Painted Bird Footwear Takes Flight

Painted Bird Shoes

Fashion kismet – the truly magical kind — doesn’t just happen every day. But when it struck for Jennifer Samson, co-founder of newly launched footwear line Painted Bird, she swooped in to grab it — literally.

And if her new line proves successful, her story will be one oft retold. Samson, a former pr maven who helped launch the Style Network and eventually headed up West Coast pr for Ferragamo, had left her fast-paced fashion world in L.A. behind to move to Laguna Beach, raise her family and start a small interior design firm, for which she had been buying blankets from a man in India for a few of her clients. One day he returned from a trip with a beautiful pair of hand-crocheted shoes. She bought up all three pairs that he had on the spot without a second thought. And–pouf–fashion magic in the making.

Painted Bird Shoes

Painted Bird Shoes

“I started wearing them and, I swear nothing like this ever happened to me in fashion before,” said Samson. “[It seemed like] every 10 seconds people came up to me saying, ‘I love those shoes!’ ”

Sensing a fabulous opportunity, Samson joined forces with friend Nicole Halperin, a former merchandiser at Quiksilver and together they approached the buyer to help connect them with the manufacturer in India. Before they knew it, they had the North American rights to exclusively produce the shoes.

“When I saw the shoes for the first time, for me it was like the perfect merger between the ballet flat and the espadrille,” said Samson. The flats, which retail for $72, are foot candy for the casual-chic set. All are hand-crocheted in India and come in 20 different patterns and four solid colors, with a choice of either a flat or ankle-strap style.

(My personal favorite: The orange-and-turquoise ankle strap that is pure summer in a shoe. And like Samson, I am stopped constantly when I am wearing them!)

Painted Bird shoes

“I live in Laguna beach now and I want things to be chic, but I also want them to be easy,” said Samson. “And you can’t wear an espadrille out with a minidress for dinner.”

Samson, who is a self-professed vintage shopper and hunter of unusual finds, said she was drawn to the exotic feel of the shoes that spoke to a treasure found in a faraway place.

“We’re more colorful when we’re able to pull from all corners of the world to express our personal style,” she said.

The pair designs the styles and colorways, working with the manufacturer to create all of the exclusive colors and patterns. A team of seven women hand crochets the shoes, and it takes roughly eight days to make 100 pairs, not including the dying of the yarn. Samson said that they are stringent about fair wages and ensuring that no child labor is used.

In fact, Painted Bird will be launching a kids’ collection in the Painted Bird Shoesspring and will be working to include a charity tie-in with the sales of the shoes. For now, Samson said that they don’t want to overwhelm the manufacturer with orders, so they are moving slowly, but if it proves successful there are definitely more plans for expansion in the works.

And they are certainly off to a great start: The company sold out of its first shipment in days when the site launched earlier in the month.

“We want to be selective about who is carrying them,” said Samson. “They are handmade and we want to keep them that way.”

Go to the Fashion Trends Daily Facebook page to win a pair of your very own! Painted Bird shoes are currently sold online at Painted Bird and will be carried at Laguna Supply in Laguna Beach; Stand up Paddle Company and The Mini Shop, Minnie Mortimer’s boutique in Brentwood.

Photos courtesy Painted Bird

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Author:Michelle Dalton Tyree

Fashion Trends Daily is the brainchild of Michelle Dalton Tyree. She is the former West Coast Retail Editor for Women’s Wear Daily, Fashion Editor for The Japan Times, and founder of former L.A. luxury boutique Iconology. Michelle is frequently quoted about fashion retail trends in major media outlets such as NPR, KPCC, The Inside Source and the New York Times. She has developed content for many luxury brands and retailers and has written for Allure, Worth Global Style Network, Footwear News and other media outlets.