The newly appointed creative director of Bernardo, Heather Williams, shares her take on the brand’s design heritage and where she sees the company heading next.
FN: How did you come to join the Bernardo team?
Heather Williams: “I started consulting as a designer in January 2017. Peter Grueterich, [president of brand management firm Peter Marcus Group], had given me the reins and now has let me run with it, starting this past summer. I’m looking at imagery and how we are selling a brand with a big history and telling that story not just through the shoes but through their background.”
FN: What is your main goal as creative director?
HW: “Expanding beyond and layering onto the core assortment. We are known as a flat-sandal brand, [but] we’ve had success with mid-heels and have a great core bootie. It’s taking these ideas that have worked and creating a year-round lifestyle brand. Plus, some of the core [sandals] are so relevant. The goal is not to isolate the current customer but to get access to a broader customer. The brand has that weight, where [generations] can all find something that they like.”
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FN: How will you connect to Bernardo’s heritage?
HW: “The original designer, [Bernard Rudofsky], was an architect and a painter. He was very interested in geometry and modern shapes. My own design aesthetic [is similar], so this was a natural fit. Throughout the collection, you’ll see unique heel and buckle shapes — slight nuances that thread that line together. And there are also plays on transparency, with hints of Lucite and mesh. When you look back at the archives, [the looks] are really relevant.”
FN: Where do you find inspiration?
HW: “[I follow] seasonal trends, but also take time as a consumer to research what’s out there — and frankly, I think about what I want to buy, because there’s too much product out there now. I also try to follow where we are selling online, and read the reviews. At Anthropologie, we have a 22-review, five-star rating across the board on fit and comfort. Those customers are all different ages, so [the product is] resonating.”
FN: Which categories offer the most growth opportunity?
HW: “We are doing interesting plays on the sandal. The Miami is our most recognized style, and we’ve blocked it into interesting colors. It could be a beach sandal, and it could be something you can dress up, too. That padded footbed and the heavy stitch is unique to Bernardo, so you’ll see that in other categories, as well. The rainboot category has been great, so we are doing a hiker version. What I love about the category is, it’s at an entry price point and introduces the brand [to retailers] and segues into the fashion
aspect. We are getting interest from independent stores that aren’t familiar with the brand or the price point, and they are blown away. The boots are different than what you see out in the market. They have unique details.”
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