“The fashion message is clear, the price structure is on point and, most importantly, I felt strongly that the product would resonate with our customer,” said Ida Petersson, nonapparel buying manager at London-based Browns Fashion. “We definitely saw this happen as soon as the product hit the store and our website, with certain items selling out within hours.”
But it’s not just new launches consumers are coveting. “There is a wave of brands that have renewed interest in shoes,” said Robert Burke, founder of an eponymous firm specializing in retail and fashion. He cited such established fashion houses as Chloé and Balmain.
For Attico, its 17 SKUs for spring included satin mules with flared heels and crystal-palm-tree embellishments, treading the line between kitsch and sophisticated. For fall, candy-wrapper metallics and opulent velvets were incorporated into sandals, pumps, ballerinas and mules.
The shoes are crafted in a small town in the Marche region of Italy. The whole idea, said the founders, is for Attico to be a complete wardrobe. Following the label’s Milan presentation, Net-a-Porter senior shoe buyer Thalia Tserevegou dubbed it “our favorite newcomer.” Price points for the shoes start at $550, making them more accessible than Attico dresses, which hover between $1,000 and $2,000. “They talk to a wider audience,” Petersson said.
The smart pricing strategy is an advantage for Attico as the brand navigates a competitive high-end shoe market and weak retail climate. The obstacles aren’t deterring more established players from targeting the shoe market, either. In fact, they see shoes as a growth opportunity.
For pre-fall ’17, Balmain’s creative director, Olivier Rousteing, relaunched the Parisian house’s accessories collection. For Balmain’s fall runway show, the label showed soaring stretch boots in snakeskin, modeled by Kendall Jenner.
“It’s important that every Balmain design — whether it be in our newly relaunched accessories line, our men’s collection or women’s collection — forms part of one coherent whole,” Rousteing told Footwear News.
“When you look at the pre-fall shoe collection, that unique Balmain attitude can’t be missed,” he continued. “The leathers, skins and construction all rely on the type of sourcing, expertise and craftsmanship that one expects from an historic Paris house. The spirit, though, is modern.”
Cassie Smart, buying manager for footwear and handbags at MatchesFashion.com, is confident the new product can complement the current offerings. “Balmain has a strong brand DNA already,” she noted, “but footwear is a great category with variable price brackets, attracting a wider audience than ready-to-wear.”
London-based Victoria Beckham is also placing more emphasis on the market, offering up 24 SKUs across five key shapes for fall ’17. “I’ve been designing my own show shoes for the past few seasons, and I’ve dipped my toe into wholesale,” she said. “The response was so strong that I decided to develop the collection. I’ve worked hard with my team to create a more substantial offering that sits on its own outside of the runway.”
Key styles include gently slouched boots and pointed V-vamp brogues with chrome buckles. They come in a heritage-inspired “gentlemen’s club” color palette of red, white and black.
Chloé CEO Geoffroy de la Bourdonnaye, too, has his eye on the footwear market. Following the appointment of new designer Natacha Ramsay-Levi, the brand is set to up its shoe game and is taking its manufacturing and design in-house. (It was previously done under license.) “Chloé’s footwear already offers strong categories and price points. While the classic Lauren ballet flat remains a strong volume driver, desirable runway styles also sell out fast on MatchesFashion.com,” said Smart. “There is strong potential.”
Paris’ new guard has also expanded into footwear. Glenn Martens’ Y-Project and Christelle Kocher’s Koché, both finalists for last year’s LVMH Prize, debuted shoe collections in February.
Martens, a Rihanna favorite, showed exaggerated ruched python-skin boots and crystallized spiral sandals snaking right up the leg. Coming in at over six feet long, the boots hold their shape via the same metal wire Martens uses to mold his denim. “Footwear offers the customer an easier way to own the identity of a brand,” the designer said. For his show, Martens also chose an offbeat way to spotlight the category. Dresses and skirts came with a slit-like hole at the front, through which one leg protruded. “The clothes were almost decoration around the shoe,” he explained.
Kocher, who has been artistic director at the Chanel-owned Maison Lemarié for seven years, launched Koché — all streetwear silhouettes and couture detailing — for spring ’16. Until now, she’s presented her collections with sneakers and flats. The designer’s intricate heels for fall ’17 were created with the help of jewelry specialist Goossens Paris and French house Massaro. They’re plated in white gold, molded into organic shapes and set with gray Swarovski pearls. “Accessories really drive a brand,” Kocher said. The designer’s styles have attracted buyer attention, including such retailers as Barneys, Style.com and MatchesFashion.com.
Finally, Simon Porte Jacquemus launched footwear for resort ’15 and has found success with the signature Rond Carré style — one heel is round and the other square. The designer has been gradually growing the category, and footwear now makes up 10 percent of his business. “There is more opportunity for expansion in shoes than with ready-to-wear, especially as we propose something different with a real signature,” Jacquemus said.
FALL INSPIRATIONS FROM FOOTWEAR’S NEW GUARD
Gilda Ambrosio and Giorgia Tordini, Attico “We stole some disco vibes from the extravagant ’80s, where ‘more’ was just perfect. We imagined a sort of gentlewomen’s club of passionate, playful, witty women whose attire combines feminine seduction with a hint of masculinity.”
Glenn Martens, Y-Project “The spiral shoes were inspired by cheap models I saw last year in New York’s Chinatown. I wanted to make them into real shoes. I always like to take things I know and develop them and exaggerate them and give them a twist.”
Christelle Kocher, Koché “I chose colors that were positive and happy, like little bonbons, and used a graphic logo on the insole. The look is bold but also refined and sophisticated, to continue the story with the amazing houses I’ve been working with since the start.”
Simon Porte Jacquemus, Jacquemus “My inspiration for fall was a couture girl who has fallen in love with a Gypsy. She’s trying to be more like him by wearing Gypsy-style accessories, but she still looks very Parisian.”