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Yigal Azrouel is moving into accessories with an unexpected collaborator — Swiss cobbler Walter Steiger.
This story first appeared in the October 28, 2008 issue of WWD. Subscribe Today.
Azrouël, who launched his own line in 1998, has long been a fan of Steiger, and sought him out in April while he was preparing his spring 2009 collection. “I love the movie ‘Blowup,’” says Azrouël, referring to the 1966 Italian film for which Steiger designed the shoes. “I didn’t want to work with a young or trendy designer. I wanted someone with great technique, who makes interesting shapes.”
For Azrouël’s collection, which debuted at his spring runway show, he and Steiger collaborated on two such shapes: a sculpted leather bootie on a thin, stacked heel, and a high-heeled sandal with wide leather straps. The boot, which will retail for $920, is available in a honey-brown color, while the black-and-white sandal will retail for $795. In an effort to grow the collection gradually, Azrouël is selling both styles only in his two retail stores, which are located in New York’s Meatpacking District and in Watermill, N.Y.
“I want to see what people think, if they like them,” Azrouël says of his decision to hold off on selling the shoes at other retailers, and he notes that Steiger’s previous collaborations with designers from Azzedine Alaïa to Oscar de la Renta were a factor in his selection. “My deal with [Steiger] is also exclusive, and so I am planning on doing more styles for fall, and then we’ll see if they go to other stores.”
For spring, Azrouël is also expanding his handbag and scarf collections, the latter of which is a bestseller in his boutiques. “Scarves are huge right now, because they aren’t as expensive as other accessories and they are really versatile,” says Azrouël, who uses bead-ing, embroidery, and fringe on them (there are 12 styles for spring). “With my clothes I’m all about draping, and scarves are an extension of that.”
As for the bags, photography — as in a camera case — served as inspiration for the spring line, which consists of five pieces retailing for between $700 and $1,375. They are sold in the designer’s stores as well as boutiques including Boston-based Gretta Luxe; Divine Girls and Carrots, both in San Francisco, and Dallas’ 45-10. “The shape and construction of old camera cases are very inspiring, and I wanted to re-create that,” says Azrouël. In keeping with his relaxed urban aesthetic, he distressed the leather to create a “washed-out look.” Perfectly finished pieces aren’t his specialty: “These are cool, daytime bags that look like vintage.”