“Play it Again, Sam”

Unless you’re living under a rock…you know that ballet slippers have been THE hot shoe for several seasons now and show no signs of fading. Of course, like almost everything else that’s chic and classic, they are hardly new, having been around for decades. A recent subject of Bill Cunningham’s ‘On the Street’ portfolio, (where he labeled the popular, comfy and stylish flat as the “first spring trend” to emerge this season), the fashion historian traced their roots some 50 years back to Capezio, the original.

Today, they abound in every possible incarnation, can be seen on women of all ages, from infants to 90 year olds, and are available at every price level. In fact, this is one category of shoes where price is not only NOT an indicator of how great they are, but quite the opposite; some of the very best styles are not the most costly.

To wit: decades ago, I must have bought almost every one of Sam & Libby’s Chanel inspired cap toe ballet flats at Bloomingdales, priced at about $35 (give or take –It’s years ago so I can’t remember exactly). They were available in a dizzying assortment of colors and fabrics and in my opinion, they not only looked as good if not better than Chanel, but were actually more comfortable and far more durable. And yes, I still have them and wear them and they look brand new

Interestingly, my attachment to the brand was sort of personal — I knew ‘half’ of the label (Libby). When I first met Libby, she was not Mrs. Sam Edelman, but Libby Bianchi, a pretty and talented young fashion assistant at Harper’s Bazaar. Our paths have not crossed since those Bazaar days but when I heard that the company I knew as Sam & Libby was now Sam Edelman, and saw fall 2007 samples of her just launched (and divine) children’s line at the recent Children’s Club at the Javits Center (sized for 2 to 6 year olds, it features the company’s signature chunky gold hardware and Mod inspired buckles and is truly a mini sized version of their grown up collection), I wanted to find out more (how they got started, what the difference is between Sam & Libby and Sam Edelman, etc.)

In Libby’s own words: “In 1983, Sam and I got on a plane on April fool’s day to San Francisco to put Esprit in the footwear business…We created the most important junior shoe business for 5 years – up to 55 million dollar business. We left to create Sam and Libby in 1987 shipping the first shoes in 1988. From the first collection, the “ballet” was discovered and the rest was history. We advertised the Sam & Libby brand as shoes for the thirty something couple that had other things to spend their money on, such as houses, home improvement, a second car and all the things from education and clothes for the kids…”

“We sold 7 million pairs of ballets, and millions of many other styles….but most people remember the ballet. Most women tell me they grew up wearing the ballet in every color”. (Yup, I’m one of them!)

“We sold Sam & Libby in 1996 and retired…” “We came out of retirement officially three years ago in January 2004 to create Sam Edelman. Our customer is from the ages of 25 and up. Our shoes are fashion right but don’t cost as much as some of the other fashion right companies…we are gearing for our shoes always to cost around $100…some less…some more all depending on the materials.”

It sounds like a good premise to me, and based on the variety of styles for fall 2007 which not only include numerous takes on the ballerina flat but mod inspired boots, pumps, wedges, all with a decidedly retro/modern, hip and classic vibe, it’s sure to be successful.

For more information, contact 212-245-7993
Website: http://www.samedelman.com

-Marilyn Kirschner

Marilyn Kirschner

I am a long time fashion editor with 40+ years of experience. As senior market of Harper's Bazaar for 21 years I met and worked with every major fashion designer in the world and covered all of the collections in Paris, London, Milan and New York. I was responsible for overall content, finding and pulling in the best clothes out there, and for formulating ideas and stories.

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