The 3 Shoe Brands That Let You Customize Heels & Flats

Customization has been popular service in the sneaker market for years, and recently more and more luxury designers are getting in on the trend, such as Nicholas Kirkwood with his Beya loafer.

But these three direct-to-consumer brands have made custom fashion shoes a priority. Their businesses combine cutting-edge digital platforms with high-quality design.

Read on to find out more about their plans for 2018.

Shoes of Prey

As one of the forerunners of the customization movement, the 9-year-old Shoes of Prey brand has learned to weather market ups and downs. After dabbling in brick-and-mortar locations inside select Nordstrom stores, the firm has since wound down that business and has instead focused on improving operations and expanding its product selection. In 2017, for instance, it shortened production time to one to two weeks worldwide for made-to-order shoes and introduced a collection of athleisure sneaker styles. For this year, the global company, which has offices in Sydney and Los Angeles, is working to fine-tune its digital shopping experience with dynamic photorealistic renderings of designs, as well as improved search and functionality. And it will leverage its technology and processes to produce private-label for other fashion brands.

The Margaux Demi flat CREDIT: Courtesy of brand

Margaux

The direct-to-consumer Margaux brand was co-founded by Alexa Buckley and Sarah Pierson with the idea of creating luxurious made-to-measure flats. Since launching in 2015, the New York-based firm has taken steps offline by opening a showroom in New York and debuting roving retail stores that last year popped up in San Francisco, Palm Beach, Fla., and Nantucket in Massachusetts. It also closed its first round of seed funding in 2017, including an investment by strategic partner Assembled Brands. Those funds will help support its 2018 initiatives, such as introducing a mobile digital imaging tool for foot measurements. Margaux also hopes to expand its third-party alliances with a shop-in-shop opening in Q1 and a distribution partnership launching the following quarter.

True Gault’s snake-print booties. CREDIT: Courtesy of brand

True Gault

Former IBM executive Sandra Gault is utilizing her technical expertise to reimagine the footwear industry. In late 2016, she debuted her True Gault app, a photo-based program that scans feet to create customized luxury heels made in Spain. Since launching, the New York-based brand has gained the attention of new Elle editor-in-chief Nina Garcia, who signed on as an adviser to help consult on the brand’s creative, design and marketing. To fuel its goals, which include creating an Android version of the app and expanding with flats and block-heel styles, the company launched a crowdfunding initiative on Republic.co. As of press time, it had raised more than half of its $1.07 million goal, with a month left in the campaign.

Women absolutely love shoes – that’s a strong fact. And that’s the reason why websites like Shoes of Prey exist – to give light to each girl’s shoe fantasy. This website is dedicated to making the custom shoe of your dreams possible, whether you want them in patent leather or more exotic renditions.

Shoes of Prey was founded in 2009 by three friends Jodie, Mike and Michael who shared the same passion for business and shoes. Since then, the Australian company has employed several highly skilled artisans to craft shoes and they have catered to countless of women all looking to design and own the perfect pair of shoes.

Currently, they offer 7 different shoe styles: Ballet Flats, Pointed Toe, Wedge, Platform, Round Toe, Ankle Boots and the highly popular Gladiator. The prices start at $180 for the flats to $330 for the ankle boot design. Mid-heeled shoes are priced at $230 and $280. You can choose from a number of different options through their easy to use Designer software, which allows users to customize the shoe from heel to toe. There is a wide range of color options available and you also have several leather options such as patent, knit, sequins, suede, silk and even more exotic ones like genuine snake skin or fish skin.

Because all of the shoes are handmade, it takes awhile for the order to be created and shipped to your door. After ordering online, it will take approximately 5 weeks or more for the shoes to arrive. They ship worldwide and a flat fee of $25 is charged per order. The company offers 100% Guaranteed Gratification too, which means you can be 100% refunded if you are not happy with your order, provided that the shoes are returned within 365 days of receiving it and that they are in an unworn condition. You are, of course, responsible for return shipping.

Shoes of Prey provides a great opportunity for women to showcase their unique eye for style. Aside from great design aesthetics, they also use premium materials during the creation process, making the shoes not just stylishly wearable but also quite durable.

Shoes of Prey goes offline in 2018

After almost ten years in business, Shoes of Prey has announced that they stopped taking orders on August 28, 2018.

Founder Jodie Fox announced the shut down in an Instagram post: “We are making the difficult decision today to pause orders and actively assess all our options to either sell, or at a later date, reboot the business with substantial changes,”

“We will cease normal trading as we go through this process. Our customers with outstanding orders will either receive their shoes as promised, or a full refund if we have been unable to make their shoes before this pause.”

According to Crunchbase Shoes of Prey had raised a total of $25.9 Million US-Dollars since 2009, but the company had shown signs of trouble in 2018.

Shoes of Prey Alternatives for Custom High Heels

Nina Shoes, Atelier Shoes, Upper Street London and Maguba have the most stylish selections among the sites we have reviewed. All of these custom high heels sites have a wide range of shoe styles to customize.

Shoes of Prey’s e-commerce site offers trillions of variations of heels, boots, flats and sneakers, which shoppers can tailor themselves — they start with a blank-canvas silhouette shoe style, and then choose material, color, toe shape, heel height and width. Founded in 2009, Shoes of Prey’s biggest challenges were mass-producing customized shoes at scale and delivering them to customers quickly. When it launched, lead time from design to delivery was 10 weeks. After building its own factory in 2014 and moving all production there in 2016, Shoes of Prey has cut that window down to a two-week guarantee, with a one-week express shipping option.

“There’s an equation in retail around customer expectations: time plus experience, plus value proposition. You can get shoes anywhere, but you can’t get customized shoes at an accessible price everywhere,” said Fox, reasoning that when ordering bespoke items, customers are comfortable waiting longer. “That being said, we’re heading to a future where customized product is the norm, and so the immediacy of that product is extremely important.”

Fox said that, as the business grew, it became clear that third-party manufacturers couldn’t scale a customized production process under the same roof where products are manufactured at mass volume. Initially, Shoes of Prey — which hired its first chief operations officer, Chris McCallum, in 2016 — tried to work with manufacturers to implement a proprietary production system that would operate differently than the rest of the workshop.

“Ultimately, they decided no,” Fox said. “These manufacturers rely on volume, with razor-thin margins, so it’s incredibly difficult to step outside of that and try anything different. When we started the business, we were clear that we were not a manufacturer. But it’s not possible for customization to scale without strong manufacturing behind it.”

Shoes of Prey’s product page

Shoes of Prey’s factory, located in China, has allowed the brand to double production volumes without increasing its workforce. The company does not disclose specific production or revenue figures, but its 2016 end-of-year report said that, to date, customers had designed 6 million shoes. Intelligence platform Owler estimates that Shoes of Prey’s revenue hit $2.5 million last year. The company has raised a total of $26 million in venture funding.

Mass customization at scale has come closer to a reality for retailers hoping to differentiate themselves in a crowded market by offering bespoke products. Other players in the space, like Mon Purse and Indochino, have chiseled down production and ship times to four weeks for purses and suits, respectively — which was Shoes of Prey’s rate, as recent as January. To speed up processes, Mon Purse uses a Japanese production method that streamlines manufacturing by tackling different purse styles by day; Indochino keeps fabric in stock, launching production as soon as something is ordered.

According to a 2016 Deloitte consumer study, 48 percent of customers are willing to wait longer for a customized product, while 50 percent are interested in buying a customized product. To Fox’s point, the retailers backing such styles are not offering Amazon Prime–speed shipping, but customers are also getting something personalized in return.

“Mass personalization is finally becoming a reality,” Celine Finch, Deloitte’s consumer business research lead, wrote in the study. “Businesses that embrace personalization have a differentiated proposition that could lead to sustainable growth.”

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In order to minimize shipping times, the Shoes of Prey team had to rethink the traditional factory setup. Typically, said Fox, production happens via a “batching” method, where different teams of technicians tackle different steps of production at the same time — that way, it comes together quickly. For customized retail, orders can only be filled as they are placed, meaning batching doesn’t work — technicians would be waiting around until they had something to do, causing inefficiencies, said Fox.

So the team developed a software that enabled efficiency throughout the production process without needing large volumes. That meant a transparent process: Thanks to a tracking technology, Shoes of Prey can see what step any shoe in the factory is at, at any given time, and pass it off to the next team in the production cycle that’s ready to take it on. Because Shoes of Prey offers more sizes, heel heights and widths than most shoe manufacturers, it 3D-prints the molds for every shoe ordered on demand.

After moving all production into its factory in 2016, the team has been able to slowly perfect the processes in place and gradually cut down on production time.

“Shoes have so many variables that can account for proper fit, and there are a trillion possible combinations for a shoe on our website,” she said. “Since we’ve been manufacturing ourselves, it’s all about pulling those threads together as efficiently as possible, and we finally feel like we’re where we want to be.”

Fox said that, of course, there’s always room for improvement, but at two-weeks guaranteed delivery time, Shoes of Prey feels confident enough to double down on marketing efforts and acquisitions. It recently hired Lizzie Francis, former CMO of Gilt Groupe, to head up its marketing department and refine the brand’s messaging and aesthetic.

“The result of our journey on the manufacturing side is actually a shift in branding, so we’re doing a big push on that front,” said Fox. “What’s most interesting is that fashion is only now warming up to the idea that technology is incredibly sexy and important, and we want to share that.”

Shoes of prey ankle strap

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