Most businesses that reinvent themselves decades after their founding do so out of necessity — not for the sake of creativity.
But much like Keds once did with the sneaker, Itamar and Rachel Carmi have used the Bernie Mev brand to introduce a new player into the shoe industry:
Hand-woven, flexible footwear.
It’s a transformation that officially began in 2008, when the couple acquired the business from its founder and namesake, who made his name designing European leather shoes. Today, the Teaneck-based company’s reinvented products are in more than 1,400 high-end boutiques across the U.S., in national department stores such as Nordstrom, and in Canada, Europe and the Middle East.
“This is what we live and do and think and invest all our energy in,” Rachel said. “We really feel like we created a new concept, and it’s working well and the response is amazing. If we manage to keep it this way, we’re very happy.”
Itamar, who grew up in Israel and moved to the U.S. in 1985, found himself in shoe retailing when he became the owner of Medici shoe stores in Englewood and New York.
After selling Bernie Mev shoes in his stores, Itamar partnered with Mev when the designer and manufacturer closed his Bronx factory in 2000.
For eight years, they would successfully import shoes together while the Carmis worked on new designs.
When Mev retired in 2008, the couple seized the opportunity to purchase and transform the brand using their new woven concept.
And sales have increased 150 to 200 percent a year ever since.
Utilizing Rachel’s background in fashion and jewelry design, Bernie Mev’s new look for men, women and children is extremely colorful and multipatterned, while maintaining the signature slip-on design with responsive memory foam insoles.