Donald J Pliner's spring shoe collection is catching the attention of shoppers, but his focus is elsewhere. He's already working on spring 2013.
That's the way the fashion industry rolls, one step — or two — ahead of the current season, which explains why Pliner pauses just a few seconds when asked to describe this spring's collection.
“It's a lot about flowers and a lot of metallic,” he said.
And comfort. Always comfort.
“The most important thing about anything I do is comfort, but there's a really beautiful flower story done through the years ... bright fuchsia, warm colors, bronze. Color combinations are very sensual, very warm, yet very earthy,” said Pliner, who returns to Oklahoma City for a personal appearance at Dillard's, Penn Square, on April 6.
For spring, cork figures prominently on soles and the upper body of shoes because it's durable, comfortable and neutral. But Pliner always likes to slip in a surprise, and this season it is marble-painted woven cork on wedges and pumps.
Don't even question whether they're comfortable. Pliner is so serious about comfort that he uses elastic in all his shoes. Often it's tucked into the construction; sometimes it's the overall fabric. During personal appearances, he often illustrates a shoe's flexibility by folding it in half.
He doesn't believe in sacrificing comfort for fashion. Not for women, not for men. If a shoe isn't comfortable, you're not going to wear it, he said. At least not for very long.
He knows some women are timid about wearing new shoes immediately, preferring to test-drive them in the living room for a few days before a public appearance. That's not necessary with his shoes. “You can walk out of the store wearing them,” he said.
His motto: When the feet are uncomfortable, so is the mind, so is the body, so is the soul.
That philosophy also plays into his wife's shoe collection, Lisa for Donald J Pliner, launched in fall 2010.
The most noticeable difference between the two collections is her signature green sole, but Pliner said his wife's shoes have their own identity.
“It's a whole different feeling, very fresh and extremely comfortable.”
For spring, she uses textured fish print, genuine fish skin and lace on sneakers, sandals and sexy pumps.
The shoe business seemed a natural fit for Pliner, who grew up in Chicago where his father owned a shoe store. Armed with knowledge and ideas, he moved to California and opened his own shoe and clothing stores, then designed shoes for others. He founded his own company in 1989 and a few years later introduced women to a new definition of comfort with his allover elastic shoe.
Since his last visit to Oklahoma City in fall 2009, Pliner has sold his business, though he continues as creative director focusing on design.
He's working with a team of designers on a new line, DMSX, designed for a younger customer. Look for it in stores this fall.
He's also designing a signature, high-end, limited-production collection that will be available in Donald J Pliner boutiques and a few specialty stores across the country. The company also is being resourceful to find materials and production worldwide.
Pliner said he sold the company to grow the brand and the business in more areas and at various levels.
“And hopefully have more time to spend with my wife and child,” he said.
Shoe designer Donald J Pliner will be in the women's shoe department at Dillard's in Penn Square Mall from 11 a.m. to 4 p.m. April 6.
He will sign purchases and help customers with their Donald J Pliner purchases. Women's and men's styles will be offered.