Recognised as one of the most accomplished shoe designers in the world today, Paul has spent the past four decades conceiving and creating innovative footwear for major shoe brands in the United States and Europe. He launched his career at UK-based Bata Shoe Company, one of the world’s oldest, most distinguished shoe companies. For 12 years, Paul was a vital member of Bata’s design team, earning noted expertise in a broad range of footwear design and construction processes with particular proficiency in upper patterns.
In 1982, Paul joined Reebok International as vice president of Design. At that time, Reebok was generating approximately $1 million in annual sales. In his first year with the company, he singlehandedly designed Reebok’s first fitness shoe collection, which went on to gross $900 million in sales in its first five years in the market; and continues to generate $450 million per year as part of the Reebok Classic line.
During his 24-year tenure with Reebok, Paul also served as vice president of two operating divisions, New Business Development and Reebok Ideation Group, where he was responsible for creating new concepts for innovative, technologically inspired, new footwear collections.
Teaming with Reebok colleagues Juan Diaz and Lou Panaccione, Paul helped to co-found White Water Enterprises in 2006 – a corporate vehicle for incubating exciting new footwear innovations discovered and/or developed by the team, and the company from which OOFOS sprang in 2011.
OOFOS absorbs 37 per cent more impact than traditional foam footwear and their patented footbed cradles and supports arches to reduce energy exertion in the ankles by up to 47 per cent when compared to competitors’ footwear (based on a 2018 University of Virginia laboratory study).
Paul Brown, co-founder and executive director of recovery shoe brand OOFOS
Paul said: “During our time at WWE we thought that if there was ever an opportunity to start our own brand now was the time. It wasn’t about just producing another shoe because we don’t need another athletic shoe, this had to be a meaningful product. Shoes had gone away from what we were trying, or should have been trying to do, which was make people run faster and jump higher, and had become more of a fashion statement.”
Paul, Juan and Lou were talking with a chemist they had come into contact with while they were consulting and asked him if there was a way to look at cushioning differently, so that it would act as a shock absorber when people finished their sporting activities to prevent high impact going through their bodies, a cushioning suspension system.
Paul said: “He was actually working on a compound at the time, and we worked with him to develop the technology. It turned out that the results we were getting back from this sample were astonishing. We had made a material that absorbed impact but never bottomed out.
“We thought about licencing it to start off with, but we believed we had an opportunity to do something different.”
It took two years to develop the material that would become OOFOAM but, if you ask Paul he’ll say, it was also the knowledge of 30 years of industry experience that brought it to fruition.
Paul added: “The first shoe, which we still have, the OOriginal – we didn’t have to change anything. We had a very ergonomic top and a footbed which cradled the foot with arch support. The convex bottom, when you loaded the material, spread out as well as pushed up. So, it felt as if your body was supported.”
OOFOS found that while going through a person’s walking gait cycle the material shifted to who they were. It didn’t restrict body movements and their research now shows the material can help improve blood flow, opening up joints and eliminating pressure on them.
Paul said: “Consumers are telling us they had plantar fasciitis and wearing the shoes takes the pain away, as well as lower leg, upper leg and all sorts of knee joint pain. The feedback we’re getting is remarkable. We feel very proud and humble about this material and what it’s doing for people.”
The strange thing is when they first began to develop OOfoam they weren’t looking to enter the recovery or orthopaedic marketplace. It was a happy circumstance.
Paul said: “It’s an interesting one, because it’s funny, what you find is that at any one-time people are working on the same sort of ideas. And this whole thing about recovery was starting out. You saw compression socks, rollers and everything like that. And what our shoe was doing was recovery. We didn’t say we’re going to make a recovery shoe we kind of fell into it.”
OOFOS were making a shoe for hard surfaces, to ease the pressure on people who were on their feet all day, for example teachers and nurses, or who had punished their bodies and joints through sport.
Paul added: “If you look at everything today, even your cell phone, you recharge it at the end of the day. Your body should be able to recharge at the end of the day, naturally, and our product fits into that. It’s an everyday product that you can wear 24 hours a day.”
A lot of companies use influencers to push their products. However, OOFOS are doing things differently and are growing their lines organically through word of mouth.
Paul added: “It’s contagious. For every shoe we sell that person not only buys multiple pairs for themselves and their family but they then can’t stop telling other people about them. It’s a fantastic sort of organism that’s dying to spread.”
But just because they don’t have big name influencers or sponsorships doesn’t mean that top sports stars don’t use their products.
Paul explained: “We’re probably one of the only brands that we can’t tell people who we have on board. We’re very influential in a lot of American sports these days, the NFL in particular. I think we have six or seven teams now that buy the product as equipment. We get pictures of these guys wearing the shoes but we can’t use them because they’re sponsored by the bigger brands.”
The ethos behind the OOFOS brand, from the beginning, was wanting to make people feel better. And that’s something that Paul and his partners, Lou and Juan, still firmly believe in today and is key in moving the company and brand forward.
Paul said: “What we are trying to create is a brand that people embrace, love and which delivers on what we’re saying. Right at the beginning, we said what our principles were, that we wanted to make people feel better.
“That’s the umbrella and under that comes what we also want to be -pioneering, inspiring, experiential, inclusive, responsible and wow We’ve also added another element to those recently, which is passion.”
And OOFOS are very passionate about a cause very close to their hearts.
Project Pink is a dedicated effort to support and raise awareness of breast cancer and was set up in 2014 in the States following the diagnosis and later, sad passing of one of the company’s first employees, Duncan Finigan, from the disease. The initiative’s focus is on giving back year-round and in January of this year, it reached a milestone moment when over US$1 million was donated to the Dana-Farber Cancer Institute (DFCI) since Project Pink’s inception.
OOFOS is now supporting the Royal Marsden Cancer Charity in the UK. OOFOS will be donating two per cent of all net online sales of their pink collection in support of charity raising awareness of Breast Cancer Month, continuing the donation initiative that began across OOFOS’ wider range in April.
To date, an incredible £7,400 (as of 27.09.21) has been generated for the charity. The raising of vital funds for the charity through sales of the pink collection, which features the Women’s OOahh Sport Flex Slide Sandal, Women’s OOriginal Sport Sandal in Neon Pink, Women’s OOriginal Sandal in Fuchsia and Women’s OOmg eeZee Low Shoe in White Pink, continues the expansion of OOFOS’ Project Pink initiative.
Paul said: “An element of where great companies come to the forefront is they always have a cause. And our cause found us through Duncan Finigan and, subsequently, Project Pink. it’s something we feel very proud about. It’s not all about the bottom line. It’s what a company represents and what it does. Words are meaningless unless the actions are fulfilled by everyone. We live by those principles as a company.”