September 1, 2008, Updated September 13, 2012

Skins interchangeable footwear system based on two parts: a collapsible outer “Skin” and an inner orthopedic support called the “Bone”.

As the seasons progress and the school year starts again, it seems that footwear hasn’t changed much since the ancient Mesopotamians started wearing sandals 3,500 years ago. Fast-forward to the Third Millennium. A new company, called Skins, is out to create a paradigm shift in the footwear department. Its products have already started appearing in US stores, but the big launch is planned for next February. Celebrities are lining up for their own custom-made Skins, and bloggers all over the net are making videos about the new shoe. But what’s all the hype about?

Founded by Mark Klein, an Israeli-American who was raised in New York, “Skins” are perfect for the world traveler and shoe buff. The company has developed an interchangeable footwear system based on two parts: a collapsible “Skin” and an inner orthopedic support made from plastic, which is recyclable, called the “Bone.”

The human body – made from skin and bones – is the concept behind Skins Footwear. The consumer purchases one hard plastic insole Bone and keeps it indefinitely. Then affordably priced Skins that slide seamlessly over the Bone can be changed as often as the weather. Satisfying the Imelda Marcoses in all of us won’t be hard to do, as Skins come in designs from formal slip-ons and high tech sneakers to ballet shoes.

“You’d buy Skins like any other normal pair of shoes,” Klein tells ISRAEL21c. “You’d walk into a store, see a display not unlike in any other store, and you’d pick out a Skin that spoke to you. At that point a saleswoman would pull out a combo box, the first one comes with the Bone.”

After the first Bone is purchased, a customer can buy an unlimited number of Skins, all of hich fold easily and are practically weightless, making them perfect for traveling. While the form-fitted bone can last decades, individual Skins can be bought from season to season to match your fancy in footwear, perfect for play, work or a night on the town.

A Second, Third and Fourth Skin

If you are a businessman, or globetrotter, you can throw a half dozen different pairs of Skins into your carry-on, giving you a shoe for every occasion. If you ride your bike to work, a sporty Skin serves its purpose on the ride to work, while a second Skin functions in the professional office environment.

Klein, who is in the midst of rolling out a massive marketing campaign in the United States and the rest of the world – including Israel where he lived for eight years – imagines customers will be able to sign up to a Skin’s shoe club in the near future, and have special made to order Skins in just the right size, mailed right to their door.

The idea for Skins started in Israel. Klein was sitting in a café in Tel Aviv when he noticed that a buddy of his owned many pairs of the exact same shoe in different colors. Klein then thought about creating a shoe that could keep its base, while the upper part stayed the same. Taking the idea one step further, he also provided differing functions for the Skin as well. That was in 2002.

But from the outset another Israeli was involved. Klein’s in-house designer, Kobi Levi studied at the Bezalel Academy of Arts and Design in Jerusalem, and his ideas fit with Klein’s vision. He told the designer he wanted something simple, without zippers and Velcro, that would be easy for everyone from age 7 to 70 to use.

A fantasy with no limits

In 2004 Klein became the president and CEO of Skins Footwear Inc, put together a business plan, and raised $450 thousand from investors in Israel They’ve come a long way from the early beginnings when Levi was making models in his kitchen; today the hard inner Bones are made in China, while the soft supple Skins are made in Italy. The company, now based in New York, has raised $9 million and has a staff of 12. Two years ago, Skins went public.

A pilot launch of about 4,000 shoes was done last year in the US, with a mid-sized roll-out prepared for before Christmas this year and a large-scale launch by February, 2009. But you don’t have to wait. It will also be possible to order the products online through the Skins website in about a month.

In the future Klein plans to design with high-end labels, driving the average cost of a $50 Skin up to about $700. Perfect for online buyers, if you already own a Bone, then it’s a shoe fantasy with no limits, Klein has said, while looking forward to creating a children’s line.

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Jason Harris

Jason Harris

Executive Director

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