CHARLESTON, W.Va. - Rachel Mallory Richards chased her stiletto-studded dreams from humble beginnings of Charleston all the way to New York City.
Richards, a shoe designer for some of America's most successful brands, returned to her hometown Wednesday to talk about shoe design, fashion finance and upcoming trends.
She spoke at the Elevations Professional Women's Network luncheon presented by the Charleston Area Alliance.
"Growing up in West Virginia, I didn't even know what design was. I didn't know that it was a job. I didn't know that it was something I could make a career out of," she said. "But I knew I was creative, and I knew it was something I wanted to try. I had very supportive parents. You have to stick to your gut and go for it."
Richards spoke on three major factors that contribute to designing a new collection: seasonal runways, social events and street culture. For example, Richards has developed a "punk chic" shoe collection based on a current Metropolitan Museum of Art exhibit focusing on the punk scene in New York and London in the 1970s.
When it comes to the bottom line, Richards said price margins drive much of the design in both private and public companies. At the end of the day, if you don't make money, it's difficult to stay in business just making fashion, she said.
"With a pubic company, if you don't hit those margins, something has to change. And usually that's the design. If something is too over-designed, you have to reduce something or take a few studs off or change the material," she said.
"With a private company, you have a little bit more freedom. You still have to make money, but there's leeway with the margins you want to set. If there is something you think 'Wow! I want to this because it's amazing and will get brand recognition and people will buy it and it will show up on these blogs' then you can do that and take less margin."
Some trends Richards expects to see include single-sole shoes because platforms are taking a backseat at the moment. Single-sole, pointy toe shoes are becoming big, and more higher vamps are becoming more trendy.