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Gabriel Morales has come home.
After a two-year stint at New York-based Nina, the designer returned last October to his post as product director of Seychelles and BC Footwear, just in time to work on the fall ’09 collections.
Morales had designed the two brands, under the umbrella of El Segundo, Calif.-based Dynasty Footwear, from 2002 until 2007 before leaving for Nina. But he soon found himself feeling homesick, so when he received a phone call from Dynasty CEO Jack Silvera asking him to come back, he needed little convincing. “Jack called and said, ‘Enough already — come home,’ and that’s about all it took,” Morales said. “I loved Nina, but it’s an evening shoe company. What I really do best is the kind of shoes BC and Seychelles stand for and the consumer they target.”
Danny Silvera, marketing director for Seychelles and BC, said the company is thrilled to have its leading designer back. “Gabe gives our company an amazing foundation, and all his experience allows us to deliver the best product,” he said. “He can address the fit, quality, design and merchandising because he knows these things down to a science.”
Morales began his footwear career in the mid-1970s as a part-time sales associate for St. Louis-based Edison Brothers Stores. “I loved the idea of traveling the world and becoming a business person involved in fashion,” he said. That passion eventually landed him roles as store manager and buyer for Edison Brothers, giving him an opportunity to hone his skills in merchandising, buying and planning. In 1994, he launched his design career at Candies, and in 1996, joined Dynasty, where he began designing the Seychelles and BC collections six years later.
Since his return, Morales is working to bring more value to the product and appeal to customers who want to get more for their money during a difficult economic time. He’s also come back just as both brands are busy highlighting new initiatives: Seychelles debuted a new logo for spring ’09 and recently partnered with Nordstrom for ongoing product exclusives, while BC will debut its new “Because ...” brand identity this fall.
In addition, Morales hinted that both Seychelles and BC will likely expand into other categories, but the main focus now is making sure the brands are well positioned to weather the contracting economy. “Right now, the goal is to be the healthiest we can be,” he said. “The only future I want to think about now is how to maintain or grow the business in this current state.”
1. What is the best part about working in a family business?
GM: There truly is a more heartfelt ambiance and a comfort level when you know you are treated like one of the family, and here we all are part of the family. To me, that means — family or not— you are expected to pull through as a team and make things happen.
2. Is there any overall theme in the Seychelles and BC designs?
GM: I draw inspiration from the street. The most inspiring fashion cities for me are Los Angeles, New York, Paris, Milan and London. Our collections are very driven by what is happening in fashion. But we don’t chase every fashion trend if it doesn’t relate to our girl’s lifestyle, which, for the most part, is casual in nature. If there is one common theme it would be that our styling is denim-friendly and vintage-inspired.
3. To that point, does comfort play a big role even though you design for a younger audience?
GM: Definitely, and that’s something our brands bring to the table in a saturated market. When I was a salesperson, I’d see a girl who absolutely loved a pair of shoes, but they would be so uncomfortable she couldn’t wear them. So comfort has always been a factor [in design] for me.