adidas marathon 10 Little Shoebox steps into world of custom design
She liked the stylish wedge, but didn’t love it. If only the front had a neat little twist, like another pair she had at home. That twist was so snappy. And comfortable.
“Can you do a black twist?” Kaplan, of Guilford, asked Dorinne Tal, the shoes’ designer, as she waved the sample shoe in the air.
“Of course!” Tal said, her favorite phrase of the afternoon.
And with that happy accommodation, Kaplan bought that pair of wedges, plus three more.
“Is there a bank around here I could go rob?” Kaplan asked, with a laugh, as she modeled pair number four.
In scenes like this repeated throughout the day, Tal’s recent five hour visit to the Little Shoebox in Ruxton proved profitable to all involved.
Customers left satisfied and a few pairs of shoes richer. The store’s owners made multiple sales and all but guaranteed repeat patronage. And Tal, armed with a clipboard, learned what it is her customers really want to see in her shoes.
“I never bought a pair [of Tal’s shoes] because I don’t wear slides,” says Melissa Gray, a Towson divorce attorney who lives in Timonium. “Now that I see you can add straps to anything, I’m a happy girl!”
Customers personalized their shoe orders all afternoon: Adding a halter in the back for support. Exchanging satin for suede on the inside to prevent sliding. Changing metallic stripes to leopard print well, just because.
Tal’s responses to just about every request: Yes. Of course. Absolutely.
“Try having Calvin Klein do that,” says Kaplan.
One shoe at a time customization is indeed rare in the shoe business. It’s very expensive, for one, and time consuming.
“They’ll probably make more money than I will,” says Tal, referring to store owners Janie Griffin and Emilie Blaze, who have been selling designer label shoes such as Oscar de la Renta, Kate Spade,
Michael Kors and Missoni for 13 months.
But the one day trunk show wasn’t about money. Tal made the road trip from New York with her husband and her car full of elaborately patterned, imaginative shoes because of her admiration for Griffin and Blaze.
“This is called sacrifice,” she says, while writing up order after painstakingly nitpicked order. “This is called love.”
Tal’s is a smallish operation, she says, that does better, for some reason, in cities in the South and on the West Coast. But the Little Shoebox owners took a chance last year on Tal’s then 10 year old shoe business.
And women in Baltimore those who have $225 to $325 to spend on her shoes have been fans ever since.
“We’re sort of a quirky little company,” says Tal. “We’re not a highly recognized label yet. But when they opened up, they sought us out and we appreciate that. They have a high taste level, so I’m honored to be here.”
The love is mutual. Women including the store’s owners, who took mini breaks to try on new designs for themselves adore Tal’s shoes.
“It’s fabulous! It’s not only gorgeous, it’s comfortable,” says Debra Scheffenacker of Baltimore, as she modeled a dark gold snakeskin pair with a comely, front cross ankle strap. “I have no idea what I’m going to wear it with, but I’m not worried about it.”
That’s the thing about Olivia Rose Tal, so named after the designer’s two daughters. The slides and mules with tastefully juxtaposed fabrics, brocades and animal prints, the pearls and bows and blinged out baubles of Swarovski crystal, the textures and rich colors, the straps and chunky platform heels all combine to make statement shoes that need no corresponding outfit choice. “The finished shoes are centerpieces. Shoes people notice, in a good way. Another thing that makes these shoes so desirable is exclusivity. Everyone knows about Manolos and [Jimmy] Choos. Olivia Rose Tal are under the mass culture radar, publicized very little and sold only in exclusive shops.”
Pedersen says Tal’s shoes are popular with New York socialites, Bal Harbour women and the Hamptons set.
But Tal also designs for those Baltimore women who shop at the Little Shoebox. The attorneys and stay at home mothers, with their Isabella Fiore handbags. The Chanel loving retirees who spend winters in warmer places. The stylish working women with keen eyes for style.
“I can’t wear the kind of clothes my daughters wear and I don’t want to. It’s inappropriate,” says Tal. “But I want the shoes. And I still want them to be exciting.”