Why Diversifying Is Working for Calleen Cordero

Calleen Cordero
Calleen Cordero.
Courtesy of Calleen Cordero.

Diversity pays off. Since launching her luxury label in 1999, Calleen Cordero has gone on to create and produce three distinct product lines at her factory.

While “Made in L.A.” means a lot to the designer, she admits that it can be tough to stay competitive. That’s why she has expanded beyond shoes and into other categories.

Calleen Cordero shoes Calleen Cordero shoes. Courtesy of Calleen Cordero.

Here, she tells us more about her strategy.

Footwear News: How have you been able to expand?
Calleen Cordero: “Business is getting tougher, so that’s why I diversified — and it’s working. I’m doing collaborations, and that’s another way to get exposure. That’s the kind of fresh stuff that keeps my name and art [out there] and production being filled. I make shoes, but I cross-train all my employees to do things other than just shoes.”

FN: What, in particular, have you done to expand?
CC: “A way to keep a thriving production level in my factory is to create new brands, collections and venues of distribution. I’ve been diversifying myself and what we’re capable of manufacturing into four new divisions. I’ve diversified not only by making footwear, but also small leather goods and accessories.”

Calleen Cordero shoes. Courtesy of Calleen Cordero.

FN: What is your biggest challenge?
CC: “Workers’ comp [insurance] is my biggest challenge. Now it’s gone up to $120,000. It could put someone out of business — it’s massive, so we don’t make a lot of money. It all goes to insurance, where it shouldn’t be.”

FN: How do you think the Trump administration’s pro-U.S. trade rhetoric will affect business?
CC: “If he raises the duties 30 percent, it’s going to make it very difficult. My glue isn’t domestic. All my lasts and forms are made in Mexico. There are some components we have to bring in. The best are from Italy, and I have to
bring them in, so it’s becoming price prohibitive.”