97. Carla Schmitzberger

President of Havaianas, How To Build A Global Fashion Business

97. Carla Schmitzberger


Flip-flops made in Brazil


How do you bring innovation to a category like footwear?

“The Havaianas flip-flop’s uniqueness is its simplicity, but we have a group that works five years ahead to identify different technologies and shapes. One of our biggest successes is the Slim, which is simply a narrow strap. Is it breakthrough innovation? No. But it appeals to the customer enough that our competitors copied it.”

What goes into communicating your brand’s essence?


“The Brazilian spirit is joyful, vibrant, free. It’s easy for Brazilians to feel this way because it’s basically summer all the time. We want those emotions to be communicated everywhere, even where it’s snowing. A new line launches every year with more than 500 new styles.”

How do you create a product that appeals to a global shopper?

“We’ve moved from being a commodity to being an aspirational product associated with fashion. We want the U.S. to be our second-largest market in the next five years, so we’ve opened a shop in New York’s Bloomingdale’s and cobranded with companies like Disney and Missoni.”


Click here to see head-to-head responses to these questions from Schmitzberger, plus Oliberte Footwear founder Tal Dehtiar, and Ed Et Al Shoemakers founder Edwin Neo, Nos. 96 and 98 on our Most Creative People list.


  • 2003

    Havaianas becomes a part of the Oscars gift bag; each nominee receives an exclusive pair

  • 2007

    Launches “Make Your Own Havaianas” events, allowing shoppers to customize their flip flops

  • 2009

    Opens the company’s concept store in Sao Paulo, Brazil

  • 2010

    Celebrates the opening of the first US Havaianas store in Huntington Beach, California

  • 2011

    Introduces Havaianas espadrilles and sneakers