Danish Shoe Brand ECCO Turns to East Room to Develop a Hybrid Working Environment

June 1, 2022
Lisa Zahn, Ecco Shoes Canada, Toronto HQ
Lisa Zahn, Ecco Shoes Canada, Toronto HQ

As a leading premium brand for shoes and leather goods, ECCO is continuously looking to exhibit their founding principles of taking risks and pushing boundaries.

With Canada being the 7th largest ECCO market, ECCO Shoes looked to develop and introduce a hybrid working environment for their Canadian headquarters. Their goal was to separate the office from their warehouse and to say goodbye to the typical ‘North American’ cubicle working environment. ECCO found an ecosystem that is larger than just themselves. Lisa Zahn, ECCO's Senior Marketing Manager, shared the key reasons why East Room, as a shared workspace, was their next big move. East Room offered the opportunity to gain access to a community of people from all different backgrounds and expertise, the ability to collaborate and attain support from all directions, to advance in their technologies, creative processes, overall efficiency and ultimately, their shoes.

Do you remember the first time you heard of East Room?

⎯⎯⎯ It would have been late 2019, early 2020. We were looking for a new office space for our team. I heard about it from my manager at the time. He shared a link to the East Room website with a note that said “Hey, what do you think? Could this be our new office space?”. The rest is history.

How do you envision your perfect work environment?

⎯⎯⎯ To me the perfect work environment would be a combination of spaces. Something that allows us to get together, work as a team, collaborate, share ideas, but also an area where we can work independently and be able to focus. In addition, the perfect space is an office setting where we can bring in people that we work with — our agency partners, content creators, media we work with, stylists, etc. An environment that we can be proud of, that represents our brand well and a space that the team loves and enjoys coming to.

Ecco Leather Goods, Alphabet Charms.
Ecco Leather Goods, Alphabet Charms.
The ECCO Street Tray sneaker, designed with the DriTan™ method of reducing water and chemicals during the leather tanning process.
The ECCO Street Tray sneaker, designed with the DriTan™ method of reducing water and chemicals during the leather tanning process.
Ecco Shoe Production.
Ecco Shoe Production.

How important is it to be around other creatives, businesses, and disciplines?

⎯⎯⎯ To me personally, in my role as brand manager, it is of course quite important to be surrounded by other businesses, agencies, and partners and it’s something that I’ve missed in our old office settings. There are a ton of creative and inspiring people here at East Room and we’ve been able to become a part of this bigger community. In the short time that we’ve been here we’ve been able to tap into this pool of people from different backgrounds, and with different expertise, and bring them in to support us in different projects.

What was your previous workspace/office like?

⎯⎯⎯ Our previous office space was very much a typical North American office space and very different from what we have now in East Room. It was quite nice. We did some renovations to it, and it worked for the team for many years. It was located in Markham, and what made it special was that it was a huge warehouse with our office built into the warehouse operations. So from an office setup it had dedicated work spaces, everyone had their own cube, people were sitting together in teams, we had some boardrooms, and we also had a full-sized retail store as our showroom. We didn’t need that large of a space anymore, so we were able to downsize and that’s when we started to look for opportunities outside of Markham.

Bento Pack and Crossbody Leather Goods.
Bento Pack and Crossbody Leather Goods.

What made you decide East Room was the right place for you and your team?

⎯⎯⎯ We decided that East Room was the right place for ECCO because from the very beginning we loved the overall concept — allowing us to have a shared space and be flexible. The potential of becoming a part of a larger community. Also, having a barista on site doesn’t hurt. However, before moving into our own premium office, we worked out of a few of East Room’s standard offices on the other side of the building. We were looking to test the waters and see if our teams would enjoy this type of work environment as it is quite different from our past office life. Everyone agreed it would more than work for us. Our staff felt inspired by the space along with being in an ecosystem that was also larger than ECCO itself. We made the move during covid so at the time no one really knew what the future of office life would look like. We came from working Monday to Friday, 9-5, and I think we probably wouldn’t go back to that. With East Room we have the flexibility to bring our teams together in a different way.

In 1963, Birte and Karl Toosbuy gave up their jobs, sold their home, and followed their dream to found the ECCO shoe factory. How important do you think creative risk-taking is to progress and innovation?

⎯⎯⎯ When Birte and Karl Toosbuy founded Ecco in 1963, it was all about risk-taking and pushing the boundaries. Karl in particular was never happy with the status quo and always wanted to do better. What was true 60 years ago is still true today. We still operate under his guiding principles. We take risks in order to push boundaries and you see that in the way we’re set up: in our research and development teams, and in our production processes — the things that ECCO Leather does. Innovation is one of our core values, and really without risk there is no innovation.

ECCO’s founder Karl Toosbuy.
ECCO’s founder Karl Toosbuy.
1978 ECCO launched ECCO Joke, designed by Chief Designer Ejnar Truelsen.
1978 ECCO launched ECCO Joke, designed by Chief Designer Ejnar Truelsen.
ECCO LongLegs (the popular knee-high tight boots) were made of Synthetic Fabrics after the materials arrival in the late 60’s early 70’s.
ECCO LongLegs (the popular knee-high tight boots) were made of Synthetic Fabrics after the materials arrival in the late 60’s early 70’s.

Part of ECCO’s identity is owning the means of production, including tanneries and factories. How unique is this business model in today’s fashion industry?

⎯⎯⎯ So owning our own production facilities, factories, and tanneries is very unique. We aren’t the only ones that operate this way, but being a vertically integrated company makes us special. When I say vertically integrated, I mean that we own every aspect of our business — we say from rawhide to consumer. By owning every aspect of the leather making and production process we are able to test and adapt to changing consumer needs. It isn’t always easy to operate this way, but it allows us to control the quality of our product. For me, owning every aspect of the value chain is also a major advantage in an ever-increasing socially and environmentally responsible world.

ECCO regularly collaborates with outside designers, including Norwegian Rain, The Last Conspiracy, Minotaur Inst., and most recently, Stone Island in 2020. Can you tell us how collaborations like these are initiated, and how important collaboration is to your product?

⎯⎯⎯ So collaboration has become a critical part of our business and it’s an area we have grown over the years. ECCO is a huge brand and a big production machine. We have ECCO production, tanneries and offices in nearly 100 countries with over 22,000 employees, but we still need outside opinions to become better. These collaborations allow us to share ideas, to bring people together, and for both sides to learn about the business. This way we can advance in our technologies, creative processes, efficiency and ultimately, our shoes.

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