NEW YORK — Spring 2019 accessories are a shoo-in. Footwear continues to reign as accessories’ top category, according to designers and buyers here, who say that lifestyle and fashion trends have ushered in a “shoe moment.”
According to retailers like The Webster’s chief executive officer Laure Hériard Dubreuil, novel kitten heels, sandals, sneakers and flats are finding favor over handbags. “I am a shoe addict myself — items that are fun and playful and easy to mix do best, no basic black shoes. It’s not always so easy to find a bag that is versatile; I don’t want to change my bag — women are wearing the same bag a lot of the time. I think you want to be able to change your shoes,” Hériard Dubreuil said during a New York Fashion Week event at The Webster to celebrate Leandra Medine’s new line of shoes.
Net-a-porter’s global buying director Elizabeth von der Goltz said, “We are in a shoe moment — at Net-a-porter we are going after shoes in a big way.” This past summer, the online retailer twice reordered a pair of flat sandals by The Row to meet consumer demand.
Designers are looking to capitalize on the momentum. Paul Andrew, who presented his latest collection during NYFW, said that his women’s creative director’s role at Salvatore Ferragamo has increased awareness of his namesake brand in international markets. He is currently focusing on growing that business in China and Southeast Asia.
For spring, Andrew has expanded his price point — introducing a $595 entry design. “Our retail partners tell us that consumers want things to have the look but not be as expensive,” he said of the current climate. There are exceptions, however, with more directional pieces. “It’s interesting because certain shoes we will give on consignment because we believe in them for being more fashion-forward and they sell out immediately,” Andrew said.
Brooklyn-based designer Suzanne Rae is a testament to the strength of the contemporary shoe market. The designer, who founded her line in 2010, introduced a range of midpriced, fashion-forward footwear for spring 2017. The category has quickly grown to comprise 70 percent of brand sales.
“Because of fast fashion, I think people are buying their clothes and mixing high and low. The shoe is the cake topper, it’s the statement. People don’t want a cheap shoe for the practical sense of comfort and also the real accessories perspective that it can elevate a look,” said Rae, whose shoes retail from about $250 to $500.
As von der Goltz has noted in the past, new designers — particularly those in the midpriced category — are finding success, even taking market share from established labels. Ty McBride, founder and designer of the Los Angeles shoe brand Intentionally Blank, is one such label, with most designs priced at under $250.
“I sell in really good stores where I am the entry price,” McBride said at the Capsule Trade Show this week. “Even if people are not familiar with my line, there is a comfort and a fashion aspect. They try on the style and say, ‘Oh, $190 — yes! Especially in New York, this shoe will get trashed and I can wear it all the time.’ I think we suit a wide spectrum of clients.”
McBride attributed the current popularity of shoes to “styling-wise, there are more options. As pant proportions and fashion shifts, shoes get a new take.”
But even with consumer demand for footwear, jewelry is not far behind. Heriard Dubreuil said that the jewelry category is thriving under trends that see women “stacking and having fun with it.”
Von der Goltz said the current ‘pile it on’ trend had her on the lookout for new spring jewelry styles. “Everyone is accessorizing big-time now, stacking jewelry. Shell designs were so big this season, as were some other natural materials. It’s a really fun accessories season — people are buying into items we haven’t seen in so long. We’ve seen big pendants come back, vintage charms and hair accessories,” she said.
Designer Rebecca de Ravenel presented her spring line during NYFW, this season introducing a chunky chain necklace style as well as a fleet of variations on her best-selling statement earrings. “I think earrings don’t go out of fashion, women don’t stop buying them whether there is a trend or not,” she said of the category’s success.
In order to quell high-street knockoffs, de Ravenel has begun showing only a small portion of designs in her presentations, keeping the rest under wraps in the showroom. New styles include daisy, petal, and bell-shaped motifs.
Scosha founder and designer Scosha Woolridge presented a new fine jewelry collection during NYFW. She surmised that jewelry’s recent growth has to do with “people investing a lot more in pieces because it’s something you can keep, it’s less seasonal. If you don’t like it anymore you can repurpose it, [fine] jewelry holds value and is special in that way.” The brand has recently seen its biggest growth with custom fine jewelry sales.
On the handbag front, designers appear to be focusing on direct sales channels and widening their price points.
In recent months, Edie Parker founder Brett Heyman hired an in-house design and production team for the first time. Founded as an eveningwear clutch line, Heyman now wants to diversify her business. “We have been accompanying our girl on Saturday and Sunday and now want to be with her the rest of the week,” she said of the brand’s new small satchels and totes made of bright acrylic and printed fabric materials.
Edie Parker’s Madison Avenue store has become a “lab” for clienteling, particularly in a wholesale climate that is “a little challenged, department stores are having a hard time so we are evolving our direct business,” Heyman said. The brand this season introduced an entry price point of $595 for a small fabric bag with tortoise acrylic handles.
Hunting Season — a Colombian-produced handbag line by Danielle Corona that was founded as an exotic skins business in 2006 — is also expanding its scope. This season saw Corona introduce new leather styles, some incorporating banana-leaf raffia material.
At one point, Hunting Season’s elegant, logo-less bags were almost exclusively in the four-figure range. Now, Corona has entry styles priced at $395, with main pieces marked at about $600 retail. She is preparing an e-commerce web site to launch in early 2019 “so we can communicate directly with the consumer.”
“The consumer is more aware today,” Corona said. “I think people have to be more honest; a lot of the time bags are priced at $1,000 to $2,000 more because of someone’s logo. I appreciate well-made and beautiful material. I don’t want someone to ever be paying for a status symbol.”