Saturday, May 31, 2008

LOCAL TALENT SHOWCASE: An Interview with Audie Gipson, Owner of 5000 Shoes & More

When I visited this hidden gem, I was pleasantly surprised at how well stocked it was. Beautiful shoes and boots occupied every corner of the establishment, meticulously placed in the windows and on pedestals, neatly lining wall-mounted shelves. Fresh, funky handbags, belts, hats and other unique accessories stylishly displayed behind a showcase filled with even more "must-have" accessories. Hence the name, "5000 shoes & more..."

From the street, you are greeted with an unassuming storefront--nothing spectacular, no blinking lights, bells, or whistles. You won't find any extravagant overhead here, no, ma'am, no, sir. Instead, what you find is high quality, innovative and downright off the hook shoes for the urban sophisticated woman with discriminating taste. You want something that won't be repeated as you walk down the street, or sashay into that function? Go to 5000 shoes & more, located on the Westside of Detroit at 18416 Grand River Ave at Southfield Fwy.

While urban in flavor, the key element to this business is style, style, and more style. And did I mention, style? A real shoe maven is not lost on the European sophistication exuding from the store's interior, and one gets the feeling that a Fa'shoe'nista would be just as comfortable sporting these kicks walking the streets of Paris as she would Greektown in downtown Detroit.

Because I'm nosey and because I think that everybody should know what I know, I wanted to get more information about this jewel in the city. So I contacted one of the owners and was graciously allowed to come to the store, take pictures of shoes and talk about the origin of the business. This interview is with owner and buyer, Audie Gipson.

Fa'shoe'nista: So, give us a little history behind this jewel in the city. How did you come up with the name 5000 Shoes & More…?

Audie: The name 5000 Shoes and more originated from my name, Audie, like the car, Audi 5000. People always asked me about my choice in shoes so along came 5000's Shoes. I dropped the 's, replaced it with "and More," and added accessories.

Fa'shoe'nista: Like most businesses in urban communities, I heard about you by word of mouth. One of my co-workers had on a lovely pair of boots and I asked her where she purchased them. How successful has word of mouth been as a form of advertisement? Do you use other forms of advertising and marketing?

Audie: Word of mouth works and doesn't work sometimes. The giving clients, like the lady in your office, pass the store info along and are willing to share us with the rest of the world. However, my spoiled clients want to keep the "one of a kind" look to themselves.

Fa'shoe'nista: 5000 Shoes & More… is a family owned business. Who exactly are the owners and how many are there? How long have you been in business?

Audie: I am the owner and buyer, my father, James Gipson, is the CEO of our corporation, Gippes Enterprise, and my sister, Sharay Gipson, is COO. My mother, Teresia Gipson, is the store designer. We have been in business for 9 years and have been at this location for 8 years.

Fa'shoe'nista: Some people hold the philosophy of never going into business with family and/or friends. Yet there are many businesses that are run by generations of family members, mom and pop, siblings, and the like. How well do you, the proprietors, get along? What is the key to your success working together?

Audie: We are a very close knit family and are used to working together. My father has always owned his own business and the 7 children were always the employees. We use the philosophy of most other nationalities: to support family first and help out whenever needed.

Fa'shoe'nista: When I visited the store, I spoke with Latrice, or “Tricie,” (spelling?) one of the Gipson sisters, who told me the business started with home parties. How does that compare with running a brick & mortar business and what contributed to your decision to open the store?

Audie: Latrice Farris is our godsister. The shoe parties helped to build clientele and minimize overhead. I still do private and public shoe parties and fashion shows at the Detroit location. The greatest contribution of a brick and mortar is having a home base of operations. No matter where I am, the shoes and accessories are always available.

Fa'shoe'nista: Whenever anyone talks about opening a business the buzz word is LOCATION, LOCATION, LOCATION. What made you decide to become a neighborhood store as opposed to doing the mall thing? Do you get a lot of business from the locals or from those outside of the area? Is it a combination of both?

Audie: I might have considered a mall location had there been one in Detroit. Choosing to be a boutique came about with the reputation Detroit has for it's one of a kind style. My family and I are really big on Detroit. We feel Detroit gets less praise than what it deserves, being the first to start a lot of trends all over the world. The Rosedale Park community, where the store is located, is very supportive. I lived my high school years and early twenties there; however, I have really branched out to women outside of Detroit and so I have a clientele from everywhere.

Fa'shoe'nista: You carry mostly Italian brands, high quality shoes for what I at least consider a reasonable price. Still, your prices may be considered high-end for some. Has the depressed economy affected your business?

Audie: No, my customers appreciate quality. We fit the woman that will buy once at a medium to high price point for a shoe or accessory that will last forever, as opposed to buying cheaper shoes of a lesser quality several times.

Fa'shoe'nista: What is your price range and how is it determined?

Audie: The prices in the summer range from $20-$150.00 and up to $250 in the winter. The prices are determined by what we pay wholesale or suggested retail prices positioned by the designer. Sometimes, we will lower the price below what we paid if a shoe or boot has been in the store for several seasons no matter who the designer is.

Fa'shoe'nista: You carry many one-of-a kind styles. Where do your shoes come from, mainly? Do you have a certain supplier or merchandise house where you get your beautiful styles, or do you deal with individual designers?

Audie: Most of our shoes come from different countries such as Spain or Brazil, and of course Italy. We tend to choose designers that are new and different.

Fa'shoe'nista: The obsession women have with shoes doesn’t seem to be fading, even though we’re in somewhat of a recession. Recession, or no recession, women seem to always find the money to purchase their favorite pair of floor knockers (my Fa’Shoe’Nista term for shoes). Why do you think that is?

Audie: Women are the #1 consumer all over the world. The retail industry starts to cater to females at a very early age, especially in the fashion industry.

Fa'shoe'nista: What advice would you give to the growing number of entrepreneurs who are trying to break into fashion oriented businesses? What should they do to make themselves stand out from the rest?

Audie: The best advice I can give from experience is to know your product inside and out. Then learn your target market. Also, do what you love and what you've dreamed of doing, not what simply looks good from the outside looking in.

Again, thank you so much, Ms. Gipson for your time and consideration in this matter. And thank you for furthering the cause of Glamour!

5000 Shoes & More -

Friday, May 30, 2008

SATC FITTING FOR THE BIG SCREEN: Sex and the City Opens Today in Theatres

The girls are back in town. Arguably, the most talked about movie premier of the season, Sex and the City, The Movie, opens this weekend. So as a self-proclaimed fashionista who prides herself on being the world's 2nd fa'SHOE'nista (Imelda Marcos was clearly the first), I had to do a post on the elegant felines of New York City.

Photo courtesy of

While all the girls are great in their own right (although I must admit that Samantha is my "least" favorite for reasons that shall remain secret), Carrie is the queen that dons this century's royal style crown. Not saying that she's perfect, there have surely been some misses: the mile high hats are a little much for me, but the girl can carry a fedora to the outskirts of the universe. SUHMOKIIIN'! And while the spandex pants only accentuate Carrie aka Sarah Jessica Parker's propensity to resemble the profile of sheet of paper, her choice of feminine little dresses with matching coats and jackets is refreshingly girly to say the least.

Photo courtesy of

And the shoes! OOOHHHH the Shoes!

Oh, and let's not forget Mr. Big. My, my, my...

Photo courtesy of

To be honest, I didn't catch on to the frenzy until the seasons had ended and the show was well into syndication. I finally caught an episode one night when I was too lazy to pick up the remote and change the channel on my boob tube. So there she was, the woman I was striving to be: An actress making a living at what she loves, playing a writer making a living at what she loves, who's able to afford to buy the thing she loves the most. Shoes. Hence, my secret, guilty, passionate pleasure was born.

So, more than likely, and probably by my little lonesome, I will make the trek to see this glorious expose in excess. And I have no doubt, whether the critics give it acclaim or put it to shame, I will enjoy every Manolo freakin' minute of it.

Thursday, May 29, 2008

NEW DESIGNER KIDS ON THE BLOCK: Footwear News and Nine West sponsor SHOESTAR Designer Challenge

Okay, forget American Idol. I want to be these guys. Apparently, this wonderful contest called Shoestar just finished it's third round challenge. The shoe design event is sponsored by Nine West and boast such notable judges as Mark Badgley and James Mischka, Footwear News' Michael Atmore, and Nine West's Fred Allard. According to Michael Atmore, the aspiring designers were to mesh their designs with the "Badgley Mischka brand philosophy" of style. The winning student must design within the limitations of an already existent brand.

Panelists at the FN Shoestar challenge.
Courtesy of Footwear News

Well, how 'bout that? The 4th round challenge will entail designing a specific "celebrity-friendly" shoe for the red carpet in sample form, along with storyboard sketches. The shoe should accentuate a "simple black dress." I'll try to keep you posted of upcoming challenges. For more information, go to

Third round winning contestants:

Melissa Cordero
Photos courtesy of Footwear News

Melanie Maggio
Photos courtesy of Footwear News

Karen Hsieh
Photos courtesy of Footwear News

Ryan Baker
Courtesy of Footwear News

Who do you like best?

Friday, May 2, 2008

An Interview with Absolutely Audrey's owner and Founder, Crisa Barriball

courtesy of Absolutely Audrey

Girl Power is alive and well on the world-wide-web. Recently, while visiting Splendora, The Fabulous Girlfriend Network, I ran across the profile of Splendorita Crisa Barriball, owner of Absolutely Audrey, an online fashion boutique that sells shoe clips. That's right, I said shoe clips.

I went to the website and was pleasantly surprised by its beauty and how elegantly it showcases these beautiful pieces of jewelry for shoes. There are three different collections: Vintage Collection, Chic Collection (new designs), and the Bridal Collection. A vintage blast from the past, the surprisingly affordable designs are made fresh and new through their sheer beauty alone.

Fa'shoe'nista: I love Splendora because I get to meet and network with fabulous people like you, Crisa. It's women like you who have helped to bring glamour back to the forefront, and we here at FA'SHOE'NISTA! are eternally grateful. Oh, and your website is fabulously gorgeous.

Crisa: Thank you! I am a loyal fan of Splendora as well, since they were the first fashion informant who discovered me a few years ago!

Fa’shoe’nista: What led you to the concept of shoe clips as an e-business venture? How did you get started?

Crisa: The brilliant concept of shoe clips started many years ago, they date as farback as 1930s. Once a footwear staple for every fashionable woman, shoe clips gradually disappeared as companies created shoes with built-in ornaments. Absolutely Audrey believes that with the right touch of elegance and sophistication, the shoe clip trend can be successfully revived. My inspiration came from my mother who was a collector of vintage shoe clips. In 2004, I discovered that no one sold shoe clips, and decided to start my own online boutique specializing in the affordable and elegant transformation of shoes.

Fa’shoe’nista: How did one of Hollywood's most famous fashion icons inspire your business? What's the connection between shoe clips and Audrey Hepburn?

Crisa: Audrey Hepburn was the muse of elegance and grace, and being a big fanof not only her professional work but also her personal character, I couldn’t think of any other way to describe “Fabulous”, Audrey Hepburn was and is the Muse of Style.

Fa’shoe’nista: Why should the modern day Shoemaven purchase your "shoe jewels" as opposed to buying a shoe that's already embellished?

Crisa: The current shoe trends have shoes embellished with various ornaments, from leather flowers, to rhinestone bows, or fabric buttons. When you buy a pair of shoes that already has the ornament permanently attached, then you are committed to that style forever. By purchasing shoe clips, you not only add versatility to your existing shoes, but you can also extend the life of those simple black pumps or plan mary janes. Another fabulous way to use the shoe clips is to clip them on your jacket, or hat or handbag! The uses are multiple!

Fa’shoe’nista: What has been the reaction in sales to this vintage accessory? Does one particular collection outsell the others?

Crisa: Our most popular category is the Bridal Collection. Brides love adding that extra sparkle on their wedding shoes. We have a lot of brides that also buy shoe clips for their bridesmaids gifts since it is a very unique accessory idea. We had a few brides buy multiple sets of shoe clips that they would also take with them on their honeymoon. Instead of packing three pairs of shoes, you can pack one simple pair and add the matching shoe clips according to the occasion.

Fa’shoe’nista: You're introducing a slice of fashion history to a new generation which is the essence of what vintage is all about. Vintage fashion has skyrocketed in recent years and its popularity with younger style mavens is evident with the resurgence of designer Betsey Johnson and the success of consignment shops that make high-end, gently used, designer threads accessible to the masses. What age group would you say comprises the bulk of your customer base?

Crisa: We have a wide group of customers, from the mature women of the mid 40’s who used to wear shoe clips years ago, to the young trendinistas who love to be one-step ahead in fashion. We had mothers buy shoe clips for their daughters for birthday gifts, and daughters buying them for their mothers for Mother’s Day gifts!

Fa’shoe’nista: The designs are beautiful works of art. How involved are you with the design process? Do you start at the drawing board, and then submit your designs to the manufacturer?

Crisa: Yes, every shoe clip style for the Chic and Bridal collection is created by me. After careful research on the fashion trends, like what are the “in” colors, and what is the “in” era I determine the design. For example, this season has focused a lot on the ‘60s, and designers like Marc Jacobs have brought back that retro feel in their clothing and footwear collection. I research the shoe trends that express that trend and get my inspirations from what I see. Sometimes I will see a Manolo Blahnik style and try to create a shoe clip with a similar feel. Having the option of getting a celebrity look for less is priceless!

Fa’shoe’nista: You've received a lot of press coverage such as Lucky Magazine, In Style, and Elegala Weddings as well as a featured spot on the Today Show (how cool is THAT?) Were you surprised by the popularity of your shoe clips and the favorable reviews?

Crisa: I was honestly very surprise that they discovered me that quickly! I don’t have a PR agent so when TV networks and publications call me for stories it’s fantastic. The other day I got a call from a boutique in Milan who read a story on Cosmopolitan Bride (UK edition) and they are interested in having our shoe clips at their store!

Fa’shoe’nista: Where do you see your company five (5) years from now?

Crisa: My goal is to expand the choices of styles, and the number of stores who carry our shoe clips nationally and internationally. We are also evaluating the option of opening a shoe boutique in Chicago.

Fa’shoe’nista: Okay, at the risk of sounding clich├ęd, what advice would you give to young women with an eye for fashion, who're looking to increase their girl power by igniting their entrepreneurial flame?

Crisa: Be open to any feedback from friends and family and don’t be afraid to spread your creative wings!

FA'SHOE'NISTA! thanks you Crisa, for your time and your contribution to the return of Glamour!