products right before our eyes, such as iPad cases, computer covers and wet suits. “Neoprene is an amazing material,” he says, “and now it’s being discovered for its fashion qualities. It allows our boots to be lighter with a slim silhouette. They’re not only rain boots; they are rain, warmth and comfort boots.” Moehring notes that Neoprene comes in the form of a full sock inlaid into a rubber bottom, which is embossed and textured to provide an interesting aesthetic, while a leather overlay completes the look. “The boots are comfortable in sub- freezing temperatures and are 100 percent waterproof,” he adds, noting the suggested retail price range is $120 to $170, which comes in significantly lower than much of the winter boot competition that can run $250 and up.

So far so good in terms of the reaction the collection has received at the recent round of trade shows, according to Moehring. “We’ve had a terrific response,” he says. “And with everyone complaining about the lack of winter this year and many boot brands suffering as a result, our Neoprene story is not as weather-dependent.” In addition, Moehring believes any time one can introduce interesting, new designs, buyers will likely gravitate to them. “That’s why for years we have been selling tons of colorful and whimsical rubber rain boots in L.A. during the summer time,” he offers.

Along those lines, Chooka Street is also launching Skimmers, a collection of lightweight flats, in answer to the minimalist movement sweeping the footwear market right now. “Chooka Skimmers are super- lightweight, lined with Neoprene, flexible and comfortable,” he notes. “And the rubber exterior absorbs the resolution on our prints extremely well—much better than the traditionally used canvas and leather materials.” Moehring adds the Skimmers (suggested retail is $70) are aimed at the Lululemon customer—women coming to and from yoga class seeking a lightweight but stylish slip-on. “This is really about a minimalist construction—lightweight and close to the ground, but with an amazing level of comfort and a fashionable spin,” he says. —Greg Dutter

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