California Dreaming: Birdies
Meet the friends behind the glamorous San Francisco slippers, Birdies, that you'll want to wear everywhere.
Pajama parties may be a thing of the past, but hanging out in your slippers with your girls has never looked better, thanks to buddy and budding entrepreneurs Bianca Gates and Marisa Sharkey. The two created Birdies, slippers that are perfect for lounging in, but so beautiful and comfortable you'll want to show them off—that's why they gave them a rubber sole.
We spoke with the California-based Birdie co-founders about their ingenious footwear and all the places they sport them.
How did you meet?
Gates: Marisa and I met many moons ago when we were living in Manhattan and our husbands, then boyfriends, were both starting at Stanford Business School in Palo Alto. This was back in 2005. They made the connection that their girlfriends were living in New York City and recommended that we meet. We got together and became fast friends—it's now a very long, deep-rooted friendship.
What made you want to start Birdies?
Gates: Living in New York for about seven years, I never left the house without wearing stiletto heels. But every time I’d go to somebody’s apartment, I was asked to take off my shoes, or I’d come home and the first thing I wanted to do was take off my high heels. There was nothing for me to sink my feet into that were squishy and cozy but that went with the integrity of a stylish outfit, say for entertaining in the house.
Who have you been excited to see wearing Birdies?
Sharkey: One of our biggest fans has been Meghan Markle. Before Prince Harry, she had an Instagram. She used to post about wearing them all the time and often she would even be photographed by the paparazzi wearing Birdies, which was great. We ended up making her a special pair of bridal Birdies for her wedding.
Gates: And Hunter McGrady, a famous plus-size model, has been posting about us recently.
Who are you giving Birdies to this season?
Sharkey: I’m giving The Phoebe in floral jacquard to my sister. She’s a super busy working mom who is always on the go. These slides instantly jazz up an outfit and are comfortable enough to run around in. Also, my aunt is the Thanksgiving hostess this year. For her, I'll get The Starlings in burgundy—they’re perfect for the season and will keep her cozy in the Northeast cold.
Gates: Birdies are my go-to gift not only because I love them but because they’re perfect for the woman who "has it all"! My mom represents the brand everywhere she goes, so I can't wait to surprise her with a pair of black crystal Starlings, as she loves to make a statement and these are like jewelry for feet.
What gifts have you recently given each other?
Sharkey: For Bianca’s birthday, I got her a spa day at Nob Hill Spa at The Huntington Hotel in San Francisco. She truly deserved a relaxing day to herself!
Gates: I recently gave Marisa a Clarisonic face brush. It’s my go-to face wash ritual and when Marisa mentioned she had never used one I immediately sent her one.
Where do you go to spend time together?
Sharkey: Bianca is in San Francisco and I'm in Sacramento. We’re so lucky that Sonoma and Napa are halfway between where we live. Even before we had a business, we used to meet there and we’ve continued to. It’s a great place to really think strategically about the business but not be bogged down in day-to-day operations. When we need to collaborate on bigger picture ideas, we go to the Carneros Inn in Napa. They have a really wonderful outdoor sitting area that’s very beautiful. It's a great inspirational place for us to work and relax.
Where do you go for cocktails?
Gates: We like Belga on Union Street, a block away from us. It’s somewhat swanky for San Francisco and they’ve got a full bar and a great menu. We particularly love the pretzel and the French fries.
Where do you eat lunch in San Francisco?
Sharkey: We both get the Arugula Power Bowl at La Boulange.
And where do you go for coffee?
Gates: I've gone to the same place for 12 years, ever since I moved to the West Coast: Noah’s Bagels in San Francisco. They have this Chelsea coffee, a vanilla hazelnut coffee.
Sharkey: Sacramento actually has a really cool up-and-coming coffee scene. My favorite is Temple Coffee, which is the best specialty coffee that I’ve ever had. I usually get a latte.