Fergie has already proven she has serious staying power in the rapidly evolving music industry, and the songstress-turned-designer understands the importance of longevity in the fickle world of fashion, too.
It’s been seven years since the singer launched her shoe line with Caleres Inc. (then Brown Shoe) and a decade since she released her first solo album after three years with The Black Eyed Peas. In that time, many designers and musicians have come and gone — but Fergie has managed to remain relevant.
Still, much has changed since the 2006 release of “The Dutchess,” which was a blockbuster hit, with unforgettable songs like “Fergalicious” and “Glamorous.” Now, as she prepares to unveil a new album this year, the singer is reflecting on her own transformation.
“The difference now is that I’m a wife and a mom. My life can’t be about me anymore,” she said of husband Josh Duhamel and son Axl. “These things are important to me, and there has to be a balance [with my professional life]. I’m not going to sacrifice my attention to detail, be it my shoe line, my fragrance line or my album. I’m super excited,” she told Footwear News exclusively from Los Angeles.
In the same way that her music continues to evolve, Fergie said her sense of style is ever-shifting. “Depending on my mood and my music, it changes from song to song,” said Fergie. “It’s an eclectic mix, but my line overall stays true to my style of bohemian chic.”
Heading into fall ’16, the star is confident that her two footwear lines — core collection Fergie, lower-priced Fergalicious — will hit high notes as she taps into the trends she loves. “I’m excited about the new frontier trend we’re doing. It’s a little bohemian, Western, urban cowgirl and a lot of material mixing of snake, fabric and suede,” she said. “These are the styles I love to wear at festivals.”
Fergie has also been working hard to become a bigger shoe force by immersing herself in every aspect of the business. “My knowledge of shoes is so much more extensive than when I started,” she added. “I thought the music industry was a small world, but I feel like the footwear industry is even smaller. Everybody knows everybody — it’s a tight-knit group. I like having fun with my team, Diane [Sullivan] and Jay [Schmidt]. They are unbelievable and so supportive — forward thinkers.”
Her shoe partners echoed those sentiments. “Our partnership with Fergie has been an incredible experience. Her passion and contribution have brought Fergie’s glamorous, superstar style to every shoe,” said Schmidt, president of Caleres’ brand portfolio business. “From materials to heel heights, Fergie’s vision translates into a beautiful, rock ’n’ roll–inspired line of footwear.”
The team joined forces for recent personal appearances. Stops included Nordstrom at The Grove in Los Angeles, Hudson’s Bay in Toronto and Lord & Taylor in New York City, where she met with consumers.
“I love seeing girls and their individual styles. I start thinking ‘this color would be perfect on you.’ I learn a lot through that, and seeing the fans, plus people in the stores talking about different shoes, it gets personal,” said Fergie. “It’s helpful and nice to meet people who are passionate about something you’ve put your [work] into.”
Liz Rodbell, president of Hudson’s Bay and Lord & Taylor, is impressed with Fergie’s knowledge of must-have shoe styles. “Fergie knows what women want. We were fortunate enough to have her visit our stores this past fall, and it was evident how committed and passionate she is about the brand. She pays attention to details, whether it’s a boot or high heels,” said Rodbell. “Our customers have responded to the fashion-forward rock ’n’ roll feel and affordability of the brand.”
In addition to making the retail rounds, Fergie has been on the scene at several major industry events, including FN’s Annual Achievement Awards in 2015, where she spent much of the evening mingling with industry personalities after opening the ceremony with an updated line from Adele: “Hello, from New York,” she belted.
“It was so fun getting to be backstage with Phillip Lim and Prabal Gurung. Kanye West was there getting his award — he’s been working so hard. And people like Alexa Chung, who I haven’t seen in ages, since she interviewed me for a show in London,” she said. “It was super-intimate and cool — you felt very special being there. And I impromptu started singing.”
Fergie was soon on the road again, jetting off to Paris and London to shoot art for her album and several videos to coincide with the launch. “Getting to work with [director] Ben Mor again was so great. He worked on ‘I’ve Got a Feeling’ and ‘Don’t Stop the Party.’ He’s a friend, and the videos are fun and have great energy. He knows how to make all the crazy ideas come true,” she said. Expect her shoes to step into the videos as well.
“I like a mix of brands, but what’s great about Caleres is they can make custom-designed shoes based on elements of the line, but the look might have a higher heel than what we’ve been developing for stores,” said Fergie. “It will be really special elongating a shoe for me for a video.”
During her time in Paris, Fergie also took a break from her music marathon to take in Couture Week. “I got to go to the Jean Paul Gaultier show, which was amazing,” she said. “I love seeing Tom Ford, I love seeing Rick Owens, and DSquared2 is always a blast. The industry is putting on showier shows, and it’s fun for the audience.”
Up next, Fergie will start planning her tour, including a show at the Japan Summer Sonic festival. She’s already thinking about her wardrobe and footwear choices. “Height is definitely a factor. You want shoes to be flattering, but you don’t want something you feel awkward moving in,” she said. “You have to be able to feel free and natural when dancing.”
While her album’s name and release date are still a secret, Fergie did offer a hint about the music she created for her big return. “It’s like a menudo soup — it’s a lot of different ingredients put into one,” she quipped.
And you can bet that throughout the tour, Fergie’s family will be in the audience. The star talked candidly about how motherhood has affected her style. “The heels have gotten lower,” she noted. “I need shoes for my life, whether it’s chasing after my son knee-deep in the sand or running around at Coachella,” she said. “I want shoes I can go from day to night in and be with my kid. But I still want to feel chic and like I’m making an effort.”
In addition to her own footwear obsessions, Fergie is helping son Axl develop cool style. “There are so many brands for him. I love Akid. We have the Jordans and lots of Vans,” she said. “I probably buy too much for him. But he has two nephews, and we hand Axl’s stuff down to both of them, so it never gets wasted.”
Ultimately, her strategy for juggling family life and her other projects is short and simple: “It’s all about balance. And you have to learn patience.”
Her agent, Sean Patterson, said he’s impressed by how she juggles all of her endeavors. “It’s interesting to see the way she runs her life. Her calendar is nuts, and she’s probably the best scheduler I’ve ever seen. It’s amazing how well she jumps in and out of these pursuits,” he said.
Overall, Fergie just wants to soak up the moment — and she has high aspirations for her brand. “What I’ve learned from being in the footwear industry is that it takes a while to find the right combination for your line. After all these years and hard work, it has come together as such an honest and organic collection,” she said.
Rodbell agreed: “We expect to continue to grow the business at Lord & Taylor and expand the brand to additional stores this fall. Our customers love Fergie as a musician, and they especially love the exceptional trend-right collections she delivers each season.”
In the end, Fergie said it comes down to every last detail. “We’re getting the hardware right, and getting the right number of embellishments,” she said. “It’s a solid, beautiful line that I’m proud of. I wear my shoes on a daily basis because I’m so proud of them.”