3 Questions for Carolinna Espinosa’s Charles Amar

When it comes to making a name for itself in the U.S., the Carolinna Espinosa team has some big plans in the works.

“We want to start with [a presence at] the major department stores and great boutiques, but eventually we’ll have a couple of flagship stores in major cities here,” said the firm’s CEO and president, Alan Luchette, who was on hand with co-creative director Charles Amar to fete the opening of the Manhattan showroom earlier this week.

The Padua, Italy-based brand launched in 2009 and already has a growing presence in Asia, including offerings at 50 department stores throughout such metropolitan areas as Beijing, Shanghai and Hong Kong. Luchette revealed that, in addition to being available at American retailers for the first time in fall ’13, Carolinna Espinosa also is slated to launch e-commerce within the next six months.

Amar added that a diffusion footwear line and new categories are on the horizon, with handbags set to bow by the end of the year. The designer said he is optimistic about the label’s prospects in this country, largely because of the products’ European feel (the shoes are assembled in China from Italian components) and $200-to-$575 price point.

“There is still a market for fashion at a reasonable price,” he noted. “If [the consumer] finds an $800 sandal that she likes, she will [seek out] the same look somewhere else at $300.” Amar also spoke with Footwear News about the differences between the North American and Asian markets, women’s high-tech shopping strategies and the real Carolinna Espinosa.

1. Where do you draw inspiration for the label’s aesthetic?
We are very inspired by [the actual] Carolinna Espinosa, who is Spanish and lives in Italy. She used to be a big designer in the 1940s, ’50s and ’60s. We take everything from what she did, and we translate it today. We are trying to be the new Carolinna Espinosa.

2. So far, what is the biggest difference you’ve noticed between the U.S. and Asian markets?
[Our customers in the Asian market] tend to be a little bit more conservative. Here in the States, we are doing more fashion because women want more new things.

3. Your background includes design work at Nine West, Steve Madden and Charles David. How have you seen women’s shopping habits change over the course of your career?
Before, the customer would come to the store and look at everything and try everything on, but today, with the Internet and all the electronic tools, they shop first online. The big shopper will come to the store to buy the shoes, [but] she already knows what she wants from sitting in front of the computer. She knows if the price and the style fit. We don’t have an e-commerce site yet, but we are trying to [leverage] that with our website.

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