Julie Johnson is taking the comfort industry to task.
The former realtor and PR rep founded the Olivia Childs brand and is entering the market for spring ’15 to offer women a more comfortable alternative to flip-flops. “[I see] working women and moms hobbling across streets, or just giving up and wearing flip-flops,” said Johnson, who resides in Newport Beach, Calif. “I thought, ‘We [can do] better than this.’”
The footwear newbie set out to create prototypes for her line, tapping the skills of some Armenian footwear artisans in Los Angeles. “I drove to L.A. almost every day and learned how to make a shoe,” recalled Johnson. “I went downtown to get all the materials — fabrics, leathers — and then brought them back to [their workshops].”
But when it came to constructing the line’s sole — a proprietary comfort system that incorporates layers of cushioning and rubber bottoms that range from 1 1/4-inch to 2 1/2-inch platforms — Johnson was forced to go to China, where the collection is being produced. “We realized we couldn’t make the molds here, and what makes the shoes unique are the platforms,” she said.
To launch the brand, Johnson is working with Huntington Beach, Calif.-based Titan Industries Inc., which oversees production, sales and distribution of the line that is set to hit stores in February.
Johnson recalled she reached out to Titan CEO Joe Ouaknine at the suggestion of some industry insiders. “He understood what I was doing with the line,” she said. “He has that entrepreneurial spirit and was willing to try something [new].”
The 18-SKU collection, retailing from $150 to $245, is defined by a series of ballet styles, according to Johnson. “The elevated ballerinas are unique because you’re not pounding the pavement, yet you’re getting a little bit of [height],” Johnson said. To attract a wider audience, she added an open-toe evening look on a 3-inch wedge. And for office wear, there are tailored shoes such as pumps on 2-inch block heels.
The line also offers embellishments drawn from the world of high fashion. “I look to the big designers like Lanvin and Prada, and take elements of those shoes,” Johnson said. “They inspire me. They’re so right-on and done in beautiful materials. I turn [those details] into an everyday aesthetic my customer likes.”
Olivia Childs’ target customers include comfort-loving twentysomethings, as well as working women on their feet all day, such as doctors, lawyers and realtors. “It’s also a great run-around shoe for moms,” said Johnson, the mother of 10-year-old twins.
Julie Johnson is a graduate of the Fashion Institute of Technology in New York. She went on to do PR work for several designers, eventually moving into retail real estate. “I was inspired by the retailers and designers I would meet,” she said about the decision to launch her own fashion business, named after daughter Olivia.
A trip to the coast of Italy sparked the spring ’15 color palette. “There were so many pretty colors: amethyst, blue and pink, the color of gelato,” Johnson said. “They’re fresh and go with [apparel colors] — and a tan.”
Jennifer Bornoff, owner of Verona by Jeni B, based in Studio City, Calif., placed an order for spring because of the line’s broad appeal. “[The wedges] are so cute,” she said. “The younger customer looks at them for style, while older customers [think they’re] ideal because it’s a look they can [comfortably] wear.”