As brands and retailers grapple with new political and retail realities, exhibitors at FFANY focused on ways to rejuvenate the sales floor with newness, social messages and souped-up customer service.
“There’s so much political pressure on our chest, we need room to breathe,” said Lena Erziak Co-Founder and Designer Leona Erziak. The handbag turned shoe designer, best known for the bow-embellished Lola silhouette, was a breath of fresh air at the show as a first-time exhibitor introducing a Spring ’18 collection inspired by poetry, nature and light. Highlights in the collection include on-trend slides and low-key kitten heels adorned with the brand’s signature bows, denim and gingham updates to the Lola and fresh pops of tropical leaf prints.
A delicate stiletto smacked of spring’s renewal energy with realistic butterfly embellishments. Erziak pointed out that the shoes are an instant pick-me-up. “The shoes are statement pieces and instantly dress up a casual outfit with jeans,” she added.
New brand Mery by social media influencer Mery Racauchi injected a youthful perspective to women’s footwear. The brand combines Made in Italy constructions and a signature pink sole with playful glitter uppers, pearl embellishments and retro floral appliques. Statement shoes included Barbie-like pink glitter stilettos, pink and mint green cowboy ankle boots and black leather boots covered with red hearts.
With retail prices for the debut collection in the $350 to $995 range, Mery is positioned for high-end designer boutiques. However, the brand is considering offering a diffusion line made in China to reach a broader base of retailers and consumers.
Contemporary women’s brand M4D3 Shoes presented a spring collection with a strong social message, #wearkindness. The footwear brand offered a deep range of suede block heel pumps with high vamps and peep-toe sling backs in soft sorbet colors. Translucent uppers and platforms, marbleized uppers and natural leather added lightness, while a capsule collection with wood pencil heels defied gravity.
The brand combines Millennial style with the generation’s desire to give back and support brands with philanthropic interests. With every purchase of M4D3 Shoes, the company donates two books to a child in need through its nonprofit partner, First Book.
Casual elegance is a winning combination. Brands like Patricia Green and French Sole keyed into the look with women’s unstructured suede loafers and moccasins for spring. The timeless silhouettes have multi-generational appeal, offering comfort with effortless style like that of style icons Princess Diana, Jacqueline Kennedy Onassis and Audrey Hepburn.
Andrea Carrano Founder Betta Carrano is taking a leap of faith by re-entering the wholesale market. In recent years the 40-year-old Made in Italy brand has sold out of its own boutique on the Upper East Side of New York and e-commerce store. While Carrano pointed out that there’s never a good time to launch into wholesale, the brand has new product to share that taps into the demand for relaxed styling.
While the brand’s bread-and-butter are traditional ballet flats, Carrano said relaxed constructions like flexible ballet flats and deconstructed suede moccasins are gaining momentum. The Mare, a square toe moccasin style loafer, has collector’s status among her New York customer base, which she says buys them in multiples. The $295 retail shoe is offered in rich shades of lavender, turquoise, papaya, salmon, denim blue and more.
As a boutique brand Carrano understands the hardships that go into running an independent retail store. The company aims to help retailers differentiate their product assortment by offering opportunities to order special colors—whether to better suit their customers’ taste, or complement a store’s apparel selection. That ability to provide extra special services and react faster to trends is why Carrano believes more retailers should turn to smaller shoe brands.
Spanish brand Brenda Zaro takes a similar approach to ensure unique product for specialty shops. Sold in Harry’s and Heller’s Shoes, the family-run business entered the U.S. market about a year ago with its collection of feminine, leather lined dress shoes. Pastels, patents and hints of cork are trending in the brand’s Spring ’18 collection, but retailers can customize styles by taking one material and putting it on another silhouette. However, the company maintains the same level of comfort, quality and craftsmanship.
As brands compete for space in a deeply discounted retail environment, the ability to tailor product to consumers’ tastes is essential. However, Paul Mayer, founder of Paul Mayer Attitudes, reminds designers to know their strengths. “Do one thing and do it right,” he quipped.