Teva founder back with new brand: Meet Sazzi

Teva Founder Mark Thatcher trots back into the industry — this time in his new Sazzi footwear.
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Throughout the month of February, SNEWS will recap its coverage of Outdoor Retailer Winter Market 2012 with select stories from the O.R. Daily we published at the show Jan. 19-22. It’s an opportunity for you to catch up on stories you might have missed in O.R.D., and for us to update and upload the articles to our searchable archives.

To Teva Founder Mark Thatcher, the outdoor industry is like a tribe — one he's rejoining after several years away.

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Thatcher said he decided to launch his new sport sandal company, Sazzi Footwear, at January's Outdoor Retailer Winter Market because the trade show is like one of the tribe's ceremonial gatherings.

“It’s sort of like a homecoming,” Thatcher said prior to the show.

His new sport sandal has six points of contact, four of which are toe posts similar in design to Vibram FiveFingers. They’re intended to give users more connection with the ground beneath them because each toe is able to move independently, rather than as one unit.

“We call it toe motion footwear,” said Sazzi’s CEO and president, Brett Ritter. “When you walk in the sandal, it’s a very barefoot feeling to the ground and the terrain around you.”

The company offers the Digit, a sport sandal with a heel strap, and the Decimal, the four-toe post flip-flop.

Thatcher, a former river guide, has been featured in numerous publications and recognized by various organizations for his athletic sandal design, which of course launched the Teva brand. The sandal featured a heel strap, which made it possible for active people to navigate the rough terrain of canyons and raft the white waters of rivers with the same shoe.

Sazzi is an athletic sandal, but it is different from Thatcher’s original design in many ways. Thatcher looked at information uncovered by archeologists that showed the Anasazi people wore sandals with two toe posts that could handle the rocks and terrain of southern Utah and northern Arizona.

Sazzi is a play on the word Anasazi, Thatcher said: “‘Anasazi’ is a Navajo word for the pueblo people who proceeded them.”

Like their ancient inspiration, Sazzi sandals have multiple toe posts — four total, two more than worn by the Anasazi people.

The multiple toe posts, Thatcher said, “gives you a feeling of connectedness,” to the ground because of the free motion the toes are allowed. Thatcher said he and Ritter have several patents pending on the design.

“Because of the Anasazi connection,” Thatcher said, “this is the oldest new footwear you’ll ever discover.”

Thatcher has been researching Anasazi sandals for years, and the product idea has been in his mind since his 1990s years at Teva. After leaving the company, Thatcher came across his former colleague Ritter.

The pair shared their thoughts and decided to launch the business shortly after Thatcher showed Ritter a prototype of the Sazzi sandals during a surfing trip. Thatcher said they both thought the outsole might be improved with toe cuts, so out came the hacksaw and right there on the beach they finalized the design of the recyclable sandal’s outsole.

Thatcher said he chose to launch Sazzi at Winter Market rather than Summer Market so the sandal company could stand out more. Plus, Thatcher said, the market is ready for a product like this.

“Because of customers’ embrace of the Vibram FiveFinger,” Thatcher said, “we believe people are ready to try the four-toe posted athletic sandal.”

--Ana Trujillo

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