Martin Krist, former head of Esprit’s shoe division and an innovative leader in the shoe industry, died unexpectedly in June at the age of 55.

Krist was with Esprit for over 17 years, from July 1998 until the beginning of 2016, shaping the fashion manufacturer’s shoe business strategy for many years and later also taking the helm of the company’s lifestyle and accessories division.

In charge of purchasing and product development management, as well as sales and customer service for Esprit’s footwear division, he was one of the first in the industry to set up a vertical business structure, with the frequent introduction of new models in the shoe collections displayed in Esprit’s stores. 

Under Krist’s leadership, the company grew to become one of the most important suppliers and a major player in the shoe industry, with a production of over five million pairs of shoes a year.

Krist left Esprit at the end of January 2016 and moved on to establish his own company, Yu Enterprise, based in Langenfeld, in the German state of North Rhine-Westphalia. With Yu Enterprise, he worked on multiple projects, including a new line of sneakers for German shoe manufacturer Rohde.

Esprit expressed dismay over Krist’s death, crediting the manager with “building an incredible shoe business at Esprit for many years” and making “an enormous contribution to the company”.

Before joining Esprit, Krist worked at MSC Holding, Ara Shoes and footwear chain Siemes

He lived in Solingen, in North Rhine-Westphalia, for many years, and recently moved to Düsseldorf. He is survived by his wife of many years, Bärbel.