Statement footwear for even the most discerning fashionista is the product of Australian label Billini.
With shoe creations fit for strutting the catwalks of Paris, Milan and New York, sisters Suzannah and Melissa have created a brand offering high-end pieces, minus the hefty price tag.
The duo says they are inspired by “runway trends, A-list celebrities, style icons and street-style” in conceptualising their designs.
Founded in 2009, the brand’s assortment of luxe sandals, statement heels and chic wedges can be found in more than 200 boutiques across Australia – and on the feet of thousands of stylish Australian women.
Editor, Michelle Larin, interviewed Suzannah and Melissa to discover more about the label which ever so frequently adorns her own feet!
Q: Suzannah, can you tell me a bit about yourself and how you came to work in the fashion industry?
A: For over 8 years - whilst studying law part-time - I worked in the fashion industry gaining extensive experience in retail buying, design and product development. But even though fashion has always been a strong passion of mine, after all of the blood, sweat and tears that I poured into my studies, I decided to practice law. After 12 months in the industry it didn’t take long for me to realise my days of sitting in a court room were numbered. I realised I needed to put my creativity to better use and so I pursued my dream to work in fashion and can confidently say I made the right move!
“Billie” was the first label I launched in 2007, before founding Billini with my sister Melissa a couple of years later. Billini offers the latest designs that are effortlessly chic and instinctively cool.
Q: What do you both love about designing shoes?
A: The most rewarding part of our job is the satisfaction of seeing Billini shoes on people in the street or on celebrities. It makes all the hard work worthwhile.
Q: Tell me about the process of sketching a shoe design. How much work is involved?
A: The beginning of a season is always an exciting time. We begin the design journey by researching seasonal trends and then head overseas to source further inspiration. Our aim is to combine the latest street and high fashion trends and translate this energy into designs relevant to the Australian market. When designing we pay particular attention to the last (shoe shape), upper material, inner sole, trims, lining and overall functionality of our designs. A mood board and story board are formed and the sketches are later brought to life with the aid of design programs, allowing us to sample necessary colours and materials.
Q: What types of materials are used in the creation of Billini shoes?
A: Typically, Billini is a synthetic footwear label – which helps to keep our prices affordable. However, the label launched its first ever leather piece - the Lorna Wooden Clog - featured in the Spring/Summer 2013/14 ‘Hola Mexico’ collection.
The design team has an extensive material library on hand that is forever growing. As fabric is a key element to our designs, the team spends hours at fabric markets all over the world to source the finest materials and trims. On-trend fabrics and colours are the focus.
Q: What inspires your shoe designs/styles?
A: The Billini design team has long been inspired by the streets of London, New York, Milan, Tokyo and, of course, Sydney. The team travels abroad on regular buying trips to source the latest footwear trends and to tailor them to our label’s target market.
Q: How many pairs of each style of shoe are put into production?
A: We produce over 500 pairs per style.
Q: How much emphasis is placed on both comfort and style? Is it difficult to get the balance right?
A: Aesthetics and comfort are equally important components for the label as Billini prides itself on creating comfortable yet stylish footwear. This balance is easier to achieve with more classic pieces, but can be challenging at times with fashion pieces. Distinct style enhances a shoes shelf appeal but comfort is what makes consumers come back for more.
Q: What type of woman would buy Billini shoes?
A: The Billini customer is aged between 15 and 35 years. She is cool and chic, values on-trend designs and quality product at an affordable price point. The Billini customer wants to maintain an up-to-the minute look for less - versatility and accessibility are key pull factors for her.
Q: What’s the best selling shoe in your collection at the moment?
A: That’s very difficult to say, but our bestselling category is certainly sandals which is reflective of the Australian lifestyle.
Q: How many pairs of shoes call home to both of your wardrobes right now?
Suzannah: I’m close to 70. I often style an outfit from the bottom up, so a girl needs options right?!
Melissa: The last time I checked it was 52. Shoes to me are a comfort item. They are also something you can’t have enough of.
Billini shoes can be purchased from the label’s website www.billini.com and can also be found at various boutiques and major stockists Australia-wide, including Wanted Shoes, Tony Bianco, Freelance Shoes, Universal Store, Transit Clothing, Shoe Shed and The Iconic.
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