‘Who we are as a brand’: Why Keds is creating a new ‘handbook’ for women

As International Women’s Day approaches on March 8, sneaker brand Keds is celebrating its female-focused roots with the release of the “The Keds Hand-book for Women” — a modern take on its The Keds Hand-book for Girls series from the early 1920s. 

Keds is printing and distributing an abbreviated version of the Keds Hand-book for Women, which will include stories of 18 women from diverse backgrounds. Empowering women is at the foundation of the new series, with the inaugural issue centering around the concept of power. 

“It’s more than a marketing tool. It’s really who we are as a brand,” says Keds president Gillian Meek who joined Yahoo Finance’s “On the Move” to talk about the significance that the hand-book plays in not only company culture but also consumer outreach. 

“We have 104 years of history in making shoes for women … and the hand-book from the ‘20s gives us a modern launching pad. We’ve been spending a lot of time talking to the consumer, and what she’s telling us is that she knows who we are, but she doesn’t know what we mean to her today. So this is giving us a modern platform from which to tell her story today.”

The Keds Hand-book for Women - KEDSKEDS

A few of the women featured include: Nina Westbrook, a former collegiate athlete and founder of The Little Ark; Aija Mayrock, author of “The Survival Guide to Bullying;” Alana Mayo, head of Outlier Society Productions; and Meena Harris, founder of the Phenomenal Woman Action Campaign. All tell their story and give their definition of what “Power” means to them. 

Keds has a long history of being female-focused. In 1916 Keds, which is part of the footwear manufacturer Wolverine World Wide (WWW), became a pioneer in the footwear industry when it created the “Champion,” which it touts as the first sneaker ever made for women


The original hand-book of the 1920s encouraged young women to get out and exert their independence and gave girls advice on how to master skills like playing basketball and fishing. The 2020 edition looks to speak to a new generation of women with a special emphasis placed on challenging both the written and the unwritten rules of gender norms. With the updated hand-book, Keds wants to show that there is no “right way” to be a woman. 

NEW YORK, NEW YORK - MARCH 09: A view of Keds on display at the In goop Health Summit New York 2019 at Seaport District NYC on March 09, 2019 in New York City. (Photo by Astrid Stawiarz/Getty Images for goop)Getty Images

“One of our biggest challenges is how to become modern and contemporary. And that means opening up, being more inclusive and being more diverse and this platform is not putting a definition of what it means to be a woman,” Meek says. “It’s allowing any kind of woman to come and join us and tell their story. And we believe the more stories we tell, the fewer rules that we’ll see about what it means to be a woman.”

Reggie Wade is a writer for Yahoo Finance. Follow him on Twitter at @ReggieWade.

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