Summer’s most standard sandal is getting a fashion-forward upgrade.

This week, Havaianas, the Brazilian brand that’s made $20 rubber flip-flops for over 60 years, is rolling out a collaboration with Italian luxury label Dolce & Gabbana. The collection features four classic Havaianas’ flip-flops done in classically D&G maximalist prints, including leopard, zebra and bright, illustrated florals. At $138, they’re priced over six times higher than a standard pair of Havaianas, and will be sold at luxury retailers like Selfridges and Galeries Lafayette, as well as on both brands’ direct-to-consumer websites.

It’s all part of Havaianas’ plan to harness this current moment, where its flagship shoe is on the upswing.

The brand, which saw its first-quarter profits increase nearly 9 percent and sales go up 3 percent from 2023 to 2024, is focussing on getting in front of consumers. D&G is its third collaboration this year, following team-ups with fellow Brazilian-born label Farm Rio in March and lifestyle label Maison Kitsuné in April. Last fall, it rolled out a new brand campaign, and this summer, it will further lean into out-of-home advertising and in-store display to maximise its busiest season.

“Being part of people’s lives again is a must for us,” said Maria Fernanda Albuquerque, vice president of global marketing at Havaianas’ parent company Alpargatas SA. “Flip-flops are super on trend, so we need to ride this wave.”

It’s a good time for the sandal seller to align itself with a luxury label (even if it’s one with a controversial past). The luxury market can’t seem to get enough flip-flops. Major brands, including Chanel, Loewe, Prada, Saint Laurent, Gucci, Tory Burch and Louis Vuitton, are all selling pairs, plus fashion favourites like Jil Sander, Toteme and Khaite.

Nostalgia is, of course, a driving factor. (Even the Millennial favourite squishy “Floaties” flip-flops are back; a made-for-2024 version is available at Free People and Amazon.) But the flip-flop’s coming resurgence is proof that even in the age of TikTok micro-fads, the standard playbook for driving trends is alive and well: It’s trickled through the upper echelons of the fashion industry, and now is poised to break through to the masses.

Sales haven’t yet seen an uptick, according to market research company Circana, but it’s still early on in the trends’ lifespan. Nikolas Minoglou, co-founder and CEO of footwear seller Ancient Greek Sandals, said the brand didn’t see much wholesale interest nine months ago, which he attributed to caution around an unproven trend. On its DTC channels, however, its seen flip-flop sales increase threefold this year. Minoglou added that he believes the increase could have been four or five as much if the company had the stock. (Ancient Greek Sandals is currently producing more of its flip-flop styles to meet demand.)

This wave of flip-flops and thong sandals are better suited to a dinner out than a day at the pool. The Row kicked it off with the debut of its Ginza sandal — a $990 flip-flop with a leather or suede upper and a one-inch platform — in 2019; by the Spring 2024 season, elevated takes on the flip-flop were appearing on the runway at Chanel, Staud, Ferragamo, Proenza Schouler and more. Now, Madewell and Gap are selling more thong-inspired sandals, as well as direct-to-consumer players like Rothy’s (which is owned by the same parent company as Havaianas) and Reformation.

“I used to only wear flip flops home from pedicures, it wasn’t something that I’d walk around in all day,” said Rachel Cohen Smolyar, a content creator and a former buyer for Bergdorf Goodman. “But obviously when big brands like The Row are pushing a shoe, people are going to buy them.”

Fashion’s Take on Flip-Flops

In some ways, today’s flip-flops are different from the ones that came before; in others, they’re eerily familiar.

Styles that were aughts staples, like Havaianas, are making their way back into the fashion conversation, as are platform flip-flops, which saw searches increase 255 percent this spring, according to analytics platform Trendalytics. But there’s also more unique twists, from versions that extend to wrap around the wearers’ ankle (think Miu Miu’s popular Riviere cord and leather sandals) to more dressed-up styles with a kitten heel — Trendalytics found that searches for kitten heel flip flops increased 700 percent in April.

J.Crew, Loft, Mango and even Old Navy, synonymous with rubber flip-flops, have introduced leather (or faux) versions, many unmistakably inspired by The Row’s Ginza or its City or Beach styles. Havaianas, too, has introduced a more stylish square-toed version of its rubber flip-flop, plus a number of new silhouettes inspired by the thong shape or introducing design details like chains and buckles to the rubber silhouette.

Jennifer Lawrence in a pair of flip-flops at the Cannes Film Festival in 2023.
Jennifer Lawrence in a pair of flip-flops at the Cannes Film Festival in 2023. (Getty Images)

Giving a utilitarian sandal a fashion upgrade is a playbook that’s worked in the past. Look at Birkenstock, which has collaborated with the likes of Jil Sander and Rick Owens, and seen its stock rise by over 60 percent since its October 2023 IPO.

Likewise, these updates will help consumers consider flip-flops for a different setting, beyond the pool.

“What the industry is really struggling with lately is consumers pulling back on their buying, newness and innovation becomes more important.” said Beth Goldstein, executive director and footwear industry analyst at Circana. “It’s not necessarily recreating the wheel but evolving it. So people are like, ‘I had this but now it’s something new that I don’t have in my closet, so I’m going to go for it.’”

Behind the Rise of the Flip-Flop

The flip-flop’s current prevalence is also a reminder that despite how much TikTok dominates the conversation, with its rapid-fire, hyper-specific trends like “mob wife” and “coastal grandmother,” it’s still possible for the old rules of trends to apply, particularly when thinking about the rise of an overall product category.

“Nowadays sometimes we see trends on TikTok, in the masses first,” said Kendall Becker, director of trend and editorial strategy for analytics platform Trendalytics. “This was hands down sparked by runways and luxury.”

Goldstein attributes the lack of a sales bump so far to the fact that seasonal footwear generally is softer than more year-round styles like loafers and sneakers. According to Becker, it may be because people may be seeking out specific shoes, like The Row’s Ginza.

There’s reason to believe that shift will begin this summer. According to Trendalytics, searches for thong sandals were up 12 percent in May; as temperatures rise, more people will reevaluate their sandal collection. The options are certainly available, and as influencers further embrace the style, consumers are likely to follow.

“For some reason the flip flops make you look cooler, like wearing an evening dress and flip flops,” said Christina Martini, the co-founder and designer of Ancient Greek Sandals. “We’ve seen that a lot lately, that creates an appetite for it.”

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