Sperry names VP of design and product development

Sean McDowell Courtesy Sperry

Wolverine Worldwide’s Sperry brand selected a leader to oversee product innovations within the footwear brand.

Sperry, a brand of the Rockford-based footwear and apparel maker, said it appointed Sean McDowell the new vice president of design and product development.

McDowell will be based in Waltham, Massachusetts, and report to Joelle Grunberg, a member of Wolverine Worldwide’s executive leadership team and global brand president of Sperry.

In his new role, he will focus on “driving product innovation and elevating the Sperry brand,” Sperry said.

“Sean has a demonstrated history of leading high-performing teams to design on-trend products and grow profitably by bringing them to market,” Grunberg said. “His many years of experience with global branded footwear companies will help accelerate Sperry’s efforts to create even deeper consumer connections around the world.”

McDowell has more than two decades of design experience with a track record of bringing “innovative, award-winning footwear products to market,” Sperry said.

Most recently, he founded Fountain Design and Innovation, a Boston-based boutique design agency serving a variety of consumer brands.

Before that, he held design and product development roles at New Balance, Nike and Converse, including vice president and creative director of Nike Running and vice president of design, innovation and sustainability at Converse.

“I am excited at the opportunity to lead design and development for an iconic brand like Sperry, whose products I’ve worn since my childhood days sailing, windsurfing and waterskiing,” McDowell said. “I feel a kinship with founder Paul Sperry, since he was an adventurer and inventor, and I cannot wait to help the team seize the opportunities ahead of us.”

McDowell holds a Master of Fine Arts degree in industrial design and psychology from Carnegie Mellon University.

He has been awarded more than 50 U.S. patents, won dozens of international design awards, and his work has been displayed in the Smithsonian and Museum of Modern Art in New York City.


Founded in 1935 by avid sailor, inventor and explorer Paul Sperry, the Sperry brand invented the world’s first boat shoe, the iconic Top-Sider, and continues to develop “innovative, fashion-forward styles” to be worn at sea or on the street, Sperry said.

The brand’s products are sold in department stores and independent retailers in North America, Asia, Europe and Latin America, as well as Sperry specialty retail stores and at Sperry.com.

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