Since launching her men’s dress-shoe brand, O’Keeffe, in 2011, the creative director has impressively grown her product range and list of retailers.
“We began with a 10-piece capsule collection of Goodyear-welted shoes,” said O’Keeffe, who produces her line in Italy’s Le Marche region. “They’re made by a family factory that has been making shoes since the 1940s.”
The fall ’16 collection retails from $750 to $1,025 and includes leather laceups, monk straps and Chelsea boots. The label is carried at retailers such as Jeffrey, Barneys New York and Level Shoe District, as well as specialty stores like Tsum in Moscow.
In a market brimming with design experimentation, O’Keeffe set out to appeal to customers with an eye for craftsmanship by offering classic shoes that survive seasonal trends.
“The men’s market is full of amazing shoes right now. We focus on small details without being too experimental in fashion,” said O’Keeffe. “Each season, just a few new styles are added. We experiment with washed, hand-polished [finishes] and technical constructions.”
Starting her own collection wasn’t always on O’Keeffe’s horizon. The designer was trained as a women’s bespoke tailor in the mid-1980s, and then she worked as a page-layout artist at The Observer in London, eventually shifting to marketing for Jean Paul Gaultier, Helmut Lang and Alexander McQueen.
In 2010, she was approached by the Gismondis — a fourth-generation family of shoemakers — to co-found a handcrafted shoe brand. O’Keeffe had been friends with the family since the mid-1990s, having met them at the GDS trade show in Düsseldorf, Germany.
Since launching, the brand has patented its own Goodyear construction, which gives the shoes a softer, pre-worn feel. The brand has also grown its business in Europe and the Middle East, though its biggest markets are the U.S. and Mexico.
Up next, O’Keeff e hopes to launch an e-commerce website this year, where the label will introduce a women’s capsule collection at the end of February.