European brands and designers are hoping that innovation will help them battle the recession in 2009. Two well-known British labels are teaming up, Websites are unveiling discount sites and a new U.K. designer is hoping to make waves in the high-end footwear world.
British labels Jimmy Choo and Hunter are collaborating on a pair of souped-up boots. Hunter’s iconic rubber wellie has been given a luxury makeover, thanks to an embossed crocodile pattern and a striking leopard-print lining. It also features gold-metal buckles and rivets. The boot, which retails for $395, will be sold in Jimmy Choo stores, on its Website and in select wholesale accounts beginning next June. “We are delighted to work with Jimmy Choo to create a superbly sophisticated incarnation of our original Wellington boot,” said Hunter Chairman Peter Mullen. “Both brands have a strong visual identity, which work well together. And the resulting boot has a unique DNA of luxurious practicality.” For her part, Jimmy Choo founder and President Tamara Mellon said she was inspired by the images of stylish British girls wearing wellies. “This led to our collaboration with Hunter to produce a sleek interpretation of the British classic,” Mellon said.
Up & Comer
Thomas Murphy is the latest Cordwainers graduate to go it alone, with a nine-strong women’s collection for spring ’09 that includes copper heels. Since graduating in 2002, the 28-year-old Brighton, England, resident has designed shoes for Ann-Sofie Back, Boudicca and Robert Cary-Williams. When it came to creating his namesake collection, he was inspired by discolored copper piping on a building and made copper heels the cornerstone of the line. “They change from virgin-pink to oranges, reds, purples, blues and greens,” said Murphy about the collection, which retails for $600 and higher. The line is stocked at The Alchemist’s Footprint, Umamiy in Hong Kong and Tassinari in Bologna, Italy. Murphy said his next step is to add a Northamptonshire, England- made welted men’s collection for fall, to be unveiled in London and Paris.
Antwerp is a hot stop for fashion designers — and My Ohm has become a must-visit destination for stylists on the lookout for vintage footwear. The 164-sq.-ft. store carries about 400 pairs of boots and shoes, including names such as Charles Jourdan, Sergio Rossi and Chanel, with prices ranging from $14 to $280. Selling shoes that “have something,” rather than just the brand name inside, is what motivates owner Mich Carpentier, who opened her store three years ago. “Every weekend we see a large number of foreigners coming from all over the world to the store,” she said, adding that My Ohm has become a regular haunt for famous Belgian fashion designers and trend scouts from international companies, including Gucci and Calvin Klein. The hot seller of the moment: anything red.
Discount sites are the next frontier for European e-tailers. “The whole sector of selling designer apparel off price is growing, resulting in a virtual version of Woodbury Common [in New York],” said George Wallace of U.K.-based retail specialist MHE Retail. In 2008, the U.K.’s online fashion market leader Asos.com launched a branded clearance section, Asos Red, while luxury player Net-a-porter.com is planning a spin-off site, Theoutnet.com, in 2009. Already, Milan-based Yoox.com has established itself as a major player in the off-price arena, selling a mix of lifestyle categories, from books, vintage clothing and jewelry to shoes for men, women and children. In fact, footwear is a hot category for the site, which stocks luxe labels such as Azzedine Alaia, Balenciaga, Giuseppe Zanotti, Lanvin and Marni. “Footwear is our best-selling category and is doing fantastically well for us,” said founder Federico Marchetti.
Edmundo’s New Gig
Edmundo Castillo has landed at high-end footwear brand Santoni. The Puerto Rican-born Castillo, who left Sergio Rossi in October, will bow his fi rst collection for Santoni for fall ’09. The company, founded in 1975, is based in Italy’s central Marche region, one of the main districts for footwear production. It had mostly been known for its handmade men’s shoes, until about three years ago, when the brand began developing a women’s couture division, which now accounts for 20 percent of sales. Tapping Castillo is in line with Santoni’s strategy to grow its women’s division to account for 50 percent of its business, according to Giuseppe Santoni, son of founder Andrea and now the head of the company’s. Santoni has doubled its space dedicated to the production of the women’s collection to 32,400 square feet and has a dedicated staff of 80. — Luisa Zargani