Kamik is celebrating 125 years of business this October. But the Canadian boot brand founded in 1898 is anything but out of touch. According to CEO Gillian Meek, this year’s milestone is a testament to Kamik’s commitment to heritage — as well as its constant evolution to meet consumer needs.
“We are focused on heritage [styles], product made in Canada and [crafted] with materials that keep you warm and dry,” said Meek, who joined Kamik as CEO in February of 2022 after serving as president of Keds for nearly four years. “But [products] that are fun and cool for families today, not families 125 years ago.”
More from Footwear News
While Kamik’s identity as a dependable, weather resistant, made-in-North America brand has withstood the test of time, the label has also changed considerably from its beginnings as a manufacturing-first organization building rubber boots.
Under Meek’s stewardship, Kamik has increased its focus on being “consumer first,” and has worked to expand its product ranges beyond seasonal assortments to include categories like rainboots, casual cold weather styles, hiking and sandals. And while Kamik is well-known for its selection of kid’s boots, the brand is also expanding in men’s and women’s as well.
“We need to take what we’re best at and expand that,” Meek said. “We’re really focused on the total family experience: men’s boots, women’s boots. We’re not trying to be high fashion. We’re trying to be dependable and serve the whole family.”
Kamik’s longstanding history of manufacturing in North America — almost 70 percent of the brand’s product is made in this region — is another example of being Kamik focusing on its consumers. Two thirds of the company’s business is done in the U.S. and people are increasingly drawn to products that are made close to home.
“When you’re talking about credibility and history, and you’re making product for the climate or the country that you serve — that costumer that you serve — and you’re doing it in the home space, I think it’s incredibly important,” Meek said.
While Kamik has prioritized sustainability, the company has also evolved some of its manufacturing processes to become even more eco-friendly. For example, Kamik’s Montreal factory runs solely on hydroelectricity, and all of Kamik’s plants rely on renewable energy, with no fossil fuels.
As a company founded before the internet, Kamik has also evolved its distribution strategy to include growth in its owned e-commerce channels.
“We were built on the back of a family business and an independent shoe store network,” Meek said. “So when something new comes to disrupt that space, like a new distribution channel — i.e. your own e-commerce — it can be really challenging for historical teams to take that leap.”
In a notable blend of heritage and innovation, Kamik is celebrating its 125th anniversary by rolling out a website redesign that highlights its manufacturing process, history and some of its employees. The brand is also introducing a refreshed version of its Heritage 1898 collection with new patterns and colorways.
Kamik is also running a contest to gift 125 pairs of shoes to different winners throughout the year, and is also giving people a chance to win a monthly $125 gift card to spend on Kamik.com. Customers can enter the contest via 125.Kamik.com.
For Meek, striking a balance between a brand’s history and where it needs to go for its future is one of the best parts of her job at Kamik.
“I get energized by the challenge and making [a brand] contemporary again, and again and again,” Meek said. “You don’t have to run away from who you are, you actually can embrace that.”
Best of Footwear News