An interview with Jafa CEO, Karen Crivelli

Offering the finest comfort footwear is what has made Saager’s Shoe Shop a successful business for four generations.  One of our best selling brands in our store and on our website is Jafa.  The unique designs, colors and quality materials set this brand apart from others. Karen Crivelli, Jafa CEO, singlehandedly started the Jafa Footwear Company and is the reason it is so successful! Rarely do we get a chance to work directly with the CEO of such an amazing company.

We asked Karen a few questions to get to know a little more about her and Jafa.  You will have a chance to meet her on Saturday, May 21st during our Jafa and Arcopedico Spring Trunk Show.  She will be in our store from 10 am – 3 pm to showcase her spring and summer collection and to give us the behind the scenes scoop on Jafa.

Where did you grow up? I was born and raised in Stockton, California and moved to Santa Cruz, California 15 years ago.

What’s your favorite food or place to eat?  Grilled seafood and fresh vegetables!

What do you like to do on the weekend or when you have down time? When I’m in the US, I really don’t have any down time, but when I’m in Israel, I spend most weekends at the beach with family, camping, playing matkot (an Israeli paddle ball game). I also love photography, hiking and going to the opera.

Jafa karen Camel
photo credit Jafa

Why and when did you start a shoe company? I was on vacation in Israel 6 years ago and discovered the amazing shoes of Israel. I bought 17 pairs on that trip, they were the most comfortable, best quality shoes I had ever owned. I always had trouble finding shoes that fit in the US, so I was delighted! I brought them back to the US and gave away all the others shoes in my closet. After a year and a half, I mustered up the courage to contact the factory in Israel and asked if they were interested in exporting. They said yes, so I flew to Israel 2 weeks later and the rest is history!

How did you decide on the name “Jafa” for your company? Yafo (or, Jaffa, in English) has been the shoe manufacturing center of the Middle East for hundreds of years. Yafo is an ancient port city in Israel that dates back to the Bronze Age. Until recent years, Yafo (Jaffa) was full of small shoe factories, as far as they eye could see. The old stone buildings, which date back to the 17th century, still remain, but most are now art galleries, boutiques and restaurants. Our factory is only a few blocks away from Old Jaffa and we still use the same processes that have been used for hundreds of years.

Why are your shoes manufactured in Israel? Our factory has been making shoes in Israel for over 40 years. Israel has some of the most talented cobblers in the world, which are a dying breed. Our cobblers are true artisans, many of them 2nd, 3rd and even 4th generation.

Jafa Manufacturing
Photo credit Jafa

How often do you travel to Israel and do you feel safe while there?I spend 5-6 months per year in Israel. I go to Israel after trade show season to oversee manufacturing and work with our design team for the next season. And, yes, I feel very safe in Israel! There is a cohesiveness here among the people that I’ve never experienced before.

How involved are you in the manufacturing process? I am very hands on in all aspects of manufacturing, fit and design. I’ve learned a lot about manufacturing over the past 5 years and stay in Israel during the entire process. As a result, I’m there to see and approve all the components, as well as oversee each step of production.

Jafa Karen Manufacturing
photo credit Jafa

Can you tell us a little about the design process of Jafa footwear? Comfort comes first with JAFA. Our shoes are designed for the woman who needs all day comfort, but also wants footwear that is unique, high quality and fashion forward. Our color palette is inspired from the landscape here in Israel….The Dead Sea, spice markets and open air produce markets. Our design team does a great job blending unparalleled comfort, quality materials and beautiful designs. I collaborate with our design team prior to each season to tailor fit the collection to the American market. Each season, we talk over Face Time and I share some ideas I have for the upcoming season prior to my arrival and they have several renditions ready for me. We then fine tune each style and perfect the fit before each show season begins.

What is your favorite color and/or style of this season’s Jafa collection? How can I pick just one? I love them all…I choose our designs and colors each season, so I love each and every one of them. If I don’t love it, it’s not in our collection. In the hot weather, I tend to go for style 118 if I know I’m going to be walking all day. This season, style 820 is my go-to dressier platform in the warm weather, so easy to dress up or down. Style 884 is a classic and offers great support and just the right amount of coverage. Style 433 is another favorite, it’s a great transition style that can easily be paired with shorts and summer dresses, it’s very versatile!

How many pairs of shoes are in your closet? A lot! Last time I counted, there were over 200 pairs of JAFA in my closet. And, yes, I wear them all!

Can you tell us what we can look forward to for the Fall Jafa collection? Fall 2016 is all about color! Our top boot colors coming in are green, red and yellow. Short booties are trending more now than ever and we have some terrific new styles on both our platform bottoms and our lower profile bottoms.

Jafa Karen, Saagers and Jim
Photo credit Jafa

Picture taken at Northwest Market Show, Portland, OR.  Shown from left to right are  Deidre Nyburg-Saager, Karen Crivelli –Jafa CEO, Ron Saager and Dan Simas – ArcopedicoUSA.

Each buying season, Ron Saager, President of Saager’s Shoe Shop, along with store manager, Deidre Saager-Nyburg, work with Karen at the Northwest Market in Portland to discuss trends and customer needs, and now they want to hear from you! Join us here at Saager’s Shoe Shop to meet Karen as well as Dan Simas of Acropedico on Saturday, from 10 am – 3 pm. Take advantage of our trunk show specials, both Saturday and Sunday, and enter to win a free pair of shoes from Jafa or Arcopedico!


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