Elizabeth Brady is not afraid of fame. She just wants to make sure she’s ready when it comes. She went from being responsible for some of the most recognizable names in marketing to building her own name in fashion. For Brady, designing is an evolutionary process. There is no one certain step or convention she follows. Methodical and exacting in the colors, shapes and materials used, she brings a wealth of experience to her craft. There is a design aesthetic that underpins every single work she creates. I interviewed her by phone while driving to Brooklyn and we spoke on every topic under the sun, from her greatest fears to wondering whether people have sex in her shoes, it felt as if I was talking to a kindred spirit.
PD: You spent 20 years in the advertising business and working on some of the world’s largest and most successful companies, why switch to shoe designing?
EB:You spend so much time working on other people’s brands you start to think why don’t I just start my own brand? I started thinking about what I wanted to create, where did I want to go, what’s the product, what’s the service; and shoes were a really natural thing for me. Shoes are in my family history and background, so I got a chance to marry my family lineage of shoe designers and manufacturers with my business and advertising experience. It was all about building brands so I put the two together and sought out to create this company where I’m starting out making shoes, but I’d like to build it into a much bigger brand beyond just shoes and really create a lifestyle brand. This is the very beginning, but it’s a fun beginning; so it is a nice combination of both of those things.
PD: Besides shoes, what else would you like to introduce under your brand?
EB: Well I’m working on handbags now, which have been really fun. I am thinking in about a year I will be ready to launch that. Handbags are very technical like shoes and require a lot of planning. I guess I’m one of those over-achiever dreamers and I think about what could be. I think about all the different products that have style and fashion attached to them; things you put in your home, things that touch our lives in so many ways. I would like to expand beyond that with different lifestyle type things. Whether it be home products or something else-we’ll see where it goes. I haven’t set my eyes on only what’s in front of me, I try to think long term.
PD: What were some of the brands you worked for before starting your own brand?
EB: Well one of the brands I spent the longest time on was Mc Donald’s. I’ve worked on Len’s Crafters, Southwest Airlines the list is endless…communication companies. Just about every type of brand I’ve touched in my business experience. Many of those are global companies and brands that have given me a really rich background to pull from. It allowed me to enter Italy and work in global environments with much more ease and confidence.
PD: Are you afraid of fame?
EB: It’s funny you ask that because one of the things that I’ve said is that I know that I have made it when somebody actually knows who I am. It is sort of a strange feeling and I am actually a very private person. There is something somewhat intimidating about letting people see who you are and exposing yourself through your designs and your shoes. But I think it really all goes together. You can’t go down this path without expecting that. Fame is something either you’ll get to enjoy or be confronted with.
PD: Who is your fashion hero?
EB: My fashion hero? There are so many- but from a shoe stand point Louboutin and Blahnik are just in a class by themselves. They both create such memorable shoes and the way they present them is also quite extraordinary. If you have ever looked at the historical walk of Blahnik of shoe making it is incredible and his style is so specific and consistent over time but it always feels fresh. I think that is something that I really strive for and hope to emulate. when you see people like that that have been in the industry for such a long time and their careers span such a long length of time but yet they still present something fresh and exciting every time. I think that is pretty heroic.
PD: Do you ever design with sexiness in mind?
EB: Absolutely! I think it is hard not to; and I think everyone has their own way of creating when they sit down to sketch or design something. Put on a great piece of music, or something that feels really inspiring. It can set the tone and it is amazing what comes out. Things that you don’t even think are in your head will come out through your sketches, and before you know it, you have a really sexy beautiful shoe.
PD: They say heels are bad for the feet so why do we love them so?
EB: Because they look so great and you know, shoes are inherently sexy. If you have a great pair of shoes on- whether it’s an open toe, a sandal, a pump or flat- it makes you feel a certain way. It’s a combination of how you look, but also how you feel; and if you are anything like I am, when you have a certain pair of shoes on, there is something about the style of those shoes that help set the tone for my personality that day. It might set the tone for what I wear, or what I need to project out in the world that day. Whether it be fun and fancy, or if I need to wear the power shoes that day, it’s really an expression of what I need to communicate. So I think because of that, women are willing to deal with the pain.
It doesn’t have to be painful though – the painful ones are the shoes that do not fit well and are not made well.
Part 2 – Updated 7/6/2006
PD: When designing, where do you get your inspiration?
EB: Well, I will give you an example. Right now, my spring 2007 designs are with the manufactures in Italy and they are working on samples and prototypes for that line; and probably my biggest source of inspiration came at a fairly strange time. I was sitting having a glass of wine with my husband. We were in Florence at the Savoy Hotel in this beautiful Piazza Della Republica which was alive with people. The backdrop of the piazza was fairly neutral looking, but within the backdrop there were little pieces of color that you could see. It may have been a shutter, an umbrella, or something that was there and I said-“I’ll be right back.” I went up to my room and I came back with all my swatches and leather swatches and I started pulling the colors out of what I was seeing in front of me and that was the basis of the direction I went in for spring. It really inspired me. I felt like here is this wonderful, historical backdrop that has all these interesting pieces and lines to it. I was looking at it not for what it is, but what I could create out of it. It took me in a really interesting place for spring, and I am excited to see how it all works out. The colors are very reminiscent of what I was seeing; and some of the lines and shapes I also replicated in the shoes. So you will be the judge of it when you see it. Inspiration can come in the strangest places-you just have to be open to it. When it happens you just have to go with it.
PD: When did you realize that the shoe designing thing might actually work for you?
EB: I’ve set so many bars and it has been a funny journey. I have said so many times if I find a manufacturer in Italy who will manufacture my shoes I will feel like it works. Then the next one was if I get the samples back and I like them, I’ll think that it is going to work. So every time I reach a goal, I raise
the bar to something else and I know that it is going to work. I think I have now gone full circle; I’ve been able to do all the pre-work that gets me to having shoes in retail. So I feel like I have gone through the process all the way, completely once. It is now that I have gone through all that, I feel as if I have gone through every step of the way and know the challenges that come up. I know the highs and the lows and how to deal with them, so nothing from here on out will surprise me.
PD: Why do you name your shoes after women?
EB: Well for me I can tell you personally how all the names came to be. The names of the shoes in my first collection are the names of influential women in my life. Whether they impacted me directly or indirectly, these are the women who helped me develop the line.
PD: You were featured in Daily Candy, that’s pretty big so what was that like for you?
EB: It was actually pretty phenomenal, I was excited about having the mention in Daily Candy, and it helped really put the brand on the map. I received a lot of response from that; the hits on my website went through the roof! I had in a couple of days 137,000 hit son my website which I was shocked by. More interestingly I had people emailing me places where they had seen people chatting about my shoes. I thought that was really cool that all these people were talking about my shoes and I don’t know those people. It was actually a great way to get the name out there fast.
PD: Would you rather someone has sex with your shoes on or off?
EB:**laughs** Well I’d sell a lot more shoes if people were having sex with the shoes on wouldn’t I?