Katy Perry has been keeping a secret.
In 2013, the Grammy-nominated singer’s “Prism” album sat atop global music charts and became one of the best-selling albums released that year.
But even as global fascination with the edgy pop songstress was skyrocketing, she was privately courting another passion.
Inspiring meetings with fashion industry veterans Tommy Hilfiger and the late Vince Camuto preceded visits to factories in the Tuscany region of Italy, as Perry nurtured an affinity for the world of shoe design and manufacturing.
“[Footwear] was a part of me that needed to be carefully created and developed, and I had to weigh a lot of my options,” Perry told Footwear News in an exclusive interview. “So for about three years, I was educating myself on the business and [thinking about] who would be a great partner.”
Ultimately, Perry and Global Brands Group Holding Ltd. — which owns and manages a roster of heavy-hitting fashion and entertainment labels — formed a joint venture yielding next month’s launch of Katy Perry Footwear.
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The line — the first of several fashion projects for the singer, according to Perry and Global Brands — is an affordable take on the star’s bold, signature style.
To use her words: “It’s vibrant, expressive and defining.”
For Perry, this recipe has been crucial in helping her to resonate with her diverse fan base.
“Here’s the thing: When I’m working or promoting music, or onstage, I don’t get the opportunity to have a one-on-one conversation or meet everybody individually,” Perry said. “So the way I present myself can set the tone. It could be a conversation opener, just by my shoes or by the way I wear my nails — it could be [my form of] hello.”
And the way that the songstress says hello has appealed to fashion influencers since she achieved mainstream success in 2008.
“She’s a brilliant combination of high fashion and pop-culture references,” said Derek Blasberg, Vanity Fair’s “Our Man on the Street” and host of the television show “CNN Style.” “There’s a smile — but also a wink — in everything she does and everything she puts on.”
It makes sense then that Perry’s intentional storytelling has found its way into her footwear line. The collection features Easter Bunny flats that were inspired by a pair of Perry’s cherished Dalmatian-themed shoes she found after her move to L.A. to pursue music more than 15 years ago.
“I swear I started so many conversations because of those shoes. I had to get them resoled several times — and I didn’t have the money for it,” she said, recalling thrift shopping as a teenager and the early years in her career when money was scarce.
Those experiences were top of mind when Perry decided on a pricing strategy for her collection, which retails from $59 to $299.
“Not everybody is rich, and not everybody is excessive,” she said of her logic. “And everybody has more important things to spend their money on — whether it’s their children, or their family or their health. At the end of the day, your personality shouldn’t be so expensive to display.”
With the help of Global Brands, Perry found a winning price-value formula.
“We’ve learned through manufacturing and science that we can make things [with] better quality that don’t take so much time,” Perry said. “Applying all of this information makes a better product faster and with more options.”
To hash out the creative elements of the line, Perry enlisted her former stylist Johnny Wujek, who currently counts Shakira, Kate Mara and Laura Marano as clients. Wujek and Perry met at a party in L.A. nearly a decade ago and about a year before “I Kissed a Girl” catapulted her to stardom.
“Katy and I have always talked about doing a clothing line and shoes, so this was the perfect transition,” said Wujek, who is one of the creative directors on the line.
Today, he and Perry bring their “quirky twist on humor and fashion” to high-powered strategy meetings at Global Brands’ offices.
“Global Brands has a design team that has all of the trend forecasting knowledge, and we powwow,” Wujek explained. “I contribute images, and we pitch [our ideas] to Katy. She picks through what she likes and puts pictures in and takes pictures out, and then it goes into sketching.”
In between formal sessions, the team keeps the creative juices flowing via a WhatsApp group it created, aptly titled Sole Sisters. “We are just throwing ideas and screen grabs in there all the time,” Wujek said. “It’s just so much fun.”
Whimsical and wacky touches throughout the line — including a cigar-shaped heel on a series of mules and sandals inspired by Perry’s trip to Cuba — exemplify the range of unconventional ideas birthed during their sessions. Meanwhile, there is a currency-themed collection, which features shoes accented by monetary symbols, including a dollar sign and a golden nugget for a heel. Similar to the rest of the line, the looks feel like nods to Perry’s “shoe heroes” Charlotte Olympia and Sophia Webster.
Jimmy Gabriel, president of footwear for Global Brands, said he’s banking on Perry’s imaginative fashion sense and broad appeal to snap up a solid share of the 16-to-40-year-old female market.
“In addition to her music, Katy Perry’s unique, signature style is followed by loyal and passionate fans around the world — an ideal foundation for a successful brand,” Gabriel said. “[Our] joint venture will capitalize on Katy’s creative vision, global reach and audience connection, as well as Global Brands’ expertise in building brands and its strong global relationships with distributors and retailers.”
So far, Macy’s Inc., Lord & Taylor, Amazon.com Inc. and Zappos have signed on to carry the collection. (The shoes will also be available on the brand’s proprietary e-commerce site.)
Mike Normart, senior director of women’s footwear at Zappos, said the e-tailer is looking forward to being one of the first to debut the line.
“Katy has cited her fascination with space and vacationing in the tropics as inspirations for the line and has been heavily involved in the design process,” Normart noted. “The result is designs that are fresh and fun.”
For his part, David Law, an SVP and GMM at Hudson’s Bay and Lord & Taylor, said he sees the collection — with styles that are “unique and different from anything else” on Lord & Taylor’s shoe floor — being a hit among the department store’s more daring shoppers.
“These are vibrant, colorful statement shoes; [they] will be a conversation starter,” Law said. “They’ll attract a customer who is confident, has a playful attitude toward fashion, and isn’t afraid to stand out.”
Feedback from the collection’s debut at FN Platform last August as well as other retailers along the way has left Perry and Global Brands in a confident place ahead of the launch.
“I don’t want to be cocky, but it’s just about keeping up with demand right now, which is very exciting,” Perry said. “I think it’s evidence of the fruits of our labor, the great team we have around us and the vision they believe in.”
But that’s not to say that Perry doesn’t expect to do some fine-tuning as time goes on.
“I don’t operate in fear, but I think there are lessons to be learned,” she said.
Experience and practice in tow, Perry said the fashion industry can expect to see a lot more of her in the future — starting from the feet up.
“I want to learn a lot, master it and become a serious contributor in the fashion world,” she said. “[I don’t want] to be a celebrity who overindulges and takes advantage of their position.”
Click through the gallery to view the full collection.