Designer Interview

Sam Edelman talks brand expansion, Dallas love and getting paid to think about women

Sam Edelman on brand expansion and getting paid to think about women

Sam Edelman, nordstrom
Sam Edelman's expanded line of accessories and apparel hits American stores in August. Photo courtesy of Sam Edelman
louie, sam edelman
Sam Edelman Louie boot ($160). Photo courtesy of Sam Edelman
sam edelman, felicia
Sam Edelman Felicia flats ($90). Photo courtesy of Sam Edelman
Sam Edelman, Kate Upton
Sam Edelman campaign featuring Kate Upton. Photo courtesy of Sam Edelman
Sam Edelman, nordstrom
louie, sam edelman
sam edelman, felicia
Sam Edelman, Kate Upton

Aubriana, Addie, Yazmine, Dakota. Nope. This is not a list of my best girlfriends. These are just a few of the Sam Edelman shoe styles I adore.

So when I heard that Edelman was coming to town to visit with his Dallas customers at Nordstrom NorthPark, I accepted the invitation for an exclusive chat with the designer prior to his March 27 (5-7 pm) appearance.

Although Edelman is beloved for his fun, fashionable — and affordable — footwear, the designer revealed big plans to expand his line in 2014 to include accessories and apparel. As you read on, you will learn that this guy understands that knowing apparel is the key to designing a fabulous pair of shoes.

 “If you understand apparel, you will never make a mistake with shoes.” — Sam Edelman

I chatted with the down-to-earth designer about a number of things — including his soft spot for Dallas — but what struck me the most was his genuine interest in the “Sam girl.” He’s made a career out of discovering what makes her tick, serving her every need and want — and designing pieces she didn’t even know she had to have.

CultureMap: How familiar are you with Dallas? Why come here for a personal appearance?

Sam Edelman: Oh, very familiar. I’ve been coming to Dallas for 35 years about five times a year for the Dallas Shoe Show. I also keep horses in Flower Mound.

Sam Edelman sells in every state in the United States, and I think we sell in 35 countries around the world, but for some reason we have a very special home in Texas. The Texas customer has always supported us, and the girls have loved us, so it’s a very special place for us — whether it’s NorthPark, Highland Park, Austin or Houston.

I think I have a great feel for the Dallas woman. I think I understand her lifestyle, and I design for her lifestyle. She knows it and has, in turn, has been a very big supporter of mine.

CM: Word on the street is that you are expanding your line beyond shoes. Do tell.

SE: I’ve just this morning been working with our apparel section. We have a new collection coming to stores in the first two weeks of August in America and probably the first two weeks of September throughout the world.

The apparel collection is designed for our girl, for the Sam girl, and it is a wonderful mix of everything from pants and sweaters and jackets to dresses and skirts, and it really is so far from work wear. [Laughs] It’s to me the best expression of the whimsy, the innovation and the delight in the Sam Edelman brand.

CM: Any frontrunners thus far in terms of favorite new pieces?

SE: I love it. I’m very very high on it. I love our weekend bags. We all know that when you say goodbye to your mother on a Thursday night to go drinking with your girlfriends that you don’t really know if you’re coming home that night. I’ve designed everything to go with that lifestyle.

My favorite thing in all of our collection is our white overnight bag that has a black stripe.

CM: Your shoes are pretty fab. What inspired you to expand your brand?

SE: That’s a great question. I am inspired by the lifestyle of my customer. I have never thought of myself only as a shoe designer. I cut my teeth with a company called Esprit and I lived, ate and breathed working with the apparel team to come up with the best accessories. If you understand apparel, you will never make a mistake with shoes.

My batting average is probably the highest of any shoe designer because I eat, sleep and breathe clothing. Underwear. Jewelry. Makeup. Hair. I know as much about juicing as I do J. Crew’s jewelry and where they get their inspiration, so I don’t think of a woman only in terms of shoes. I think of her as a total package, involving makeup, hair, anti-aging — and that’s where I start.

And I’m heterosexual. I have the best job in the whole world because I get paid for thinking about women.

CM: What’s the best fashion advice you have ever been given?

SE: The best fashion advice that I have ever been given in my life is to trust my instincts. That came from Mickey Drexler of J. Crew.

CM: What advice would you give a woman struggling with her personal style?

SE: I would tell them to start by reading five magazines a month. Look at pictures. You need to pick a muse, pick someone you want to look like.

Find the editorial you really like. Find the blog that really sends you in the right direction — and then you need to find what you need to wear to make you feel really good. If you are really, really sexy, it should be skin-tight. If maybe you aren’t the sexiest person in the world, then maybe it could be boyfriend kind of looks.

But, really, it doesn’t matter. It goes back to what makes you feel the best. If you are a size 14 and you like sexy, wear sexy because you will then be sexy. You don’t have to be a size 0-2 to wear a tight dress. And the truth of the matter is that guys like women in all shapes and sizes, and you don’t have to look like the girls in the magazine. That’s not the point.

A woman should be proud of what she looks like and who she is and just do the best with what she has. Not everyone is going to look like Cindy Crawford.