Bootmaker Lucchese expands to heels, purses

Staff Writer
Columbus Monthly

DALLAS (AP) — The 131-year-old Texas boot-maker Lucchese is kicking up its heels — literally.

This year, Lucchese began expanding its high-end offerings, starting with a fashion shoe line that includes everything from sleek sling-backs to burnished oxfords.

"It really is all about matching the desires and needs of our customer base," said William Zeitz, who helped shepherd the company though the change as executive vice president and creative director. "They lead very active, vibrant lives and boots are fine but they wanted more from Lucchese."

The idea for the expansion came after longtime customers said they would be interested in offerings of more than just boots, said Zeitz, who joined Lucchese in spring 2012 after stints at Nike and Cole Haan. With everything from brand strategy to product design in place, he left the vice president and creative director post this fall but remains a marketing consultant for the company.

El Paso-based Lucchese launched its fashion footwear collection for men and women in the spring, with advertisements running in fashion magazines including Vogue, Elle and Harper's Bazaar. This fall it rolled out a line of purses. The new offerings continue the tradition of being handmade, with the company using its signature luxurious materials including ostrich, calf, pony hair and crocodile.

Some of the new items include a nod to the company's heritage, heels in dark blue calfskin with a Western-inspired overlay that sell for about $800 and a clutch with a base inspired by the silhouette of a saddle with stirrup hardware as well — about $4,500 in crocodile, or $700 in calfskin.

Lauren Wolfenden, a senior advisory analyst at WGSN, a fashion trend consultancy, says that with the economy's improvement in recent years, the idea of "investment dressing" has taken hold.

"It didn't mean sinking tons of money into every item we were going to wear. It meant buying some maybe less conspicuous luxury items: a Celine handbag or a great boot or something that you were going to wear season after season," Wolfenden said.

James Anderton, owner of the high-end western store WEST in Beverly Hills, California, says customers familiar with Lucchese see the name when they pick up shoes from the fashion line and "it resonates with them." And for those who aren't familiar, he said, it's an opportunity to fill them in on the brand's history.

With some of the items in the new lines being made in Italy, Zeitz said the venture gives the company a chance to return to its roots in a way: The company was founded in San Antonio in 1883 by Sam Lucchese, who came to America from Sicily. In 1986, the company moved to El Paso, where all of the boots are made.

"It's nice that we get to work with the Old World and draw inspiration both creatively and artistically from Italy and then marry that with the heritage that we have in Texas," Zeitz said.