Shoe's a Shoe In

Wayne State grad Nicole LaFave, a metro Detroit native and rising star in shoe design, is enjoying rave reviews of her recently unveiled luxury Omelle footwear line


It’s not often that a native Detroiter and fledgling designer takes on the names of fashion royalty like Christian Louboutin, Jimmy Choo, and Marni. But Nicole LaFave — a Macomb native and Wayne State grad — is reaching for the top with her suddenly hot shoe designs.

LaFave and business partner Cherise Angelle recently launched their highly anticipated luxury Omelle shoe line and found themselves basking in immediate praise from Vogue, Footwear News, WWD, and The L.A. Times. The line, which ranges in price from $495 to $1,595, can be found at select U.S. boutiques and at National luxury retailers also are expressing interest.

Hour Detroit caught up with LaFave at her L.A. studio to talk (via phone and e-mail) about her recent footwear debut.

When did you first get interested in shoes?

I used to “accidentally” collect shoes. When I lived in Michigan I used to shop the thrift stores for shoes that no one had.

Why design shoes, as opposed to, say, dresses? Isn’t it much harder to deal with leather than fabric?

Shoes are a little more complicated because of working in Italy. We have to begin much earlier and wait much longer for samples and production.

How did you come up with the label name?

We sat down with the two of our names, scrambled the letters, [and] circled the names we liked. The company is all about a balance between the two of us.

How long has your company been in the works?

We came up with the idea in May of 2007, graduated in June [from the Fashion Institute of Design and Merchandising, in Los Angeles], and started writing a business plan. Then we started meeting with investors and raised funds. We designed the first collection at the end of 2007 and hopped on a plane to Italy in February 2008 to start interviewing factories.

Some people say black shoes are for business. Do you agree?

I think that black is a basic and that’s probably where that saying comes from. We have black to offer a foundation or something versatile for people who want a single shoe to work in many ways. We, however, do not think black is the only way to do this. We base our color palettes on “interesting neutrals” [that] go with everything. For spring/summer 2009, black wasn’t as important as a nude shoe.

Is there a celebrity you can imagine wearing your shoes?

Katie Holmes, Anne Hathaway, Sarah Jessica Parker, Kate Moss, and Kate Hudson — feminine, sophisticated people with a playful side.

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