Charlotte Olympia Dellal is no shrinking violet.
The British designer — known for her Veronica Lake-like waves, scarlet lips and frequent appearances on the red carpet — is the creative force behind the buzzy Charlotte Olympia footwear line that launched in 2007.
Dellal’s sense of style — inspired by old Hollywood glamour — has made Charlotte Olympia synonymous with feminine silhouettes with a hint of nostalgia. “I believe accessories should never be shy of color and should showcase a bit of wit,” said Dellal. For example, fall’s classic satin platform pumps come with matching jewel-tone stockings.
Ken Downing, SVP and fashion director at Neiman Marcus, described the Charlotte Olympia collection as art for a woman’s wardrobe. “[It’s] high drama with a love of Hollywood glamour and a touch of whimsy,” he said. “Charlotte Dellal creates sexy, over-the-top high heels.”
The made-in-Italy brand, retailing for $550 to $1,650, is sold at 66 retailers including Bergdorf Goodman and Neiman Marcus, The Wynn in Las Vegas, Harvey Nichols and Dover Street Market in London, Luisa Via Roma in Milan, Podium in Moscow and Isetan in Tokyo.
In addition, Charlotte Olympia’s London flagship opened in July at 56 Maddox St. in the Mayfair district. Dellal restored the Georgian shop, re-laying the herringbone floor and hand-carving the oak cabinets in the storeroom. “Everything starts with the shoes, but it’s been exciting to go through the design process for every aspect of the environment. From the layout of the shop to the [lighting] to the [shoe displays] to the bags, it’s been an incredible experience to design the complete environment,” Dellal said.
She now plans to use the downstairs space as a showroom for her footwear and other offerings, which include a small selection of clutches, hosiery and dresses such as the leopard Veronica style, created in collaboration with Pink Label London. For now, Dellal said, her focus is on shoes, but she doesn’t rule out anything. “We’re a small brand, so as we grow, there are opportunities to expand the product offering organically, especially now with the shop,” she said.
The brand has turned out steady growth since its launch, with an emphasis on the Far East and the U.S. Spring ’11 also marks the addition of a 3-inch heel height and the expansion of flats, both of which should broaden the customer base. “We’ve done super-high heels and flats, now we’re expanding with lower versions of high shoes,” said Dellal. “Flats appeal to the same client as a super-high heel, but summer is a bit more carefree and naturally calls for lower heels.”
Spring ’11 also brings the Blame It on Rio collection, inspired by her Brazilian roots (the designer is the daughter of Brazilian model Andrea Dellal) and Carmen Miranda’s iconic headdress of overflowing fruit. Brightly hued fruit appliqués adorn wooden platform pumps, and decorative gold pineapple crown embellishments add richness to satin sandals. In addition, the spring line also includes 1970s-inspired leopard-print platforms, raffia mid-heel pumps and flat espadrille sandals, while a cheeky banana-shaped clutch bag rounds out the offering.
Graziella Carta, women’s shoe buyer at Luisa Via Roma, first picked up the line when Charlotte Olympia showed with Tom Binns for spring ’09 in Paris. She cited Charlotte Olympia’s color palette and signature platform as her top selling points. “Charlotte’s vibrant colors and island platform stand out most of all,” she said. “Her colors and use of new materials such as velvet and canvas rather than always using leather [caught my eye].”
An “It girl” even before Charlotte Olympia, Dellal said she’s wanted to work in fashion since she was a child and was led into shoes after a course at Cordwainers. “I was focused on corsetry, as I love all the small details, but then I made my first pair of shoes and I fell in love,” she said. “What woman wouldn’t want to make her own shoes?”
Now she has also cultivated a celebrity following on both sides of the pond, with fans ranging from Beyoncé and Kate Hudson to Emma Watson and Daphne Guinness. And her signature gold spiderweb soles have appeared on the catwalk through collaborations with Emilio de la Morena and Duro Olowu in London and Peter Som in New York.
“I love Charlotte’s quirky, retro take on glamour,” said Som, “and it filters directly into her shoes. There is taste, a sense of humor and drop-dead elegance in each pair — and that’s no easy feat.”
Todd Hanshaw, fashion director and DMM for Wynn Las Vegas, agreed, crediting Dellal for infusing a lightheartedness into her line. “Charlotte brings a much needed playfulness to her designs,” he said. “This, combined with her personal nonchalant chicness, gives her the cool factor among a group of peers that in some cases continues to massage the bruises from the economy. She has been a star in our store this season, and we are expecting great things from her and her collection.”