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FFANY Preview: The Sweet and Sassy Sides of Bettie Page Footwear

With a flair for turning fashion from sweet to saucy with the bat of a lash, it should come as no surprise that the ‘Queen of Pin Up’ Bettie Page has inspired a line of women’s footwear encapsulating those very same qualities, complete with signature leopard print soles.

Bettie Page, the brand, existed for some time before California-based Ellie Shoes acquired the footwear license in 2010. In fact, designer Jose Palos pointed out that Bettie Page has had a similar fate as other pop icon-turned-licensed properties, like Marilyn Monroe and James Dean, by being on just about every product imaginable.

“The name or person that is Bettie Page represents a lot of history in America,” Palos said. “She is just as popular as Marilyn Monroe, but more underground.”

The Bettie Page footwear license is in the right hands with Ellie Shoes, Palos explained. The company has a history creating retro-inspired footwear, and it is one of the reasons the Bettie Page estate approached the footwear manufacturer to design the line. Palos said, “We’re a brand that is recognized in sub cultures—that’s our niche. We’re not chasing fashion trends each season, but we try to create our own trend for each sub culture.”

When the line launched five years ago, Palos said the collections were very alternative and chock-full of high heels. “Now we’re progressing to more true vintage and pin-up looks, with lower two- to three-inch heels and some with a half-inch platform that makes them comfortable,” he described. Peep-toes silhouettes are key, as well as notes of the early 1950s. The Fall ’15 collection is grounded with dark shades of wine and forest green—colorways that might resonate more with East Coast buyers—but expect to see more light pastels, color combinations and floral patterns for spring.

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“Vintage and retro trends are always present. It never goes away,” Palos said. “Every designer pulls some form of vintage or retro look into their line,” he added. And as vintage-inspired apparel—be it high-waisted shorts, midi dresses or flowing culottes—fall into mainstream fashion, Bettie Page footwear is seeing more interest from unlikely retailers and consumers.

As it turns out, Europe is a hot spot for the brand’s all-American, pin-up aesthetic. Ellie Shoes head of brand development and key accounts Katie Bergman said the brand has its biggest presence in London and the Netherlands, followed by Ellie Shoes’ native West Coast in the U.S.

The brand is also expanding its retail base from small boutique shops to online retailers like Mod Cloth, thanks in part to showing at mainstream fashion trade shows like FFANY. “We’re starting to get more recognition and are opening quite a few more customers,” Bergman said of its wholesale business.

That crossover appeal is a byproduct of the unpredictable way Palos said women are choosing to shop and dress. Just like Bettie Page herself, he said personal styles can bounce between playful and sexy. He added, “Everyone is into a vintage and retro feel nowadays. When fashion is all over the place, like it is now, customers want to mix up their look and mix and match their clothing.”