What does it take to make it as a Lucchese shoe designer? We asked our Women’s Design Director, Holly Mery, who has been at Lucchese for eight years, to discuss the process and demands of the job.
Holly has designed, developed and sourced product around the world, traveling from Italy to Brazil to China, to our neighbors down in Mexico, and of course frequent trips to Lucchese’s home-base factory in El Paso, Texas.
Holly has always had a passion for art and design, so she knew at a young age she would forge her way into the fashion industry. She comes from a family of artists. Both her mother and grandmother studied Fine Art in college, and their passion for the arts had great influence on Holly. She quickly realized that she needed to pick which path to take with her career.
“Seeing how a product evolves from an original concept, to a sketch, to a prototype, and then come to life with color and texture is truly rewarding. Designers are powerful. We essentially make decisions for our customers that influence how they choose to portray themselves to the world.”
Originally from Houston, Texas, but lived most of her life in Dallas, Texas, Holly moved to New York City as an intern for Donna Karan in 2003, which furthered her passion for both the technical and creative aspects of design. She then made her way back to Dallas after attending Oklahoma State University majoring in Apparel Design.
What is the process of designing a boot?
When I think about cowboy boots, I imagine it’s a blank canvas. There is so much freedom and opportunity you can take when designing a cowboy boot that you don’t have with any other type of footwear, and that’s what makes my job so fun, there are really no boundaries. When beginning the process of designing a boot, you first have to forget design all together. It is our job to figure out why Lucchese will produce the next groundbreaking product, why it will be “better” or more valuable than the others. It starts with the customer. What do they need and what will they need? Then, begins the research of current and future trends, selecting a color pallet, SKU count, product end use, etc. Do I stick with a neutral color pallet, or do I take a risk with color and pattern? What is trending in fashion – if monotone neutrals are walking the runways of Paris, will customers want a statement shoe this season? It is important to be aware of what happened last season, then decide how you best believe trends will evolve next season.
Once I have these details mapped out, sketching begins. Other than simple pattern lines, I have to consider colors, textures, hardware, stitch details, seams, edge finishes, symmetry/asymmetry and finishing treatments, all while keeping in mind the fit and function of the product. All of this information is compiled into detailed tech packs, which are reviewed with the production team before prototypes and final samples are made. These samples are presented to a select team of experts from each division within Lucchese, and a final collection is selected for the season.
How do you get your inspiration?
I am constantly inspired by the vast array of handmade Lucchese boots that have been preserved and cherished by many over the past 136 years. Vintage stitch patterns, ornate wingtips and collars, hand-tooling – these traditional western details will never go out of style, and I will never get tired of studying their composition. I am also inspired by architecture. You can find endless stitch patterns hidden in archways, iron gates, mosaics, cornices, spires, and on and on. While we may have become more efficient with our production techniques, the old-school way of hand-lasting our proprietary twisted cone last has stayed relatively the same. Hearing people say it is “a lost art” is an understatement!
Tell us about a previous design collaboration.
I had the privilege to collaborate with fashion model, Erin Wasson. Her fun-loving eclectic style made for the perfect collaboration. Being a Texan herself, it was a natural fit to work together as she was familiar with Lucchese and the Western lifestyle. We knew we wanted to create something for everyone – edgy booties, traditional western boots, and exotic one-of-a-kind pinnacle pieces. The collection presented itself as a highly sought-after vignette of dark midnight tones with a high-fashion feel. Erin has continuously styled each boot in her own way (look at her Instagram feed). Her strong following of fashionistas have not only been loyal customers but have been begging for more! We are currently working on our second collaboration, introducing unexpected silhouettes with the same eclectic DNA. We look forward to seeing how this next collection is received in the Fall of 2020.
What is your favorite shoe to ever design?
Do I have to pick just one? I have several favorites, and all for different reasons.
The Zita bootie is bold and confident and everything that a true western boot customer should be. Using a red genuine python, I decided to utilize our hand-finishing artisans to burnish and tone the skin to look as if it has been worn and loved for many years. I feel this bootie is both modern with its short height and tight ankle fit, and classic Lucchese with its hand finishing and iconic toe-shape.
The Odette was designed using an aggressive exotic crocodile skin on the vamp, but I wanted to soften and elevate it by pairing it with a tonal top, giving it an elegant and timeless look. This style was launched over the Holiday season, which proved to be the perfect pair for parties and events.
The Priscilla needs no introduction. Who doesn’t need a knee-high black patent intricately stitched cowboy boot in their wardrobe? This boot is great any way you wear it. We currently sell it in six different colors and materials, from wedding-boot white to rugged suede.
Give us a sneak peek of what’s to come.
The new women’s casual collection is a new and exciting category for Lucchese coming Fall 2019. Our customers wear more than just boots, so we thought we would offer a variety of footwear options that have the same quality and fit, but have a more casual weekend look and feel. I asked myself, when I take my Lucchese’s off, what do I put on? A sneaker? A driving moccasin? A stylish wedge? When designing this new collection, I wanted to stay true to our roots. For example, I took our Classic star wingtip from the Lucchese archives and found a creative way to incorporate the essence of it onto the women’s cup sole sneaker. Stay tuned!
“You can’t be all things to all people. The path I chose to take was to design products for real women. Real women want to purchase items that give them confidence but also feel personal and comfortable. It’s about being comfortable in your own skin – this is a key component I think about when designing, especially in today’s world.”
For more information about Holly Mery, follow @makerofmery on Instagram.