The Shoe for Comfort & Beauty.
Join us for a peek inside the empowering world of Erika Carrero, Founder, CEO, and Creative Director of Elizée. The San Francisco-based, made-in-Italy, luxury footwear brand crafts footwear to empower the modern woman’s versatile lifestyle. Yes, please!
Erika is a woman on a mission to reshape luxury footwear by blending heritage Italian craftsmanship with cutting-edge comfort technology. A former Silicon Valley CFO, Elizée is Erika’s first entrepreneurial venture, and the unparalleled beauty and comfort of her creations say it all. Read on to learn more about Elizée and Erika Carrero in this edition of the Lh Empowered Women Empower series.
Be Inspired by Erika Carrero, Founder & Creative Director of Elizée
Love Happens: As our name and the tagline of our publisher, KOKET, denotes, at Love Happens, we are firm believers that you cannot achieve any level of success without love. When did your love affair with shoes begin? How did it make you feel?
Erika Carrero: I have always loved fashion, and 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 for the day. Wearing a light pink pencil skirt and matching 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 heels myself.
Lh: What made you want to shift from working as a tech executive CFO to a luxury creative director and CEO?
Erika: I’ve loved fashion, especially shoes, right from the start. During my years working in tech, I often traveled for work, and I identified a gap in the market when I simply couldn’t find beautiful but comfortable shoes to serve my needs. Specifically, I needed to look professional and elegant while being on my feet for long days in the office, the boardroom, and entertaining clients.
Once I’d identified this need for the exact kind of shoes I (and so many other women) needed, I began by studying the industry – initially as a hobby – for 7 years. Little by little, that hobby transitioned into a solid business plan.
As a tech executive, I gained so much experience running a business and launching start-ups, but my dream was to have a company of my own that could make an impact in an area that I loved.
It all came together after my last company was sold successfully. By that time, I already had the Elizée team and a range of designs, and the decision came down to either looking for a new CFO job or starting my own company. I decided to take a leap of faith and start my own company. And despite the challenges, it’s been the most rewarding experience.
Lh: How do you bring sustainability to Italian craftsmanship?
Erika: At Elizée, sustainability is one of our core values, and we are conscious about not overproducing.
We are lucky to have a strong partnership with one of Italy’s oldest heritage factories, which continues to work with us around minimums and delivery times of our production. We aim to have small production quantities and a short turnaround time on re-orders, which allows us to respond in a fluid way to demand rather than overstocking. Not only is this eco-friendlier, but these smaller quantities save on the initial upfront investment costs because we can be more nimble. For example, we can order more of the styles that work well to avoid overproduction and potential waste. Additionally, our leathers are sourced exclusively from Italian tanneries that receive the highest grade from Italy’s Institute of Quality Certification (ICEC). Our leathers are a by-product of the food industry from sustainable European farms, and the tanneries’ production and labor practices are held to the highest standard of social and environmental responsibility.
Sustainability is crucial for our planet, and post-pandemic, we have seen a profound, sudden shift in consumer preferences. Not only are consumers demanding comfort from their footwear like never before – even in heels – but sustainability has also become a priority for them. This turn in consumer tastes is even more encouraging for us since sustainable production and environmental and labor practices have been part of our vision from the beginning.
Lh: How do you describe the Elizée shoe?
Erika: Glamorous, seductive, feminine, and powerful are the words my team, and I have in mind when we design every shoe. Each style is meticulously designed and crafted to make the woman wearing it feel like the best version of herself every time she slips them on – confident, gorgeous, comfortable, and empowered to take on the world.
Lh: Do you have a favorite Elizée shoe, and if yes, why?
Erika: I love the Ametista! It is ultra-sexy and versatile and made of buttery soft python-stamped leather. The subtle metallic sheen can add sparkle at night for an evening outing but goes equally well with jeans or day dresses, while the silhouette is strappy with a flattering fit. It is the perfect pair for traveling – for resorts, dinners in the city, and work meetings. I named this style after my birthstone, the amethyst, so it really has a special meaning to me.
Lh: Elizée has been at the feet of many women, from The Real Housewives of Orange County to Selling Sunset. Who would you love to see wearing Elizée shoes?
Erika: Angelina Jolie, because her style is classic, and daring at times – like our designs. She’s an entrepreneur, philanthropist, and mom who does it all. She would be such a good brand ambassador as she embodies many of the qualities of the Elizée woman. The Elizée woman is constantly on the go, juggling a thousand commitments and varied roles in her personal and professional life, and she’s a frequent traveler. She very much owns her feminine power. She’s innately stylish, appreciates impeccable quality, and instantly recognizes great design when she sees it. She knows exactly what she wants, and she’ll accept nothing less than gorgeous style and perfect comfort.
Lh: If you could give one bit of advice to your younger self, what would it be?
Erika: A career is something you shape and that continues to evolve throughout your life; there is no one right/unique path for everybody. If you have a project that you are passionate about, get started, get educated, and go for it!
To me, the brand is not only about selling shoes. Elizée is a platform to empower women to feel sexy, confident, and comfortable all at once because confidence comes naturally when you feel your best.
Lh: What empowers you most?
Erika: The privilege of being a business/woman leader and being able to use my voice. In a world where women still have to fight hard to access opportunities, we need to work on cultivating our own successes. We need to champion ourselves, whether that means having a conversation with your boss about that next promotion, asking for more challenging opportunities at work, or speaking up at a meeting in a room full of people. It can be intimidating, and it takes courage, but in my experience, that power comes from within when you believe in yourself.
Unfortunately, you must continually prove your value and worth as a woman. For example, you need to prove that they made a good decision hiring you; you have to work harder to show what you know. But at the end, it’s all worth it. Throughout my career, that’s exactly what I have done, especially in the male-dominated tech world. And now, as the founder of my own company, I work incredibly hard and long hours to ensure the company runs smoothly. I negotiate, I don’t take no for an answer – right away, and I can be firm and straightforward with my teams to push them to success. Being assertive is a work in progress for me – it doesn’t always come easily, but it is necessary.
To me, the brand is not only about selling shoes. Elizée is a platform to empower women to feel sexy, confident, and comfortable all at once because confidence comes naturally when you feel your best. We use our social media to bring empowering messages to women and push the causes we believe in (breast cancer awareness month, giving back to the community).
Lh: What is next for Erika Carrero?
Erika: In terms of growing the business, the sky’s the limit! We’re focused on growing all of our points of sale, and particularly in expanding our in-person retail partnerships, as we’ve seen how effortlessly the shoes sell when women can feel the quality and comfort for themselves: as soon as they’re able to try them on, they instantly understand the value, and walk away with at least one pair. We have an exciting SS 23 planned, and we’re adding to our collection wedges in beautiful shimmering leathers from SS23. We’re also excited about our 50 mm booties that I am sure will be the go-to booties for Fall 23.
Additionally, we are planning to keep up our solid revenue growth by continuing with our direct-to-consumer model balanced with wholesale and retail with accessible luxury prices. At the same time, we plan to expand our geographical international distribution. To that end, I foresee us taking on a partner or investors that can support our expansion into new markets.
Later in my career, I would like to be able to give back and help other businesses through board positions or as an investor. I have always enjoyed mentoring and coaching, and thankfully with the many roles I have under my belt, I have learned a lot that I can share with others.