3 Unique Designers Take The Stage At FN’s Platform Panel

Emerging Shoe Designers FN Platform
From left to right: Chloe Gosselin, Matisse's Sheena Parks and Duke & Dexter's Archie Hewlett.
Jim Decker.

What does it take to be a successful designer in today’s challenging and competitive market?

The role continues to dramatically evolve, according to the three panelists who participated in Footwear News’ FN Platform panel this week.

Christian Allaire, associate fashion editor at the magazine, spoke to Chloe Gosselin, Duke & Dexter’s Archie Hewlett and Matisse’s Sheena Parks about big opportunities and obstacles they face.

Read on for excerpts from the conversation.

On finding a great retail partner:
Chloe Gosselin: “We’ve been exclusive with Barneys as our major retailer in the U.S. At first it bothered me because I thought it would hold me back. But when you make that commitment, they push you a lot more. It’s been a great experience. If I was in every major store, we couldn’t sell all the shoes because we’re still growing a lot.”

On the power of celebrity collaborations:
Sheena Parks: “Our celebrity collaboration was with Kate Bosworth. It was amazing to have the brand exposed in a new way, and it had a big impact on our social media. It was so challenging, though. Without divulging too much, there was a lot of opinion. It was a total crash course for us, but the reward was worth the sacrifice.”

Archie Hewlett: “The most important moment we had was with Eddie Redmayne, when he wore our shoes at the Oscars. You can find ways to work with or sponsor celebrities, but the Oscars is such a [perfect] fashion platform. Eddie was wearing a custom Alexander McQueen suit — he has access to any brand he wants — so it was [great that he chose] us.”

CG: “Kendall Jenner recently bought and wore a pair of our shoes. I found out about it through Instagram. Barneys sold out of the shoe in two days. The kind of power that some celebrities have right now has been really helpful to the brand.”

Emerging Shoe Designers FN Platform Left to right: Chloe Gosselin, Duke & Dexter’s Archie Hewlett and Matisse’s Sheena Parks onstage with FN’s Christian Allaire. Jim Decker.

On making social media connections:
SP: “Your identity is viewed so purely on your social media page. It’s great to be able to work with influencers to help get our brands out there in a controlled way.”

AH: “You get your identity across through social media, but you can also make yourself look like a much bigger brand. For us, it’s been absolutely huge.”

CG: “I love images and being able to create a mood board on Instagram. I sprinkle in elements of my personal life so people get an idea of who I am. It also gives me a chance to feature products and pieces that are more original and might not be in stores. Sometimes retailers play it safe.”

On emerging spring trends:
SP: “We saw a lot of denim and denim-inspired colors. Our diffusion line and main line both have this perfect meld of denim elements. It’s kind of throwback, a little ’90s in there. We also had a lot of retro silhouettes. It’s nice to give the retailers options in the first quarter since they’re always struggling with sales [with the erratic weather].”

AH: “We moved our production to England to our new factory this year. We can use a lot of different materials now. We played with camo prints, nubuck, suede, linen, canvas and many other materials. We work very closely with retailers and individuals on bespoke designs so, we do lots of different variations.”

CG: “The ’70s has been a big influence in high fashion. I took a lot of inspiration from Ossie Clark, one of my favorite designers. What was exceptional was how he could combine florals and shapes. I’m using more bold colors now — my colors are usually very earthy. I’m also doing lower heels.”

On big projects for the rest of the year:
CG: “I’m a part of the CFDA Vogue Fashion Fund. It’s been an incredible experience and a lot of work because I still have to do the collection on the side. But I’m very excited about it.”

AH: “We are opening our first store in Covent Garden in London, where I was born and bred. It’s been a long time coming. Mainly our website has been our storefront, and now we have that ability to have a more personal relationship with customers. We also want to continue our global expansion with retailers.”

SP: “We’re putting a lot of time and effort in e-commerce. It gives us a first-hand read on how things are doing. We have a couple of categories, handbags and belts, we’re launching this fall. It’s great to be able to test that online.”

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