In Conversation With Designer Suzanne Rae

Brooklyn-based designer Suzanne Rae Pelaez’s pieces are full of delicate dualities. These aren’t loud contrasts or showy displays of diverse influence; they’re quiet but knowing quirks in fabric, silhouette, and historical reference that unfold the longer one’s eyes scan a piece.

It should come as no surprise, then, that the designer herself is similarly nonlinear in both the designing of her collections and her path to fashion-as-profession. Pelaez delivers an idiosyncratic biography, with stints in ballet and economics preceding an education at Parsons and the debut of her collection in 2010. New York City’s Maryam Nassir Zadeh and Portland’s Stand Up Comedy were some of Pelaez’s earliest stockists — not bad boutiques to have on your side — a list that’s rapidly grown longer since the label’s launch of footwear. We spoke with Pelaez about how she went from promising child ballerina to in-demand designer, the commodification of feminism, and how shoes have changed her business.

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IN RESEARCHING YOUR BACKGROUND AND YOUR PROCESS I FOUND SO MANY AVENUES THAT I WANTED TO START THIS CONVERSATION FROM. LET’S JUST START FROM THE BEGINNING OF THE BRAND, WHICH IS ACTUALLY KIND OF A SECOND LIFE FOR YOU, BECAUSE YOUR FIRST LOVE WAS AS A BALLET DANCER, YES? Well, sort of. I mean, it was my first passion, my first love. My parents are professionals, and the life of a ballet dancer wasn’t exactly supported, if you will. I wanted to be homeschooled so that I could dance professionally in high school — it’s like gymnastics, there’s a peak, and I didn’t want to miss that.

I didn’t want to go to college, but my parents really wanted me to have a proper education. So I never really pursued [ballet] professionally, although I studied very seriously for a very long time. I did my undergrad at Bryn Mawr, and I continued to dance to a little bit; I was a dance minor.

WHAT WAS YOUR MAJOR? My major was actually economics, with dance and art history minors.

OH, WOW. HOW DID YOU WIND UP BEING INTERESTED IN… Designing?

NO, ECONOMICS! Oh, economics. Yeah, I didn’t know what I wanted to do. In retrospect, I would have loved to just have been an art history major, but also, when I went to college, didn’t know that that was a thing. I didn’t have that kind of upbringing. [With my parents] it was like, “Oh, you could be a doctor or a lawyer.” Those were like the two things.

Suzanne_Rae_chloe_photo_06-pngWHERE DID YOU GROW UP? I grew up in Cherry Hill, New Jersey, just outside of Philadelphia. My parents collect art, but it was never encouraged. They put me in ballet when I was younger for my posture, so I would be “poised as a young girl” growing up, and it just so happened that I fell in love with it, and had a natural ability that was able to be nurtured.

SO: THE BRAND. IT’S BEEN AROUND FOR SIX YEARS NOW, YEAR? Our first collection was spring 2011.

YOU’RE OBVIOUSLY SO CLOSE TO IT, IT PROBABLY IS HARD TO FEEL IT, BUT IT SEEMS TO ME – ON THE OUTSIDE – THAT THE BRAND HAS REALLY HIT ITS STRIDE. I’M SEEING YOUR NAME EVERYWHERE. Oh, really? [Laughs]

YEAH! DO YOU FEEL, RIGHT NOW, THAT PEOPLE ARE KIND OF CLICKING WITH THE BRAND, OR THAT YOU’RE KIND OF CLICKING WITH THE CONSUMER? Yes, it does. A little bit. But as you said, I am so close to it that it’s hard to tell.

THE ONE METRIC THAT WE HAVE IN THIS SCENARIO WOULD BE AN INCREASE IN THE NUMBER OF STORES CARRYING IT, OR THE SIZE OF THEIR ORDERS. IS THAT THE REALITY? You know, it’s hard to say. We’ve had certain stockists that picked us up way back when. Stand Up Comedy and Maryam Nassir [Zadeh] were two of our first stores, and we still sell to them.

When I started designing, I didn’t really understand sales, or market, or any of the business side. Even though I had studied economics, my economics was more third-world development and international trade theory. It wasn’t at all finance, or entrepreneurship, or business, or anything like that.

We launched shoes not so long ago, we’ve just shown our second collection of shoes. I feel like that’s helped put us on the map of other people.

THAT’S REALLY INTERESTING. KIND OF LIKE A GATEWAY, AN ENTRANCE TO THE BRAND, AND THEN PEOPLE GET TO KNOW THE OTHER CATEGORIES? Yeah, you know, it’s funny. When we started the shoes, we met a lot of other stores that I had no idea even knew who we were. I send a MailChimp out to make appointments for market, and I never know who’s actually going to make an appointment or not. When some of these stores came, they were like, “Oh, we’ve been such fans of your line. It’s just relatively expensive.” If you’re going to spend, like, $700 on a piece of clothing and people aren’t really that familiar with the name, that’s a big risk for a store.

I feel like with the shoes — I feel like shoes are so popular right now.

THIS SOUNDS LIKE THE MOST “FASHION GIRL” THING IN THE WORLD, BUT IT DOES, RIGHT NOW, THAT SHOES ARE HAVING A MOMENT. They are! And we don’t really do PR, but since we launched the shoes, WWD, and W Magazine — who I’ve never had a relationship with — and Vogue [have covered the brand]. I feel like we’re constantly sending samples out, I can’t even keep up with it, it’s so insane. I really think that this recent growth spurt is because of the shoes.

 

How To Wear Wide Leg Pants This Winter

We love wide leg pants as much as we love happy hour (and that’s a lot). They are the easy, breezy, beautiful Covergirl of pants: comfortable, flattering and the perfect piece to tie an outfit together. During the warmer (dryer) seasons they are simple go-to pants, but as winter rolls up a few tricks are in order to pull them off without completely ruining the bottoms in rain and slush. Consider the cropped wide leg pant as the holy grail for all seasons. Whether they are just above the ankle or up to mid calf, we highly recommend picking up your hem for winter. Not only will this avoid the unruly weather at your feet, but it is also the perfect trick to show off your shoes… and socks.

THE PANTS

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Winter Cords

A pair of wide leg corduroy trousers are the perfect winter white pant. The warm cream color matches with, well, basically anything, and their slightly cropped fit will keep them in a mud-free zone. We love them paired with classic leather boots such as the Intentionally Black Jacob boot, which are the perfect height.

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Classic Black Trousers

Everyone needs a pair of black trousers in their life. We especially love these Silvae twill pants. They out-style any old run-of-the-mill black pants with a paper bag waist and unique embroidered buttonholes. Fairly above ankle, they are perfect for showing off your fancy socks so pair them with LOQ block heeled pumps for full sock exposure.

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Fun Work Pants

Made of soft raw silk and high waisted, these golden-hued Ali Golden trousers are a great addition to your wide leg pant collection. Their pleated waistline gives them a more work appropriate feel but never doubt these trousers can be dressed both up and down easily. With the rolled cuff we love them paired with Coclico’s gray patchwork ankle boot.

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Off-Duty Denim

Of course a good pair of jeans is essential. We have to admit that the wide leg cut is our all-time favorite. This cropped pair by Neuw are definitely easy on the eyes. The almost primary blue color feels fresh and the length is pretty much perfect. We love them paired with the No. 6 clogs in rust. The two hues would look unreal together.

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Cuffed Trousers

The Luisa Et La Luna Matilda pant takes cuffed pants to whole new level. They are cropped above ankle and have a slightly flared leg making them perfect for almost any shoe type. We particularly love them with the Coclico Leitzel, showing off the amazing suede patchwork detailing.

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Cozy Up To These Shoes

Fall is the perfect time to splurge on new shoes (or at least that’s what we tell ourselves) to keep your feet cozy and comfortable. This season we are absolutely loving anything with soft texture – we’re basically looking to get as close to the unavoidable comfort and warmth of Uggs without actually wearing them. From velvet to shearling to faux fur, luckily we have a ton of options. Plus, it’s the warmest thing to happen to shoes yet. We’re loving how Mari Giudicelli does it subtly with her Leblon Mule or how Bronze Age goes full on with their Neko Fur Babouche. When it comes to needing true winter warmth (we’re talking to you, east coasters) shearling is the way to go. Another cozy look is velvet. It has that soft luxurious look and feel, but keeps it sleek. So whether you decide on fur, shearling or velvet – or all of them – your feet will thank you.

Meet the Designer: Ty McBride of Intentionally Blank

When it comes to putting together the perfect outfit, a killer pair of shoes is pretty much key. With styles that look good with everything, this emerging Los Angeles-based label totally fits the bill. Equipped with years of experience working with some seriously big players in the footwear industry, like Jeffrey Campbell and Solestruck, designer Ty McBride has gradually been taking over our shoe game since he launched Intentionally Blank is 2014. From the line’s signature mule to their casual-cool slides, we simply can’t get enough. With the belief that designs should have a distinct POV, his collections are created with practicality and function in mind while always hitting all of the right style notes.

And now, keeping that philosophy in mind, Intentionally Blank has finally expanded into apparel with the launch of their amazing capsule collection AND are opening a Los Angeles brick and mortar, to boot. Things just keep on getting better.

Here, we sit down with Ty to chat about design, his undying love for the east coast, and what exactly he likes to do with his time off. Spoiler alert: his answer is the best.

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LD Tuttle Celebrates 10 Years With Capsule Collection

Nobody understands the importance of quality and comfortable footwear quite like Tiffany Tuttle does. Before honing her fashion chops in Paris at Givenchy under Alexander McQueen, the founder of Los Angeles-based footwear label LD Tuttle traveled the world as a professional ballet dancer. As such, Tiffany (who also has Princeton grad on her resume), has a discerning knowledge of the factors that make up a really good shoe — that’s why each pair is crafted from buttery soft leathers in Italy, with a malleable shape and movement in mind. Plus, her visionary and fashion-forward POV makes her easy-to-wear silhouettes feel just as cutting edge as they are classic. 

With LD Tuttle celebrating their 10th anniversary this year, Tiffany designed a special capsule collection for the milestone that honors the label’s traditions while showcasing its evolution. We caught up with her to get the inside scoop on the company’s past, present and future.

HOW DID  YOUR BACKGROUND IN BALLET INFLUENCE THE WAY YOU APPROACH FOOTWEAR DESIGN? Movement is a huge part of my approach to design. I want the shoes to have a sense of movement on their own and it is very important to me that they work with the wearer’s ability to move! I think that I went into footwear design because of background as a dancer. I spent years looking at legs and feet so I definitely have a sort of fascination with them and a desire to work with that part of the body.

Win Our Essential Fall Shoe Closet

So, here’s the deal. We’ve got nine pairs of shoes, valued at over $3,000, from amazing designers like Maryam Nassir Zadeh, Intentionally Blank, Rachel Comey, LOQ, Ariana Bohling, LD Tuttle and A Bronze Age. And since it wouldn’t be fair to keep such things all to ourselves, we decided to give them all away to one lucky sole — ahem, soul. You read that right — our Essential Fall Shoe Closet could be yours for the keeping. Before you enter to win, read on to find out why you won’t be able to live without these babies.

 

1. Rachel Comey Mars Boot

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If you don’t already have a pair in your arsenal, get on it. The Rachel Comey Mars Boot (care of Nonna boutique in Los Angeles) has been a mainstay for cool girls ever since the designer’s signature style was introduced years ago. They’re made with 100% leather, have a stacked heel and are an everyday essential you can wear with jeans, a skirt, dresses, jumpsuits…. You know, basically everything.

2. Maryam Nassir Zadeh Heeled Brogue 

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The Flavia Heeled Brogue from shoe goddess Maryam Nassir Zadeh (care of Swords-Smith boutique in Brooklyn) is an elevated version of the classic shape. The lace-up heel is one of those elegant ladylike styles that takes notes from menswear for a sleek, sophisticated feel. We love them for off duty and on, but they definitely need to be an option for your office heel rotation this season.

3. Martiniano Glove

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The “It shoe” of the last year, adding a pair of these babies will seriously up your style game. With a high instep, almond toe and a shape that can be worn with literally anything and anything, Martiniano’s Glove (care of Umeboshi boutique in Vancouver) works for Fall and every season that comes after it.

4. LOQ Suede Square Toe Boot

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Meet your new favorite boot: suede, square toe, block heel, fitted at the ankle and all kinds of amazing. The LOQ Lazaro Boot is an all-leather ankle boot that has us feeling nostalgic for the ’70s and is right on trend for this season’s love affair with the decade.

5. Intentionally Blank Velvet Flat 

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Velvet was huge on the runways for FW16, so a pair of pretty flats is the perfect way to add the luxe trend to your everyday wardrobe. The Eliza Flat from Intentionally Blank is featured in a pop of color, lined with leather and all around amazing to both the touch and the eye.

6. A Bronze Age Fuzzy Babouche 

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Have we mentioned how much we love slippers you can wear outside the house? These fuzzy babouches from A Bronze Age are pretty much the coziest shoes ever. Wear all day both at home and on the street.

7. A Bronze Age Suede Babouche 

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A Bronze Age is also responsible for these perfect suede babouches that you’ll never want to take off. And a sleek alternative to the fuzzy pair.

8. Ariana Bohling Low Slung Bootie

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Sleek and feminine, with a fitted glove-like silhouette and quirky cone heel, the Ariana Bohling Bedford is the ultimate finishing touch. These shoes are all lady.

9. LD Tuttle Mule 

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The mule, in every iteration, has come out as one of the most significant shifts in silhouette for shoes over the past year alongside. The Boxer mule boot from LD Tuttle is made with 100% goat skin, has a stacked heel and gives a fall flavor to your summer slip on. One two punch.

See? We told you they were all essential. Want to win them all? Enter here.

Meet the Boutique: Umeboshi

Umeboshi has been Vancouver’s source of unique, handcrafted shoes and emerging designers from around the world for years. Stephanie Gorrell found inspiration while living in Europe and brought the old-world traditions of shopping local home by opening her own boutique in 2005. Since then Umeboshi has been known, not only, for curating a cool, well-edited collection of shoes, but for the kind of service that makes you feel like you’re shopping with friends. The footwear store also paved the way for other boutiques to join them on Main Street, which has since become one of the city’s top neighborhoods for boutiques. Here, Stephanie shares her approach to business and her favorite things.

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9 multitasking shoes for the fashion-forward bride

Whenever you place the word “wedding” ahead of any regular, everyday word, things get weird. Cake is delicious and generally increases your serotonin levels, if also your blood sugar. Wedding cake, by contrast, often means overpowering levels of fondant and cortisol (that stress response thing that happens in your body when you can’t agree on something with your in-laws). Flowers grow in gardens and are a nice thing to buy your aunt when you’re going to her house for dinner. Wedding flowers require floor plans, measurements, color mood boarding and arrangements. Let’s save shoes from the same fate. Wedding shoes should be all about your personal style, the label you dream about, and they must be versatile enough to be worn again (for the OOTD potential alone). So here they are, brides-to-be, shoes that will keep you fashion-forward on your wedding day and bring you joy for years to come.

Why the slide sandal is our official shoe of summer

Go with anything, wear anywhere and works every time are just a few reasons why we love the slide sandal. Who knew that the original Adidas sport slide, the Adilette, would spark fashion’s interest when it was launched back in 1972. It was the official sandal of sport, something you wear in the showers and around the pool.

And then there was the mule. The closed-toe version goes back centuries – more of a slipper than a trend – but found popularity in the French court during Marie Antoinette’s time. As any style does, the mule went through a few iterations. Marilyn Monroe wore them open toed, the clog style took over in the ’70s and Manolo Blahnik put his signature on them throughout the ’80s.

Slides and mules first became ubiquitous in fashion in the ’90s with shower shoes in every price range and various sightings on the runway and on the red carpet, with minimalist beauties like Gwyneth Paltrow sporting a chunky mule. Today, they pretty much rule together. Maryam Nassir Zadeh‘s Sophie Slide is a bit of a mule/slide hybrid with a low, sturdy heel and sleek styling. We loved the elegant Caelum Slide by The Palatines so much we had to get our own version.

Exclusive: The Palatines x Garmentory x Sissy Sainte-Marie

Inspired by our mutual obsession with denim, and its designer roots in the Los Angeles Fashion District, we’re excited to introduce you to the perfect summer shoe. Seriously. Designer Jessica Taft Langdon created the Palatines’ Caelum Slide in Slate in a special limited edition quantity just for us… well, you. She and stylist extraordinaire Sissy Sainte-Marie became fast friends after some mutual admiration on social media, so she was the perfect person to style and model this special collaboration.

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“I love this Palatines slide so much,” says Sissy. “I have it in three colors and wouldn’t mind having three more. They look good with everything and have the ability to dress up what needs dressing-up and and dress down what needs dressing-down.”

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“As is very typical for me, the inspiration came from the material itself,” explains Jessica. “I saw a small stack of beautiful hides at a leather supplier here in LA. The color, natural finish and softness hooked me, and I bought all of the remaining stock. I’d put it aside in the studio, and knew I’d find a good use for it eventually.” Enter Garmentory and our need for all things denim and we found the perfect fit for the almost indigo hue. “It’s as easily wearable as a favorite pair of jeans. And since all of our shoes have a very soft leather lining, they’ll mold to your foot, in the same way that your Levi’s shrink to fit!”

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Another detail about The Palatines x Garmentory Caelum Slide we’re so excited about is the impeccable comfort and fit. There’s a hidden thong that keeps the foot from sliding and your toes from cramping so you’ll be wearing these babies allllll summer long.

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Only a few of these slides are available, so don’t hesitate. Shop Now