With more than 40 years fronting his own band, Carlos Santana’s place in rock ‘n’ roll is cemented.
That the music icon would use jazz, salsa and rock as inspiration for his footwear designs is only natural. He burst on the scene in the 1960s and went on to sell more than 100 million records. In 2002, he took an unexpected step into footwear, launching Carlos by Carlos Santana with Brown Shoe Co. He has since expanded his offering to include handbags and Unity, a casual, lower-priced footwear line with a sustainability component.
“My music is about a state of mind, which transcends our daily issues,” Santana told Footwear News. “I utilize that place and translate it into our footwear and handbag collections. The melodies turn in the colors, and the music and rhythm turn into the shapes and overall look.”
Brown Shoe said Santana’s inspiration and vision is a part of every collection for the core line, known for its dressy flair with glitter, studs and over-the-knee looks — styles that Santana said come from his background in music.
“Songs inspire symmetry, colors and mood,” he said.
His fans see the connection as well, he added. “It may not have been a direct connection, but my interaction with consumers has taught me that they connect to each shoe or handbag on their own,” he said. “They even associate a particular song with a shoe or handbag they bought from our collections.”
And the creative process has been natural for him.
“All of that serves a roll in helping me be a student and learn how to diversify textures [and design],” he said.
He has also used the opportunity to forward the causes that are most important to him. This means having a sustainability focus to his latest handbag collection, which uses recycled materials and plastic bottles.
“I’m really excited about making the [green] connection with creating,” he said.
Ultimately, even all of his of his non-profit work ties back to the connection he’s established between music and design.
“It always comes down to making an emotional investment and something that you believe in and have passion,” said Santana, who founded the Milagro Foundation to benefit underprivileged children in the areas of arts, education and health and has already raised more than $5 million. “When you believe in something and go after it, you attract other people who believe and trust in you.”
And his passion has certainly attracted a devoted group of consumers.
“The reward is the amazing feedback I receive from my fans and customers,” he said.
Santana revealed that a men’s footwear collection isn’t out of the question in the future — and possibly a kids’ line, too.
“We have discussed it internally, but we want to make sure that it’s the right partnership and it fits the Carlos Santana brand DNA,” he said. “We believe there is a need for Carlos men’s shoes and when the timing is right, we’d love to bring the same fun, confidence and flair to men’s footwear, maybe even children’s.”
One thing is for sure, the design process will again overlap with his time on stage — including a tour for his latest album release, “Shape Shifter,” which includes upcoming concerts in Las Vegas in January, followed by his Sentient Tour, set to hit Japan and Australia in March.