Estimated reading time: 5 minutes

Elena De Martini speaks to us about the success of Hey Dude, founded from an innovative comfort footwear project, with multichannel distribution, and a unique partnership for national retail.

Young, sparkling, optimistic, and with all of the desire to grow, Elena De Martini, who is CEO of the Fratelli Diversi company responsible for the European distribution of the Hey Dude brand, has the very same traits as the brand itself. With an innovative  project, which focuses on well-being and an unmistakable style, the brand has become a protagonist of great success on national and international markets.

How was the Hey Dude project conceived?

The project was founded in 2009, when my brother Alessandro, who just like me was already working in the footwear sector, upon returning from one of his trips to China, realised that a modern-styled shoe/footwear model comfortable like a slipper did not exist. He accordingly decided to design one, by focusing on what was for him then and still is now today the main principles of his footwear idea: attention to details, research of nonconventional solutions, respect for the environment, and complete commitment to ensuring maximum comfort. An innovative project that we decided to invest in: we opened Fratelli Diversi close to Florence, the worldwide capital of shoes, giving life to the Hey Dude brand.

Right from the start, we decided to redesign and reconstruct the same classic styles by looking for a replacement for heavy, rigid, and obsolete materials, while focusing on lightness, flexibility, sustainability, and versatility. These principles were  then combined with a modern and striking design.

These are the origins of Wally, our icon: initially proposed in three different colour variations, with an EVA UltraLIGHT patented sole, and an Easy-On system, characterised by the presence of elastic laces that do not require fastening. Initially  it was distributed by niche stores where the product, for its design, comfort, and price (around 59 euros), immediately attracted the attention of the public/our masculine target of reference.

How has the Hey Dude proposal been developed over time?

Over the course of the years, we have extended the range of products and we have also focused on women, who today represent around 20% of our offering, while growing at a significant and constant rhythm every season. Currently our collection includes  5 men’s styles for a total of 86 colour variants and 4 women’s styles for a total of 40 colour variants. Recently introduced is also the children’s collection, which is fun and colourful, transforming classic bestsellers into youth-oriented versions.  Our designers carefully follow the development of the product, while maintaining our iconic style and focusing primarily on comfort, with the inclusion of new details and innovative high-performance materials for the creation of the most comfortable  shoes you have ever worn. The result is perfectly constructed footwear, which is innovative, ultra-light and casual, but with style.

What are the features that make Hey Dude footwear comfortable?

The construction and attention to materials is essential for Hey Dude: a wider arch support for guaranteeing maximum well-being to the foot combined with a sole in patented EVA UltraLIGHT, AirFlow technology for correct ventilation, and a memory  foam insole for protection from impacts, which is removable and covered in natural materials like canvas or cork, thereby guaranteeing breathability. Solutions that guarantee the well-being, lightness, and flexibility of Hey Dude shoes.

Moreover, we give maximum priority to sustainability and choose to use natural and ethical cotton for our uppers, along with vegan proposals, recycled leather, and eco-knit fabrics in recycled plastic.

Where is Hey Dude produced?

The design is Italian, while the production is Chinese. With a headquarters in Hong Kong and a design office in China, in Jinjiang, we can directly monitor production to ensure that our high qualitative standards are constantly maintained.

Where is Hey Dude distributed?

Besides Italy and Europe, we are also distributed in America and Asia. The United States is the driving market. Italy is the European market most interested in our shoes, where we have an almost capillary distribution, while in other European countries,  like Great Britain, Spain, Germany, and Poland, we are registering strong growth. Most recently, we also met up with great interest in Finland, the Netherlands, Greece, Russia, Switzerland, and Austria. In Asia, we are present in around 30 malls divided  between China and its neighbouring countries, with numerous markets opening up. The strength of a product like Hey Dude is that it allows us to easily construct our sales network: as soon as they learned of our product, immediate interest was shown  in it by both potential customers and agents who contacted us. 

For Italy, you have developed an interesting distribution project…

We have just started with an extremely interesting commercial project, which sees us partner to two important brands like Birkenstock and Hawaianas. We have opened and are opening three stores in Tuscany, where the three-brand proposal of our joint brands  will be proposed. The quality and functionality of Birkenstock, which attracts notice in store windows, combined with the force of emblematic Hawaianas, will allow us to be discovered by customers, who upon entering the store, often end up leaving  with a pair of Hey Dude shoes. For us, it has been a winning combination: a valid experience that we are planning to extend also to other regions in Italy.

What about digital channels?

In addition to being present on different business platforms like Amazon, we are seeing daily growth on our e-commerce site. With an in-house warehouse for fulfilling online orders we are ready for further growth through digital channels, focusing as  always on that which is our strength: comfort, wearability, and price.

How has Covid-19 impacted the business of Hey Dude?

Despite the pandemic, we recorded positive growth through both our physical and digital channels, and this is merit of a comfortable quality product. This is why, despite the healthcare emergency, we count on reconfirming, if not increasing, our turnover next year.

Find this article and other similar contents on the official magazine of Expo Riva Schuh. Click here to know Fotoshoe 30 and subscribe to the magazine.