What Happened to Heel Interest in the Contemporary Footwear Market?

Footwear Heels_OCOdesigns

Fall’14 Footwear is looking too Conservative in my Opinion.

To be completely honest, I am not excited by style offerings in the contemporary footwear women’s market, at least what I’ve seen of Fall 2014. Let me explain, it’s always been about the heel for me. Roger Vivier’s signature Virgule heel, known as the ‘comma’, first created in 1963 and still relevant in 2014. Walter Steiger’s Claw heel continues to be a staple in his collections, refreshed, relevant and exciting today. I can go on with the list. Their innovative signature designs had a magical quality that excited me and contributed to my desire to design footwear. I remember creating my submission portfolio for design school, adding a signature heel treatment to each style in the collection. I may have went overboard but I just didn’t feel the shoe was complete without it. (The proposal got me in so I must have done something right).

Five years ago, the industry’s focus was on the platform of the shoe. High-fashion brands sent innovative platforms down the runway with the contemporary market quickly following suit. Season after season consumers were offered countless options to buy into. As of late, maybe 2012, the focus gradually heightened to the heel. The high point for being the SS13 and F14 shows with a large number of premier brands like Celine, Miu Miu, Lanvin, Balmain, Prada sending innovative heels down the runway. Heels were created out of metal spheres, metal frames, concealed plateau steel, molded leather, plastic molds, covered with mixed media — I was excited to see how it would translate into the contemporary market.

To my disappointment I have yet to see the excitement within the $150-$250 price point, instead style offerings have been on the conservative side. The ankle boot is back looking very much like previous seasons. The pump looks pretty basic with upper covered heel or leather stacked heel, nothing really exciting there. The ballerina is another staple coming back again with the 1-unit rubber sole/heel, or leather sole with stacked heel. Where did all the excitement go? Ok, a few brands have offered up some heel interest; however, only a few.

I understand the relationship between the economic climate and it’s effect on consumer spending. How buyers as a result took a more conservative approach with their seasonal buys. Brands scale back to keep costs down and margins up. From a contemporary footwear consumer standpoint my purchasing style has evolved due to the economic climate as well. Instead of making flighty emotional purchases based on the look of the shoe + sale price, I put my emotions in-check and further examine quality/fit, and then look for innovation in details that push the boundary of what that style represents. In the end I pay more for what I consider an investment that represents my unique style, the shoe transcends being just a fashion purchase to a statement of my style. From a contemporary footwear designer standpoint it is frustrating to have styles I create with heel treatments not make the cut, or get edited to be “safer” for fear the customer will not understand it. This is a thought as a consumer and designer I have yet to understand.

Bottom-line: consumers are looking to state their individuality through their style; let’s not be afraid to give the heel signature treatment. Contemporary brands should attempt exploring and creating their signature, a great place for this is the heel. The approach can be exaggerated, subtle, unconventional, minimal, the list goes on, as illustrated by the references pinned to my Pinterest board [Footwear_F14/W15_Heels]. In my (humble) opinion what is most important is keeping the signature closely aligned with the DNA of the Brand. This further creates the brand image while bringing the excitement back. Yes, cost is always a factor, however this can be done in a cleaver, cost-effective style that will payoff in the long run.

Just my thoughts, thank you for listening.
I could be wrong, love to hear your thoughts.

Sustainable Bone Beads, Creativity and Empowerment

I stumbled into the world of beads a couple of years ago and have been digging deeper since then. The more I dig the more I learn, their story. As I learn their story, I learn my story. As I work with them, using them in my designs I gain more clarity and further cultivate my creative expression.

My first love in the bead world has been the Kenyan bone bead. My initial attraction was physical, of course 😉
The contrast of ivory against dark brown, the juxtaposed colors together creating striking graphic designs full of impact struck a chord within me!
I was taken back to the day I first discovered Acoma Pueblo tribe pottery while in Santa Fe, NM. The pottery designs were so intricate, each line with a deeper meaning, together telling a story unique to individual families. Everywhere I saw them I instantly had such a strong attraction to them, I actually felt a spark of inspiration within me. I wondered if the same were true of the designs my first love are adorned with. As I dug deeper I realized my love’s story wasn’t within each design line, rather in the creation of them.

The bone beads are sustainable designs created from byproduct of food production. And, the actual transformation of them from waste into works of art by Kenyan artisans directly helped to economically sustain their families livelihood through the selling of them. This creative process* is one of resourcefulness, innovation and resilience in its rawest form. From a lack and a need, birthed an empowering solution. This resonated within me greatly.

The discovery of this further grounded my belief that creativity is an innate quality within each and every Being, whether we are aware of it or not. The choice is left to the individual to tap into it and allow it to further evolve them, or keep it dormant. Our art is the expression of our authentic creative voice which we are capable of using to empower ourselves and those around us.

As I continue to create and build my brand of OCOdesigns tribal statement jewelry, it is my desire for others to hopefully experience the transcendent energy of empowerment.

*check back for my blog entry detailing the creative process, it is quite interesting




“style is the answer to everything —
a fresh way to approach a dull or a
dangerous thing.
to do a dull thing with style
is preferable to doing a dangerous thing”
without it.
-Charles Bukowski

Taken from Charles Bukowski’s poem titled “Style”.
This is the audio clip him reading the entire poem.
So true.


oops, i’ve stumbled into the world of beads…

amber comes from fossilized sap of trees. a negative electrical static develops when rubbed together which can pick up tiny pieces of paper or lint!…keep that in mind when searching for authentic pieces

i’ve stumbled into a the world of beads and have become enchanted by african beads. actually, not only by those from my Motherland but globally…be it from Venice to India.

the first level attraction was physical (of course)…the brilliant pops of color are so engaging. then the graphic designs, how they vary so from bead to bead. i wonder what the story is behind each line (digging further to find more info on this)..then the organic form they take. most, at least the particular ones i am attracted to, are far from refined. rather they come as they are, and are even more beautiful for it.

as i explore past my initial physical attraction, i discover the depth of history they possess. at one point in time they may have traveled throughout continents such as from Venice, traded with African countries for commodities. what a distance to travel for these little lovelies.  some like the dZi bead, known as a “precious jewel of supernatural origin”, from Tibet is said to have been adorned by the gods who discarded them when they became blemished, thus explaining why they are seldom found in perfect condition.  (info about dZi bead found in the book titled “The History of Beads” by Lois Dubin”)

as i work on my collection, my interest for them grows. i love that not one is identical in shape, making pairing them together sort of a match-making game (i guess i am more like my Mom, a natural matchmaker, than i realized,). so far i’ve scored some pretty interesting pieces from Ghana through my Mom, flea markets i regularly filter through, and i still feel like there are more out there that are calling me to find them.

beads, specifically Bone Beads, have become essential for family planning in the country of Senegal. Georgetown University is said to have “pioneered” the use of Cycle Beads, which were handed out in Senegal. the beads are strung on a string and replicate the female reproductive cycle in days. each color denoting the various stages of the cycle, with the purpose of educated women about their cycle stages thus allowing her to be more in control of her fertility and family planning responsibilities. (want to read more on this, click here for the article this info was found).
who would have thought…you see how these little lovelies are pulling me into their world!

notice the graphic black+white Bone Beads (Ghana)

i am excited to see what my good friend Lollise will score for me during her inspiration trip to Ghana this summer. knowing her great taste and attention to detail, i know i have some greatness in store for me…and because i think her work as a handbag designer is so great, check out the latest collections at the company (Botkier) where she has been holding it down as handbag designer for years now, here.
for now here is a peak at the beads i am using for my current collection…and pics from flea markets.

i’m giving them time to bond before starting the match-making!

skulls have even made their way to the world of beads…not sure how i feel about it

a lot of the metal beads are found in Ethiopia

more to come, enjoy!


just because…

…the Universe, via Abiquiu, provided a beautiful backdrop for a photo opp. we (my partner-in-crime and i) could not resist the opportunity to capture It’s beauty and the moments spent within her embrace, while on my last inspiration trip to New Mexico.

looking back at the photos, i am still amazed by the clear blue skies, variety of textures in their organic states and the varying color stories Nature provides. i could pull a rich color palette to be used collection season after season, varying the tones depending on the season, and adding pops where needed.
[from experience i have found my most successful approach to creating color palettes to be when focus has been on creating harmony between neutrals, rich tones (to ground the story), and pops.]

we were fearless traveling through some of the same paths that once inspired George O’Keeffe, so much so, she moved to Abiquiu living there for the last 50 years of her life. i now recognize within her paintings the same elements i took in while in Abiquiu. take a look below.
…looking back at the our photoshoot pics , i also realize how well we both managed to transform our looks throughout the course of the day 🙂

long bright orange maxi skirt in the morning to harem’esque parachute shorts (of some sort) midafternoon…colorful headwrap throughout the cool morning to miniskirt once the Sun’s heat warmed up the day by afternoon.

it all seemed to flow organically. so amazing that i wanted to add these memories+photos to the journal. in hopes of keeping them fresh.


the world is full of…colorPOP!!

the world is full of colorPop!…especially this time of the season with all the brilliantly colored plants and flowers abloom. being new to the West Coast i am constantly hit by colorPops from beautiful, well-designed landscapes. vines strategically planted to elevate the curve appeal of homes, plants injecting their floral scents into the atmosphere. my senses are so engaged!
when hit by these colorPops, i am momentarily transported from reality into an imaginary space of fantasy. the Pops usually hit while i am on my run and completely erases the discomfort induced from steep inclines. my thoughts shift to color palettes, rich leathers, raffia textile weaves that could be created from these inspiration sources. what a beautiful collection of footwear these references would make.

these pics are a few of the colorPops that have added a spark to my day…enjoy!


“Rebirth Project” series: #2, summer flat sandal

aside from my work-for-hire footwear design projects, i find putting energy into my personal creative work to be a must as it keeps the inspiration flowing in all areas of my life…the Rebirth Project series being the current. within the series is the footwear category. the idea here is to bring new life to the soul’less soles of some of my favorite footwear go-to’s. when i find a design that is well-made, style-full and functional i tend to wear the “soul” out of them. case-in-point project #2 (pictured above).

the sense of guilt throwing away items i know can be recreated into something new is somewhat relieved. for this pair of sandals, the construction and the heel counter/zipper were well intact by the end of summer 2011…everything else, not so much. because the sandal was constructed with a good grade of leather insole and outsole, i knew that there was more this construction had to offer. i have a surplus of components+tools i’ve collected over the years so i put them to use. the end result being a new addition to my spring through summer go-to options, a style suited to my taste…with clean lines, minimal embellishment and rich leather.
this version is actually more comfortable than the original now that the insole is covered with plush nappa couro!

before: disassembled parts + my trusty tools

before: here the vamp and ankle strap pattern have been cut and jet black matte eyelets set in place.
before: the left is without the insole, in order to make it more comfortable with a polished look i added some reinforcement prior to adding the newly nappa covered insole (on the right)
after:i love the process of bringing new energy to the soul’less!


where in the world…has OCO been lately?

it’s been quite a busy few weeks, i’ve been on my grind keeping a constant stream of inspiration flowing…projects, travel, events+ have filled my days and evenings…all good things!

after being so inspired by the graphic designs on the Acoma tribe pottery in New Mexico, and learning the historic influence West Africa played on the developed design style…i started doing some digging into my West African roots to learn more about the meaning behind the art. i am finding that though i am far-removed from my place of birth, the connection remains ever so strong…and it continues to show it self in the direction my creative development continues to unfold.

one of my current series of projects is a collection of handcrafted necklaces. all designs are one-of-a-kind and are part of my “Rebirth Project” series. the collection will be carried in a boutique (more info to come) and others available as private sales. i am pleased with the way this particular design came out, i love the mix between organic and industrial elements. the stones are Ghanian trade beads my Mom picked up while traveling throughout West Africa; the industrial element being the chain and hardware, pulled from my ever-flowing treasure chest filled with components i’ve gathered from Brazil, West Africa, VA, NY, LA (plus).

close-up of piece#1: wear-testing the design at a recent Hollywood Dell art show
before pic #1: the individual stones from Ghana. the colors and markings on the stones tell a story. this piece is filled with vibrant energy that extends happiness to the wearer.

before pic #2: the wire loops i had to take apart. considering this was my first hit at wire wrapping, there was a bit of a learning curve to overcome. got to love the process!

more updates to come as i continue to journal my creative process!