Kasey Gibbs joined Brown Shoe Co. to design for Naturalizer but happily lent her expertise to Naya, the company’s new eco-friendly brand. After a successful soft launch, the brand goes full force for fall with a concept Gibbs notes is truly resonating with consumers: beautiful, comfortable shoes that go easy on the environment. —Leslie Shiers
1. A profoundly tender, passionate affection for another
How important is eco-responsibility to you and Naya’s target consumer?
I come from Colorado and have a true love for the environment. At home, we compost, collect rainwater and drive a hybrid. When I shop, I’m conscious about what I buy: How is it packaged, is it recyclable, can I reuse it? I make choices not to purchase things based on those factors. I think a lot of people are becoming more concerned about the environment—women, in particular. We are the caretakers, and we want to leave the world for our children and our children’s children. I think it’s emotional and important to our consumer, who is becoming more aware of things she can do to make a change.
Who is that Naya woman, and how do you design for her?
She’s thoughtful, aware, educated, creative and expressive in the way she dresses. Women today don’t want a uniform; they want fashion items that resonate in an emotional, positive way. We want to be comfortable all day long and want beauty. There are a lot of companies doing eco-friendly footwear, but most are shoes you’d just wear around the campfire. What was missing was femininity. We aim for the trifecta—shoes that are stylish, comfortable and green. The biggest compliment is when I hear someone say, “I didn’t even know they were eco-friendly.”
Describe the green aspects of the collection.
Consumers are getting extreme value with this line, and really deluxe components in a lot of cases. Our leathers and linings are either vegetable tanned or chrome free, and our fabrics are all natural or sustainable (i.e. organic or recycled polyester. We also use bamboo heels, cork and cork regrind in our rubber outsoles, nickel-free metal buckles and water-soluble glues.
What was your inspiration for Fall ’10 and what’s on tap for Spring ’11?
Foremost, the shoes need to be feminine, not “crunchy granola.” People don’t need more ugly shoes. For fall, we incorporated fashion trends such as soft draping, ruffles and bows. We’ve applied beautiful roses made of folded leather, like origami, and have focused on the details, leathers and rich colors. Next spring, look for a great peep-toe bootie, laser-etched flowers and a gorgeous espadrille.
What styles have been your favorites so far?
Most days—unless I’m wearing an athletic sneaker—you’ll see me in the Mcloud wedge. I’ve got it in every color.
What is the biggest reward of designing an eco-friendly collection?
I’m happy that I’ve helped give women footwear that’s beautiful and comfortable, as well as a choice to be gentler on the earth. When women chase me through Target to ask what brand of shoes I’m wearing, that’s the reward. They’re great-looking shoes that just happen to be gentle on the earth.