The crystal-trimmed footbeds of Maria Vittoria Caovilla’s metallic thong sandals twinkle in the morning sun. No surprise that her husband, dining with her on the Hotel Bel-Air terrace, happens to be Edoardo Caovilla, chief operating officer and recently appointed creative director of René Caovilla, the Italian luxury company known for its exquisitely bejeweled, ultra-feminine footwear worn by stars such as Sarah Jessica Parker, Beyoncé, Taylor Swift and Rashida Jones.
“We believe that Swarovski-crystaled sandals don’t [have to] mean evening,” says Edoardo Caovilla, in town on Thursday to make an appearance at Neiman Marcus in conjunction with his label’s 80th anniversary. “I think they can be shiny in a polite way in the daytime, and in a more sophisticated or sexual way in the evening. But always shining.”
Caovilla, 38, joined the family business in 2009, following in the footsteps of his grandfather, who founded the company in 1934, and his father, René, who now serves as president. In the 1970s, René Caovilla brought fashion fame to the brand by partnering with haute couture houses, creating collaborative footwear with Valentino Garavani for 25 years and later teaming up with John Galliano for Christian Dior and Karl Lagerfeld for Chanel.
To fete the brand’s 80th anniversary, Edoardo Caovilla has created two limited-edition capsule collections, for Bergdorf Goodman (an eight-piece line that launched in February) and Neiman Marcus (a 10-piece line that debuted on Thursday at Neiman Marcus in Beverly Hills). The archival-inspired styles in the latter collection are priced $1,085 to $,1450 and will be available exclusively at Neiman Marcus stores in Beverly Hills, Dallas and Miami and at neimanmarcus.com.
“Our intention was to show how the DNA of the brand has always been really contemporary,” says Caovilla.
Styles include the 1952 thong sandal with a bejeweled filigree pattern inspired by Murano stained glass, the black 1978 pump crowned with intertwining vine-like crystals and the strappy fuchsia 1999 stiletto sandal with a flurry of vibrant feathers and the brand’s signature coiling snake-head strap.
“We have used the snake [motif] for more than 40 years,” says Caovilla. “The ancient Romans and Egyptians used to have the snake on their arms to represent [unity or] belonging to a special group, so my father decided to put it on the ankle of women as a symbol of belonging to the René Caovilla family.”
Caovilla has made his own mark on the brand during the last four years, adding crystal-bedecked sneakers and espadrilles to the mix for spring-summer 2014. Embellished biker boots and desert booties are coming next fall. Other brand extensions include a complete handbag collection and new line of costume jewelry for spring-summer 2015 and eyewear and fragrance lines that will hit in 2016.
There are currently 14 Rene Caovilla boutiques around the world (half directly operated and half franchise) and Caovilla says his ultimate goal is to establish 50 locations.
Each pair of shoes is individually hand-crafted at the company’s factories in Venice. “Sometimes I’m asked how many hours it takes to produce a pair of shoes,” says Caovilla. “I don’t want to calculate it in hours; I want to calculate it in experience and knowledge and tradition. There are people who have worked with us for the last 60 or 65 years and [there are trade] secrets passed down two or three generations.”