COMBAT BOOT TREND STRIKES COMFORT, FASHION
As dressy, polished styles return to fashion, designers have been left with a serious design query. With female consumers now accustomed to more comfortable shoe styles such as sneakers, what kind of footwear should accompany this suited-up, ladylike movement in apparel?
Enter the combat boot — shown on the runways of Altuzarra, The Row, Valentino and Alexander Wang to accompany baroque outerwear and power suiting.
Roopal Patel, fashion director at Saks Fifth Avenue, said of footwear’s shift just after the fall 2017 show cycle: “We have been in a sneaker phase lately, but the boot was probably — even more so than the stiletto — the really key silhouette for us this season. This season going back to power dressing — giving women that extra kick. I think the stiletto is pretty, it’s feminine, but the boot has some power behind it.”
“I think there is a sense that women want to feel unencumbered and walk freely and comfortably,” said Joseph Altuzarra, whose take on the combat boot features a lug sole and pearl embellishments along its vamp. “I think that, for me, the combat boot was such an excellent symbol of female strength and confidence. I do think that women want more fashion options not in high heel shoes.”
In the six months since the fall fashion shows, fast-fashion retailers such as Zara and Topshop have adapted the runway styles to suit their own price point.
FINE JEWELRY’S NEW WAVE
A suite of start-up fine jewelry brands is finding sparkling success — growing clublike mentalities around layered pendant necklaces, hoop earrings and stackable rings.
Wwake, Foundrae, Sophie Bille Brahe, Sophie Buhai and CVC Stones are among the brands whose seasonal editions sell out at retail. They have each cultivated a unique online aesthetic and presence — allowing consumers to feel like they’ve gained entry to a cool-girl club upon purchase.
Chalk it up to limited distribution and a hide-and-seek mentality in marketing to new customers. These labels are not in the business of being something to everyone. For them, niche is key.
Buhai, formerly of the Vena Cava brand, noted that her consumers “feel like a really nice community of like-minded women.”
Her namesake jewelry label — launched in 2015 — hits the lower end of the fine jewelry spectrum, with sculptural sterling silver pieces priced from approximately $300 to $1,700.
“I think products and brands have to be truly authentic now and customers are really savvy. They have to feel like what they are buying comes from a real place and a real person and a real kind of culture. Imagery is something really important to me — creating an atmosphere. You have to set a tone and create a world that what you are making belongs in,” Buhai said of her brand’s culture. It has nearly 70,000 Instagram followers.
These brands’ success in establishing meaningful connections and loyalty with Millennial consumers run counter to the troubles plaguing bigger heritage jewelry firms such as Tiffany & Co. and Signet.
“My customers are pumped to see a person our own age make jewelry and they want to support me,” Wwake’s Wing Yau said. The brand counts more than 33,000 Instagram followers, an audience it feels greatly contributes to sales.
“I think that our generations of customer wants to break from tradition. They are used to getting Tiffany and David Yurman gifts from their parents. Now it doesn’t feel personal enough. Our parents saw and helped those brands grow and now we want to support our own wave of people,” she added.
The brand — launched in 2013 — is sold in more than 60 stores, as well as in Wwake’s Brooklyn studio and on its web site. Its delicate opal, pink sapphire and diamond rings, earrings and necklaces retail from approximately $100 to $5,000.
While Buhai noted that her retail partners including Dover Street Market and Boone the Shop are important for sales, other start-up jewelry designers are shying from the typical retail model.
Jean Prounis, formerly studio assistant to Jemima Kirke and an alum of Gurhan, will launch a fine jewelry brand, Prounis, this fall. Predicated on ancient gold alchemy techniques, Prounis intends to launch as a direct-to-consumer fine concept — taking on select wholesale accounts as an opportunity to hone merit and cachet.
NANCY GONZALEZ BRAND SOLDIERS ON
The Nancy Gonzalez line is forging ahead, adding new doors and designs. The brand had suffered a blow when its president and creative director Santiago Barberi Gonzalez suddenly died in March.
In the fallout of this tragedy, his mother Nancy Gonzalez had only one month to design the label’s resort 2018 collection, totaling nearly 100 stockkeeping units.
The Colombian accessories entrepreneur told WWD that her son had devised a three- to five-year plan before his death — and the firm will continue to execute these plans in his absence.
“Santiago had a very clear vision for the future of the company — he was ahead at least three years. Now for us in the middle of this pain, this terrible thing, we have a very clear idea where we need to go. Honoring Santiago’s legacy and vision is easy for us because we have very clear goals,” Gonzalez said.
She noted that Barberi Gonzalez’s mentees and staff are “very well trained. I have inherited the best of the best. They are professional, loyal and hardworking people.”
Members of Barberi Gonzalez’s staff have been allocated new tasks to accommodate the changes. Eric Schneider, the brand’s director of sales and general manager in New York, is working to close deals started by Barberi Gonzalez while also developing new business.
The resort collection sets a new optimistic and feminine sensibility for the label, including heart-shaped novelties, juicy color schemes and upbeat floral embellishments.
“It was an amazing response, we are having a lot of orders and many buyers called it the best collection we’ve ever done. For us, what’s most important is to maintain the customers we already have — it’s important for them to receive new things, which is always the challenge. They called the collection new and fresh,” Gonzalez said.
Among Barberi Gonzalez’s many objectives for the label was to increase its presence in Europe. For resort, the brand will enter El Corte Inglés in Madrid — a door the label considers as strategic. Colette is a key wholesale client for Nancy Gonzalez in Paris, and the brand is seeking new outlets in the French capital given the boutique’s impending closure.
Select Nordstrom shops and Nordstrom’s web site will also begin stocking the Nancy Gonzalez brand in the new year.
In the coming seasons, the label will add a new flavor to its shoe offering. While previous footwear collections had been minimal in their appearance, new designs will begin to incorporate embellishments.
The Nancy Gonzalez brand also looks to add to its board of directors, seeking members with expertise in the Asian and European markets.
A foundation to support the arts and arts education is also being developed in Barberi Gonzalez’s name. Proceeds from Sotheby’s Sept. 27 sale of his art collection, furniture and objets will be allocated to this cause.
TIFFANY & CO.’s KRAKOFF FUTURE
Tiffany may have anointed Reed Krakoff as its chief artistic officer in January, but his exact vision for the label is anyone’s guess.
In March, Krakoff told WWD of his concept for the brand’s positioning: “I don’t think people realize it — we are making real things with a wholehearted, artisanal, hand-wrought quality. In a funny way, I don’t think it’s informing the work as much as it could and I don’t think the consumer is as aware of it in the way they could [be].
“It’s not about the old story of quality and craftsmanship. It’s really craftsmanship and artisanship to bring about modern design. Quality really has to be fused with a modern eye, which is what Tiffany really stood for, for years.”
Krakoff’s first designs for the firm are expected this fall. But don’t expect a new outlook on sterling silver chain bracelets and charms just yet.
First on Krakoff’s agenda are housewares and leather goods, expected at stores in time for the holiday season. Jewelry, on the other hand, is not due until 2018.
The ads feature Zoë Kravitz, Janelle Monáe, St. Vincent, David Hallberg, Elle Fanning and Cameron Russell wearing the label’s sterling silver hangtag jewelry, pendants, hoop earrings and delicate diamond styles in layered spades.
The choice of models and Millennial-type styling points to Krakoff’s understanding of the challenges ahead. Tiffany & Co. — while performing well in emerging markets and Asia, Japan in particular — has failed to capture the adoration of American Millennials.
So are in-house piercing salons, stackable ring concepts and chokers on the Tiffany agenda? Department stores including Saks Fifth Avenue and Liberty of London have employed those very tactics to modernize their own jewelry assortments.
MID-PRICE SHOE AND HANDBAG CATEGORY HITS STRIDE
The mid-priced category of handbags and shoes continues to develop and strengthen.
As reported by WWD in March, brands offering fashion-forward product of elevated taste — priced at approximately $250 to $900 — are flooding the market. Occupying what was previously a white space in the accessories category, these brands have been met by fanfare from Millennials.
Brands including By Far, Mari Giudicelli, Paloma Wool, Carel, Amélie Pichard, Dear Frances, Trademark and Carolina Santo Domingo are writing their own narrative about what it means to purchase high-quality, well designed accessories of a certain aesthetic ilk.
While new accessory brands would often enter the market at a luxury price point without hesitation, designers now feel that the consumer is too well-educated and wary of markups.
With luxury labels such as Gucci and Balenciaga unleashing a storm of trend-setting, luxury-priced stock keeping units each season, these designers see their prices as a market differentiator.
By Far, a shoe line by twin sisters Sabina Gyosheva and Valentina Bezuhanova along with friend Denitsa Bumbarova, say they launched in June 2016 with the intention to make fashion “approachable and fun, not to have pressure on buying something really expensive. We find it really ugly for something to cost thousands when the actual price of making it is low, it’s not fair,” Bumbarova explained. All of the brand’s styles are priced at under $500.
The trio feels that they approach their line as shoppers first, helping them weed through designs, function, versatility, comfort, style and price. They say that all their retailers experienced 100 percent sell-throughs of their spring 2017 collection. The Dreslyn, a cultish boutique in Los Angeles, restocked its seasonal buy three times.
The new-age retailer best responsible for this new category’s success, Lisa Says Gah, will this fall launch its own line of shoes with a similar price point. “Doing product development in-house allows us to have that local, small brand feel but offer the best price possible to the consumer. I think the more options popping up outside of fast-fashion, the better — people can make different decisions in their purchases,” said Lisa Says Gah founder Lisa Bühler.
Carel, a heritage French footwear brand, has actively made inroads to modernize its image via kicky mary janes, boots and sandals largely priced at under $500.
The brand, now with $13 million in annual sales, has grown its international business by five times in the last year. By the end of this year, it projects them to increase to $17 million.
Said majority owner and chief executive officer Frédérique Picard: “We want the brand to remain between luxe and middle market — it’s very important to have that kind of positioning while also being 100 percent made in Italy in a very small workshop with a very traditional way of making shoes. It gives us a very strong credibility, and puts us in a very good position.”