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Exclusive: Karen Elson Fronts Ellen von Unwerth Film for Palter DeLiso

Karen Elson for Palter DeLiso

Karen Elson for Palter DeLiso

Photo: Ellen von Unwerth

Traveling to the airport never looks this chic when we do it: Stunner Karen Elson has teamed up with Ellen von Unwerth in a new campaign shot at JFK for Palter DeLiso. The iconic shoe brand, recently resurrected in 2013 by Lauren Bruksch and Taz Saunders, just opened its Beverly Hills flagship last month. If you don’t know the brand, you should; it’s responsible for a very major shoe silhouette — the peep-toe slingback. [Ed. note: The video that accompanied this story is no longer available.]

We spoke with Bruksch, the president of the reincarnated brand, to find out about what was in store for shoe lovers this time around, working with Karen and and what it takes for a woman to make it in the well-heeled world.

theFashionSpot: Congratulations on your new store! What made you decide to open a shop in Beverly Hills? Is New York next?

Lauren Bruksch: Opening in Beverly Hills first was a very deliberate decision. Palter DeLiso was originally a New York design house when it first started in 1927 and throughout its first several decades, and today Los Angeles is our home. We opened our first flagship in Beverly Hills as L.A. has the most interesting mix of targets and key influencers — press, bloggers, celebrities, stylists, costume designers, a very strong fashion and luxury-minded shopper as well as a great tourist shopper.

As for a second store, we’d love to one day be a global brand with boutiques around the world. Cities like New York, Miami, Dallas — internationally, London, Shanghai and Dubai — they all present themselves for different interesting reasons. But for now, we are very focused on our Beverly Hills flagship and growing our wholesale and e-commerce businesses.

tFS: You relaunched in 2013. How did that come about? What made you decide to take on such an iconic brand?

LB: My business partner and I were going to launch our own footwear brand, which was inspired by luxe footwear designs of the past, and then we stumbled upon Palter DeLiso during our research. I am a total brand nerd, my background being brand development and marketing for 15-plus years. I was part of the leadership team that globally rebranded Barbie in 2009, so I have a heartfelt affinity for the strategic challenge of refreshing and relaunching heritage brands that have unparalleled brand DNA and history, yet doing so in a modern way for today’s consumer. Palter DeLiso is a legendary luxury label and it was a businessperson’s and creative’s dream to be able to reintroduce it today.

tFS: The brand invented the peep-toe slingback — that’s such an iconic shoe silhouette. How did that happen? (True story, a stylist we knew used to snap pix of every pair we saw people wearing.)

LB: I love that story, and I hope our original founders who invented the style heard it! The peep-toe slingback is the basis of construction for so many modern styles today. Daniel Palter and Vincent DeLiso were very innovative in their designs. In fact, while one of their most important design contributions to fashion history was the peep-toe slingback, they also were the first to put color into leather in the 30s as well as introduce the first floral silk print and first leopard shoes. Daring design and creative exploration were an integral part of the Palter DeLiso DNA and remain as such today.

tFS: With the relaunch of the brand, what do you want people to know?

LB: Our objective in relaunching Palter DeLiso is positioning it as if it never went away. It was a heritage house for many decades and, many decades from now, we hope it is still lauded as an important American luxury label. We want people to know that before there was Manolo or Choo or even Ferragamo, there was Palter DeLiso, and that the same brand promises that made it so popular years ago endure today. Luxury is a word that will never change meaning here; Palter DeLiso is true luxury from heel to toe, shoe to shoebox and every touchpoint of the brand experience in between. Luxury cannot be cost-reduced or short-changed, ever. And luxury and fashion can go hand-in-hand. These are our brand truisms. And we are very proud to be an American luxury brand — there really aren’t many American luxury footwear or accessories brands and we want to bring back the spotlight on American exceptionalism.

tFS: What sets you guys apart from other shoe brands?

LB: I’ve been wearing designer shoes for 15 years now and I can honestly say what sets us apart from any other brand is our dedication and attention to every aspect of luxury, design, style and fit. Fit is often overlooked [and it’s] important. I am a sample size 37 and I wear-test EVERY single pair we put into production. If you look around at many of the luxury footwear brands out there, they are designed by men and/or led by men. With all respect, what do men really know about walking — living — in heels? When we first started here, I said our shoes would be sexy and wearable, and they are. In fact, I think our highest heels are some of our most comfortable!

tFS: What is your favorite style in the collection today?

LB: Being the holiday season, I am completely obsessed with our bordeaux patent leather Vivienne, Valentina and Vixen heels and flats. They are the most stunningly beautiful color of deep red and such a great pop. With bordeaux nails, it’s beyond festive. I start my day in the flat to grab coffee with my son, wear the 85mm to the office and around for meetings, then put on the higher 110mm heel for dinner out. Yes, my heels get higher as the day gets longer!

At right, Lauren's favorite styles from the collection: the Bordeaux patent leather Vivienne, Valentina and Vixen heels and flats. Right: Lauren Brusch. Photo: Courtesy of Lauren Bruksch.

At left, Bruksch’s favorite styles from the collection; the bordeaux patent leather Vivienne, Valentina and Vixen heels and flats. Right: Lauren Bruksch; Image: Courtesy of Lauren Bruksch

tFS: If the peep-toe was what the brand was known for, what do you want the brand to be known for in 2015?

LB: Palter DeLiso is where luxury meets fashion meets fit — the perfect pair. As a brand with tremendous heritage, we also have a spectrum of constructions and styles, so our woman can wear Palter DeLiso from day to night, all year long — whether it’s on the city streets of New York or the beaches of Bermuda. Taz and I were recently honored to be named to the Footwear News Power 100 issue as the “Most Directional” names, and we hope to continue to help create that fashion direction and grow visibility for the brand in 2015.

tFS: How did the campaign collaboration come about?

LB: This brand campaign is incredibly momentous as it serves as the first brand imagery associated with Palter DeLiso in more than 45 years. It visually sets the tone for Palter DeLiso as a mega-luxury brand today. We knew we needed a first-class lineup of talent for every creative element — photographer, model, stylist, hair, makeup — and the team was absolute perfection. We knew that Ellen von Unwerth would add a level of modernity and sexy relevance to the classic luxury of Palter DeLiso, while Karen Elson is simply the perfect Palter DeLiso woman. Her sophisticated look, her elegant style, gorgeous red hair and porcelain skin — she is a slight nod to beauties of the past, but styled in a very modern, luxe way. We love the imagery and it has been the perfect visual introduction for the Palter DeLiso of today.