On a crisp, autumn day in Chicago, one of the world’s most iconic shoe designers, Sam Edelman, came roaring into town to promote his new fall collections, a western and art deco-inspired menagerie of chic buckles, non-stop fringe and signature studs.
Best known for his partnerships with the junior lifestyle juggernaut, Esprit and Kenneth Cole co-founder, today Edelman and his wife-business-partner-muse, Libby, are broadening the eponymous label with an ultrachic lineup of statement pieces including covetable bags and embellished outerwear soon to be spotted on Michigan Avenue.
Sam and Libby at their Connecticut home
Luxe File Chicago caught with Edelman (wearing our favorite vintage Novato slingbacks) at Nordstrom’s flagship store, who revealed what it takes to be a muse, where he wines and dines in Chicago and his love affair with rocker chic.
Model Muse: Dree Hemingway
From deco to cowboys, what’s your inspiration for the new collection. It’s about what’s happening in the industry today: baroque on the dress side, tribal-cowboy on the casual side. I would describe my collection as "Taos-meets-Morocco".
Did you spend time in those places to be inspired by them. I always do. I’ve been going to Morocco for 20 years. That’s what I do for a living – travel all over the world and try to be really authentic. I like to think of things before everyone else. I don’t like to be after, I like to think of it first.
You have a lot of bags, shoes, and jackets. What is one of the most exciting pieces in your collection. The “Louie” – it’s our short cowboy bootie with fringe. I think it’s the best boot we’ve made in like ever.
What fashion icon most inspires you. That’s a tough question. Dawn Mello was the biggest influence on my life. She brought designer fashion to New York and the American department stores. Then it varies from Norma Kamali to Ralph Lauren. That’s really an unrehearsed explanation of who I am. My life was influenced by those people.
Define your personal signature style. I like mixing casual with very classic elements. Right now, I’m into the “aging rocker” look. I’m wearing John Varvatos with a Daytona Rolex (the greatest watch ever designed), J.M. Weston shoes, and a handmade crocodile belt.
Boxers or briefs. Briefs. #meow
Advice for future or budding fashion designers. Do anything you can to get into the business: answer the phone, clean toilets, run for coffee. It doesn’t matter.
Star+bucks=good break-into-fashion strategy
Describe a “Day in the Life” of Sam Edelman. It’s interesting because I grew up with three sisters, went to a girls college (I was one of only 60 men among 900 amazing women), and work with my wife, Libby, so I’d say women influence me from the time I wake up in the morning until I go to bed at night. I like to play golf, tennis, and lift weights. Watching a football game is torture. A baseball game is even worse. But watching girls walk down the street, that’s what turns me on.
If you weren’t designing shoes, what would you be doing. That’s an interesting question. I’m a designer so I have to be doing something that’s creative all the time. I’m a horseman and love what I do with horses or I’d be working in the real estate business, selling or remodeling homes.
Your wife and partner, Libby, and son, Jesse, are an integral part of the Sam Edelman team. How do you like working so closely with your family. I love it. I would say [the company] is my gift to my son. As for my wife, it has been an amazing partnership for thirty-two years. (Laughing) It works most of the time.
Jesse and Libby Edelman
What are your favorite things to do in Chicago? Nordstrom for shopping and I ate at Gene & Georgetti last night. I just loved it.
What’s on your 2013 bucket list. It’s a big answer and I’ll answer it with one word: balance.
Photo of Sam and Libby Edelman courtesy of Christopher Sturman
Written by Kerry & Sally Shorr