Inspiring People

This Hard-Working Hermès Alum Now Makes Shoes For Your Next Vacation

Sea Star Beachwear Libby Fitzgerald smiling

Libby Fitzgerald lives in Manhattan, but if it were up to her, she’d be in the sun on a beach (same here). And, of course, she’d be wearing the appropriate footwear. The 57-year-old is the founder and CEO of Sea Star Beachwear® , a line of remarkably stylish, breathable, and quick-drying print and patterned water shoes. 

Fittingly, Fitzgerald’s idea for Sea Star Beachwear was inspired by her travels — specifically to beaches such as Barbados, where there’s coral in the water. “I had to wear water shoes to go in, and I had typical water shoes, which are black, meshy, cheap, and fall apart,” says the mother of three. “My boys would make fun of me and say, ‘Why are you wearing those ugly shoes, Mom?’ I thought, ‘There must be something out there that is better made, more comfortable, and that looks better than what I'm currently wearing.’” 

Fitzgerald excitedly began her research in 2014, and as it turns out, there weren’t viable options — so she founded her company the following year. But despite being a new entrepreneur, this venture wasn’t her first journey into fashion. Fitzgerald worked for Hermès® and Ralph Lauren® after graduating from Duke University® with a degree in Biology. “When you're 23, you sometimes make decisions — for whatever reason — and end up on your life path,” the Baltimore, Maryland, native points out. “I wanted to move to New York, where I had a lot of friends. I was interested in fashion, special events, and PR.” 

After working for these two iconic luxury brands, Fitzgerald left the corporate world for 20 years. It was time for her to focus on family and raising her children William, 26, Robert, 24, and Laird, 17, with her husband Terry. Once her youngest child left home, though, Fitzgerald felt the urge to get back into business.

“I always thought about what I was going to do when I became an empty-nester,” says Fitzgerald. “I wanted to go back to work and do something creative in fashion, but sometimes it's very hard for women to jump back into the corporate world when you've been out of the working world as long as I had.” It turns out that she needn’t have worried. Her idea, which started as a beach water shoe, evolved into comfortable footwear beloved by many — and is even sold at J.Crew®. The espadrille-inspired kicks can be worn during water sports, rainy weather, and dog-walking. In short: they’re multifaceted (and stylish), just like Fitzgerald herself.

In our one-on-one interview, Fitzgerald shares her tips for starting a brand, getting back to work after a hiatus, and how her beauty routine (read: sleep) has changed since having kids.