Sole Man

 In Interviews, Style

10 questions with footwear legend Sam Edelman


An “official” division of St. Louis-based Brown Shoe since June, the Sam Edelman brand has been in the hearts and minds of shoppers who crave on-trend, beautifully-constructed shoes since its launch in 2004. Sam Edelman, formerly behind a slew of successful lines, including Esprit and Sam & Libby footwear (along with wife Libby, currently the company’s head of marketing), talked with me about designer collaborations, “living fashion” and plans to dramatically expand his beloved namesake label.

Jill Manoff: According to your website, “each season boasts sell-out hits.” In your experience, what draws women to one shoe over another? Can you predict which styles will be the stars each season?

Sam Edelman: We have been very fortunate to have had such exciting success over the years, picking the trends correctly and developing and designing so many great sell-outs. Women are drawn to fashion first, so we study fashion, we live fashion and we understand lifestyle trends and where they come from. It may be the Paris or Milan runways, or it may be a new movie, or it may be trends in the way we eat or a new political movement. We will really never know what makes a shoe like our Ginger (our infamous gladiator) such a favorite, but for thirty years, Libby and I have consistently designed footwear that has sold in the millions of pairs. This is not our first time at the rodeo.

JM: Talk about the success of the Zoe harness boot, specifically—which was extremely popular among fashion bloggers. About how many have you sold? How does the type of blog-follower who bought the Zoe compare to your typical customer?

SE: The Zoe is about aspirational fashion. The Zoe is about girls who study the runways and live, eat and breathe what the stars wear on the red carpet. We have probably only sold 4 or 5 thousand pairs, compared to a big shoe for us—which is 100,000 pairs. However, the Zoe is so visible in the world of celebrities, that it looks like it’s even bigger. The bloggers really did make this shoe, and then the stores that cater to the fashionistas—like LF Stores—manifest its glory! We have two customers: the girl who wants it first (the Zoe customer), and the woman who looks to us for trend-on, easy fashions—like the Gigi thong.

JM: Why does working with St. Louis-based Brown Shoe make sense?

SE: We are a division of Brown Shoe. Their power throughout the world for sourcing and for back office gives us the freedom to be creative, and to really explode our brands and our vision for a lifestyle company.

JM: As Brown Shoe brands were featured exclusively on the Saint Louis Fashion Week runways this month, we were thrilled that the Sam Edelman line was included in the mix. In your opinion, what makes a great runway shoe?

SE: A great runway shoe works with the clothing; first and foremost, the shoe must be correct for the trends being shown. Forget the high, high heels or the crazy colors; I believe in saleable fashion and accessorizing with RTW.

JM: What fall clothing looks pair best with your fall footwear?

SE: I love shearling and military this fall—therefore, I love the Vancouver bootie and the Sutton over-the-knee boot in putty suedes. And, of course, I love the great oxfords in sequins that go with all the trends this year.

JM: What inspired your super-sexy Spring 2010 campaign? How would you say your Fall 2010 campaign compares?

SE: The inspiration for our campaigns comes from music and lifestyle trends, like everything we do. I discovered our girl on the streets of Paris, in an ad campaign for a great French retailer—with her boyfriend, Sean Lennon. The new campaign is in the same vein, but remember, to my customer, the campaign is not racy or super-sexy; it is part of her life! She lives for “Gossip Girl” or “Sex and the City.” She is today, and today, sexy is part of her life.

JM: What footwear trends and styles are you most excited about for FW10?

SE: I love the over-the-knee boots, and the oxfords and the whole new line; it is amazing. I love putty, gray suedes and shearling… Pay attention to the boots; this is the season of the boot with the legging.

JM: What inspires you?

SE: The world. I like Rick Owens, Azzedine Alaia and Ralph Lauren… I have always wanted to collaborate with Ralph Lauren and do his shoes.

JM: In one or two sentences, what words of wisdom would you like to pass on to women regarding their choice footwear?

SE: Love fashion and study the trends and you will never go wrong.

JM: With so much success in so little time [since the Sam Edelman brand launched], what are your plans for continued growth? Is there any chance that you will expand the brand to areas outside of footwear (to clothing, handbags, etc.)?

SE: We are expanding right now into other areas—including accessories—and we are aggressively looking for a jeans partner. But, we have so much opportunity in shoes that we are still working 14 hour days. Next is bridal, sport bags and belts…and then the lifestyle of Sam Edelman will have just started!


866_399.jpgFootwear designer extraordinaire, Sam Edelman.

867_399.jpgSam Edelman’s Vancouver

868_399.jpgSam Edelman’s Winsford

869_399.jpgSam Edelman’s Vancouver

870_399.jpgSam Edelman’s Dixie

871_399.jpgSam Edelman’s Zale


Photo credit: Photos courtesy of Brown Shoe

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