One of the most highly regarded American shoe designers of the past 50 years is coming to Ponte Vedra Beach to showcase his new line.
“You’ll see a spread of who I really am,” said Donald Pliner DBA Right Bank Shoe Co™.
The fashion icon will hold a trunk show April 1 at Carla Shoes & Accessories to present a major selection of merchandise from his new company, Right Bank Shoe Co. The event in Sawgrass Village will be held from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m.
Formed in August 2016, Right Bank Shoe Co. features men’s and women’s shoes artisan-crafted by Spanish and Italian shoemakers. The new line’s first release of shoes ranges in style from sport to western and in price from $250-475. Right Bank serves a niche in the market, Pliner said, with the company’s target clientele being men and women, ages 35-65.
Comfort has always been the top priority in the design of his shoes, and he said this line doesn’t deviate from that tradition. Pliner added that the color and materials of the shoes, which according to Right Bank’s website come from the “finest tanneries and purveyors,” make the line special.
The shoe designer said attendees of the Ponte Vedra trunk show will see the passion that has been missing in his work since he sold a majority stake of his namesake company to private equity firm Castanea Partners in 2011.
As part of the sale, the firm retained the trademarks and intellectual property connected to the Donald J Pliner brand. So when Pliner started his new label with his wife Lisa in August 2016, the firm claimed the couple’s business offered products that were too similar and competitive with his former lines. The Pliners were sued for breach of contract, trademark infringement, false advertising, deceptive trade practices and unfair competition.
After nearly six months of litigation, the couple reached a settlement with the firm, agreeing not to use their names, likenesses or the phrases “Mountains of Italy” and “Beaches of Spain” in association with the sale, production or marketing of the new line. Pliner is relieved the lawsuit is behind him and confident that customers will be interested in the line, regardless of its name or brand. “I could call the name anything, and people would know what it is or know who it is,” he said.
This isn’t the first time he has owned a brand named Right Bank Shoe Co. He rose to prominence in the shoe industry in the 1970s with the first act of Right Bank Clothing Co., which later became Right Bank Shoe Co. The shoe designer has nostalgically reverted to the former brand name to tap into his true stylistic spirit.
“This is back to what the heritage of Donald Pliner is about,” said Pliner, who has worked in the shoe business most of his life, opening his first shop in Beverly Hills at the age of 23. “That hasn’t been there for years.”
In this next chapter of his life, the designer is thankful for people like Charlie Slaton, owner of Carla Shoes & Accessories, who Pliner said has “bought the line unbelievably.”
Slaton is a big Pliner fan, calling him one of the “two best, most successful” American shoe designers of the past 50 years, noting that he regards Stuart Weitzman as the other top designer. A veteran of the shoe industry for 60 years, Slaton is expecting a record day for the trunk show, saying attendees of the event will see the passion and uniqueness for which Pliner is known.
“When we first saw his new line, you could see it was really Donald,” said Slaton. “Every one of his shoes tells a story.”