Last week I had the opportunity to attend the Footwear News CEO Summit in Miami Beach. I was the newbie, I’m clearly not an executive but I wanted to meet the designers & industry leaders which I’ve been writing about for the past three years.
The event kicked off with a cocktail reception and luckily I found new friend, Karen who was also a first-time attendee. She’s a graduate of FIT and inspired by the beautiful minimalism of Céline. I will get to see her debut contemporary designer line, KAREN, which launches the first week of September in New York.
The overall theme of the conference was “transformation” and for two days I heard many designers speak including: Charlotte Olympia Dellal, Rupert Sanderson, Nicholas Kirkwood, Isa Tapia, Charline De Luca, Alexandre Birman, Tony Hsieh plus more.
I want to share a couple of highlights from the designers themselves:
Designer Charlotte Dellal spoke with the president of Charlotte Olympia, Bonnie Takhar about stepping onto the global stage. Her brand is only 5 years old and she’s quickly building a company which is clearly on the path to major shoe brand domination à la Christian Louboutin.
Charlotte shared two important things that she’s learned:
1. Stay true to the brand
2. Surround yourself with the very best people
She stuck to her love for everything nostalgic and has carved a very strong & specific niche in designer shoes.
Charlotte’s also created strong relationships with luxury retailers like Neiman Marcus by giving them so much more than just the standard seasonal collections. She’s released encore collections, holiday-inspired designs and most recently the cosmic collection which centered around horoscope signs.
I spoke briefly with Charlotte and she’s truly one of the loveliest people I’ve ever met. She’s genuine, glowy (maybe extra glowy because she’s pregnant!) and I’m excited to see her next spring collection in Paris this September.
Outside of his designs, I didn’t know much about Brazilian designer Alexandre Birman or his story, but I learned that shoemaking is in his blood.
Earlier this year he was named president of his family’s 40-year-old powerhouse footwear company, Arezzo & Co.
He titled his story ‘dreaming in high heels, walking in flats’. Alexandre shared 5 key decisions that helped transform his company including the ability to innovate, solid marketing, efficient supply, nationwide distribution and performance-based management.
They currently operate 4 women’s shoe brands, Arezzo, Anacapri, Alexandre Birman and Schutz. Birman is building a powerful international business and you may remember the recent Schutz U.S. push. They also opened a Madison Ave. NY store which was promoted by several top bloggers.
Of course my shoe
hoarder collecting self admires that his father has kept shoe samples since the 70s and they now have an archive of over 40,000 pairs of shoes!
Isa Tapia and
Charline De Luca
Relatively new-to-the-scene designers, Charline De Luca and Isa Tapia sat down for a conversation session with the Saks Fifth Avenue Senior Fashion Director of Accessories, Elizabeth Kanfer. They spoke about industry changes and the new contemporary designer niche.
Isa Tapia interned for Marc Jacobs & apprenticed for Oscar de la Renta before launching her own line. She’s chosen to use the highest quality materials while producing in China. I admired her courage when starting her namesake label saying, “I jumped in, made some shoes and crossed my fingers.”
Isa looks at the $450-600 price point from a positive perspective and knows she can get both contemporary customers and designer shoe lovers.
Italian designer Charline De Luca is a trained architect and describes her footwear as ”architectural, rigorous and balanced with a touch of femininity”. Last year she was one of the top names to know in the high-end women’s market and more recently her Zaha shoe was selected for The Museum at FIT Shoe Obsession exhibition.
One of Charline’s first priorities was to get the price at an entry level on the designer floor. She offers young customers designer shoes at a more affordable price point.
Things to know about Kirkwood:
- He gets bored easily and thus, he doesn’t have one key design that he has to include in every collection. Instead, Kirkwood worked hard creating an established brand and now he can be adventurous with his designs, switching it up season after season.
- Thankfully, Nicholas says he will never do a diffusion line.
- Tilda Swinton is his dream celebrity client. Impressively, he also remembered that she wore a nude leather pump last year at a photo call during last year’s Cannes Film Festival.
- He just debuted his new menswear line at London Fashion Week! Before he designed womenswear, Kirkwood originally made shoes for himself so this is a natural step for him. Plus, he said that everyone has been bugging him to start one.
- Instead of the usual showroom presentation, he will present the Spring ’14 collections this fall differently….more of a presentation-style and not a runway show.
- The next logical step for the brand will be designing bags. Nicholas says he only needs one or two star bags but he’s not rushing it.
Rupert Sanderson has an amazing story and he’s made the process of starting & running a successful brand look easy. Rupert closed out the summit speaking about 5 transformative moments during his brand’s career.
His story began in Italy with him riding a motorbike through the country visiting shoe factories. Rupert then decided to become a shoemaker and he’s very grateful to have worked and learned from the founders of Sergio Rossi.
Rupert believes that “less is more” and I appreciate his pure design aesthetic.
I told him that the Elba pump is currently celebrity candy and I found out that it’s be worn more than other other shoe this award season!
All of Rupert’s designs are named after daffodils and there are over over 13,000 types so he will never run of names.
He’s picky about collaborations and rightfully so since they can be very time consuming. Rupert’s currently designs Karl Lagerfeld’s mainline catwalk collection.
In 2006 he bought a shoe factory in the outskirts of Bologna, Italy where his designs are produced. I quickly learned that this is every shoemaker’s dream.
He’s also just launched his bag line and his first design – the Music Bag – is based on his old recorder sheet-music satchel.
You can keep up with Rupert on his blog at Vogue UK.
I had a chance to personally meet all of these designers (minus Birman) and they’re all very different and lovely in their own way. I have to say that my two favorites were Charlotte & Rupert. Charlotte is very kind and Rupert is direct & respectful. They both have amazing brands; I loved chatting with them.
I consider this my “kick-off” event. I’m heading to FFANY next month and then booked all of the 4 cities for fashion week this September!
Credit: WWD, Footwear News & Instagram