SHADES OF GRAYE

Byline: Holly Haber

Graye, one of the hottest new women’s shoe lines, is stepping out. The company will begin showing in regional shoe shows this year as it seeks to expand distribution beyond the 50 specialty stores that carry the line.
“We will do Miami and Atlanta and Las Vegas and Dallas, and probably Chicago,” noted Jennifer Madden, designer and owner. “Since we work with small, high-end boutiques, they tend to go to local and regional shows. We will debut fall 2001 at the Dallas market Jan. 20-22.”
But Graye, a line of hip, but wearable shoes made in Italy, already has a relationship with Texas: The company is based in Texarkana.
Madden — no relation to shoe magnate Steve Madden — grew up in Hallsville in East Texas and based her firm in Texarkana, where her parents live. They backed Madden in forming the company and handle administration and customer service in her behalf. Madden lives in San Francisco.
“I wanted to present a new line totally different from what was out there, but that was still a comfortable, sensible shoe that was both fashionable and different,” Madden explained. “I’m definitely staying away from copying Prada and Miu Miu.”
Madden’s line offers an unusual spectrum of colors and materials, like turquoise painted lizard skin mules with an unusual striated stacked heel. She pays particular attention to heels, ensuring they are both distinctive and comfortable. Madden also favors embellishment, like painting leather slingbacks with flowers or adding organza flowers to leather mules.
The shoes retail from $125 to $325 for spring and $175 to $650 for fall. They can be seen at the company’s Web site, Graye.com.
Madden designs the collection with Pansi Hillersberg, a friend from her days studying design at the Instituto Marangoni in Milan. She also took courses at the Parsons School of Design in New York and the University of North Texas in Denton, and subsequently worked at better shoe company Joan & David.
“We go to the leather show and pick what we like and think is important,” Madden explained. “We don’t use trend magazines or forecasting. So far, we have hit things spot on.”
Graye did more than $700,000 in sales for 2000, its first year of shipping. Sales could double in 2001 as Graye starts showing in 10 or 12 venues, versus the two shows she did in 2000.
“Jennifer’s focus is color,” noted Adele Marshall, who represents the line in the South and formerly taught fashion design at the University of North Texas. “Generally, you can always find a black shoe. What you cannot find is color.”
“We have been successful so far, and all on gut and intuition,” Madden noted. “It’s nice to know that what you think and feel is right actually works.”

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