Kylie Jenner Featured in Sam Edelman’s Spring Campaign as Brand Grows Footwear, Licensed Businesses and Retail Network


In business 20 years under his own label, Sam Edelman is expanding on multiple fronts as he looks to become a $1 billion brand at retail in the near future.

In addition to footwear — which accounts for 90 percent of Edelman’s business — the Caleres-owned lifestyle brand spans such categories as dresses and outerwear, ready-to-wear, denim, handbags, kids’ shoes, hosiery and slippers.

Now, in a major moment for the brand, Edelman, cofounder and creative director, will feature Kylie Jenner in its spring advertising campaign, photographed by Chris Colls, with creative direction by David Lipman. The campaign breaks Monday.

“I’m honored to be a part of the Sam Edelman campaign as the brand celebrates their 20th anniversary. Mr. Edelman’s designs are fashion-forward yet simple, and their quality and comfort allow any person wearing them to feel powerful and confident,” said Kylie Jenner, the brand’s ambassador.

The ad campaign shoot, which took place in Los Angeles over a single day, took seven days of preparation. Edelman discovered Colls seven months ago when he saw his photographs in a feature in Elle France about Gisele Bündchen, and Edelman called his chief marketing officer and Lipman, and said, “I’m crazy about Chris,” so they hired him for the campaign.

Kylie Jenner in Sam Edelman spring campaign.

Kylie Jenner in Sam Edelman’s spring campaign.

Chris Colls, courtesy of Sam Edelman

No stranger to the footwear business, Edelman got his start in the industry more than 45 years ago by launching the footwear division for Ralph Lauren and Esprit, holding an executive role at Candies and serving as cofounder of Kenneth Cole Productions. He went on to establish Sam & Libby in 1987, the Sam Edelman brand in 2004, and Circus NY by Sam Edelman in 2010.

“We believe we have the potential to have the apparel, handbags, the perfume and all the things we are doing, to equal 50 percent of the business in the next two years,” Edelman said in an exclusive interview with WWD. With Caleres’ backing, he has highly ambitious plans for the brand, which is simultaneously growing its international retail network, wholesale business, e-commerce site, licensed brands and its mainstay, footwear.

“Working with our parent company, I believe we’ll be a billion-dollar brand [at retail]. I don’t think there’s any limit,” said Edelman, who declined to give an exact time frame. “I would say soon,” he added.

“We’re the number-one women’s footwear business in many of the bellwether places in America,” he said.

Turning to opportunities for the brand, Edelman said, “Coming off the pandemic, the world was askew, it was hard to get a handle on things. We came off the pandemic, and we had a spectacular year. I think there was a huge pent-up demand for something new, something fun, something interesting and anything to get away from stretch [she was wearing stretch pants and an old pair of sneakers for two years]. And the year after the pandemic, we had our best year ever.

“Libby [Edelman] and I have always been known for flats — ballets and sandals. Over the last eight years, we’ve become an incredibly formidable force in dress shoes,” said Edelman. “As a matter of fact, we have the number-one pump in America, maybe the number-one pump in the world — the Hazel pump.”

He said the number-one and number-two shoes in their line are the pump and bit loafer.

Jay Schmidt, president and chief executive officer of Caleres, the Clayton, Mo.-based global footwear company, said, “I’m so excited for Sam, Libby and the entire Edelman team as they celebrate 20. When I think about what makes Sam a leader in the footwear space, it’s really his ability to design iconic shoes that his consumers love year after year. From his low ballets to the Bay Sandal to the Hazel dress pump, he’s that special talent that keeps delivering. The team has taken that same approach with sneakers recently, and I’m impressed by the growth coming from that effort.

“In his 20th year in business, we are seeing international expansion as well as sportswear and handbag growth from new licensed partners. And now with his latest marketing campaign with Kylie Jenner, it’s no wonder that Sam Edelman is a lead brand in the Caleres portfolio,” said Schmidt.

Sam Edelman has seven licensing partners and remains on the lookout for licensees in the home category and costume jewelry, among others. “We have a terrific group of partners and we’re having big successes in a couple of the areas right away,” said Edelman.

He said he’s done extremely well at Nordstrom with women’s coats, licensed to S. Rothschild.

“There’s a huge opportunity in men’s for us. We’re now in talks with a bunch of home people, and girls and boys is very interesting to us,” said Edelman. He noted that he’s launching a perfume with Parlux in about 10 months, “and hopefully that will lead us into the beauty and skin care business.”

Edelman launched an eau de parfum right at the start of the pandemic, but the timing was wrong and they had to take a break. It was called Sam Edelman. “It was a tough time to launch, and we redesigned the bottle and the fragrance and have a new fragrance licensee, and we’re thrilled with the opportunity we have with Parlux,” he said.

Last fall the company licensed fashion handbag firm HB Connections for a handbag line, which is launching in 134 Dillard’s stores.

Another key opportunity for Edelman is opening more freestanding stores in the U.S. He plans to aggressively pursue that again over the next several years. At present Edelman has four stores: two in New York City, one in Paramus, N.J., and one in Beverly Hills.

In a 50-50 partnership with Luen Thai Holdings in China, the company has 60 stores in China and seeks to grow to 100 units over the next 18 months. It also has five stores in the Middle East (United Arab Emirates, Kuwait and Bahrain), a store in Tel Aviv, Israel and one in Monterrey, Mexico. They are franchised.

Denim and rtw are growing substantially. Last year the company signed a licensing agreement with One Jeanswear Group, headed by CEO Jack Gross, and has orders from most department stores, said Edelman. Among the key ones carrying the apparel are Dillard’s, which is its number-one account; Belk’s; Nordstrom, and Macy’s. Apparel averages $160.

Generally, Sam Edelman apparel is housed on the contemporary floor.

“The apparel is a great opportunity and it’s well-placed and it’s well-styled. I believe that Libby and I have done a terrific job working with our design teams, and it tells the Sam Edelman story,” he said.

Asked who the Sam Edelman apparel customer is, he said it’s the same person as the footwear. They design for a 29-year-old woman, but the average age is much older. He noted that his wife, Libby, is their cofounder, muse and fashion director.

“We use Libby as our muse and we use Libby for her aesthetic and her spirit,” he said.

They are targeting the aspirational customer who understands runway and fashion. “We find a way to interpret that for the American woman,” he said. He said he offers her fit, comfort and quality, and of course, value. Edelman’s footwear averages $140 at retail. “Our shoes are equal quality and better fit than $900 shoes,” he claimed.

The footwear is carried in stores such as Nordstrom, Bloomingdale’s, Dillard’s and Macy’s. Edelman said they’ve had the number-one shoe on the Macy’s floor for the last year, which is their Lorraine bit loafer.

Earlier this month Edelman and Nordstrom revealed they were partnering on the retailer’s yearlong Make Room for Shoes campaign. The partnership includes an exclusive capsule collection of sneakers designed by emerging talents at Savannah College of Art and Design. During the spring semester, select SCAD students had the opportunity to work alongside Edelman to create an assortment of sneakers offering a fresh perspective from today’s youth. The sneakers are being offered exclusively at 33 select Nordstrom stores nationwide and on nordstrom.com.

“We’ve been proud to carry Sam Edelman since Sam and Libby started the brand in 2004, and the brand continues to be one of our customers favorites,” said Tacey Powers, Nordstrom’s executive vice president and general merchandise manager for shoes. “They’ve been great about working with us and going all in to offer trend-right footwear in key categories they’ve become known for, like flats, sandals and boots. The combination of luxury sensibility and street inspiration at affordable price points really resonates with our customer,” said Powers, adding that she’s excited about the exclusive Sam Edelman capsule collection of sneakers designed by SCAD students.

Edelman plans to make personal appearances at Nordstrom on April 4 in Scottsdale, Arizona and April 6 in Dallas.

Explaining what prompted him to select the 26-year-old Jenner as the face of his brand’s spring ad campaign, as well as next fall, Edelman said, “I thought it was a great time to do something cathartic for the brand. We started with Naomi Campbell about 18 months ago, and we saw this increase in sales. We tripled our online sales for about 60 days,” he said.

He’s worked with David Lipman on and off for 20 years, and said he has been aggressively working with the team, himself and Libby trying to figure out what to do next. With the world changing very quickly, he wanted to do something dramatic.

“Kylie represents something so special in today’s world,” he said, adding she’s a successful entrepreneur and a mother, and family is important to his company. “She represents an aspirational quality for women across the world today that is unparalleled. Her beauty emanates not only on the outside…the camera brings it alive.”

Behind-the-scenes with Sam Edelman, David Lipman and Kylie Jenner at the shoot.

Behind-the-scenes at the shoot with Sam Edelman, David Lipman and Kylie Jenner.

Courtesy of Sam Edelman

“The biggest thing that happened with Kylie was watching her emotional response to the product we designed. She fell in love with our shoes. She fell totally in love with them during the style-outs. She couldn’t believe they could be as pretty as they are and as comfortable as they are,” he said. Edelman said Jenner likes high heels and was excited she could wear the brand’s high heels for hours and feel no discomfort.

Asked what hero products Jenner is promoting in the campaign, Edelman replied it’s primarily the pumps, and then the ballet shoes. “We’re famous for ballets, and ballets are in fashion and they’re huge. They’re on fire right now. And our mary jane ballerinas are driving our business. And Kylie’s wearing our mary jane ballets, studded.”

The campaign and design process are centered around the word “love.” Edelman said when he’s editing and going through the product, he’ll ask the team, “‘Do you love it?’ If you don’t, we just drop it,” he said. “The shoes look great on Kylie,” he said, adding a viewer can tell her appreciation for the product from her expression.

“There will be tons of shots of her wearing our shoes but in reality, it’s her eyes that tell the love for the brand,” he said.

The campaign was styled by George Cortina, with makeup by Ariel Tejada and hair by Jesus Guerrero.

Out-of-home images will appear in Boston, Washington, D.C., Miami, Los Angeles and New York. Digital will also be a big component, as well as wholesale channels such as Nordstrom and Macy’s. There will also be extensive point-of-sale displays.

Lipman, founder of Lipman Studio, said he has known Edelman for 30 years, and they did the Naomi Campbell campaign together. “He’s like a brother. This is a campaign that really speaks to Sam the man and the brand.”

He chose Jenner because she has a soulful spirit, and that it’s not just a shoe campaign, but one about a woman who loves her shoes. Before the shoot, Jenner came to Lipman and said, “I can’t believe how good the shoes are and how good they feel.” They [Edelman and Jenner] met and there was instant camaraderie.

“For me, it’s become one of the most significant campaigns I’ve done in 25 years,” said Lipman.

Edelman said he’s very appreciative of the support he receives from Caleres. “This is Libby’s and my third time at the rodeo,” he said.

He recalled that he had big success at Esprit when the couple were in their 30s, and it became the number-one junior shoe business. In their late 30s and early 40s, they were successful with Sam & Libby, which became the number-one junior shoe business in the U.S. He came out of retirement to join forces with Caleres (formerly Brown Shoe Co.) and for the past 20 years they’ve built a concrete foundation. “Sam & Libby was a sensation and it is again,” he said. The Sam & Libby brand is relaunching at retail this spring.

Sam Edelman

Sam Edelman

Saul Martinez/WWD

Sam & Libby is also owned by Caleres and is a less expensive footwear line geared toward such stores as Famous Footwear (owned by Caleres), Carnival, Belk and Macy’s. Sam and Libby Edelman serve as creative directors, and their son, Jesse Edelman, senior vice president, general manager of Sam Edelman, runs three divisions — Sam Edelman, Sam & Libby and Circus NY.

“Caleres gave us the ability to have controlled growth with tremendous support,” said Edelman.

The spring collections are available at samedelman.com and in retail stores worldwide.

The company’s website represents “a substantial portion” of the Edelman business “and is growing nicely,” he noted. In 2025, they plan to renovate their flagship in SoHo at 109 Spring Street, which they’ve had for 10 years. He said the store is a great location to tell their story, and on many Saturday afternoons, they’ve had well over 800 people visit.

Eventually, apparel will take up a larger space, accounting for 20 to 25 percent in the store design.

One of the biggest challenges and opportunities is the tremendous growth in sport. “I’m growing sport dramatically in footwear first and then I’ll do the same things in other product lines. Our sneakers are very popular right now, especially the Layla, which is our jogger,” said Edelman. “We would like to see sneakers double in the next year or two in the penetration of our business.”

They’ve always done a small selection of sneakers, but it’s big now. “Consumers are telling us she loves them. Over 50 percent of reorders last week were in sneakers, and that’s February,” he said. They are concentrating on denim, and eventually will enter active sportswear. He said tall boots were phenomenal this year. Sexy, low boots will be big in fall of 2024.



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