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3 Questions with 80%20’s Ce Ce Chin

Ce Ce Chin is dabbling in handbags.

The designer behind 80%20 and the Original Hidden Wedge is launching a capsule collection of canvas and leather styles for spring ’13.

“Our step-stair pattern has been iconic on the shoes — it’s something one can spot a mile away,” Chin told Footwear News. “From a design point of view, I felt this pattern needed a bigger home, and bags are the perfect place.”

The four styles will retail for $50 to $100 and are being targeted to retailers such as Urban Outfitters and Asos.com. While Chin admitted that the capsule collection is small compared with the main shoe line, she said her background designing handbags for Michael Kors and CK Calvin Klein made the process easy.

“The best part is designing to anticipate my own needs with a bag,” she said. “I’ve been wearing the prototypes and paying attention to how often I dive around looking for my cell phone, so our backpacks have outside pockets.”

Here, Chin talks about the hidden-wedge phenomenon, the challenges of working as an independent designer and 80%20’s retail roster.

1. How has the hidden-wedge trend impacted your brand over the last few seasons?
CC: 80%20 was really the first one on the market, with the Original Hidden Wedge in 2007. Now, that silhouette has become a staple, and there are tons of copies. However, the fashion girls recognize its root with my brand. When I started 80%20, I designed sneakers with iconic graphics, such as a Mod target sign. Our earliest [retail] customers, like Joan Shepp in Philadelphia, have always wanted me to bring these back. So for spring ’13, I’ve applied these to hidden-wedge sneakers, aligning the current hidden-sneaker-wedge trend with the early 80%20 authenticity.

2. What are some of the challenges and rewards of being an independent designer?
CC: The biggest reward is leading my design process from the heart. However, as an independent, I face the same challenges that the footwear industry overall is experiencing, with shifts in manufacturing and retail and consumer buying habits. On one hand, I can respond quickly because there’s not a lot of bureaucracy, but on the other hand, I don’t have a larger “parent” company to buffer me through the changes.

3. How are you planning to grow your retail presence?
CC: I would love to have a retail shop to interact with customers. I envision this as also a space to host events like 1980s movie screenings, such as “Sixteen Candles,” and craft workshops. Right now, however, the company is really focusing on building its online business and aligning that with its growing social-media presence. In terms of global regions, we’re seeing growth in South Korea. I visited Seoul in May, and I loved the retail scene. Shinsegae department stores carry 80%20 in a shop-in-shop called LAP, which specializes in new brands.

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