Donald J Pliner isn’t bragging when he says most of his shoes can be worn out of the store with no worry about discomfort. It’s simply a statement of fact. This is the man who turned the shoe world on its heel with his all-over stretch microfiber shoe in 1994. He is as concerned with fit as fashion. No matter how fashionable a shoe is, he said, if it doesn’t fit and isn’t comfortable, no one will want to wear it. "Everything I do is about comfort,” said Pliner, who will be at Dillard’s, Penn Square Mall, on Friday. Comfort always has been important, and it continues to be because people are more active and spend more time on their feet these days. "Sometimes how we get dressed in the morning is how we end up at the end of the day. In order to feel good about yourself, you have to feel good,” he said. His motto: When the feet are uncomfortable, so is the mind and so is the body. That’s why elastic is somewhere within all his shoes, whether hidden or used as the primary fabric. It’s also why a fit model tests each new style by walking up and down stairs, wiggling her toes, checking placement of the ball of the foot. Shoes are put through the paces to assure perfect fit and comfort. While he designs shoes in various materials, what sets his microfiber shoes apart from others is the amount of Lycra in the mix. It’s that window of stretch, made just the right way, he said. "It stimulates the blood vessels, stops feet from swelling, keeps blood flowing, doesn’t lose its shape. It’s lined in leather, so it breathes.” People often don’t realize they’re buying microfiber shoes, he said. "You have to tell them it’s not leather. We do shoes that you think are genuine python or cobra ... you can’t believe they’re not real.” Pliner didn’t just stumble into the footwear business. He learned all about shoes at his father’s shoe store in Chicago and likes to say he was born with a silver shoehorn in his mouth. After owning clothing stores, creating his own clothing collection and designing shoes for other companies, Pliner founded his company in 1989. Five years later, he set a new standard of comfort in footwear with his all-over elastic shoes. Pliner continues to do most of the design, and he credits his wife with providing him plenty of inspiration. Lisa Pliner, creative director for the company, recently launched her signature shoe collection. The Donald J Pliner Collection also includes handbags and leather clothing. Along with designing shoes with fit and comfort in mind, the Pliners keep in mind the needs of children. Through their Peace for the Children Foundation, they build playgrounds, places where children can dream and work through their differences. They believe playgrounds can encourage communication among children. "We’re creating communication, and communication is peace,” Pliner said.
Shoe event Shoe designer Donald J Pliner will be in the women’s shoe department from 10 a.m. to 3 p.m. Friday at Dillard’s, Penn Square Mall. Along with meet and greet opportunities, gifts will be offered with purchases. Also in the shoe department will be a Donald J Pliner handbag trunk show. For more information, call 840-8495.