A longtime favorite of racing drivers, enthusiasts and automotive journalists alike, Piloti emerged in 1999 to provide a unique line of driving shoes for both on-track use and off. Yet despite their popularity in the automotive marketplace, the brand disappeared a couple of years ago after the economy tanked. Enthusiasts didn't stop asking for them, though, and now Piloti is back with new owners and a lineup including some of our favorites from the previous line and some welcome new additions.
Jonathan Carter, Piloti's managing director, spoke about the brand's return, saying "Over the past two years, while the brand was in transition, we noticed an unwavering demand for Piloti driving shoes from both professional drivers and general car buffs." "We are pleased to bring Piloti back to market with exactly what North American car culture has been asking for: The only technologically advanced driving shoe that is also stylish and comfortable enough for the street."
If you notice they used the term North American instead of just American, that could be in part because, while the original company was based in California, the new owners are Canadian. The company behind the brand's revival is Canadian Tire, a major retail and automotive service company with nearly 500 locations across Canada and numerous other brands under its portfolio. It's the same outfit that built the ice truck a few months ago and sponsors NASCAR's Canadian racing series. Autoblog got the chance to talk with Andrew Davies, the head of Canadian Tire's automotive division and the man responsible for bringing Piloti back to life, from his office in Toronto. Keep reading below to find out what's in store for the rebirth.
With backing from one of the 50 largest companies in Canada, Piloti has a five-year plan in place to bring it back to market - and back for good, avoiding the same fate the brand suffered in 2012. That includes a worldwide distribution network it aims to have established within its first year of operation, Davies told Autoblog. Piloti's revival involves both bringing back customer favorites and expanding the lineup with new designs. To that end, it has a management and design team brought in from outside the Canadian Tire group.
The new collection includes three lines: Performance, Casual and Luxury. The Performance line is designed for professional racing drivers, and includes fire-retardant Nomex lining and FIA certification. The Casual line looks more like sneakers you'd wear on the street, but designed for driving. Both are centered, for the time being, around existing designs that enthusiasts will recognize and that are made in China.
One of the biggest additions the new management is bringing to the fold, however, is a new Luxury line, made in Italy and putting fashion first with suede loafers and stylish wingtips (like the brown leather Campione model pictured up top). While Davies said he expects classic Piloti models like the Prototipo (especially in black leather like the one pictured above-right) and the Superleggera (particularly in blue and white pictured below-left) to continue being the brand's most popular models, it's been receiving exceedingly positive feedback for the new Luxury line that's it's hoping will be a hit with upscale buyers - celebrity automotive enthusiasts like Patrick Dempsey and Ralph Lauren who helped put the brand on the map in the first place.
What they all share in common is Piloti's patented Roll Control Heel – which Davies characterizes as the only driving shoe with a worldwide patent - designed for easy heel-and-toe and to provide extra support, control and cushioning where drivers need it most.
The company also has a line of clothing and accessories in place with items like leather jackets, t-shirts, baseball caps and bags. But that's not the end of the story. Piloti already has its next season's collection in the works and aims to expand with another half-dozen new styles in the near future. With several riders on the team, Piloti is also likely to get back into motorcycle boots like the Moto 800 it made previously, as well as shoes and other items for women, and even a collection designed for winter driving to balance traction in the cockpit and in the snow. Davies even hinted at a collection of more traditional driving gloves in the works.
That's all well and good, but it's rather pointless if they're not readily available to the public. That's why the company is setting up worldwide distribution to include markets from the United States and Canada to the UK, Australia and Japan, all of which it aims to have established within its first year back in operation. It's working with luxury, automotive and motorsports retailers, but won't actually sell through Canadian Tire stores. The latter may be within a fifteen-minute drive from 90 percent of Canadians, but doesn't fit with the Piloti brand's image or target market.
For now, Piloti launched with a presence on Montreal's Crescent Street during the Canadian Grand Prix, and it will demonstrate its wares with the Piloti Race Challenge during events like the United SportsCar Championship race at its own Canadian Tire Motorsport Park (popularly known as Mosport) in Ontario, the US Grand Prix in Austin and the SEMA show in Vegas. Prices for the Performance and Casual line range from $150 to $240, and from $350 to $450 for the Luxury line, all of which you can see in our high-resolution image gallery above.