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Celebrity stylist launches first shoe collection

Celebrity stylist Lana Wilkinson, the woman behind many of the looks at the annual Spring Racing Carnivals and AFL Brownlow Medal award ceremony, has designed her own range of shoes to fill a gap in the market for stylish, mid-priced heels.

Launching online and at a single offline boutique, Genie & Co in Essendon, Victoria, the eponymous brand includes nine signature styles in bold colours and priced between $259.95 and $289.95.

Wilkinson is relying primarily on her personal Intagram account, which has 141,000 followers, to market the collection in time for Spring Carnival.

“I have often put clothes on people that have then sold out. That strategy is working for me as a stylist, and initially I’ll be referring people [to the website] that way,” Wilkinson told Inside Retail.

Wilkinson follows in the footsteps of other fashion stylists and makeup artists, such as Rachel Zoe and Pat McGrath, who have leveraged their industry contacts and personal brand to launch their own products.

But while this experience is helpful, it doesn’t fully translate. Designing and manufacturing even a small range of shoes has proved to be much harder than dressing the likes of Australian models Ruby Rose, Rebecca Judd and Megan Gale, according to Wilkinson.

“If I had known the actual process and what I was in for…there’s so much work in it, much more than the work I currently do,” she said.

Wilkinson started working on the collection about 18 months ago. She asked some of the designers she knows for recommendations of shoe manufacturers and found one in China that felt like a good fit.

While she toyed with the idea of manufacturing in Italy, the cost of doing so would have driven the price up to $500-600.

“That’s starting to creep up towards the high-end designers that are very established, and I just don’t think there’s a market in Australia where people are dropping that kind of money every other week,” Wilkinson said.

That is not to say manufacturing in China is necessarily cheap. Wilkinson was surprised at the amount she needed to pay upfront and had to scale back her initial plans to make shoes in several different colours since she is funding the business herself.

“I don’t have a business partner or investor, and I did that for two reasons,” she said. “I’m a control freak creatively, and I didn’t want the pressure of having to move product for someone else.”

Still, she is confident she understands what consumers want.

“My job is primarily speaking to consumers all the time. I know what moves, what sells. I know what trends will work and what won’t,” she said.

Her first range launches online on Wednesday evening and will be available in-store on Thursday. She is launching a resort range in November and is about to sign off on her winter collection.

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