Fashion & Beauty

Libby Fitzgerald Reinvents the Modern Espadrille

DSC05353The re-imagined “Beachcomber Espadrille” from Libby Fitzgerald’s new company, Sea Star Beachwear. (Photo courtesy of Sea Star Beachwear)

Libby Fitzgerald and her innovative take in designing the modern espadrille is proof that necessity breeds invention. And in her case, reinvention!

Every summer, the espadrille makes all the lists declaring it among the “season’s hottest styles.” And why shouldn’t it?  The espadrille is rooted in a rich history dating back to the 14th century with origins in Pyrennean Catalonia (Spain/ France) where both men and women wore them. The shoe is typically fashioned with canvas or cotton fabric, but it is the jute rope sole that has been its defining characteristic.


IMG_7026Libby Fitzgerald.  (Photo courtesy of Libby Fitzgerald)

Fitzgerald, who deems the timeless espadrille one of five key pieces in her closet that makes her feel her best self, has always loved the aesthetics of the shoe but needed it to be functional and versatile as well to match the demands of her day-to-day. She’s no stranger to the act of reinvention and all that it requires — she’s had to reinvent herself a few times. (See below for our Q&A with Fitzgerald for her personal definition of “Reinvention” and her advice for women in mid-life who have a desire to start their own ventures.) She has been integral to the high-pressure public relations field through her work with Hermès Paris, managed a family business, Greyledge Farm, for many years, has served as long-term board member of The Society of Memorial Sloan Kettering in New York City, and equally important, prioritizes her role as a mother. In addition, she has an active, seaside lifestyle — the benefits of which our Dr. Cecilia Ford wrote about just this week.

In a recent interview with Beauty and Well Being, Fitzgerald shared how necessity led to inspiration: “I was looking for a shoe that I could wear into the water that was also attractive enough to wear to lunch, around town, and boating. I found that no shoe existed that could serve all these purposes at once.”

It was this absence that led Fitzgerald to her big bold idea: To design a multi-functional, water-friendly espadrille that can be worn in water and dry quickly, can protect feet from cuts and scrapes, can be non-marking and non-skidding and handle the decks of boats, can navigate sand and rocks on the beach, and can easily transition for a casual lunch in town. All the while, this version of the espadrille would still honor the three Cs for footwear: Comfortable, Chic, and Classy. A tall order, indeed!

To do this, Fitzgerald and her business partner Michael Leva (who has over 30 years in business) would think carefully about marrying fashion with design. So, they re-imagined the classic espadrille’s fabrication and created a modern version that featured a neoprene upper and a rubber “boat-shoe” sole. The result is the “Beachcomber Espadrille” and the birth of Sea Star Beachwear.

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  • b. elliott May 27, 2016 at 11:20 am

    Great interview and super product idea! I want a pair!!!