Sam Edelman: Back Like He Never Left

There aren’t many people that can survive the test of time in the shoe industry. Imagine someone being able to do so for three decades! Think about how much footwear has changed within that time frame. To have the ability to constantly reinvent yourself and bring something different each time around is a special skill to possess. One man who’s been able to achieve such excellence is Sam Edelman.

Edelman has made his mark for several different shoe companies over many years. He is well-respected among his peers, and has many up and coming shoe designers who look up to him. A legend in his own right, Edelman has worked alongside some of the greats as well. One of his first major gigs was working at Ralph Lauren as a licensee in the early 1980s. This was just the beginning for Edelman, as it would prove to be a door opener for his upcoming ventures.

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Upon leaving Ralph Lauren, Edelman went on to become an executive for Candies. After quite a bit of success there, he then tried his hand at creating a brand. Edelman is credited with being a co-founder of Kenneth Cole, further improving his resume and solidifying his place in the shoe business.

Over time Edelman’s name has become synonymous with brand building, and with good reason. In addition to the success he saw while with Kenneth Cole, he and his wife, Libby decided to try their hand at starting a shoe line of their own in 1987. In their pursuit of creating a brand they would be able to call their own, the two decided to focus on junior footwear. They’d go on to name their brand Sam & Libby, after themselves. Sam & Libby reached a great deal of success, and did so rather quickly. In 1991, the company grossed $100 million. Considering the fact that the company was started completely from scratch and it had only been around for four years, this was a huge accomplishment.

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The Sam & Libby label was successful with presenting stylish, ballet influenced shoes. Some were bedazzled, some had pretty bows, but what they all had in common was that the public loved them. They were also really affordable. The couple ended up selling their brand, which is now exclusively sold in Target.

There have been a few changes over the years for Edelman, his wife, and the brand. The changes have added to the continued success of the couple’s company, even after a hiatus from the footwear industry, which was the start of another transition. After selling Sam & Libby, the designer took a break and found himself right back at it. This time around, the brand would simply be named Sam Edelman. Instrumental in their recent success was what Edelman calls his marriage with Brown Shoe Company, which is based in St. Louis.

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Brown Shoe Co. bought out the remaining Edelman Shoe stock in 2010 for $39.6 million. Edelman told STL Today in a 2013 interview, “They let me concentrate on being creative and took away the pressure of the backroom.” Many people doubted the outcome of his return, and wondered if he was going to be able to catch lightning in a bottle once again or not. Of course with less pressure, you’re able to loosen up a bit and have some fun again. But you also have to trust in the people that you’re relinquishing your authority to. He continued, “I think that (Brown Shoe Co. Chief Executive) Diane Sullivan, myself and the balance of the team have shown those naysayers a good lesson.”

The Sam Edelman brand has since added apparel, handbags, and jewelry to go along with the shoes. The Brown Shoe Co. has also undergone a name change. After well over a century under that name, it was time for a change. The company is now known as Caleres, which stems from a Latin term, calere, meaning passionate, or to glow. Diane Sullivan summed up the name choice by simply telling STL Today, “That really hit us as being about our passion about our people. You can’t be around for 137 years without passion.”

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There are plenty of styles to choose from in the Sam Edelman collection. From seasonally appropriate boots, to flats, to heels, they have a little something for your liking. Then there’s the jackets and coats, pants suits, sweaters, and dresses to go with the shoe of choice. Mostly anything associated with the Sam Edelman name or brand tends to be reasonably priced, so there’s rarely any issues there. They’re also top of the line as far as the quality goes that are comparable to many of the top designers, but set a standard with having an array of different styles of clothes, shoes and accessories available.

There’s plenty to choose from at Nordstrom, Macy’s, and tons of other department stores. And you can’t forget about the Sam & Libby line at Target, while you’re out looking for something to wear to that ugly sweater themed party coming up. Sure, the sweater is going to be atrocious, but the shoes have to be on point!

– Blake Holmes