She might be new to design, but Elyse Walker is well versed in the language of shoes. The entrepreneur (and daughter of a wholesale footwear executive and a retailer), started selling shoes at 14. In 1999, she founded her high-end California boutique, Elyse Walker, and e-commerce site Forwardbyelysewalker.com. While the store carries apparel and accessories, Walker usually can be found in one particular section. “I love working with women and dressing people from head to toe, but the shoe department is definitely still my favorite,” she said. So launching her own women’s line for spring ’14 was a given. “I’ve been on the sales floor my whole life and I hear the same things over and over about comfort and a certain hard-to-find heel height,” she said. The Elyse Walker footwear collection features details such as fringe, tie-dye, painted snakeskin and mini-studs, and has a focus on wearability. Made in Italy, Brazil and Spain, the looks retail for $355 to $975, at Walker’s own store, as well as department stores and other boutiques. “There are so many designers who make gorgeous shoes, but this entire collection is designed from the perspective of a retailer. I know what’s going to sell,” she said. Here, Walker shares a few of her favorite things, plus her most memorable bad hair day.
Weather preference: “Los Angeles has the best weather in the whole world — 99.9 percent of every day is just beautiful.”
Fashion obsession: “Crocodile and python handbags. The girls I work with joke that my closet is alive.”
New York vs. Los Angeles: “I’m a New Yorker, but I live in Los Angeles. I love fashion, but Los Angeles doesn’t take things so seriously. It’s kind of fun to leave Fashion Week in New York, where people are dressed impeccably, and go home and see the whole thing turned topsy-turvy. You’re like, ‘Oh, it’s just fashion.’”
Biggest beauty blooper: “Once, I dyed my hair neon pink. If you turned the lights off, you could still see it.”
Comfort color: “When I have a meeting or anything exciting that makes me nervous, I always wear something green.”
Favorite artists: “Frank Stella, Damien Hirst [at left] and Retna, in chronological order.”