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3 Questions for Laura Unruh

The founder of Lou.Earl talks about maintaining quality at affordable price points.

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Laura Unruh designs for smart chicks.

The Pasadena, Calif.-based designer, who has worked for Dr. Scholl's, Nordstrom and Yellow Box, will launch a women's label, Lou.Earl, this fall with a strong focus on leather flats. The collection, which retails for $150 to $300, ranges from boot to derby styles, with heels on the horizon, Unruh said.

Her premiere collection will be launched in select boutiques, including San Francisco's Solemates and Santa Monica's Lorin Shoes, as well as online at Louearlshoes.com.

"Although Lou.Earl will be in stores this August throughout California, I've had quite a good reaction from New Yorkers and Seattleites," said Unruh. "The brand has much more of a classic city feel to it."

Here, the designer talks inspiration and maintaining quality at affordable price points.

1. Your collection is marketed toward "smart chicks." How do your shoes reflect that?

LU: I define "smart chicks" as women who are independent in their thinking and really stay true to who they are. Women who are intelligent, educated, well-mannered and aren't afraid to speak their mind. For my first collection, I used classic yet slightly trend-driven lasts. I wanted to offer a collection that could be worn straight out of the closet three or four years from now. The shoes reflect a classic mannerism that looks great on the shelves as well as when worn; they stand alone or truly are a complement.

2. What was your inspiration for the collection?

LU: I was able to narrow down my vision because of what I noticed while shopping myself. I love shopping at Neiman Marcus and Bergdorf Goodman, and I really appreciate all of the fresh designs and attention to detail and quality, but there have been times where I would just feel awful for spending too much on shoes. I've always been able to design something fresh and lead trends, so I thought, why not create a brand that is affordable and a trend-leader? So many mainstream brands are afraid to step outside of their comfort zone anymore and really create something fresh and exciting. I coincide with trends but at a classic pace, and I do my best to create something new while also not being too forward.  

3. Craftsmanship seems important to you, how do you maintain that at an affordable price point?

LU: I have a manufacturer that understands my vision and understands that the small details are the most important to me. If you have great lasts and materials to work with, then the real issue is designing a product that is stellar. Consumers really can see the overall difference between a product that's been invested in and one that has been slapped together. I've worked with companies that could care less if they use an oxford last to create a boot, and for me, that's just not okay. Fitting, details and quality are the most important aspects to me. I strive to do my best to create something great for the girl or woman who admires all of the great couture designers but can't afford them.