Designer Chat: Calleen Cordero

TALK ABOUT GETTING an early start: Calleen Cordero, the designer behind the eponymous line, began her career in the footwear industry at age 15 as an assistant buyer at a high-end Los Angeles-based boutique. By age 16, she was hired as a merchandiser for Sam Edelman.

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TALK ABOUT GETTING an early start: Calleen Cordero, the designer behind the eponymous line, began her career in the footwear industry at age 15 as an assistant buyer at a high-end Los Angeles-based boutique. By age 16, she was hired as a merchandiser for Sam Edelman.

Currently, of course, Cordero is best known for her artisan-quality made-in-the-U.S.A. footwear collection, which she launched in 1999 from her garage. “I would drive home with samples on the dashboard of my car,” Cordero recalls with a laugh. “I made my first five styles and I took them to the owner of Madison. He ended up writing me a check on the spot for $3,500, and I took that business and went back and made more shoes.”

Now, Cordero’s boho-chic designs are sold everywhere from Madison to fashion-forward comfort stores. Yet even with such an impressive resume, Cordero felt she was missing out on a chance to ex- pand her design repertoire, held back by the size of her factory and her current customer’s preferences. “She’s not wearing 6-inch heels,” she explains. “She wants something a lot more practical.”

So when the brand’s production moved to a new 10,000-square-foot factory in North Hollywood, Cordero knew it was finally time to make the “higher-end, sexy silhouettes” she’d been longing to design. Aimed at stores like Jeffrey, Bergdorf Goodman and Maxfield, the Cordero collection launching this fall will include a limited number of couture styles retailing from $700 to $900.

The architecturally inspired wedges and heels will feature unique details like hand-woven neon uppers and heels made using a combination of Lucite and wood. “I’m not taking the approach of trying to develop a 30-style collection with something for everyone in the higher-end price point,” she explains. “I’m really making each item a piece of sculptural art.” —Audrey Goodson

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