We often forgo comfort for beauty when it comes to wearing shoes. Erika Carrero, is the founder and creative director of Elizée shoes and has made it the company’s objective to do both, to offer beauty and comfort. Elizée launched her first collection last summer.
Erika is originally from Lima, Peru, and lives now in California. She has earned her MBA at Santa Clara University in Santa Clara, California and is a certified CPA. Erika was an executive in Silicon Valley before embarking on a career in the shoe business. One may ask how it is possible for someone to make such a momentous career leap. What do shoes have to do with Silicon Valley? Erika loved wearing high heels not only for their aesthetics but also for the additional height they gave her. However, they didn’t offer comfort and support. Her curiosity to explore making a career change was piqued, and it was a gradual transition from the tech industry to artisanal shoes. She spent six years studying by using vacation time to visit shoe artisans in the Marche region of Italy, taking seminars, and visiting shoe designers in London. Later she polished her skillset with further studies at the illustrious Arsutoria School in Milan.
The name of her company Elizée captures the joie de vivre Erika exudes. The name Elizée was inspired by the Hebrew name Alize meaning joy, and alizé, the French word for trade winds. Erika replaced the A for an E from her middle name Elizabeth. Her mother sometimes playfully calls her Eliza. Erika combines California's laid-back style and South American fashion sensibility of putting one's best foot forward at all times.
When Erika isn’t working, she may be at the beach, contemplating the waves and taking walks with her family or visiting her brother in Girona, Spain, where maybe find the inspiration for her next collection. Erika’s journey may read as a travelogue, and yet we can clearly see the hard work she had put into every step on her way.
I met up with Erika at a leisurely lunch at Restoration Hardware in New York’s trendy meatpacking district. Let’s get to learn more about Erika and her style.
When did you fall in love with shoes?
I have always loved fashion. I grew up in Peru, where dressing well and how you present yourself are ingrained in our culture. I was influenced by my mother and grandmother who were always very fashionable; my mother even ran errands in pencil skirts and stilettos! I have a vivid image of my mom getting ready wearing a light pink pencil skirt and matching color stilettos. I was very young, but I remember clearly thinking that she looked so beautiful and powerful. I think she still has that pair of shoes somewhere in the attic. That’s my first memory of looking at a pair of shoes with different eyes – and that’s when I think I fell in love with shoes and couldn’t wait until I was able to wear them myself.
Where do you draw your inspiration from?
Nature is a great inspiration for me, and when I go for hikes or even walks around neighborhood, I pay attention to everything from flowers, to trees, to the sky. I take a lot of pictures and focus on textures thinking about how that texture would look in leather. The way colors transition in a petal. I love blush, so every time I see a rose in a pink or blush tone, I take many pictures to try to capture the shades.
Right before starting the mood board for my first collection, I was in Aspen, and we hiked in these amazing caves that had rocks covered with ice. I was fascinated by them, and those rocks translated into metallics and snakeskin in my first collection. That’s how I managed to go from those rocks at Aspen to the metallics.
Now, for my second collection, I drew inspiration from the Mediterranean.
How did you decide to have your shoes made in Italy?
I have always had a great love for Italy, not only for its exquisite shoes and leather craft, but also for the traditions, the food, the people, and the language, which I have been learning for the past year. I’ve travelled extensively around Italy, and each time I love it more.
At one point I had the chance to produce in Brazil. At that time, they were catching up in the business of producing quality shoes, but for me, Italy was always my choice. The Made-in-Italy mark was my dream because of what shoes from Italy represent: the quality, the tradition, the artisans, and the pride. Producing shoes meant I had to take the leap of faith of leaving my job at the time. For me, I could only take that leap if I knew I would be producing the very best shoes.
The goal at Elizée is to bring women a quality that lasts a lifetime. I found what I wanted in Italy - artisans who make luxury shoes in a family-owned factory in Italy. Our production is small-batch this is different than the norm as most shoes are mass-produced.
How did you get involved with Casa Generación?
I got involved with Casa Generación, the non-profit in Peru because I wanted to help street children as they are the most at-risk population, vulnerable and exposed. It breaks my heart to see a five-year-old selling candy in a cross street in the middle of the night in just ragged clothes. I was looking for a non-profit that had the philosophy of protecting these kids. I am a board member, and besides raising funds, my role is to be attuned to the needs of the houses, talking to the operators in Lima, understanding their challenges, mentoring the kids, and visiting them so they feel that they are listened to and loved.
What’s next for Elizée?
Spring-Summer 2022 collection, we’ll be adding mid-heels and espadrilles. I also continue to work closely with a podiatrist to continue improving and innovating our Plush Contour insole. Lastly, in our efforts to be more sustainable, we are working on a style that is 100% vegan with the traditional luxury craftsmanship approach.