Ampersand & More

Two mags are newly born, and Miami designers gain a foothold

"From one aspect, we've been doing pretty well," says Tartaglia, a friendly yet guarded blond who favors Fergie from the Black Eyed Peas.

"We've had two complete lines since our launch in 2004, and we're nearly done with the prototypes for our 2007 line." The shoes — the aforementioned ballet flats and a few sandals — are made in Brazil and sold at about 80 smallish boutiques, such as Kitson and Intermix.

"We patented the collapsible shoe; women love the idea; they love the fact that they can fold up the shoes and put them away," Tartaglia notes. "There are celebrities out there wearing them — it's just that the paparazzi hasn't shot them yet."

Anna Beauregard and Maria Tartaglia make all the pretty 
shoes for Lola Style
The Bitch
Anna Beauregard and Maria Tartaglia make all the pretty shoes for Lola Style

Tartaglia notes obstacles in manufacturing — the women strive to pay their South American workers fair wages but still have difficulty locating reliable help.

Most discouragingly Lola Style was recently rejected for pickup by Macy's in favor of a lookalike from a bigger brand.

"Nine West just launched an almost exact replica of our ballet shoe," Tartaglia says. "For two young girls going against a company like that ... we want to hire lawyers and sue them, but financially we're not at that situation yet. We plan on trying to discuss some licensing agreement."

(The Bitch checked out the Nine West leopard-print ballet shoe and, indeed, it bears a great resemblance to the Lola product. Nine West did not return calls seeking comment.)

"It's very discouraging to young entrepreneurs," Tartaglia continues. "We're really trying to take a tiny piece of market share in a billion-dollar shoe industry, and then the big guys come and knock you off. Nine West launched that shoe in June and literally just blew us out of the water."

If reading these quotes makes Tartaglia sound grumpy, well, she's not. She's actually funny and positive. At the Gen Art party, she didn't even throw a stern look in the direction of a gaggle of fashion shoppers on a budget who had flutes of champagne tilted dangerously toward the merch. And she spent time visiting with The Bitch and talking Blahnik and Choo when she could've been putting the hard sell on prospective customers.

"We're working on a new line and we're still focused on the smaller boutiques," Tartaglia concludes. "We've dried out our personal resources, but we have a couple of angel investors looking at our company. We're very persistent."

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