Sportswear company, Reebok, is pulling itself up by its bootstraps and stepping out after making two new signings, including a top menswear designer.

The company has reported improved second quarter earnings for this year and has announced it is teaming up with top menswear designer, Keanan Duffty, the rising talent behind the Slinky Vagabond collection, to produce a limited edition range of footwear.

The athletically-inspired collection will feature four styles that integrate the progressive Slinky Vagabond design philosophy with the authentic sports heritage of Reebok.

The collection will be shown on the catwalks of Slinky Vagabond's spring 2001 show as part of New York's Fashion Week.

Footwear in the special collection will be made from coated denim and nubuck from the Slinky Vagabond spring 2001 menswear collection.

Yorkshire-born Duffty, who trained at St Martin's School of Art, said: "This is a fantastic opportunity to be able to work with the creative team at Reebok and develop some of the ideas I've had for tying footwear into my sportswear collections.

"I've been a big Reebok fan since they first introduced the Ex-O-Fit shoe in the 80s."

Reebok said it is one of the few times that it has teamed up with a designer outside the company to produce a limited edition range of footwear.

Linda Beane, director of marketing for Reebok Classic said: "Drawing upon the rich, athletic heritage of Reebok and retooling it with the progressive fabrics and treatments of Slinky Vagabond is a perfect match.

"We're excited to see the synergy created by coupling a special footwear collection with Slinky Vagabond's apparel."

Paul Fireman, Reebok's chairman and chief executive, said he is pleased with Reebok's latest figures.

He said: "We are definitely making progress, ahead of schedule in building a solid foundation from which we believe we can sustain improved financial and operating performance over the long term."

Reebok International outlined plans to boost sales in 2001 at the opening of a two-day global media summit last week.

Speaking at the company's new headquarters in Canton, Massachusetts Angel Martinez, Reebok's executive vice president and chief marketing officer, said: "We said we would turn this business round. We laid out a plan in January and we are now delivering across the board."

Sales of the Reebok brand outside the US increased by 2.1 per cent in the 2000 second quarter to $271.4 million.

Keenan Duffty is the second big name Reebok has signed up. The company recently announced that American football star, Doug Flutie, is to take part in marketing initiatives.

Flutie will wear the Reebok Slipper, designed to enhance the speed of the athlete, during each NFL game, and in early 2001, he will feature in the Reebok Classic print advertising campaign.

The print ad campaign is based on the work of famous photographer Bert Stern. The ads, in dramatic black and white, show famous faces in Reebok Classic footwear. Celebrities who have been featured in the push include Queen Latifah and Samuel L. Jackson.

By Deborah Bowyer