Sole survivor: Diadora returns to form

  The Week  
Enrico Polegato, head of the Italian footwear brand, on how he's honouring the company's history while keeping in step with the times In Depth Enrico Polegato Thursday, January 12, 2017 - 10:32am When the opportunity came up to rescue Diadora, I knew we had to take it, in part because the brand still had strong potential but also because I didn't want that heritage and know-how to be lost. After all, unlike most sports shoe companies, Diadora dates back to 1948. There was a personal reason, too: working for Geox I would always be "the son of", so wanted to do something for me. It wasn't inevitable that I'd join the family business – I passed my bar exams in law to give myself other options before deciding that law wasn't for me – but when you do, it becomes a matter of fact. My father created Geox the year I started primary school, so there was always this opportunity to grow up seeing how business decisions were made without any filters, which you don't normally get as an employee. I grew up knowing the importance of innovation, that in business you have to be different. On the other hand, you always face the pressure of expectation to match the success of past generations. Doing my own thing was in part my way of not hearing that any more, without running away from the family business altogether. Diadora is exciting, though. As with Geox, people now take performance aspects in footwear for granted – they expect functionality and comfort whether or not they're wearing a "performance" shoe. But Diadora also has the advantage in, unusually, being an Italian sports shoe. That still matters. Ask anyone which is the country of choice when it comes to fashion and they will say Italy, especially for shoes. Well, anyone except an Italian – ironically, here, we're a little too in love with foreign things. But that Italian style is, in part, what set Diadora on fire in the UK in the 1980s, back, for those who remember, when it was massive – before the brand lost touch with the market and didn't keep pace with the likes of Nike and Adidas. Of course, we can't follow the consumers who remember it from then to the grave – and I'm talking here about people my own age. We have to appeal to younger people who may never have heard of Diadora. For them it's a new brand, but one with history. It's the brand I wear every day now. Of course, before this I wore Geox. But please, don't ask me which I prefer. That's like having to choose a favourite daughter. It's an impossible choice. ENRICO POLEGATO is, with his father Mario, the head of Italian footwear giant LIR, owners of Geox and latterly of the classic Italian sports shoe brand Diadora, which relaunches in the UK this spring;diadora.com Sportswear Menswear ▶ Full story on theweek.co.uk

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