The Rise and Rise of Loeffler Randall’s Pleated Heels
Five years ago, Jessie Randall, the founder and creative director of accessories brand Loeffler Randall, was consumed — obsessed — with pleated fabrics. So much so that, in a stroke of genius, she had her team buy a hair clip from Ricky’s, the now closed beauty supply store downstairs from their office, to experiment and play with its effects. Thus was born the idea for the Camellia: a hand-tied half-knot pleated sandal set on an elegantly rounded heel that debuted as part of the brand’s Summer 2018 collection.
What Randall unwittingly did was design a singular style then well, the bride, the bridesmaids and wedding guests could all theoretically wear it at the same event. It’s a shoe that’s almost as ubiquitous as weddings themselves during wedding season.
“I don’t think I had any idea how big it would be, but the first time I saw it I knew it was going to be a hit. I just loved it,” says Randall , who likes to encourage his design team to manipulate materials — knot them, sew them, or, in this case, crimp them — instead of just sketching. “The Camellia is one of the most popular styles because it’s such an amazing wedding and event shoe. We offer all different iterations – strapless, on a lower heel height, on a platform – and it’s become such an iconic part of our brand.”
A search for the hashtag #LoefflerRandall yields nearly 35,000 results on Instagram, with the majority of posts dedicated to Camellia and its derivatives. Randall also credits Pinterest for making Camellia viral, thanks to the platform’s countless inspiration boards dedicated to bridal fashion and wedding content. But the surprising driver of brand awareness is – wait for it – Reddit, with users sharing honest comments and naming Loeffler Randall on discussions about comfortable wedding shoes.
“It’s very rewarding,” says Randall. “I just want more people to know about the brand because when they do, they tend to really like it and really connect with it.”
The many celebrities who have been spotted wearing Loeffler Randall pleated heels have also certainly sparked interest, if not outright boosted sales, such as Sophie Turner wearing the metallic gold mules to her Las Vegas wedding, Margot Robbie styling her camellias in style. printed pajamas on a night out in London or Lily James teaming her white version with a summery dress to attend Wimbledon.
Unsurprisingly, all of this organic visibility has been good for business: Folder sales in the first quarter of 2022 were up 84% compared to the same period last year. April was the biggest selling month ever for the Camellia and the entire pleated family combined, and the brand is predicting another spike in August as brides prepare for their fall and winter weddings. Overall, the brand’s best-selling styles are the Camellia in Pearl and the Dahlia in Pearl.
Another contributing factor to their success was the fact that Covid-related postponements created an unprecedented wedding boom this year. “The Camellia was doing so well before the pandemic — the business was on track to be the biggest it had ever been in the pandemic — but weddings and events ended up being postponed,” says Randall. “So coming out of the pandemic, people are getting married every day of the week, and our business is doing really, really well. It’s a convergence of this demand for marriage relief that intersects with us having this shoe that people love It has been explosive for the growth of our business.”
This is the case of Gabrielle Severiano, a 31-year-old New York blogger, who got married in June and chose to wear the Camellia pearl for the occasion. She had seen the shoe on influencers (“I could tell I was a little influenced,” she admits) and loved the style, color and texture — and it was approachable. She didn’t really explore any other options.
“I found them adorable and perfect, and they were comfortable to wear all night long,” says Severiano, who bought his pair from Bloomingdale’s. “I had a longer dress for the ceremony, but I put on a shorter after-party dress and got compliments [on the shoes] – people loved the details and thought they were too good.”
The Camellia has come a long way since the first (woefully flawed) prototype of curly hair. Today the style – an evolution of the popular Coco mule – has over 400 pleats using a “very specific pleat pattern and pleat ratio”, which are achieved by two different machines at two different temperatures. It’s quite a complicated process, especially when it can alter the colors of some finicky materials, like sheer fabrics. For this reason, each season a number of “crease tests” are carried out to perfect the precise shade desired by the brand, with at least three prototype runs. (Future iterations and colorways are in the works, including a lace-up style.)
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It’s easy to see the appeal of the Camellia: there’s a nice dichotomy between the delicate pleats and the strong silhouette. It’s whimsical yet grounded, bold yet subtle, romantic yet harsh, special yet practical. And at $395, it feels more accessible compared to many designer bridal shoes that can cost upwards of $1,000. In Randall’s words, “It’s a shoe that has so much detail, but in an understated way – a ‘wow’ shoe that’s not totally over the top. I love it because you feel special when you wear it, but you also feel very good about yourself.”
Buyers at major retailers who sell Loeffler Randall (which pretty much all do) agree. “Loeffler Randall’s Camellia and the different bow styles are definitely the brand’s DNA,” says Gia Marchesano, women’s shoe buyer at Bergdorf Goodman. “The styles meet our customers’ need for effortless, feminine silhouettes they can wear for any occasion – and the block heel is a must-have for summer outdoor weddings.”
Revolve first saw success with the Penny Bow Mule in 2018, so it invested in the Camellia in 2019. “Both shapes with this bow have been so successful for our business,” says Lauren Yerkes, director of merchandising at the e-commerce giant. . “This style has such a versatile shape. The bow is a fun novelty detail, but there’s also a comfort aspect to it. It’s definitely an iconic style that’s worn on any occasion, and we’re focused on providing new iterations of the Camellia, as our customers love the new colors and new fabrications that align with each season’s trends.”
The Camellia is also a best-seller for Nordstrom – and that was clear from the moment the purchasing department saw the style.
“When we all leave the market loving a particular silhouette, we know we have a winner, and that was the case years ago with Camellia,” says Beth Kanfer, fashion director for footwear and accessories. for women at Nordstrom. “Every shoe brand tries to create this iconic shoe to get their name out there. Jessie and the team nailed it. To understand the appeal and why it’s been around for so long, just read the customer reviews – all the Everyone raves about the look, then immediately loves the comfort. This combination is the holy grail of shoe brands.”
Randall is keen to clarify that she didn’t deliberately design the Camellia as a “wedding shoe.” She approached it like she does any Loeffler Randall style: with the aim of creating a versatile design that can be dressed up and down, worn just as easily with a cocktail dress as with jeans. But when it became clear that consumers were wearing the Camellia for weddings, the team started looking into it. They added an ankle strap – a major change that provided extra stability – and then offered more embellishments (like rhinestones), colorways (cream and a nice pale blue, which matches “something blue ” which many brides need for the big day) and different heel heights.
Right now, Severiano’s wedding camellias are tucked away in their box in her closet, but she 100% plans to wear them again, illustrating Randall’s goal: to design shoes so beloved that they can be worn again and again.
This objective goes back much further than the creation of its brand. Randall shares the memory of being taken to a store called Party Shoes as a kid and picking out a pair for a special occasion – a ballerina or a Mary Jane.
“That was my favorite thing, picking out my evening shoes. Shoes have always brought me so much joy,” Randall says. “And although [Loeffler Randall] the shoes are versatile and can be worn at the grocery store, it makes me really proud that people choose to wear our brand for a special occasion, like a wedding, which is the biggest occasion ever. I feel so honored to bring that feeling of joy into people’s lives.”
In other words, Randall has successfully engineered the ultimate party shoe.
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