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Exclusive: Katy Perry Talks Footwear, Family and Aiding the Fight Against Breast Cancer

From her 2008 breakout hit “I Kissed a Girl” to her no-holds-barred Twitter feed, the music superstar tends to stir up conversation with her own special mix of humor, sensuality and passion.

But recently, following a hectic — and often headline-making — year on her Witness tour and as a judge on “American Idol,” the 33-year-old singer has adopted a more philosophical tone and told FN she is taking a short breather from music to focus on her other interests.

One of those is her Katy Perry Collections footwear brand, which launched in 2016 as a joint venture with Global Brands Group Holding Ltd. And the designer is lending her buzz-making ability to the shoe industry’s largest charitable project, the QVC Presents “FFANY Shoes on Sale” breast cancer fundraiser.

“Everyone knows someone who has been affected by breast cancer or cancer in general,” she said about serving as ambassador. “When you’re in your 30s especially, you have a lot of friends who are facing hard decisions in their lives, so any way that I can be a part of the movement that gives back, it’s an obvious ‘of course.’ ”

Katy Perry
Katy Perry models the Kelsi sandal from her line.
CREDIT: RONY ALWIN

In addition to appearing in the PSA ads for the charity, on Oct. 11 Perry will attend Shoes on Sale event in New York and even created three special styles that will be sold exclusively in the gala’s shoe salon, including a glittery sandal, a boot and a sneaker.

The day before, the star will appear on her first QVC broadcast to sell looks from her line and raise awareness for the cause.

“[We’re] just trying to do our part and give back,” she explained. “My business is fairly new, and we’re always looking for unique ways to be part of different conversations, not just about the shoes.”

Since launching her footwear brand two years ago, Perry has channeled her enthusiasm into developing a label with her own special identity.

Sarah Ader, sales director for Katy Perry Collections, said, “We are happy with the performance [of the line] and the fact that this collection is a point of difference from what exists on the market. We provide core silhouettes with a touch of detail and flair that makes Katy’s collection what it is.”

The brand is carried in major retail accounts across the globe, including Macy’s, Dillard’s, Von Maur, Zappos, Amazon and Forever 21.

The Iowa-based department store Von Maur stocks the line in 23 of its 34 locations. “The collection definitely brings something unique and fun to our shoe floor,” said Tiffany Musick, DMM of women’s. “Brands can tend to look the same, and this really stands out. They’re very whimsical shoes, and they’re good conversation starters. And I feel like you can attract a wide range of customers.”

As Perry explains it, “It’s a wacky, kind of weird world that I live in, and people like it. They’re buying into it.”

Here, she shares more with FN about her world and what she’s learned about shoes, stardom and herself.

Katy Perry
Katy Perry in the Memphis pumps from her brand.
CREDIT: RONY ALWIN

In your music, your fashion, even your Twitter feed, you show fearlessness. Where does that come from?
“I didn’t always have it. I’ve done a lot of work lately in the past year on my mental health, on my spiritual and emotional side. Now I’ve been trying to find the balance and not overindulging, just trying to stay grounded. My sister lives right next door to me, and my family is not really fazed by anything. They’re proud of me, but they don’t put me on a pedestal — everybody is pretty normcore. My boyfriend, [Orlando Bloom], is a great anchor. For some reason, I attract people who are really real and call me out on stuff when I’m being cuckoo.”

Now that your Witness tour is finished, what are you focused on?
“I’ve been on the road for like 10 years, so I’m just going to chill. I’m not going to go straight into making another record. I feel like I’ve done a lot. I feel like I’ve rung the bell of being a pop star very loudly, and I’m very grateful for that.”

Why do you feel like it’s the right time to take a step back?
“Well, I knew what I wanted to do when I was 9 years old, so everything else became secondary to that. I didn’t really pay attention to anything besides my craft — which is great, and I love it. I love making music, I love writing. But I don’t feel like I’m a part of a game anymore; I just feel like I’m an artist. I don’t feel like I have to prove anything, which is a freeing feeling.”

When it comes to your shoe brand, you often wear it and promote it on your personal social media. Why is that important?
“It’s like a limb of mine — it’s really that important to me — because it’s so full of personality, and it’s affordable. When I was a teenager, I had to create a look on a budget, so I was always putting together things from thrift stores and charity shops. I couldn’t afford what was cool, which was Roxy and Bebe at the time. All the kids in my class who were wearing these $35 shirts, I’d be like, ‘Oh my gosh, you are rich!’”

Katy Perry
Katy Perry sports the Clara sandals from her collection.
CREDIT: RONY ALWIN

In the two years since your brand launched, is there anything about the shoe business that has surprised you?
“I think what surprised me was the reaction — people really like it. All the main stores, they started online, and then they went into actual physical locations. They took a lot of chances with me because my shoes are really personality pieces. We have shoes that are staples — we cover the whole gamut of footwear — but mostly the ones that I like to highlight are for that fun, unique individual or someone who is wearing all-black and wants the personality to pop on their feet. The styles are fun, a lot of times they’re funny, cutesy. They’re kind of like storytelling shoes.”

How have you juggled working on the label in between going out on tour and your other projects?
“I collaborate on the design with Johnny Wujek, who was my longtime costume designer for different tours. He comes in and he helps me scheme up what the next fun, funny, lighthearted shoe will be. We have a WhatsApp group where we put in our design inspiration, and we have boards and talk about which themes we want and what works and what doesn’t. And when we do a shoe design or prototype meeting, it’s a full-day event. Last time we did it, I was on tour a few weeks ago in Australia, and the ladies [from Global Brands] came, and they brought like 700 prototypes with them. It was crazy.”

How does your design process compare with making music?
“I like my shoes to tell a story through the heel, [asking]: ‘Can it be this or can it be that?’ I’ve tried to put many a different figure or ornament on the heels just to tell a story and to hopefully start conversations via your feet wherever you’re going, whatever you’re doing. Music in a way is the same thing. Hopefully, people talk about the songs.”

Has having your own brand changed the way you look at the fashion world?
“For sure. It’s no small feat, the logistics and organization and responsibility that you have to have. It’s not just, ‘Oh, I want to start a shoe line’ — I mean, not if you want to be successful. There are a lot of people who do collaborations, and that’s super fun and good for them. But I wanted ownership — it was important to me to [approach this like] Victoria Beckham did. She paved the way for pop stars. You can be taken seriously if you do take it seriously.”

Katy Perry
Katy Perry, photographed for FN.
CREDIT: RONY ALWIN

You’re making your first appearance on QVC on Oct. 10. Are you excited?
“It’s kind of been a lifelong dream. I’ve seen Mariah [Carey] and all these people on QVC. I love having conversations with all kinds of different people and helping them maybe select something based on details they give me about their aunt, sister or granddaughter. So I’m going to be my full quirky self — who knows what will happen? But it’s going to be really fun. I just wish I had a three-piece suit and big hair and it was 1993.”

Who are some of the shoe designers you admire?
“My heroes are Sophia Webster and Charlotte Olympia. I love Charlotte Olympia, and I have for about 10 years, but the shoes are like $700 a pair. So I try to be kind of the little sister, or the cousin — the affordable cousin.”

Ultimately, what’s your goal for the brand?
“I buck so hard sometimes [on the design]. People will bring something to me and say, ‘This is such a great basic style.’ I’m not a basic; I’m not here for the basic. That’s a waste of my time. I’m here to disrupt this Sleepyville.”

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