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Clearly, jellies are back
The translucent plastic shoes, popular in the '80s, have returned with a kicky splash in various styles and colors.
By MEGAN SCOTT
Published July 14, 2003
[Times photo: Lara Cerri]
Krystal Shaw, left, and Shanetta Knowles check out Melissa jelly shoes at GBX Footwear in St. Petersburg. The shoes, a throwback to the 1980s, come in lots of designs and colors.
ST. PETERSBURG - "I'm trying to get a color no one is wearing," says Shanetta Knowles, a student at Lakewood High School. "The rest of them everybody has."
"I like the pink," says Janae Carter, a student at Lakewood who was shopping with her friend at a store in BayWalk in St. Petersburg. "Nobody has them."
Many people probably don't have the pink ones, or the turquoise ones for that matter. That's because jellies, the translucent plastic shoes, started showing up in Tampa Bay area stores only a few months ago.
Yes, jellies. The plastic sandals you (or your mom) wore in the mid 1980s with flowery sundresses.
After nearly 20 years, the jelly has made a comeback in the United States, with a bit of Hello Kitty style added for today's teens.
The jelly, a Brazilian invention, made its U.S. debut in 1982 at the world's fair in Knoxville, Tenn. Back then, it was called the Grendha.
The shoes were popular for a few years, then disappeared from U.S. stores. During the 1990s, a newer generation of jellies, known as Melissa, was still on the market in Brazil.
Grendene S.A. in Brazil, the dominant maker of jellies, has several varieties on the racks at stores like GBX BayWalk and Journeys in the malls.
The company's U.S. distributor, Grendha Shoes Corp. of Orlando, is doing its best to spin the Melissa as more than a sneaker, a flip-flop or a slide-in clog.
"Melissa is an accessory," said Dena O'Malley, spokeswoman for Push, the marketing agency for Grendha Shoes. "Melissa is also a message. The message is that they're fun. They're colorful."
Jellies returned to the United States in 2001. U.S. sales picked up after the introduction last fall of the latest line, including a model called the Love System. It's a see-through, lace-up sneaker that retails for about $40. It has an air pocket in the heel like a Nike and comes in eight color combinations.
"Our target audience is girls 15-25," said Angelo Daros, vice president of marketing for Melissa. "We've been seeing a lot of people older than 25 and even kids."
In addition to the Love System, there's the Donna: a colorful platform shoe that features work by artist Romero Britto on its thick sole and a cartoonish butterfly design on the thick, translucent upper. There's Fashion, a flip-flop featuring a Britto puppy design on the left heel and a kitten on the right. And Color, with hearts on the foot bed and clear blue straps.
Pamela Loggans, manager of Journeys in Tampa's International Plaza, said she was surprised at how well the Love System was selling.
"We're selling them really fast," said Loggans. "People are coming in just for them. Also people are spotting them. Their friends already have them and they say, "Oh this is where we got them.' "
Ken Hayes, owner of GBX Shoes in Ybor City and at St. Petersburg's BayWalk, drove to Orlando one Friday to pick up 200 pairs. "They couldn't ship them out in time," said Hayes. "I couldn't miss them for the weekend."
Daros, the marketing vice president, expects to sell more than a million pairs of Melissa shoes this year, about half of them Love Systems. The company plans to release a line of closed-toed jellies this summer for back-to-school wardrobes.
Melissa shoes are conceived by a team of 25 designers and are made out of a special plastic. Technology has made them more flexible, durable and transparent than the jellies of the past.
Janae Carter, the Lakewood student, has worn her Love Systems to school, one time with a blue denim skirt and a pink shirt and no socks. Another time she wore them with jeans, a pink shirt and socks.
"They are comfortable," says Carter, who bought a pink-and-clear pair of Love Systems.
"They're cute because they come in different colors."
But for Carter, one pair of Love Systems is enough. That is, unless they come out with another color.