Thursday, October 21, 2010

By Lola Thelin Previous
After years of working for her uncle's
business Stephen Bonanno Sandals,
26-year old Jamie Leigh Castro launched
her line of shoes called Strawberry
Blonde this year.

Some people are born into a career.

Jamie Leigh Castro is one of those lucky few. She spent her entire adolescent life around shoes, thanks to her grandparents and, later, her uncle. It was only a matter of time before the 26-year-old decided to try her hand at designing a line of shoes.

“My grandfather, Benny Bonanno, was a cobbler, and he and my grandmother Eva designed Stephen Bonanno Sandals. As a child I spent a lot of time with my grandparents in their shop, stacking dye jars and dressing dolls in leather my grandma would give me,” explains Castro.

After her grandfather passed away, Castro’s uncle Stephen Bonanno took over the family business, and one summer he offered her a job at the shop. Then 10 years old, Castro began learning the twists and turns of the business. She swept floors and helped customers by placing small orders. “About 10 years later, my Aunt Vivian opened a Stephen Bonanno Signature store and hired me as their store manager," she recalls. "I spent a full year learning the business and studying color before realizing my dreams were right in front of me. I worked very closely with my Uncle Stephen on concepts, and by the following spring I had a sketchbook full of designs.”

This year Castro launched Strawberry Blonde, a collection of 100-percent soft leather ballet flats, ranging from sizes 6 to 12. They sell for around $250 and come in two designs, the Renee and Vivian, which features a monogram. Like her family’s business, Strawberry Blonde shoes are also custom-made at the Stephen Bonanno Sandals factory in Stuart. Castro personally designs, cuts and hand-crafts every pair of Strawberry Blondes that she sells. “My main inspiration, of course, would have to be my uncle, as he’s taken a small family sandal business and turned it into what it is today,” says Castro, a West Palm Beach native.

Currently, the line offers ballets flats and a leather clutch in 12 colors—lime green, gold, pink, gray, red, black and more. Castro is working on a line of high heels for the spring line. “Originally, when I started designing the ballet flats they were to accompany the heels I’m designing and take your look from day to night," she says. "The heels are still in the works but the flats just seemed to take off on their own.”

The high fashion and comfortable ballet flats are perfect for the everyday woman. “I like to say my woman is fun and flirty but still has a life; she is taking the kids to school, running errands and having brunch with the girls. I love how fashion can make someone feel a certain way, like slipping on that perfect pair of shoes can transform a woman.”

To purchase a pair of Strawberry Blonde shoes or clutch:

Stephen Bonanno Sandals
319 Belvedere Road, West Palm Beach
882 SW Enterprise Way, Stuart




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