The Bill Blass revival is hitting its stride with an expanded Spring ’17 footwear collection that pays homage to the iconic designer’s panache for vibrant yet functional design.
The American brand was re-introduced in 2014 with CFDA designer Chris Benz at the helm as creative director. Benz has modernized the brand with a fearless use of color, fancy leathers and athletic and casual silhouettes—a notable change from Blass’ collaborations with Manolo Blahnik in the 90’s.
“The crux of the brand DNA is about color, comfort and cool American style. These elements translate so perfectly to shoes in a covetable, modern way. This was really the basis of the collection, which draws inspiration primarily from the archive,” Benz said.
Benz’s favorite style for Spring ’17 is an highly-embellished snake espadrille that offers a seamless take on a variety of trends. Other highlights include go-go boots in novelty leathers, block heel pumps, creeper sneakers and a classic leather loafer offered in a full spectrum of colors. Asymmetrical top lines add a hint of newness to classic shapes. A range of frayed denim slides, boots and ankle wrap sandals available in bright blue and white has been popular with editors.
I think colorful shoes, more than any other category, is the place customers are willing to experiment.
Bill Blass relaunched as a direct-to-consumer brand, but has since opened doors like Bloomingdale’s. For Spring ’17, the label is looking to widen its wholesale business, exhibiting at FN PLATFORM in August and most recently at Sole Commerce in New York City. Retailers like Nordstrom, Isetan and Anthropologie are taking note.
“What all the retailers are saying is that the new Bill Blass collection is fresh, modern, unique, it doesn’t look like anything else out there and makes you want to smile,” said Theresa Hiner, Bill Blass head of sales sales.
The collection wholesales for $53 to $137.
Vamp caught up with Benz and dished about where he finds new inspiration for the heritage brand.
VAMP: Who is the Bill Blass customer?
Benz: Our customer is the modern, mobile woman. She’s global, a traveler, technological, with a bit of humor.
VAMP: You are known for your colorful creations, which of the color concepts did you come up with for the SS ’17 collection?
Benz: I think colorful shoes, more than any other category, is the place customers are willing to experiment. I chose an assortment of neutrals and added pops of fuchsia, pool blue, and novelty embellishments to push the color envelope.
VAMP: Does your interior design work influence your work with Bill Blass? Do the concepts make it into the designs of the shoes? (in a Creative Director capacity)
Benz: Fashion and home are such symbiotic design disciplines, and in fact the bright blue used in the Spring ’17 collection is even a color I used in the renovation of my current home. There is always crossover when working on design concurrently.
VAMP: Which shoes from the collection are getting the most buzz?
Benz: Anything with embellishment or unique textures or materials.
VAMP: What made you want to join the Bill Blass team?
Benz: Bill Blass has an amazing legacy and fantastic heritage. I continue to be so inspired with the history and momentum we have achieved, and now more than ever focusing on the footwear.