Stuart Weitzman ushered in a new era on Thursday.
A duet of events were staged at Seagram Building restaurant The Pool, celebrating the debut collection of newly appointed creative director Giovanni Morelli — a seasoned accessories designer who has created cult products for luxury brands including Chloé, Marc Jacobs and Loewe.
In the afternoon, Stuart Weitzman marked its first fashion week presentation — where Morelli and chief executive officer Wendy Kahn revealed a modernized assortment of boots, flats, heels and handbags, many incorporating fur and lacing details. In the evening, a cocktail party celebrating the collection drew Solange Knowles, Camilla Belle, Nina Agdal and Doutzen Kroes.
Morelli said of the brand and his plans, “Weitzman I think has solid background — in boots obviously and sandals [in particular]. The sense of craftsmanship behind the brand is very solid — it’s a good platform to start with. I want to add another layer of fashion but always with a sense of reality. It’s important you can wear all the shoes.”
In January 2015, Coach Inc., now known as Tapestry, acquired the Stuart Weitzman brand from Sycamore Partners for $574 million. At the time, Weitzman himself pledged to gradually phase out his involvement in the label over the course of two years, according to a source.
Morelli, who in May relocated to New York for the job, was tasked with creating a new range of handbags for the Weitzman label. Morelli’s hero concept for the collection is a series of bags resembling shoeboxes — offered in sizes ranging from a miniature key fob to a medium-scale shoulder bag. Retail prices span $400 to $1,200.
Morelli demurred to reveal what percentage of sales the brand projects bags will eventually take, noting: “It’s a really early stage at the moment. We just started with a few styles — we need to give an identity of bags because obviously there are a lot of bags in the market. The idea of shoebox as a bag is a bit ironic.”
The concept of products, like bags, offered in an array of incremental sizes is something Morelli plans to implement more broadly. “The strategy of the brand is, of course, to give a more cohesive point of view, but also to create wardrobe essentials. I would really like to have, in-store, pumps with different heel heights — just like with jeans how you want slim fit and regular fit offered in the store. This sense of offering is a bit American, which I like,” he said.
Kahn said of the brand’s strategy for introducing newness, “It’s given us an opportunity to go from a brand reputation of wonderful quality and craftsmanship with a very broad appeal, to be able to enter the next chapter. For us, it’s about an evolution of product. To take what’s been achieved and accomplished and evolve that with Giovanni’s design details to start attracting a new customer.”
To further modernize the brand’s visual resonance, the Weitzman label has been assigned a new signature color — which it calls blue violet — that blankets everything from its insoles to shoe boxes. The brand’s logo has been updated with a slightly thicker font. A new store concept utilizing the blue violet tone and plexiglass shoeboxes as sculptural installations has been recently unveiled in the brand’s Beverly Hills boutique.
At first glance, retailers appeared enthusiastic about Morelli’s inaugural outing. Neiman Marcus president and chief merchandising officer Jim Gold said at the Weitzman cocktail, “Stuart has been a great business for us for a long time. We have a predominately high-end designer base and Stuart is one of the few brands we sell that is just a cut below the designer price point. It really resonates with our customer because they do certain things so well – particularly the boot category. It’s great price value, really good designs, on-trend, good quality, super comfortable.
“That said, we are in a business that thrives on change and newness, so having a new designer perspective, along with the fundamentals of brand, is great. We love it — he is a super talented designer.”
Actress Camilla Belle was among the consumers intrigued by the new collection: “I was born and raised in Los Angeles, and it’s a brand you are always aware of. The new collection is fantastic; you get to see a whole new twist and aesthetic of the brand. I’m very excited to wear the lace-up, pointy-toe booties.”