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Etienne Aigner Steps Back Into Wholesale

NEW YORK — When the Etienne Aigner U.S. team ushers buyers into its New York showroom next month, it is hoping that a year of rebranding efforts will pay off.

The 64-year-old women’s label soft-launched its revamped shoe line earlier this year, after ending its licensing deal with Brown Shoe Co. as part of a companywide effort to take all categories in-house.

Fall ’14 will mark the first full in-house collection to hit wholesale.

Slated to debut during FFANY, the Etienne Aigner footwear line is not only significantly larger — with about 20 new styles — but also more aesthetically honed than the previous two seasons’ offerings, which were available solely via the brand’s Manhattan flagship and e-commerce site.

Looks in the new collection include pumps, boots, oxfords and booties that mix materials such as exotic skins and vachetta leather with vintage-inspired and menswear-influenced details.

“There is a lot of heritage [behind the new offerings], but it feels fresh and like it has guts,” said creative director Daniela Anastasio Bardazzi.

“You will see a lot of plays on proportion and architectural references, including a heavier heel with a really refined toe. We talked a lot about women today and what we need, which is a great-looking shoe that is sexy but also functions as part of a day-to-day wardrobe.”

Price points reflect an upgraded aesthetic. The shoes range from $225 to $495 — about $150 more than the previous prices.

The firm, which moved its manufacturing to Europe from Asia, also is looking to attract bigger luxury retail accounts such as Saks Fifth Avenue, Nordstrom and Bergdorf Goodman.

“Making sure we have the right channels of distribution is probably our biggest priority,” said Oscar Valencia, EVP of footwear at Etienne Aigner, who rejoined the label in 2011 for his second stint after serving as group president from 1984 to 2000.

He noted that the goal is to elevate both the product and the label’s image. “Partnering up with [retailers] who understand the brand is a very meticulous process,” Valencia said.

Now, with a solid identity in place, the firm — backed by Australian investors — is looking to grow its other categories, including apparel and accessories.

It also wants to ramp up its own retail presence. Currently, Etienne Aigner counts just one branded location, which bowed in New York’s Soho neighborhood in September.

“It makes a lot of sense to have waited until now,” Valencia said of the push. “We are much more defined. We have a concise message and a lot of motivated people.”

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