Bridal Collections Burst on the Scene

Here come the bridal collections.

Just in time for spring ’11 — and the wedding season — more footwear brands are vowing to fill a void in the special-occasion market with affordable, yet fashion-forward shoes. Charles David, Foot Petals, Ivanka Trump and Steve Madden will soon make their debuts, while other standouts such as Paris Hilton continue to ride the growing trend.

“Women get married 365 days a year and divorced and remarried 365 days a year,” said Laurie Carlton, president of wholesale at Charles David. “Special occasion gives a reason to buy.”

This spring, Charles David will launch Soirée, a 25-style collection of flats, mid-heels, pumps and platforms in a variety of textiles and colors suited for weddings, bat mitzvahs and other occasions. The styles, many of which are multifunctional with removable bows and floral embellishments, will retail for $75 to $150 and be available at Nordstrom and Zappos.com, among others. The line aims to fit into a mid-tier market, an area that Carlton said has great opportunity in bridal right now.

“There are beautiful social shoes at $400 and up, and a lot of inexpensive social shoes that are not cool or made well,” she said.

Ivanka Trump’s new namesake collection — originally set for a spring ’11 debut and bumped up for a holiday launch — includes a vast bridal selection, with heels, mid-height shoes and several flats retailing for $120 to $160.

“A lot of stores are talking about bridal,” said Susan Itzkowitz, president of Marc Fisher Footwear, the company that makes and distributes Ivanka Trump’s line. “Evening and bridal will be two big aspects of [our] business.”

Foot Petals, the shoe accessories company, is also using that gap in the market as reason to debut footwear for the first time in its nine-year history.

“We asked ourselves, ‘What is the most impactful for our customers? Who really needs this product first?’” said Foot Petals creator Tina Aldatz. Naturally, each pair will incorporate Foot Petals’ comfort technology, with ball-of-foot, ball-of-heel and back-of-heel cushions. And the brand has tried to make the styles appropriate for multiuse. The 18-piece collection will be available in a broad color palette with dyeable options.

“You can buy the shoe; it will fit well and be comfortable,” said Aldatz. “Then you can dye it and wear it again.” Retail prices range from $59 to $129 at Kleinfeld in New York and Dillard’s, among others.

Steve Madden, too, is jumping on the bridal bandwagon with a versatile collection geared toward the bridal party and guests. The fast-fashion footwear giant will crank out 10 to 15 styles per quarter featuring rhinestones, lace, tulle and satin in a variety of colors, retailing for $79 to $149. The company also has focused on multipurpose options. According to a spokesperson at Steven Madden Ltd., “What we really like most about this line is that the same girl can wear these looks on a Saturday night with jeans and a white tee.”

As the special-occasion movement gains steam, other brands are reaping the benefits. Paris Hilton’s bridal collection tapped the market early on, debuting six styles in spring ’09. Hilton’s line has significantly multiplied since its first season, offering 25 styles for spring ’11 for $99 to $119.

“In learning more about our customer, we realized that there was a need for elegant, fun and sexy bridal footwear at a certain price point,” said Joe Antebi, chairman of Antebi Footwear, the company that produces Hilton’s footwear.

And in the long term, company execs said the bridal market has a promising future.

“People are never going to stop getting married,” said Foot Petals’ Aldatz. “Bridal is such a small category, but it’s so important. It’s a milestone in a woman’s life.”

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