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2009 December 2

Stepping It Up...

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 Giuseppe Zanotti with Alexandre Birman Giuseppe Zanotti with Alexandre Birman
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(NEW YORK) It takes some serious wrangling to get Ashanti, Zappos founder Tony Hsieh, Georgina Chapman, and the Florsheim brothers into one room--even if that room is the Four Seasons. Leave it to Footwear News, or "FN," as industry types whisper, and its editorial director Michael Atmore to gather the troops. The cause? The 2009 Footwear News Achievement Awards & Hall of Fame festivities, which drew a clubby crowd and plenty of honorees to Park Avenue for cocktails, hors d'oeuvres, and plenty of inside baseball.

This year, several parties stepped up the glam factor. Ashanti, who anointed Giuseppe Zanotti as designer of the year, showed off her glittering booties as her go-to cobbler offered up a speech shortened (due to too much "very good" Four Seasons wine). Tabitha Simmons, one of the three Launch of the Year recipients, brought Chapman and other Brit chicsters to her table, while the South American contingent was well-represented at Alexandre Birman's two tables, which drew Vogue's Filipa Fino, Neiman Marcus' Roopal Patel, and plenty of friends and supporters. Birman is slated to open his first flagship in Sao Paulo in 2010.

"I have worked with shoes all my life," said the Brazilian designer and recipient of the Vivian Infantino Emerging Talent Award who came of age in his family's factories and only debuted in the U.S. for Spring 2008. "But I am a little bit nervous, because now I have to live up to this award!"

Skechers' Michael Greenberg pronounced Skechers Shape-Ups to be the "launch of the century," which elicited amused expressions from more than a few fellow bigwigs. But a bit of poignancy occurred with Sam and Libby Edelman, whose Sam Edelman won Brand of the Year, thanked the industry that encouraged them to reinvent themselves. "We're celebrating our thirtieth anniversary this year," said Sam Edelman, which elicited a round of applause. But it was the celebration of Florsheim by Duckie Brown that the audience found most heart-warming. "They think we're weird, we think they're weird," joked one-half of the design team of Daniel Silver and Steven Cox. (You know who you are.) But it was the great-looking shoes, representing the marriage of a heritage brand with cutting-edge design talent, that served as a harbinger of the industry's future. Judging from these festivities, it's pretty bright.
ASHLEY BAKER




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