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Sam Edelman

Creating women’s footwear is a family business for the designer, whose wife is both muse and working partner.

You launched women’s footwear brand Sam & Libby with your wife Libby in 1987, sold it in 1996 and bought it back this year. You launched the Sam Edelman label in 2004. How do the brands differ?

Both were created to offer designer fashion at an accessible price. Sam Edelman’s target consumer is in her 20s.

Sam & Libby was created for women in their 30s but today the brand is for women of all ages. We sold Sam & Libby to Maxwell Shoe Company in 1996. Earlier this year our parent company, Brown Shoe, bought the Sam & Libby brand and we are thrilled to have creative control over it again.

How do you find working with your wife?

Libby is my muse. She inspires me with her natural style, just as she inspires the people we work with and meet. The hardest part is that we bring all of our work home with us. It’s hard to feel like we are ever actually out of the office.

Is it harder now to be just a footwear label, given so many other brands have also expanded into perfume, handbags and so on?

What separates us is that we are a contemporary fashion brand. We’ve built an aspirational brand amid competition from established designers and brands that have been around much longer.

Did you always want to design footwear?

As a boy I quickly learned I didn’t play basketball well enough for a sports career and even though I’m an adequate rider and still have show-jumping horses, I always wanted to work in fashion. I’ve never thought of what I do as
just shoes … it’s fashion.

Last year you launched your kids’ line Circus by Sam Edelman - why now?

The success of Sam Edelman has created a timely need for us to build a house of brands and we’re responding to that. The juniors’ business was a natural starting point.

What else is in the pipeline?

The Sam Edelman jewellery line just launched and will hit stores in September. We also plan to grow the brand to include intimates, fragrances, apparel and more in the longer term.

How different do you find designing for other categories?

Having grown up working with everyone from Ralph Lauren to Esprit, I feel I’ve learned that fashion is fashion. Whether it’s blue jeans or sandals, we all follow the same basic rules.

Do you think fashion is becoming less seasonal?

I think fashion has become more ‘want now, buy now’. Our customer is watching the runway shows and she doesn’t want to wait until next season to wear the hottest styles. It’s more important than ever for us to predict the trends.

You opened your first standalone store in Manhattan last year. Do you plan to open a UK store?

Absolutely. I shop in London three to four times a year and we already have an office there, so I’m eager to have our own retail location as well.

Do you have any other future locations in mind?

I’m hoping to open our next store in LA this autumn. My goal is to open several doors in the next few years. We are aggressively looking for partners to expand our European base.

Do you think it’s important for brands to have their own stores?

It’s important for us to show our customer the Sam Edelman environment. We want her to walk into our stores and understand what we are all about.

So opening your own store was something you always had in mind?

Yes. I think every designer wants a place where their vision can be executed exactly as they see it.

How many UK stockists do you have?

About 25, including Harrods, Selfridges and Harvey Nichols, as well as independent stores such as Jules B in Newcastle and Scarpini in Southampton.

What’s the best thing about your job?

That it starts anew every three months. I get to feel young every season with each new collection.

What has been your career highlight so far?

Quite honestly, having the pleasure of working with my wife and son every day.

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