TikTok stars Charli and Dixie D’Amelio launched a shoe company they hope will spawn a direct-to-consumer retail empire, and rewrite the business playbook for creators

May 24, 2023, 5:14 PM UTC
Charli D`Amelio shows off her new kicks at the launch party for D'Amelio Footwear
Michael Simon

It’s after dark in Hollywood, and servers roam the floor of a private nightclub with trays of meatball bites, skewered caprese, and hot pink rhinestone-encrusted stilettos. 

While no one seems interested in the food, the guests—many of whom have upwards of 1 million TikTok followers—cannot stop snapping footage of the plated shoes. 

For Charli, Dixie, Marc, and Heidi D’Amelio, the hosts of the party, that’s exactly the point.

The TikTok influencers have mastered the art of capturing people’s attention through short video clips of themselves dancing, singing, and goofing around with family and friends. Now the plan is to transfer that magic to other business endeavors, starting with shoes.

D’Amelio Footwear, a new line of women’s footwear, is the first company to emerge from D’Amelio Brands, the business that the sibling influencers and their parents formed last year. The family says that future products from D’Amelio Brands will likely include stick-on acne patches and a food product. 

At the D’Amelio Footwear launch party at clubby private space Eden Sunset in the heart of Hollywood last week, guests (ranging from Real Housewife Teresa Giudice to TikToker Tana Mongeau to Lionsgate CEO Jon Feltheimer) drank from flutes of champagne while assessing the sneakers, platforms, and pumps that the catalog comprises.

“Hopefully we can reach a massive audience that will appreciate the authenticity—that we really, truly believe in this,” said Dixie D’Amelio, 21, on a Zoom with me and her family less than 48 hours before the company’s May 18 midnight launch. “We made this brand and are not just putting our names on random products. This brand is something that we have been doing from the very beginning and want to help create a long-term business.”

The company hired Lauren DiCicco, an alum of Jessica Simpson footwear and Vince Camuto, to oversee design. In seven months, DiCicco and the D’Amelios collaborated on a catalog of 28 SKUs, which will be sold primarily through the company’s website using a direct-to-consumer model.

Do TikTokers have the same selling power as YouTube stars? 

The success, or failure, of D’Amelio Footwear will be a test of the loyalty and purchasing power of TikTok audiences.

While the family lacks direct experience in the $382 billion footwear industry, they have something that may be more valuable: All told, Dixie, Charli, and D’Amelio parents Marc and Heidi have over 390 million followers across social platforms. This gives them bankable superlatives: They’re the most followed family on TikTok, and younger daughter Charli, 19, a pioneer of TikTok dances, is the most popular female TikToker in the world. 

Yes, Charli is a great dancer, Dixie and her mom Heidi are models, and dad Marc was a retail executive, but where the family has shown a clear talent is marketing, casting themselves as the quintessential American family in the TikTok age, and striking deals with Snap, Hulu, Hollister, Dunkin, Prada, and other brands to the tune of about $100 million in three years (according to a rep for the family).

The D’Amelio family (from left: Dixie D’Amelio, Marc D’Amelio, Charli D’Amelio and Heidi D’Amelio) at the 2022 MTV Movies and TV Awards.
Rich Polk—Getty Images

Their commercial appeal gives the family and their backers confidence that D’Amelio Footwear can make their last name synonymous with footwear. “They’ve got hundreds of millions of people that follow them online and watch their TV show and are involved in all other aspects of their social media—looking to them as thought leaders. Why not give them something that the girls are actually really passionate about?” former MySpace chairman and current D’Amelio Brands cofounder Richard Rosenblatt tells me as we sit between a water fountain adjacent to the red carpet, where internet creators like Harry Jowsey and Sabrina Quesada arrive to take professional photos before moving into the maze of smartphone attractions inside the party.

Rosenblatt and Fanatics CEO Michael Rubin were among the initial investors who put $6 million into D’Amelio Brands at a $100 million valuation.

D’Amelio Footwear is hardly the first entrant into the growing social media celebrity brand space. Other notable players include YouTube star MrBeast’s candy brand Feastables and Emma Chamberlain’s Chamberlain Coffee. Though representatives for Feastables and Chamberlain Coffee declined to share revenue figures for this story, Insider has previously reported that Feastables made over $10 million in the 72 hours after its launch in January. Revenue figures for Chamberlain Coffee have never been shared publicly. 

D’Amelio Footwear is taking a slightly different approach from that of existing creator brands, which have tended to focus on products with relatively low price points. Entries in the D’Amelio Footwear catalog, by contrast, start at $109 for a pair of platform sandals. And while the vlog-ified coffee and candies are sold via retailers like Walmart and Amazon, as well as direct to consumer, D’Amelio Footwear is selling exclusively direct to consumer. 

It’s also worth noting that Chamberlain and MrBeast garnered fame by making longer-form videos on YouTube. The D’Amelios emerged on TikTok, where everything is short, snackable, and often set to music. This is important because D’Amelio Footwear will serve as a test case as to whether TikTokers can enjoy the type of success that YouTubers and TV stars like the Kardashians have translated into CPG riches. 

Of course, as the biggest family and female stars on TikTok, the D’Amelios aren’t necessarily representative for what other TikTok stars might be able to achieve by branching into retail. And even D’Amelio Brands cofounder Rosenblatt acknowledges the uncharted waters that retail represents for TikTok influencers. “I don’t think we know yet what the scale is,” says Rosenblatt. Though a representative for the brand declined to share specific sales numbers, they say that in under a week, D’Amelio Footwear has garnered 114 million impressions from just Charli and Dixie’s Instagram, TikTok, and Snap accounts.

“Hollywood will suck you dry if you let it”

Via Zoom, the D’Amelios shared their excitement over fully owning a brand—a reprieve from the endorsement and collaboration deals that have netted the family around nine figures, and monopolized their schedules, feeds, and brain space, during their three-ish years as social media stars.

A representative for the family says that Charli and Dixie will continue to work with partner companies, including footwear companies, so long as the products to be promoted don’t compete directly with items in the D’Amelio Footwear range. It’s not clear if that means the sneaker models that Puma developed in collaboration with Dixie will continue to have a future (a representative for the family did not respond to my query about this). But it underscores a risk that influencers like the D’Amelios take by expanding into retail—every new product they try to sell under their own brand means one less category they can monetize through traditional promotions and sponsorships.

Still, the ability to have complete creative control and to profit directly from the business is a trade-off the family seems willing to make. The company’s success could allow the sisters to leave the spotlight. “One of the things we want for our family, especially Dixie and Charli, is to make this something that they have ownership in, but will stand the test of time—so they can be involved in it as much or as little as they want,” says dad Marc D’Amelio. “They will get caught up in this hamster wheel of deals. Hollywood will suck you dry if you let it, and that’s one of the things, as the father, why we’re doing this.”

Charli, who has spoken on the now-defunct Two Chix podcast about missing her childhood friends and being unable to connect with people in Hollywood, designed the footwear with normal girls in mind. “What shoes were you missing when you were looking for shoes for graduation and prom? What shoes do you need right now? What would you be willing to spend on a pair of shoes?” she recalls asking in conversation with hometown friends who are going through college as she built her eponymous company. “It’s good to ask teenagers that are going to be wearing them what they’re looking for.” 

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