Visiting the WSA..Meeting Michael Toschi

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The WSA Show is one of the most important trade shows in the footwear business. I come to this show each year, in Feb and August, with my footwear editor, Cregg Weinmann to look at new product, catch up on news in the industry and put a face with my new clients.

The WSA show is in transition. While I am always impressed with it's effort to bring in the media, it is not keeping the athletic footwear business, which has always been a small part of the business. But the show is important, and there are always some...surprises..

The show has nearly 5,000 plus booths and most for for comfort, casual footwear plus categories of Green, and athletic, plus rugged.

I go from both area to booth area, looking for new product, possibilities for new product in our market and meeting with the communications personal at the different companies.

New Balance is the last large running footwear brand, as ASICS pulled out this year. Brooks, Avia, Spira, and a few others had their rooms in the Venetian or Sands.

I also spent some time with Aetrex, a company which has developed from a company selling high end insoles in the 70s and 80s to making footwear for diabetics, to developing a line of footwear for the aging boomer and running footwear for runners who need something not on the regular running store wall.

But my most fascinating meeting was by chance. Cregg and I saw Michael Toschi in one of the Venetian display rooms. Toschi, from San Carlos, California, makes high end footwear for men and women, starting at $700 a pair. He has started a line of shoes at $400 this year, but it was his start in the business that fascinated us!

Cregg had sent me a photo of one of Toschi's shoes, with a waffle sole, but the little nipples sinking inside, instead of the normal outside.

Toschi worked with running footwear cult designer Joe Skya, one of the true innovators in the sport. He also worked at Reebok with Angel Martinez, former president of Reebok, now at Teva. ( Angel used to work at Runners' World, selling shoes in Starting Line, which is where I met him when I was coaching at Bellarmine).

Toschi looks like a former distance runner. He now bikes. And he obviously loves what he does and his shoes show it. Wonderfully crafted, thoughtfully produced in Italy and showing the creativity of a guy who really knows his craft.

So here is the dream party for guys. Toschi has a party, he calls it part Tupperware, part
footwear party. For $1600, one meets with Michael, has dinner at a nice Italian (what else?) restaurant and a tracing of one's foot. Several weeks later, in a wooden box, similar to a wine case, the shoes show up on your doorstep! I saw the shoes, (www.toschi.com) and they are amazing! Please check this out, just to drool over!

So, we reluctantly left Toschi's showroom, knowing that this guy was a footwear god and that running footwear had influenced another footwear company.

I spent Thursday, Friday and Saturday checking out footwear booths, meeting the industry and dreaming about the perfect shoe...

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