The dramatic Crocs makeover—transitioning from an ugly gardening shoe, to being a cheeky high-fashion favorite—began back in 2016, when the brand marked its first fashion collaboration with designer Christopher Kane, who embellished its classic Clog silhouette with chunky mineral stones. “I remember asking Christopher, ‘Why do you want to partner with us?’” says Thornley. “And he said, “I want to take something ordinary, and make it amazing.’” Since then, Crocs has continued to infiltrate the fashion space, collaborating with fashion houses like Balenciaga in 2017 and streetwear creatives like Salehe Bembury in 2021 (both partnerships are still going). “We always seek partners who authentically connect with our brand,” says Thornley. “One thing that we’ve always heard from partners is that we don’t take ourselves too seriously—we’re always up for doing something different.”
While the Classic Clog still remains its best-seller globally—with its Classic Sandal and Classic Slide styles performing well for the brand, too—the label’s foray into the luxury space has much to do with its partnership with Balenciaga, who has reinvented the Croc as platforms, rain boots, and even heels. “What I value so much about [the Balenciaga] partnership is how real the team is,” says Thornley. “They wanted to value what we do within the molded space, and they really wanted to stand for color.” Their recurring Bembury collaboration on the Crocs Pollex, meanwhile, features an eco-skeletal look and continues to sell out. Re-sale pairs currently go for as much as $1,000, 10x the original price. “This sense of fandom that’s happening for the brand has been super gratifying,” says Thornley.
Crocs have even begun to take over the red carpet, too. At the 2021 Oscars, DJ Questlove wore a pair of golden Crocs. Justin Bieber and Teyana Taylor have also both worn the Balenciaga Crocs platform this year (Bieber at the Grammys, and Taylor the Billboard Awards). These haven’t been paid placements. “That is a genuine and authentic connection to the brand,” says Thornley.
In addition to their buzzy moments within the fashion and celebrity spaces, however, Thornley also wants to focus attention back on the in-house design team this year. Inside the Crocs design studio, Thornley’s team operates as any other design house would: They hold inspiration meetings, discuss macro trends, and their ideal customer. “We want a team that feels like they can push boundaries and help move the brand forward,” says Thornley.