For the latest episode of TheCurrent Innovators, Liz Bacelar chatted to Jodie Fox, co-founder and creative director of online custom-made shoe platform Shoes of Prey, about the company’s eight-year evolution and how they plan on changing the way women buy and wear shoes.
For Fox, the brand’s success in offering customized shoes at on-demand speed, lies in owning the whole manufacturing process, which is where a lot of other similar companies fell short during the customization boom in 2010, she says.
In its early stages, selling the idea of building a factory that would do one shoe at a time was met with a lot of negativity. The company now employs 200 people, however, most of which are based out of their own factory in China, and can have a pair of shoes in the customer’s hands in under two weeks.
The importance of creating a company anchored in technology means that as fashion evolves and becomes more embedded with tech, Shoes of Prey is at the perfect standing, Fox explains.
“One of the things we as a brand are really lucky not to have is legacy (…) Traditionally fashion is a very creative environment and I do believe that there is that desire to be innovative, but the way we get those ideas into market is still very broken. And that’s one of the key places that technology can power to simply be fashion,“ she says, stating that fashion and technology shouldn’t be mutually exclusively as they can both leverage one another.
As a consumer, Shoes of Prey offers over 10 trillion combinations of a shoe’s design, which include changing heels, silhouette and colour. Although the company began by offering a blank canvas, it soon realized the importance of striking the balance of giving consumers choice, but not overwhelming them. For this process, the input of a team of designers has been crucial in creating a controlled yet flexible shopping experience.
The platform also enables shoppers who once considered customization cost or time-prohibitive to see it as a tangible choice, particularly for those who fall outside the standard shoe sizing sold across the West, a group which Fox states 77% of women are part of. For the founder, it is surprising that shoe sizing has remained untouched for so long, which means consumers have become accustomed to the fact that wearing certain shoes – such as heels – won’t always be comfortable.
Fox, who alongside her two other co-founders has raised 30.6 million for Shoes of Prey since launching in 2009, says success has come from leveraging a simple rule of innovation: by being an industry outsider (in her case, with a background in law) she was able to find a common problem, and create an unbiased solution for it.
“One of the reasons why Shoes of Prey managed to make a difference is probably naivety, and not being indoctrinated in the expertise of manufacturing in the industry,” she says. “You can’t let expertise get in the way of an idea.”