NEW YORK — Designer shoe floors are getting crowded.
The category is experiencing a shift, with a group of high-end brands — Charlotte Olympia, Nicholas Kirkwood, Tabitha Simmons and Alexandre Birman among them — gaining entrée into the sector’s retail space.
While it’s less a changing of the guard — Manolo Blahnik, Jimmy Choo, Prada, Gucci, Chanel, Yves Saint Laurent and Christian Louboutin remain perennial bestsellers — the above designers have edged their way into the minds (and closets) of trend-conscious consumers.
“People are seeking out extreme fashion from footwear selections, and it only helps the excitement factor when we’re selling shoes. The more that we’re able to bring these brands in and market them, the more they become a designer staple. We need them from a merchandise perspective to add newness but also from a business point of view,” Saks Fifth Avenue fashion director Elizabeth Kanfer said. “Because the major brands can only get so big, we need to think of the next crop of staples in the store. The new guard becomes less emerging and more of a substantial part of our sales.”
According to Kanfer, Kirkwood’s $995 black suede ruffle platform ankle booties are among fall’s early bestsellers — along with Blahnik’s suede ankle-strap pumps and Choo’s silver glitter smoking slippers.
Last September, WWD reported that one of the fastest-selling designer shoe styles at the retailer’s flagship here were $1,540 suede fringe platform wedge booties in burgundy from Kirkwood’s fall 2011 collection.
But this is not the case in every location, Kanfer explained. While Kirkwood’s elaborate designs might fly off the shelves in New York (it’s also a test ground for emerging brands), in the less urban stores and non-flagship locations the customer often doesn’t know who these designers are — something the retailer is keen on changing.
“Our hope is in the next several years we can roll these brands [Kirkwood, Simmons and Brian Atwood] out to other locations. We hope these emerging brands become more established and we can offer them in more stores. It’s the direction we’re taking footwear,” Kanfer said, noting that the store has begun carrying Simmons fall collection on saks.com and will roll the line out in two doors, the New York flagship and Boston.
Of this group, though, it’s Atwood who was the first to be accepted into the designer shoe circle. He launched his namesake line in 2001, and is now carried in the majority of the department store’s doors. “He’s out of the new guard and into the established emerging designer category,” Kanfer said.
As for the “new guard,” one of the fastest-growing labels is two-year-old Aperlaï, a French brand designed by Alessandra Lanvin and known for its architectural, elegant silhouettes with unexpected details, such as hand-painted mirror or marble effects on velvet, lizard or suede. The line, which retails from about $600 to $1,000, was picked up by Saks upon its launch in 2010 for the spring 2011 season and is now available at nearly 60 doors worldwide, including Harvey Nichols, Luisa Via Roma, L’Eclaireur, Opening Ceremony Tokyo and Tsum in Moscow. Domestically, it’s currently sold at Saks, Scoop, Stanley Korshak, Fivestory and Fred Segal.
According to Lanvin, married to Jeanne Lanvin’s grandson Hubert Lanvin, business has doubled in terms of doors since its first season and has increased three times in terms of sales volume.
“It’s a very prolific period for shoe design. There are a lot of big talents outside that I love,” Lanvin said, listing fellow designers Simmons, Laurence Dacade and Gianvito Rossi as each having successfully developed a particular signature. Of her own signature, Lanvin points to the graphic heel introduced in her fall 2011 collection, an ode to Picasso’s cubism. The handmade heel is a lightweight, rectangular structure that the designer evolved for fall 2012. Lanvin will present spring 2013 next month, for which she has developed a new style that she coined the “Lady Cat” — an “intense tropical green” snakeskin and suede sandal with a curved “talon” hugging the ankle, adorned with five gold buttons resembling a spine.
In yet another fashion show shuffle, @elleryland is moving its show in sync with the Paris couture calendar — though the brand is still keeping one foot on the city’s ready-to-wear schedule. Their runway show in January will coincide with the launch of a new strategy: designing two main collections each year instead of four, which will then be released in four drops. “As we all know, the system needs to change. We need to show sooner to give time back to artisans and designers to do what they do best — create,” said founder Kym Ellery. #wwdnews #wwdfashion (📷: @kukukuba)
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The @cfda has shifted the dates of #NYFW, with Men’s showing on February 5 through February 7, and Women’s will directly follow, running from February 8 through 14. The preliminary schedule will be released on the CFDA’s web site in the next few days, but Mark Beckham, VP of marketing for the CFDA, revealed that @rafsimons will be back to close the men’s-specific part of the week with a show on February 7 #wwdfashion (📷: Kelly Taub)
@ferragamo is introducing a new space dedicated to the development of women’s and men’s leather good samples. The laboratory, which is created eco-friendly materials and designed to reduce the environmental impact of the manufacturing processes, will allow the company to expand its accessories offering through traditional artisanal approaches. #wwdfashion (📷: @aitorrosasphoto)
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“There is no formula. There is no guideline. I can watch Ted Talks all day, but there is no one who can advise me on exactly what it is I should be doing,” said @ronniefieg, CEO of @kith, in an interview with WWD’s @ariahughes at the brand’s new SoHo office in Manhattan. Head to WWD.com to see how Fieg went from hanging out in shoe stockrooms at 13 to building his own business. #wwdfashion (📷: @weston.wells)
@fearofgod and @maxfieldla have teamed up on a pop-up installation. The store, located in the gallery space across from Maxfield’s Melrose Ave location, is the site of the brand’s House of God pop-up in which Fear of God founder @jerrylorenzo has created a church-inspired installation. A dozen vintage church pews sit in front of an LED screen playing 90s gospel singers in an effort to re-create an environment akin to a Southern Baptist Church, Lorenzo explained. Read more about the pop-up on WWD.com #wwdfashion (📷: Jennifer Johnson)
Known for his sleek, sophisticated American glamour, Norman Norell is the subject of an upcoming exhibition at @fitnyc. “Norell: Dean of American Fashion,” which runs from February 9 through April 14, will feature approximately 100 ensembles and accessories. His best work is exemplified by the designer’s glittering “mermaid” gowns frosted with thousands of hand-sewn sequins – like the one pictured. (📷: William Helburn) #wwdfashion
For pre-fall 2018, @balmain didn’t let go of the glitz. A crystal embroidered baseball jacket priced at around $40,000 hangs in the “couture” section of the brand’s first men’s pre-collection. Sporting the words “Balmain Army” across the back, the item took around two months to make. “When it was completed, it was like Christmas, it was like, ‘It’s done, it’s exactly what I wanted,’” said Balmain’s creative director @olivier_rousteing during a tour of the collection in a Paris showroom on Monday. #wwdfashion