The breakfast panel, moderated by Footwear News Editorial Director Michael Atmore, was second in a series of Council of Fashion Designers of America programs to benefit the organization’s Business Service Network. Camuto, who partnered with Burch in 2006 to produce footwear for her brand, discussed the ins and outs of the business for an audience that included designers such as Zac Posen, Botkier and Brian Reyes.
Burch said that moving into shoes helped move her brand forward. “Footwear impacted our business in a very positive way, and it also brought us a younger customer,” she said. “We started doing shoes ourselves in the beginning, but clearly we had to find a master.”
Camuto and Burch also offered advice for companies looking to enter the footwear category at this point in the economic downturn. “You have to make sure your brand is already established,” Camuto suggested.
Burch admitted that launching a new business in the current economy would be “very daunting. You can’t raise money right now,” she said. Camuto cautioned firms new to footwear to focus on uniqueness. “Everyone wants to do dress shoes. We are runwayhappy. It’s kind of like … we overdosed on it,” he said.
While the two acknowledged the current market challenges, they remained bullish on business for 2009. “I expect next year to be our best year,” Camuto said. “It’s a wake-up call to the industry, but it’s also a great opportunity to work on your product, reorganize and reinvent yourself,” Camuto said. And as the Tory Burch brand expands into the Asian and European markets, the designer was optimistic about the potential of e-commerce. “Many people don’t want to be seen shopping, and the Web is an alternative to that,” she said.