Chuckies, an Upper East Side purveyor of women’s shoes (Yves Saint Laurent, Rochas, Georgina Goodman, Lanvin, and Maloles) with locations on both Madison and Third avenues, has quietly become the destination for both shoe-aholics and fashion craving celebs, but they’re still one of New York’s best undiscovered fashion resources. With the cult of the shoe on the rise, we sense this is about to change. Meghan Cleary sat down with Richard Erani, the visionary behind Chuckies, to find out more.
JCR: Richard, who is the brains behind the buying at Chuckies?
RE: I would hardly call it brains, maybe balls is more like it, and it’s me, the owner and proprietor.
JCR: What do you look for in a line to stock it in the store?
RE: The big things we look for are style, quality, and dignity. By that I mean: what other stores do they place their product in, and is that complementary with our aesthetic? Do they stand behind their product? I.e., if there’s a fit problem or something like that.
JCR: How would you define your aesthetic?
RE: Definitely trendy, I like to be ahead of everyone. It’s a joke among many of my colleagues that I want to have the shoe before it actually enters the designer’s head! I’ll push some of my ideas and thoughts to the designers to make things look a little different from the year before. But at the same time, I love certain shapes and silhouettes that are classic and timeless.
JCR: It’s quite a feat for independent stores to secure the brands you have secured, how did you amass such a quality selection of labels for Chuckies?
RE: I started buying designers like Dolce & Gabbana, Giuseppe Zanotti, Alexander McQueen, and Miu Miu before they even had their own stores in New York. Being such an early adopter of styles and lines that maybe weren’t in the mainstream gave me credence in the market and among the shoe designers — that carries on now. That and sleeping with as many people as I can.
JCR: The cult of the shoe has been building steadily for the last five years. How do you think shows like “Sex in the City,” online publications including shoeblogs.com and sneakerfreak.org, have had an impact on glamorizing shoe addiction for both women and men?
RE: I think they’ve definitely had an impact. I mean so many of our customers thought they and Imelda were the only shoe addicts, now they see it’s a lot of women. Shoes are definitely the most glamorous thing to buy, you can be fat, skinny, pregnant, or feel just plain bad that day, but a good pair of shoes can make you feel better, even if it’s just for a day.
JCR: A man after my own heart. How has this cultural swell had an impact on selling shoes? In your opinion, is the demand for shoes now more crazed than ever?
RE: For me, it just puts more pressure on us to have the hottest and newest shoes and boots. Shoes are sold everywhere now at every price point, so we have to be constantly ahead of the curve when it comes to selecting our lines and creating an environment that people want to return to, because they know they can get the newest and most innovative.
JCR: In your estimation, why do American women play it safe when it comes to shoes? And why have you built your business on the push factor, giving women what they never knew they wanted?
RE: I just think some customers look at shopping for buying just what they need, which is so boring. They want to be able to wear the evening shoe with jeans, pants, out to dinner, can I wear it to work every day? Can I wear it on my hiking trip with my boyfriend next week? At Chuckies we are not afraid to say no and put our foot down with this customer — if this is going to be the only pair of shoes in your closet, don’t buy them. That’s where the push comes in. Then of course, they usually realize they have probably at least twenty pairs of shoes in their closet and this is an exciting new addition, rather than a multifunctional shoe that has to go everywhere.
JCR: What shoe have women really embraced at your stores this season, that was a bit of a surprise?
RE: Shockingly expensive shoes! Also big, high wedges by Yves Saint Laurent and slouch boots.
JCR: I saw a million iterations of the “Spring Boot” at WSA in August this year, what do you think are the key shoe essentials for next spring?
RE: Definitely platform sandals, and worked-in cowboy boots — but not in black and preferably with some crystal detailing. Also anything in leopard.
JCR: Who is your ideal customer?
RE: Our ideal customer is really anyone who is open-minded and willing to try new things. Someone who wants to go out of their comfort zone a little bit and definitely someone for whom shoes are a major accessory and part of life.
JCR: On a personal note, what was your first pair of shoes?
RE: The ones that stick out in my mind were a pair of black pointy shoes I bought when I was 17 years old, from a vintage store called Trash and Vaudeville in the East Village. I still have a bump on my instep from them being too tight.
JCR: What are your favorite pair of shoes? Where did you get them?
RE: Right now, I have a pair of Varda lace-up boots with fur inside. I added a thick rubber sole to them to make them cooler. I change everything I buy!
JCR: What’s the most you ever paid for a pair of shoes?
RE: Oh wow, I don’t really remember, but lately I’ve been averaging about the same on every pair: $500.