Our 2018 Summer Collection marks a number of firsts for Poppy Barley. It’s our first exclusively open-toe sandal offering, our first time producing a selection of shoes in Brazil, and the first collection conceived by our new Head of Design, Leah Dahlgren.
Leah, came to Poppy Barley by way New York City. Having grown up in Grand Blanc, Michigan, Leah graduated from Michigan State University with a Bachelor of Science, majoring in Apparel and Textile Design. Following graduation, Leah landed an internship with the NYC-based accessory brand, The Sak. Over the course of her eight years with the company, Leah established herself as a valuable asset, and worked her way up to being named Senior Handbag Designer. In this position, Leah was afforded the opportunity to travel around the world —from Denmark to France, and as far off as Morocco— honing her craft and seeking out varied inspiration from across the globe.
So how did this well-travelled, New York-based designer end up designing shoes in Edmonton, Alberta? A simple answer: Love. Having met and fallen for a good-ol’ Alberta boy, Leah found herself in this unlikely locale. Somewhat serendipitously, some friends told her about an up-and-coming leather shoe and accessory company located right here in Edmonton. She reached out to offer her services, and the rest is history. “I never thought I would be able to work for a fashion company in Edmonton, let alone be able to design,” says leah. “It was really an absolute miracle to have found Poppy Barley.”
Leah brought her years of experience in accessory and leather design to the process of crafting our 2018 Summer Collection. She helped us usher in a new category of product for our customer: the open-toe sandal, and helped us to onboard our new factory partners in Brazil.
Read along as Leah breaks down the new collection, her inspiration, and everything that goes into developing a seasonal line.
“I use WGSN, which is a trend forecasting company. It’s insanely detailed and filled with so much information. After I see what’s happening in design at the moment, I start to analyze colour. I think about what palette will reflect Poppy Barley, and start to map out what the collection from there. I use colour as the basis for the line, and then start to explore the materials next.
In terms of materials, we have some limitations in what we are able to access and use for our products because we want to use sustainable materials. It means that we have to be strategic and thoughtful about how we design. That being said, we are always trying to push and do more. This season, we experimented with embossing and playing with patterns. You’ll see that in this collection with the accessories in the Dove Grey Python.
Then I start looking at what styles are trending, and compare that to what we already offer in the line. We want to design styles that will be incremental to our business, and that there’s a good balance for our customers. For Summer, we wanted to put out a number of sandal styles, but we also needed to make sure that we still had some closed-toe shoes for days when it’s not so hot.”
“I send the preliminary designs and inspiration to Justine, and we then bounce back and forth about what we like and what will work for the line.
Because of certain limitations in Mexico, we don’t always have that much flexibility in terms of developing lasts, so we really have to work with what we have available to us. That’s what was nice about expanding into Brazil. Our factory there is able to move a bit faster, and they have more options in terms of importing materials from overseas. It allowed us to push our designs, and experiment with looks that we haven’t done before.
For this collection, we started off with about 10 or 11 styles at the beginning. We had people in the office do wear testing to see how the sandals felt and how comfortable they were. We also did some polling online through social media, asking our customers what they liked and wanted to see. This process allowed us to narrow the collection down to the seven styles we ended up releasing.
It really comes down to what our customer wants and needs in their closet. The product needs to be beautiful and stylish, but if it isn’t comfortable, or doesn’t live up to our standards for quality, we won’t put it into production.”
“The Summerland Heel is what I am most excited about because it is so different from what we’ve done in the past. It’s a higher heel, and a bit more feminine. It is really going to tell us as a design team how far we can push what we offer to our customer, and if we can attract a whole new type of customer.
Additionally, I think the Eyelet Strappy Sandal is a really exciting style for us. It marks the point for us where we begin to experiment with hardware and more edgy designs. If it works, we can start playing around with more embellishment and hardware, which is something we haven’t really done.
Our most trend focused style is the Victoria. A big call out this season was for strappy sandals and what is referred to as ‘The Dancing Shoe.’ It’s great for weddings and graduations. Another way we interpreted the trend is The Maligne, which is our version of the Gladiator Sandal. We wanted to offer a strappy festival-style shoe, but design something that is more polished and streamlined.
We launched one new accessory style this season as well. The Mini Hobo is an updated version of our original Hobo Tote. We had been hearing that people wanted an option that wasn’t as big. Something that would be a bit lighter and easy to carry.”
“Earthy neutrals are big for us. We went with Almond and Fawn to give us some variety in these shades. They are both really clean and rich neutral tones that pair really beautifully with the more bold and saturated colours that are really on-trend this season.
People don’t often think of metallics as a neutral, but they can be. We brought back Gold Sand, which was a really big colour for us in Spring. It’s almost the perfect metallic neutral. Depending on the light, or how you look at it, there’s sometimes a silver tone to it. Other times it can be a true gold. There is so much you can do with it. We also brought back Champagne as a softer, more pale metallic. It’s great for mixing with matte neutrals, like we did with The Maligne.
We also brought back Flame Red for Summer. Red is always on trend, and there are so many shades of it to play with and explore. It adds a great pop of colour to the collection.
But colour isn’t all we experimented with this season. We wanted to add some more visual interest to the collection by adding in Snake. It can still serve as a neutral, but it’s a bit more trend-focused and exciting than a solid leather. The introduction of more materials and textures is important, especially when you are doing a more simplistic design like the Summerland. You have these styles that are iconic, but you need to update them and elevate them in a way. Playing with texture and pattern is the best way to do that, in my opinion.”