O.C. residents and Former Roxy employees Kenna Florie, right, and Birgit Klett became friends in 2004 over dinners as they shared their experiences losing parents. Florie, vice president of marketing at Roxy, and Klett, its head of global footwear design, also shared fashion favorites, such as classic leather sandals. This year, they hatched Beek, their own line of artisanal sandals made with a unique molded arch that makes the flat sole comfortable and supportive. They’re sold at A’Maree’s in Newport Beach and in 27 other U.S. stores, and have landed the attention of national fashion magazines.—Julie Gallego
Why’d you start Beek?
KLETT We talked about doing something more personal that was our own.
FLORIE We kind of jokingly said, “What would we do if we didn’t have to work within the confines of a big massive machine?”
KLETT It was also about what we wanted to wear. What do we want in our closet? The sandals are spare and classic.
Where does that come from?
FLORIE It’s a bit of a rebellion against fast fashion; we’re not trendy people. We want quality and are not afraid to spend money on something that lasts. We like things that are still going to be beautiful 20 or 30 years later, like the sandals we were each wearing the day we came up with the idea. Mine were easily 15 years old, and I think Birgit’s were 25.
Where had you bought them?
KLETT I think I was wearing a pair from Greece. The destination and the sandals evoke an emotional response, which was also our goal here.
FLORIE Mine were from Florence, Italy. I started talking to a cobbler about a pair he had in the window and he said, “I can make them for you.” They were simple, just a toe ring and a straight-across strap, but they’re my favorite. You can take all my shoes; just don’t take those.
What response do you hope women have to your sandals?
KLETT A connection to the coastal lifestyle, to packing for amazing vacations.
FLORIE We want them to be timeless, classic, comfortable, simple, beautiful; the opposite of trendy, the opposite of bling. Beek sandals are built for the Newport Beach lifestyle and will get better and better with age.
Where are they made?
KLETT Guadalajara, Mexico. They’re 100 percent leather, but they have this built-in molded leather arch, so there’s really only a few places we could have them made—Mexico, because they still do so much by hand. We probably could have done it in Italy, and we possibly could have done it in Brazil, and that’s it. Mexico is close.
FLORIE And it’s fair trade.
How did you land A’Maree’s?
FLORIE We filled a huge box with about 40 oranges, put a little Cuisinart juicer in the box, and placed a hand-written note on top that said, “We’re just hoping to SQUEEZE 10 minutes out of your schedule so we can show you the Beek collection!” We popped it into FedEx and had it delivered to their store. It made them laugh enough that owner Dawn Klohs called that very day; we got our appointment and they bought them on the spot.
Tell us about the name.
FLORIE We wanted a very short name for marketing, and it really came down to “Birgit” and “Kenna.” We always thought we wanted two birds to be part of the look and feel of the brand. So when we came up with Beek, a derivation, Birgit said it was like the beak of the bird. There was something easy about the two Es and it laid out really well.
KLETT We like things clean and simple, and it speaks to our friendship. The two dots (nail heads on the inside edge of each sandal) speak to the friendship.
Is there a charitable component?
FLORIE For every pair of sandals we sell, we donate a meal to a child in need. We do this through the Kids Café program at Second Harvest Food bank in Irvine.
What’s destined to be the bestseller?
FLORIE The Finch in rose gold and tan, or black (features a toe-ring and strap across the arch, $260); then the Lark (an ankle-strap sandal with a ring that crosses the top of the foot, $320); and probably the Wren in tan (a minimalist gladiator sandal that laces up the foot, $280).
What would you wear with them?
KLETT Everything. I can’t think of anything you wouldn’t wear with them except a business suit.
KLETT We’re probably going to go into closed-toe shoes for fall 2016, and we’re talking about accessories.
FLORIE They would still be all leather.
I would love to see a bag.
FLORIE Right? Something simple and easy.