Ever since he was a kid, Neil Lane had been designing shoes.
He would take a pencil and hold it against a sheet of paper at a 45-degree angle. He would draw lines, shapes and circles, conjuring up delicate high-heeled, pointy-toed illustrations.
Now, Lane — who’s perhaps most recognized as the engagement ring designer for Hollywood’s A-list celebrities, as well as hit television franchise The Bachelor — has developed a shoe line of his own: Last week on Tuesday, Authentic Brands Group announced a partnership between two of its labels, Neil Lane’s namesake brand and footwear retailer Nine West.
Working together with licensee Marc Fisher Footwear, the brand management firm helped launch Neil Lane by Nine West — a limited-edition collection that combines elegant silhouettes, sparkling embellishments and luxurious satins in a palette of soft hues. The capsule includes five styles in an array of white, blue, gold, silver and pearl — aptly named “Always,” “Engaged,” “Passion,” “Perfect” and “Trulove” — that range from $69 to $109.
“I think my journey is coming full circle,” Lane told FN.
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Here, the designer talks launching in a pandemic and helping bring joy to tough times.
What was the inspiration for Neil Lane by Nine West?
“Shoes are part of my past. I was always drawing shoes as a kid. I’m not sure if people know much about the artistic side of me, but my part-time job is as a designer. I’ve always loved a sexy heel, and being able to jewel it was exciting… When I was a kid, I had an uncle who would always look at me and then look at my feet. I didn’t know if he was judging me. As I got older, it made sense: The shoe makes the man. I realized shoes were a dream. They makes me feel like a million or billion bucks.”
What has the experience been like for you?
“ABG [and I] have had a pretty interesting partnership over the past few years, and I thought this collaboration would be right up my alley. I think the [initial part of the] process was about trying to figure out where I would start designing the shoe. The easiest place to begin for me was the toe and the heel. Nine West is known for the ‘Tatiana’ heel, and that brought together all my drawings. A lot of the jewels selections for the shoes are from my own collections, and [because of my experience as an engagement ring designer,] it seemed like a natural thing to go into jeweled shoes. We had hoped to launch before the pandemic during fashion week or bridal week in spring 2020, but we were very cognizant of the pain that people are going through, and we didn’t want to push it.”
Do you have a favorite design from the capsule and why?
“‘Trulove’ was based out of the [Nine West design] ‘Tatiana’ — it’s actually the one I like the best. I love the shape, I love the silhouette and I love the heel. It’s really sexy and dynamic. It’s everything I love in a shoe.”
Describe your experience launching amid a pandemic.
“I don’t know if I would’ve felt good about launching this four months ago, but I think people are ready now. They want to go out again. They want to dress up again. They want to dream and hope again. I think that anything to do with celebrations, joy and happiness has been curtailed for a while, and I’m very sensitive to that. I’m not bummed out that we couldn’t have a visual presentation. I’m empathetic to what’s happened to everyone — they’ve had to cancel weddings and other special occasions. Today, I want to help people celebrate. We’ve been down in the dumps a really long time, and some people still feel terrible. But if something like a shoe can bring a little joy and sparkle in someone’s life, even just by opening up a box, then you’ll feel like Cinderella in the middle of a pandemic.”
If you were to launch another footwear collection, what would that look like?
“I might want to explore renaissance shoes and different patterns that can be worn for every day but still remain interesting and glamorous. These shoes [in the Neil Lane by Nine West line] are really beautiful, and some of them you can wear every day like the sandals, but they’re definitely more celebratory. I also have an idea on how I can do shoes for men… Then I would actually love to do wedding dresses. I didn’t draw them as much when I was little, but I’d like to try my hand at that. I’m also working on virtual rings, where you can go on a website and choose a beautiful handmade ring with a diamond chosen by you and made for you, which is couture-level… All of the experiences I’ve had creatively, I want to put together. In tough times, creativity is all we have to lift us up — and you don’t have to be a designer to create.”