5 Questions for Kate Spade’s Deborah Lloyd

For Kate Spade New York, bridal is a natural part of the brand’s DNA.

“I believe in dressing our girl for every occasion of her life,” said president and chief creative officer Deborah Lloyd, “and what bigger occasion is there than her wedding?”

The brand, which also includes ready-to-wear, handbags and accessories, joined forces with Schwartz & Benjamin on its shoe collection in 2003, and that same year debuted bridal footwear. Since then, the bridal segment has tripled in size.

Kate Spade’s footwear has become a significant part of the overall business, and its casual, career and special-occasion shoes, retailing for $198 to $398, are now available in all its branded shops and 400 other doors worldwide.

Later this year, the American Apparel & Footwear Association will honor it with the Lifestyle Brand of the Year Award.

Kate Spade’s shoes have been particularly successful in terms of sales growth, outpacing fellow Schwartz & Benjamin licensees such as Diane von Furstenberg and Seven for All Mankind in 2011. And while Schwartz & Benjamin CEO Danny Schwartz said it’s been difficult to pinpoint the bridal category’s contribution to growth, he recognizes the importance of the market.

“We’re always looking to diversify ourselves, and [bridal is] a great way to reach a new customer,” said Schwartz. “[Kate Spade’s] special-occasion and party shoes have a loyal following.”

While the bridal category has steadily grown over the past few seasons, with new additions in both contemporary and luxury, competition is not on Kate Spade’s radar, said Lloyd. “We don’t worry too much about that,” she said. “We’re focused on continuing to create great shoes.”

Here, Lloyd sounds off on the Kate Spade bride, telling a story through retail and staying relevant.

Why does bridal make sense for the Kate Spade brand?
Our brand is about having fun and not being afraid to stand out in a crowd. Our bride is willing to break from tradition a bit. … She is culturally aware, spirited [and] leans toward the less traditional.

What are the challenges of interpreting the Kate Spade aesthetic into bridal?
[Not many because] luckily, many of our main-line shoes are designed with special occasions in mind. In fact, many brides buy shoes from our main collection for their big days. Sometimes, it’s just about recoloring or adding a special detail to transform any shoe into a bridal shoe. Most of our customers don’t come to us for basics; [they] come to us for something special, so we always want to offer [them] something interesting, whether it be great colors or playful embellishments.

How do you make the bridal footwear different, given that the main line is already well suited to special occasions?
With the bridal line, the shoes need to add that special twist to [the customer’s] look for the big day. She’s going to look back on these photos, [and] the shoes need to be as memorable as everything else from that day.

Which retail concept works best for showcasing the bridal footwear?
We have the ability to tell the bridal story differently in each channel. For example, on our website we [can] give the bride different ideas for how to wear the shoes. Our selection of blue satin shoes have been a huge success on our website because they were merchandised in a “something blue” story along with other accessories.

How do you keep the bridal footwear collection relevant?
I try to keep the bridal collection modern, whimsical and fun. One of our most successful silhouettes is the Charm shoe, a chic open-toe slingback with a bow. This was originally introduced a few seasons ago as a holiday party shoe. Because it was such a hit with our customers, we’ve added the style in neutral metallics, [and it] has since become a top pick with brides. We’ve also started thinking about the different settings that our brides are choosing [for their weddings]. We’ve continued to add bridal flats and sandals to the line, keeping beach and outdoor weddings in mind.

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