Nancy Geist is not a frilly dresser. Typically clad in dark hues and edgy jewelry, she’s more rock ’n’ roll than ruffles. And the Something Bleu designer gets her best inspiration from digging in her garden instead of perusing wedding shops. Still, Geist said, there’s nothing she would rather do than create the ultra-ladylike sparkly, satin shoes that make up the brand’s bridal offering.
“Even though I’m not a girly girl, per se, I do love sexy and feminine shoes, and I know what women like to wear,” said Geist, whose footwear career took her to Vittorio Ricci and Bally before she started her own company in 1993. After 14 years of heading up that venture — which included producing the Nancy Geist and Nancy Nancy footwear lines, as well as shoes for Cynthia Rowley — she partnered with colleague Lee Reich to launch Something Bleu and its sister daytime brand, Butter, in 2007.
“When we separated from Cynthia Rowley, we had started to build a good bridal clientele,” Geist said. “There were so many customers who loved our product, so we tweaked [the aesthetic], renamed it and put a little blue crystal on each sole.”
Something Bleu, priced at $275 to $375, is sold at retailers including Harvey Nichols in Hong Kong, Tani in New York, BHLDN and Vivi G. Shoes locations across the U.S., as well as on e-commerce sites such as Amazon.com and the brand’s online shop. The label also offers exclusive styles for a number of specialty bridal boutiques.
Providing affordable product is the key to maintaining Something Bleu’s success, according to Geist. The shoes are handmade in Italy, but Geist and Reich are able to adhere to their less-than-$400 price goal by keeping a small staff and avoiding costly ad campaigns.
Here, the designer talks about her favorite travel pastime, wild wedding shoes and the hottest trends for 2014.
What have been the biggest changes in the bridal footwear market since you entered the business?
NG: When we started, brides were very classic and they wanted a shoe they could dye another color [after the wedding] so they could have it for more than one use, but now they don’t care. The wilder the better. We still do a few classic shoes — and [the largest percentage] of our sales still comes from white [styles] — but anything goes now, especially color. We make shoes in saffron, celadon green, lavender, pale blue. I also see a lot of brides buying two pairs of shoes, which is quite exciting. They are buying one for the formal photos and another for the after-party. It’s cool that they are going all-out.
Are there any big trends on the horizon for spring ’14?
NG: Textured materials are what’s coming up — laces, brocades, sparkly fabrics. Those are driving sales [for spring]. People are always influenced by celebrities, TV shows and films [like] “The Great Gatsby,” so right now, [brides] are liking more richness, not just a smooth satin. We also are crazy about glitter right now. Besides tiny glitter, there is also big glitter and ombré glitter. We have been getting a great read on that. And we are doing a lot of brocades for BHLDN.
Where do you seek out design inspiration?
NG: [For materials], I usually go to Lineapelle, the leather show in Italy. And being based in New York, I also go uptown and look at all the fabric shops. As far as [the creative spark], I don’t really find it outside; I find it in my imagination. I just try to picture a whole romantic setting, sort of like a mini-movie in my head. I’m also lucky that I have my garden, and a lot of times I will just go sketch there and let natural shapes like flowers inspire the patterns and ornamentations.
Aside from special occasion, you also have the more-casual Butter line. What is the biggest difference between designing bridal and daytime footwear?
NG: A bridal shoe has to have the “wow” factor. On a regular, everyday shoe, I try to strip it down to the most minimal that I can get, whereas with bridal, it’s the reverse. When Lee and I are working together on samples, it’s like, “Can we put one more thing on it? It already has glitter. Can we put a flower on it, too?” That’s where I find that doing bridal and evening shoes is really fun, because you can be more frivolous.
In your travels to visit factory partners in Italy, how do you spend your downtime?
NG: Actually, I draw shoes for fun. I don’t have office duties to handle [away from New York], so when I’m in Italy, when I get home from the factory I doodle shoes all night. It still is, even after all these years, the one thing I really love to do.