After more than 20 years on the sales and business side of the shoe industry, Elissa Shuck decided to get in touch with her creative side. For spring, she’s launching Pipit, a European-inspired collection of pre-walk and first-walker shoes.
Shuck, who early in her career spent eight years as a children’s shoe buyer for Nordstrom, said her experiences in retail helped shape the concept of the collection. “As a buyer, I was exposed to so many different brands,” said Shuck, who also co-founded Umi and worked for German children’s brand Elefanten. “So I have a good feel for the market and what the consumer wants.”
Creating a versatile collection was a priority. Shuck closely follows the children’s apparel market to make sure her shoe designs complement clothing trends. “Kids’ shoes are not cheap, so if moms are going to invest in a new pair for their child, I want them to feel confident that the shoes are versatile and will go with a variety of outfits,” she said.
Pipit’s spring assortment consists of simple silhouettes such as booties, Mary Jane shoes and oxfords, detailed with color-blocking, embroidery, rivets and cutouts. “When it comes to embellishments, I am a ‘less is more’ person. I like things to be subtle,” said Shuck, who is based in Phoenix.
The collection, made in Vietnam, features a mix of suede, nubuck and smooth leather uppers, with soft suede bottoms on the pre-walk styles and thin rubber soles on the first-walker shoes. All are lined in dye-free leather. “I’ve paid close attention to those little comfort features,” Shuck said. “For instance, there are no seams on the inside of the shoes that will dig into kids’ feet.” Velcro closures and elastic straps make the shoes easy to get on and off. The pre-walk styles, available in European sizes 16 to 19, are priced at $38, while the first-walker shoes, available in sizes 19 to 24, are priced at $55.
Looking ahead to fall ’14, Shuck plans to add such styles as ankle booties and tall boots. “I’m going to look to the consumer to help drive the direction of the collection,” she said. “Nordstrom taught me a lot about connecting with consumers and serving them through the product offerings. I want to listen closely to moms to learn what they want to see from Pipit.”
Pipit was unveiled at last week’s KSA Show in Los Angeles. Litiz, Pa.-based Badorf Shoe Co., agent for brands including Ricosta and Tsukihoshi, has been tapped to oversee sales and distribution for the label. Retail distribution will target better independents and specialty stores.
While developing the line, Shuck asked friends and family members with kids for input and inspiration. “I have a lot of young moms in my life, and they’re very vocal about what they’re looking for when it comes to children’s shoes,” she said. “I want Pipit to be a brand that is in touch with its consumers.”
Elissa Shuck served as children’s shoe buyer at Nordstrom from 1990 to 1998. After a stint at German children’s brand Elefanten, she partnered with Mark Kohlenberg to launch Umi in 2004. Following Umi’s acquisition by Weyco Group Inc. in 2011, Shuck founded design and strategy firm ES-Strategic, consulting for several footwear startups.