5 Questions for Designer of Poetic Licence

It’s no secret Poetic Licence marches to the beat of its own drum.

The label is one of eight owned by Lynchburg, Va.-based Consolidated Shoe Co. and has made being different a hallmark of its design aesthetic.

“Part of being a brand is staying true to who you are, and we don’t want to go after big commodity items — it’s just not where we want to position the line,” said Todd Partridge, Consolidated’s chief design officer, who has been with the company for 16 years. Prior to that, he held posts at Pentland Group and Franco Sarto.

Uniqueness appears to be working for the label, according to Partridge. “Over the last few years, the brand has received more exposure, and we are on pace for 10 percent [sales growth] this year,” he said.

Up next, Poetic Licence is exploring additional categories — namely handbags and hosiery — plus international expansion. “We want to maximize the lifestyle appeal of the brand,” Partridge said. “We have plans beyond the U.S., so it’s a pretty exciting time.”

By being part of the Consolidated family, which also includes Madeline, Nicole and OTBT, Poetic Licence benefits from the firm’s strong research and design capabilities, Partridge said.

“We have an Italian design studio and three people who gather information worldwide,” he said. “They shop Milan, Florence, Berlin — all the major cities for trends. We utilize that information and do it in a way that best represents each brand. Many people would be surprised because Italian design tends to be very sexy, high heels and a lot of exposure, but [Poetic Licence] is sexy in a different way — more Hollywood glam.”

The core goal for the label, which sells at retailers including Macy’s, Von Maur and Anthropologie for $59 to $150, is to connect with its similarly “offbeat” customer.

“I don’t see our Poetic consumer as someone who has changed, other than the fact that she has more online access to review items — that change has been good,” Partridge said. “People may have been frustrated by no footwear options as an accessory, and we’ve given them that creative feel.”

Here, the designer shares his retail goals and strategy for evolving without chasing the crowd.

In a trend-driven juniors’ market, how does Poetic keep its unique style?
Poetic Licence is a take-a-chance kind of brand. The details of this label are an eclectic mix of uniqueness. Whether it’s a scalloping pattern or a chiffon laceup, we aim to provide a point of differentiation. This brand is for consumers looking for their own sense of style, not [necessarily] the trends. It’s always going to be fun.

Has that ever been a challenge with today’s consumers?
Poetic is certainly a niche brand. It has been a challenge for it to gain acceptance in an industry of conformity. There are new generations coming up, and they are more in tune to individual expression. There might be a lot of consumers who think they are not into this brand until they accessorize with our footwear and add a standout look. The goal is to stay the course and let people catch up to the label.

As a niche brand, what is your retail distribution strategy?
We want to be in better core department stores and chains — Nordstrom and Urban Outfitters. We do great business with Macy’s and Amazon.com. The plan is not to grow this brand by leaps and bounds, but to grow at a slow, methodical pace. We want to be a neighborhood brand, and one of our strategies is [to work closely] with retail partners. We’ve made a huge effort to satisfy them [with new product offerings], and it allows us to manage inventory through open-stock programs.

Where do you plan to go next with the product?
We’re working to expand the footwear offering beyond what it currently is. We think this is a big opportunity for growth. We’re looking at products like a few more flats, more boots for fall, and a big movement toward sport and athletic. We’ve developed these concepts in a way that’s right for Poetic Licence. This brand is really a state of mind.

What is the most exciting thing in the footwear industry right now?
The growth of the Internet has provided a plethora of new opportunities for many industries. Online retailing certainly gives you more exposure to product, and it also has provided an avenue to connect with consumers. It has elevated the information curve for what people want. I’m curious where [online and social] are going to go.

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