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Here’s the Ticket

Shayna Fitzpatrick, senior designer/line builder for Chinese Laundry, on the portfolio’s feminine formula.

Shayna Fitzpatrick, senior designer/line builder for Chinese Laundry.

SHAYNA FITZPATRICK CAUGHT the design bug early. Age 10, in fact. That’s when she started creating fashion sketches and began dreaming of a career as a designer. Little did she know then that one day those dreams would come true.

“When I think about my 10-year-old self, sketching and dreaming about creating something out of ideas…I still have to pinch myself that I was able to make it a reality,” says Fitzpatrick, who has been designing for Chinese Laundry and its sister brands Dirty Laundry, 42 Gold, and CL by Laundry, for 14 years. Prior to that she designed briefly for Naughty Monkey and Not Rated and, the year before, worked in the trenches at a Nordstrom store. The latter gig came on the advice of a footwear industry friends.

“I asked how I could get started in this wonderful world of shoes that seemed almost mythical to me,” Fitzpatrick recalls. “They said that in between pounding the pavement in search of design opportunities, work the shoe sales floor at Nordstrom, because the experience will serve you well, no matter what you want to do in this industry.”

It was great advice. Selling shoes forced Fitzpatrick out of her comfort zone. It also allowed her to observe customers—what they liked and didn’t like about all sorts of styles. (A bonus: it gave her toned legs from climbing all the stairs in the stockroom every day.) But, most of all, Nordstrom is where Fitzpatrick saw how a well-oiled and curated machine delivered so much joy to customers. “It was like Christmas morning every time new inventory hit the floor,” she says, adding, “It was the added assurance I needed to pursue my dream to design shoes.”

Design (a lot of) shoes is exactly what Fitzpatrick does for Chinese Laundry’s portfolio of brands. Each is unique but tied together by a fun, feminine thread. “We celebrate femininity in our designs with playful materials, thoughtful comfort aspects, and flattering silhouettes,” she explains. “With a history of being a go-to dress house, we embrace the art of dressing up and apply that same thought and care into all our styles, no matter the heel height or casualness of the shoe.”

Breaking it down further, Fitzpatrick says Chinese Laundry, the legacy brand, offers fashion, value, and fun. “We assort the line with versions of the most current trends, along with twists on staple items,” she says, adding that a loyal following looks to the brand for what they need in their closets each season. Dirty Laundry offers an edgy casual and cool vibe. “Chinese Laundry is the fashionable golden child of the family, and DL is the younger, bold creative sister,” Fitzpatrick offers. “No matter her age, she has all the confidence and knows exactly what she wants each season. She’s not afraid to take risks—as long as she’s comfortable in her shoes.” As for 42 Gold’s place in the family? “She’s the sophisticated, older sister who studied abroad and came back with effortless style,” she says. “She enjoys the quality of luxury products.” Last but not least, Fitzpatrick describes CL by Laundry as an every type of sister brand: classic styling where comfort aspects come first. “It’s the most affordable of our brands, and comes in wide width offerings.”

Meow! Kitten heels are fresh for Fall/Winter ’24.

The overall themes for Fall/Winter ’24 are Legacy, an ode to quiet luxury; 9 to 5, a retro feminine play on workwear; Art Collector, an eclectic Americana vibe; and Stargazer, a holiday feeling with celestial touches, mesh, and velvet. A highlight, Fitzpatrick says, are kitten heels in a variety of patterns. “It’s a breath of fresh air from the heavy bottoms and chunky sneakers we all have in our wardrobes,” she says. “I also feel strongly that shades of chocolate will get even bigger and just as we saw red pop, we’ll see pops in rich jewel tones like amethyst, deep teal, and ruby.” She adds, “Ballet flats and wallabees are trending, and loafers have evolved to shoetie silhouettes. I also love the retro frilly details of bows, pleats, and fabric textures.” As for a personal favorites, Fitzpatrick cites the Novva, a chic kitten heel bootie and the pumps in fresh patterns and easy heel heights.

Overall, Fitzpatrick says the portfolio continues its mission to be a source of fun and inspiration, which she believes is even more important amid world that’s quite scary and dark of late. Just like in her Nordstrom days, Fitzpatrick went to the source for confirmation. “I’ve had many conversations with the fabulous women, and what makes them inspired to spend their hard-earned cash on shoes is something that makes their heart sing,” she says. “Thus, we stay true to our branding and create product that inspires our customers. Even classic wardrobe staples need to be interesting to create a spark. We want our customers to fall in love with our shoes and give them a little happiness.”

Designing for four brands must be a challenging? Well, I have great help. The credit of what we make each season goes to our full design department, which is broken into teams to help cater to the needs and personal touches of each brand. We have a great synergy amongst our team where we all respect and admire our individual talents.

How do the team approach the start of a new season? By getting the team out of the office and away from our screens to shop! It helps to people watch in addition to seeing and touching product. It’s like a palate cleanser. Then we get to work on research and putting together a creative direction for what we want to focus on for the upcoming season. This is followed by team brainstorms, which is our own little think tank.

The Porter loafer: Shayna Fitpatrick’s go-to shoe right now.

How much might gut instinct factor into your design process? It’s very important. It can be about 50 percent gut instinct and 50 percent data analysis and trend research. The more you understand your brand and customer, the more instinct comes into play. When all the sample elements come together—silhouette, color, balance, workmanship, fit, and timing—into this orchestrated “it” factor, you feel it in your gut. It’s the best feeling.

Does your personal style overlap with your designs? My personal style is somewhere between retro-romantic and modern. I love all things girly, but in a kind of edgy way. I sup- pose this really hits on the ethos of Chinese Laundry with its feminine vibes and staple pieces.

What are some design taboos? Don’t ask a technician to correct anything under 2 mm. They won’t do it. (Laughs) Only display shoes from the outside when presenting a collection. Never mark on someone’s hand sketches. Lastly, there’s such a thing as “shoepeople shoes,” and most consumers won’t understand those styles.

What shoe must every woman have in their closet? Just one? Oof, that’s a hard question. I’d a style that you can create an outfit around, because those shoes feel that special and specific to your personal style.

Is there a perfect shoe? A perfect shoe needs to be versatile for your wardrobe and you must be able to walk blocks in it. It also needs to look polished. For me, right now, that’s a fashion- able loafer, like our Porter. The silver version has been my go-to; it’s so comfortable and I can wear it with skirts, jeans, socks, and no socks.

Who are some designers you admire? My favorite design house is Miu Miu, and always has been. I love how true to the brand Miuccia Prada is with every collection, while adding a bit of surprise. I love the retro femme spirit while still managing to make everything con- temporary. They’re so fun.

What is the best design advice you’ve ever received? One of my favorite pieces of advice came from our CEO and Founder Bob Goldman. He encourages us to stand for the product we really believe in, even if no one else does yet. That’s when us designers must turn into salespeople.

What is your first shoe-related memory? It’s of a little heeled granny boot I saw in a fashion catalogue in the ’90s. I wanted them so badly. But they were pretty unpractical for my young age. Still, I’d never seen anything like them, and I fell in love. My Mom bought them for me, and there began my love affair with shoes.

What do you love most about designing? I love that designing shoes lives in so many worlds of creativity. It entails technical structure and function, which is not unlike building a house. (My Dad is a builder) And, on a much smaller scale, it allows you to explore the landscape of a career where I can play with color one day, do technical fittings the next, and then go shop the market. It’s a win-win-win!

The March 2024 Issue

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