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Designer Matt Bernson Understands Effortlessly Cool Footwear

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“No one is going to wear yoga pants in 2016,” said Matt Bernson, designer of the eponymous footwear label.

This is the kind of definitive statement that could only come from one of New York’s trend makers. As a designer deep in the fashion trenches—his Tribeca store is located just minutes from the increasingly fashionable Financial District in New York City—Bernson understands that his customer might be enjoying the comfort benefits of athleisure fashion. However, his trend-savvy customer is also stylish enough to know that by next year she’ll be on to the next big thing.

Bernson has picked up on the fashion street smarts that defines the women of New York. He offers them exclusivity by producing his shoes in quantities of only 100 per color. He taps into trends in a subtle, nonchalant way. For example, Bernson pairs sporty neoprene with a layer of suede leather on sandals, and remakes sneakers with Italian embossed croco leather. And like all New Yorkers, he is proud of his city, paying homage to his store’s nabe with a line of jewelry featuring the irregular rectangle that represents Tribeca’s borders.

Hanging out at the 20 Harrison Street store, Bernson said he has gotten to know his customers by name, face and style. A broad scope of women shop there, from professional women seeking a chic but wearable heel to women whose entire lives circle around fashion.

He keeps these different styles and tastes in mind when designing his footwear collections. For instance, Bernson said he noticed Canada Goose jackets were especially popular in the winter, so he knew that his winter boot should complement this jacket. Being in the store also allows him to test the success of his own styles, evaluating the way heel height and colorways look on his customers.

Bernson has elevated his cool factor with a series of buzz-worthy collaborations, including last year’s partnership with lifestyle blogger Liz Adams of Stripes and Sequins. In April, he launched a collaboration with model Hanne Gaby Odiele. The line was built around styles that were comfortable enough for Odiele to rush from show to show, but fashionable enough for her to maintain her street style status. Styles included a woven creeper with a speckled cork heel, neoprene slides and a sporty sandal with a rubber lug outsole.

July will bring a group collaboration with Gwyneth Paltrow’s lifestyle site, Goop.com.

For Spring ’16, Bernson said he created the line style by style and started simple, in order to make each pair “interesting and wearable without a lot of ornamentation.” The collection is focused on unique materials like stamped and printed leather developed in Spain and updated vintage styles. Posts from his inspiration blog also show what’s been on Bernson’s mind: white interiors, European cities and close-up details of luxurious fabrics.

In addition to some updated favorites, like the cross strap Love sandal and the open-toe Jagg bootie, Spring ’16 will also mark Bernson’s return to his roots—basic handcrafted sandals. He plans to spruce up the collection of tried-and-true sandals with new espadrilles with leather insoles, new wearable heel heights and a range of flat closed-toe shoes.

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