Founded by two veterans of Viking Outdoor Footwear, ZDC Footwear is the first start-up to have been granted a license by Gore-Tex to use its technology to insert thin laminates in its footwear products, where fashion is supposed to meet function for the benefit of urban dwellers in Scandinavia, the Alps and other relatively cold regions.
The Norwegian company has just launched its first line of stylish, yet warm and waterproof shoes, under the Zero°C brand for the autumn/winter 2019/20 season. Its general manager, Alf Morten Bakken, says it addresses young urban people with “directional urban footwear, which is perfect for changeable weather, without being yet another range of hiking boots or trail runners. What we are trying to do is make street fashion functional and to fill what we believe to be a gap in the market,” he says.
Shoe retail chains in Norway and other parts of Northern Europe have been the main target for the new urban outdoor brand so far. They received their first deliveries at the end of August, and the shoes are currently sold in more than 300 stores in Norway, Sweden and Denmark, and the retail partners have reported good initial sell-through and provided positive feedback, according to ZDC Footwear.
The company is also in contact with some German retail groups that have agreed to test-market part of the line in a limited number of stores across the country, where ZDC Footwear is considering appointing an agent to broaden the distribution.
The Zero°C line developed for spring/summer 2020 has already been shown to retailers internationally, and the brand expects to add at least a couple of more markets in its second season. ZDC Footwear is looking for more distribution partners across Europe, particularly in Austria and Germany – countries that have a climate, standard of living and high brand awareness for Gore-Tex similar to Norway's. The company is open to distribution agreements in other countries as well.
“While most Nordic brands identify themselves with mountains and fjords, we want Zero°C to be associated with Scandinavian urban culture. You don't need to dress like a mountaineer to cope with the Nordic winter weather,” explains Bakken, and adds that the urban design is important as it differentiates the brand from other players in the market.
In addition to styles for men and women, Zero°C also has a children's range. “Our ambition here is to be different and more inspired by street fashion in our designs than other typical kids' brands,” he says.
Bakken has more than 20 years of experience in technical footwear working in various managerial positions at Viking, a Norwegian company that is well known for its waterproof footwear for adults and children. He is also an investor in ZDC Footwear, which was registered in May 2018, along with Leif Holst-Liæker, former chief executive of Viking, Bertel O. Steen Holding and Bergans of Norway. Another investor is Tom Stiansen, a popular TV host and 1997 world slalom champion.
A generational change has reportedly been taking place in the management of Viking, and it is not quite over yet. The Norwegian company is being run by Marianne Bjarstad on an interim basis.