Nancy Gonzalez Dives Into Footwear

Nancy Gonzalez Croc Skin Shoes
Nancy Gonzalez's new shoe line.
George Chinsee.

For the first time since its debut in 1998, exotic handbag brand Nancy Gonzalez is stepping outside of its usual domain.

In November, the label will launch a resort ’17 line of crocodile pumps, sandals and flats at Bergdorf Goodman and Harrods. The shoes will be available at additional retailers, including Saks Fifth Avenue and Neiman Marcus, in December. “It needed to happen, and it needed to happen fast,” said Santiago Barberi Gonzalez, president and creative director. “[Nancy Gonzalez] could not continue being a one-category business.”

Count Bergdorf Goodman SVP Melissa Lowenkron among those who appreciate the brand expanding its line to include footwear. “I am confident our customers will be as excited about the collection’s combination of style, color and quality as we are,” she said.

With the handbag category seeing its share of challenges during the past year, now might be the optimum time to enter the footwear industry, according to Cowen & Co. analyst Oliver Chen.

Nancy Gonzalez Croc Skin Shoes Nancy Gonzalez’s new shoe line. George Chinsee.

“Generally, footwear is attractive to people because the frequency of purchase is much higher in terms of a seasonal purchase versus a handbag being less frequent,” Chen said, adding that he sees a host of possible synergies coming from the new product mix.

With a production limit of 2,500 shoes, Barberi Gonzalez said he was able to sell them all: “It’s small, but at the price point, it’s a nice order.” Ranging from $795 for a sandal to $2,395 for a pump, and offered in 20 different colors with multiple heel heights, they’re expensive shoes, he admits, but are a good value compared with similar brands.

“The average price from a comparable brand is $5,500 for a pump,” Barberi Gonzalez said. “A crocodile-shoe project like this doesn’t exist in the world.”

Family-run Nancy Gonzalez operates its own handbag factories in Colombia, selling 79,000 bags a year. Barberi Gonzalez said the firm chartered new territory when it hired a third-party factory in Italy to produce the shoes.

“I didn’t go to Italy for the ‘Made in Italy’ — I went to Italy because that’s where they know how to make the best shoes,” Barberi Gonzalez said, noting that each style in the new line was manufactured in Italy in only seven months.

The creative chief’s background in production also proved helpful in the shoe-making process.

“I was allowed on the factory floor, and I spent a lot of time with the shoe factory workers on learning how the shoes were made,” he said.

Although the brand kept things simple for its first footwear launch, Barberi Gonzalez said the shoes will eventually evolve to feature similar embellishments and decorative motifs as the handbags.

Founder Nancy Gonzalez was on hand to approve the shoes during manufacturing, Barberi Gonzalez said, adding that she continues to give the label its “magic.”