On March 18, the iconic Palm Beach-bred footwear company Jack Rogers celebrates its sixtieth anniversary. The quintessential Jack sandal has been outfitting brunches and beach days since 1960, when Jackie Kennedy brought the classic whipstitched leather design back to the island from Capri. Since landing in Palm Beach six decades ago, Jack Rogers has evolved into the eco-friendly sphere, adopted a broader selection of styles for the modern Jack girl, and stayed true to its beloved heritage.
PBI recently caught up with Jack Rogers’ CEO, Lydia Luis Park, about sisterhood, choice, eco-friendliness, and the next 60 years.
PBI: What do you feel has leant to the brand’s endurance over the last 60 years? You’re in an elite stratum of brands that have managed to do such a thing.
Park Luis: It’s two-prong. One, we have an iconic product, which is our Jack sandal, that has really stood the test of time. When we see people wearing it, they’re wearing it casually on the beach, going shopping, and to events like reunions, weddings, and going out. It really is something that’s versatile that can be dressed up or worn casually.
I think the most powerful thing in being able to endure is that it’s really loved. It’s a loved brand and it’s a loved product. You see this when you talk to customers and you ask them, “Hey, tell me about your first Jack.” There’s an emotional connection to that moment, whether it was them and their mom sharing it at their beach house or shopping together for it. There’s a connection to the product and there’s also connection to other people. Whether it be their sorority sisters, their parents, or their friends. There’s always a social element when you talk about a Jack sandal that I love. That has been able to weather the tests of time and to really see generations passing it on to the next.
How have you seen the sandal inspire Palm Beach style over the last 60 years?
I think you can wear it very classically to the golf club or brunch. But lifestyle is also changing. People are traveling a lot more and have more of an eclectic personality in terms of how they want to dress. The Jack sandal is very versatile.
The line has expanded to encompass more upscale events, so Jack Rogers has a heel and an espadrille, which is great for something like the polo field for stomping divots. What inspired that choice?
We looked at our customer’s lifestyle and how she was wearing it. I mean, she was already wearing the Jack to events and day-to-night. So, we said, “We have this opportunity with our assortment to really give the customer more choice. Let’s give our woman and our girl the opportunity to just have a heel or something to wear to holiday parties.”
Jack Rogers is transitioning into an eco-friendly style. What motivated that extension?
It’s important for us to be sustainable and we’re trying to find a way that’s authentic to the brand. There are things that we do in terms of our supply chain and minimizing packaging. We also want to signal to our customer base that this is important for us and we want to do it in a way that makes sense for us. The Jack is a leather sandal and we didn’t want to change that, so we made our leather chrome- and metal-free. We use 100 percent cotton, so this Jack is 100 percent eco-friendly in that sense.
We want to make sure that we’re really staying true to our roots but bringing the brand into the twenty-first century as well. So why not start with our most iconic product?
Is this movement something that the Jack girl and the Jack woman desired for a long time?
It’s interesting because we are a brand that’s been around for a while, but we’re still a very young brand. More than 50 percent of our customer base are millennials and we have Gen Z coming up. This sustainability component is even more important to them and we also hear it in our workforce. We have a very young workforce with a lot of smart women, and we want to make sure that we are doing the right thing. We’re excited to move even further into this area.
You started as CEO in 2018. What have been your proudest moments since?
It’s nice to take a brand that has so much rich, authentic heritage based in America and really take it to the cusp of the twenty-first century. Launching the eco-friendly Jack and relaunching the Jackie sandal gives the customer more choice and is a nod to our heritage. I would say that it’s been a really great moment in time to be the leader of this company and I have an amazing team. We couldn’t have done this without the team members we have. We have a lot of women in our company and I love being able to nurture them. It’s been great in so many ways but the people and the brand are the best parts of it.
One of the pillars of the brand is sisterhood. You work with strong women and your client base is largely comprised of women. What does sisterhood mean to you?
Sisterhood is empowerment; it’s working together in a caring and nurturing way. Sometimes you have to make tough business decisions, sometimes you have customers that are unhappy, and you have challenges in the workforce. How do you handle those situations? There is a gracious way of handling even the most difficult ones. I think that is the hallmark of what our brand represents. The sisterhood doesn’t always mean fun times and times at the beach. Sometimes there are rainy days, but I think that’s when sisterhood actually becomes stronger, when you can weather the storm together and enjoy the good times that you have. So, finding that balance among the business, products, customers, and with the brand is critical. To me, sisterhood is the strength in adversity, it’s the fun during the good times and celebrating that together and wrapping that all up with a really pretty bow.
Of course, it will continue to evolve as the brand does over time. The definitions of style and what it means to be a woman will always look different to every generation.
Our customers inform us a lot about the too, which we love hearing.
Are you looking forward to that evolution in the coming years?
Yes, I think you constantly have to change and evolve, but what we don’t want to do is forget the past and the heritage that brought us here and makes us strong. We have a huge gift by being an American brand with this heritage, with such a strong customer base, and an iconic product. There aren’t too many American products that have lasted the tests of time over 60 years. We feel really honored to take this gift and grow with it.
Jack Rogers has become synonymous with Palm Beach over the last six decades. So to you, what is synonymous with Jack Rogers?
Celebration, sisterhood, happiness, warmth, and a lot of care [with regard to the way the company does things, caring for one another, and taking pride in what you do].
What do the next 60 years have in store for Jack Rogers?
I would love to share the Jack Rogers story even further. We are beloved in Palm Beach and I think we have an amazing opportunity to share this very authentic story and heritage with people around the world. As we do that, we never want to lose sight of where we started and what makes us fantastic as a brand. That would make me so happy. In terms of product innovation and development, it’s always listening to the customer.