Payless Inks Deal With Isabel Toledo

NEW YORK — Payless ShoeSource is adding another big-name guest designer to the mix.

The retailer, a division of Collective Brands Inc., has inked a multi-season deal with Isabel Toledo, who last year created the “lemongrass” dress Michelle Obama wore on Inauguration Day. Toledo will design a fall ’10 footwear collection, featuring five styles slated to launch in September.

“We’re always looking for design talent and we were absolutely thrilled when we saw [Toledo’s] dress that she did for Michelle Obama,” said Payless CEO LuAnn Via.

“That design was just like her, very timeless, very unique. [Isabel] is such a fashion icon. She also shares our passion to democratize fashion, and that’s an exciting combination. Over the last few years, we’ve focused on emerging talent and this is a really good venture for both of us,” Via said.

The designer is drafting sketches for the line and the initial plans will incorporate a mix of materials, including patent, nylon and mesh. In true Payless fashion, the collection will retail for less than $40.

“I’m [designing] shoes that you want to see women wear on a day-to-day basis,” said Toledo. “You’ll see a very clean, graphic design, very utilitarian. I’m really interested in making shoes that women can walk in. Even for the evening shoes, I’m trying to address comfort and high style at a great price.”

Payless has been active in the designer collaboration game over the past few years, working with Christian Siriano and Lela Rose, among others.

“Obviously, we’ve had tremendous success with [Christian] and [Lela]. Both of those designers have done extremely well, and we think [Toledo] will complement the other two,” said Via. “From what I can see, [her line] is fashion forward, but it’s an entirely different perspective. It’s not anything that will take away from the other brands, it will add to it.”

Toledo has previously designed footwear for Anne Klein during her stint as creative director there, although this will be her first venture with a mass retailer. In addition to shoes, she also will create a collection of handbags for the fall launch.

And there will be more to come from Toledo in spring ’11.

“This gives me a bigger audience. My company is so small that I love the challenge and exposure,” said Toledo. “[I’m] finally getting the opportunity to prove that I can speak to so many different types of women. I want my audience to be as diverse as I am.”

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